Psalm 42:2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
Sometimes we think that to meet God we need to go to a place where he is. That might be a church or while we quietly sit with our eyes closed. But yesterday I stood at the side of an Iowa road looking out toward a country cornfield. I was taking pictures and listening to conversation when it came to me that I could look and listen for God right there. I could let go of my own thoughts and actually be more aware and welcoming to him in the moment in which I was standing. I quieted myself and welcomed him to my thoughts. A bird chirped. The sun warmed my shoulders and I swatted at a nasty fly biting my leg. Breathing in, I scrunched up my nose, realizing that the dust from the road hadn’t quite settled. As I took in green fields of newly forming corn, clouds in a gentle blue sky and ditches filled with grasses swaying in the breeze I warmed at the idea that God was right there with me, enjoying my attentiveness to him.
I breathed a simple prayer. “Thank you, Father God. Thank you for being here. Thank you for loving me.”
I felt seen. I wasn’t asking for anything. A gentle remembering was nothing big but a quiet yes to his desire to be sought and known.
In two weeks Brian and I are traveling, for the third time, to Mozambique, Africa. Our mission is similar to our past trips only this time the people are in more dire circumstances. In mid-March a powerful cyclone hit dead center on the mission project in Dondo, the city where Children’s Relief International has focused its work. Many people were left with nothing: no home, no food, no clothing, no money. Our latest report was that people are cold and hungry. How are we to meet people who have suffered so? What can we say to them?
I think that when we stand peering into the beautiful brown eyes of sick, cold, and hungry people, I know I can pray in the very same way I prayed at the side of that Iowa cornfield. Stopping for a moment, I can invite the Holy Spirit to help me live that moment more fully by thanking him for being with us and for being in that desperately needy place. Perhaps I would feel the same hot sun on my arms and breathe in the similar dusty air. Hearing tropical birds or the voices of children playing everywhere would probably make me look up only to see crude mud huts with gaunt barefooted people standing and watching us as we walk through. I could whisper a prayer recognizing the desperation they must feel and remember that he is right there with them and us. He’s not off somewhere attending to more important things. He is listening. He is feeling the desperation we all feel when people suffer. He, himself, has suffered greatly.
Lord, listen to Your children praying,
Lord, send Your spirit in this place;
Lord, listen to Your children praying,
Send us love, send us pow'r, send us grace!
And I would add, Send us food, send us blankets, send us an assurance that you are with us.
And that is what we are going to do. We have gathered thousands of dollars with which to buy bags of rice and blankets to feed and comfort hundreds of weary people.
I imagine there will be moments in those two weeks when I will not want to be fully present in the moment. Rushing through and getting to the end of the day might be easier than witnessing and entering into the suffering of some of God’s precious people. But I’m going to do my best to stay attentive, to not numb out, to feel every moment. Because it is then and there I will enter into the suffering of Jesus, by actually feeling his agony for these beautiful people.
Would you pray with me that God would use our team to bring a sliver of encouragement and a boatload of truth to the Mozambicans we encounter? Pray that we will do as our team verse says: Let all you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14)
love - when Brian preaches on Sunday mornings
love - when I talk to women’s groups
love - when our team leader pours out her heart about the beauty of Psalm 139 and God’s love and care about every detail of every life
love - when one by one we lift a bag of rice and place it in the arms of a hungry man, woman or child
love - when we sit and hold the hands of widows who have lost husbands to AIDS and who themselves suffer as a result - we need God with us.
love - we will need tongues that bring the fires of the hope of the gospel and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit along with our rice and blankets.
At any given moment we can turn our minds and hearts toward God, the one who has compassion as a mother for her children, who stands as a shepherd guarding his sheep, as a Father who runs to welcome all who come home and as a Savior who weeps over lost cities. He promises relief and a place where there will no longer be any suffering, peace that is unbelievable, and hope that keeps us all stepping into the moments of our days with faith, hope and much courage.