Last week while I was in Uganda my hotel room was robbed of a large sum of money. The morning was spent trying to find the culprit through questioning and checking the security system of the hotel. At the end of the day we still had no evidence of who was in my room but we did have a suspect. The hotel manager insisted that no one had entered, according to their keycard system. I returned to the hotel on Monday for one final check on the status of my case because I was due to fly back to South Sudan on Tuesday very early. The hotel revealed that it was on camera that the housekeeper was the one who entered my room during the time the money went missing. She is now in jail. The day of the robbery she turned herself in sort of. She came forward to say that she was in my room the day before I checked in but not the next day. We thought it odd that she would say that as it had nothing to do with the day of the robbery. I remembered the look on her face of extreme worry and anxiousness. At that time I thought she was guilty because there were many inconsistencies in her story.
On Monday, after finding the truth, my heart was moved with compassion for this lady and I was surprised. I should have been happy that the thief was caught. But all I could think about was now what will happen to her and her children? It was now out of my hands and in the hands of the hotel management and the police. Here, one cannot tell the police to drop the charges if the proof is there. All I could see was her face on that fateful day and even I was wishing we could all turn back time and erase that morning. I really wanted her to not have to be in the position she was in.
Through this entire situation the Lord really showed me how He saw things. Early on in the investigation I had released this person in my heart and truly let it go. I wanted no part of carrying that burden of anger or bitterness. I was at peace and knew that God would restore to me what was stolen, and he did within 24 hours, although not through the return of the stolen money.
My heart felt the pain of knowing this lady’s future and how miserable she would be in jail. I didn’t want this for her and I didn’t even know her. I felt how Jesus doesn’t want this for any of us. It made me want to tell people even more about the love of the Father and how His heart is for them. I want so much for people who do these things to hear the heart of Father God for them.
I am learning to fully understanding how Paul could rejoice in ALL situations. I find myself praising God that this happened to me because it has changed the way I see. I have been given the gift of compassion for my enemy in the midst of my suffering, my pain. I have been given the gift to look past the person and look at the place they find themselves in, a place of darkness and bad decisions and lusts of the flesh pulling them down a dark path. If we truly are the church and carry the good news, we have to be willing to see past our own circumstances and see the way the Father sees.
As I met with our Women’s Fellowship group in South Sudan this week I talked to them about the soil of their hearts, the well of their spirits. God’s Word is imperishable seed so it is always good seed. The soil of our hearts is the faith that will ignite that seed to grow. If our hearts are hard ground, carrying bitterness and anger and vengeance, that perfect seed cannot push up through the hard ground to reach the surface, thereby remaining buried in our hearts, forgotten and rejected, or worse, carried off by scavenger birds. I refused to let my soil be mixed with bitterness and anger. I wanted clean soil, fully ready for all of God’s love and truth, so that my faith will always work.
In Luke 8 Jesus tells the parable of the sower and explains that the seed is the Word, the soil our hearts. Then immediately after he starts talking about a lamp on a lampstand. Huh? Then He says something astounding. He tells us to be careful HOW WE LISTEN for those who have will receive more. And those who don’t have, what they THINK they have, that too will be taken from them. So Jesus tells us about the lamp and to take care how we listen. In Luke 10 Jesus tells us that the lamp is our eyes.
Do you listen with your eyes? Do you listen to what you see? In the book of 1 Samuel, chapter 3, the scripture tells us that The Word of God was rare in those days and that Eli’s eyes were weak AND that the LAMP of the Lord had not yet gone out. Proverbs 20:27 tells us that the lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of man. Eli knew the scriptures yet he didn’t see (his eyes were weak), he didn’t listen to the voice of the Lord (the lamp was burning low).
There is a lamp in each one of us that is filled with the Word of God. It causes us to see the way He wants us to see. We have two eyes and two ears. We have to listen to what we see. I have learned more from the Lord about how to walk this walk by seeing and watching Him move and knowing what moves Him. I listen with my eyes and with my ears and with my spirit.
Today I walked into church and saw a young man I hadn’t seen before. He was sitting on the “women’s side”. We don’t have a set side where men and women sit but most of the guys sit on the one side and the girls on the other. It’s cultural here. In our church, it mixes a little bit better but there are still two definite sides. So I shake his hand and sit and he stays close to me. During the time of giving testimonies, we have an open mic. Yes, we even let strangers have the mic. You would never see that in a church in America. So he tells us that he is an orphan and tells a sad story and sits down. I speak to him about His Father in heaven.
Then over the next fifteen minutes he starts to act a bit weird. He would go outside and come back in with different clothes on. He had layered himself in about four sets of clothes. The third or fourth time he walked back in I met him half way and took his hand and gently led him outside, still holding onto his hand. In the churches in Sudan, it is normal for people to walk right in front of the speaker, for kids to make a ruckous in the doorway etc… Church is not a sterile and orderly place here.
Myself and Obi and one of our older boys, we begin to talk to this young man outside and found that he has some mental problems. I looked directly into his eyes and called those spirits out of him that had been tormenting him, and had him repeat some things after me, mostly that Jesus is Lord. We basically did a deliverance on the front porch while church continued on as usual. Our church is not enclosed by a full wall. It is a half wall with a metal grate for the windows, which go all the way around. So being outside is not really out of site from any single person. We invited him back inside to sit on the front row with Obi.
I really love the freedom in the church here to tend to those who really need tending, even in the midst of whatever is going on at the pulpit. The Holy Spirit is omnipresent and is so able to multitask and meet everyone’s need. This young man sat quietly for the rest of the service and it was a long one. He was at peace, unlike when he first came in. God is good all the time. This week we are going on another walk-a-bout into the bush beyond our compound. We are just going to take a trail and keep walking all day to see where we end up in the bush and who can we bring the church to. We are the church and we should be bringing it to the people, not necessarily the people to the church. How can one say no when the church comes to their house? They cannot refuse, as we say here in South Sudan. May God bless you this week as you encounter His amazing grace in all that you do and may you hear with your eyes and see the revelation of His heart in your backyards.