A week ago I was still in Rwanda, Africa, spending time with orphans who lived (on a good day) on bananas, beans and peanuts. Their living conditions were mud brick houses that had no furniture. Some of the older kids were orphaned by the 1994 genocide and others by the death of their parents through AIDS. Their medicine cabinet was often a window sill with one old toothbrush on it. Their family was the other orphans in their community. But they were happy; the ZOE ministry program we help support had given them hope, something that would have been impossible without outside help.
Our flight home took almost 36 hours, from Rwanda to Ethiopia to Washington DC and then back to Dallas. Even though we had only been gone less than 10 days, it was striking to enter the Dulles Airport in Washington. To leave a country with almost nothing and then enter the overwhelming affluence represented by the nation’s capital was almost embarrassing; I really did not know how to think. But still, after I made some emergency phone calls back to the church (I had not had access to a phone during the journey), I paused and had a hamburger with cheese and grilled onions. It was good to be home.
I am once again used to a soft bed, hot water, abundant food and a comfortable world with almost every convenience possible, yet the Bible says, “The Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit!”
When the tremendous trappings of our lives are cleared away for a few minutes, whether it is a trip to an area of the world in poverty, an experience with cancer, a broken marriage, a grievous loss or just a week where we figure out we are not really in control, we often see and experience things we haven’t been able to see in the midst of the myriads of unimportant details that seem to dominate our lives. We discover things like faith, love, friendship, trust, family, the simplicity of a life shared with each other, with Jesus Christ, loving God, serving others, following Jesus, the day-by-day minutes that can be overwhelmed by the details of a complicated life and then set free by the surprises and the crises that may come our way.
I learned some of this by being thankful for the small banana and piece of pineapple I ate most mornings in Africa as I prepared to go out each day to experience the surprises God surely had for me. I hope God surprises us all today!