It’s 3:30am. Couldn’t sleep, tossed and turned, scratched, prayed, and finally went to the patio and waited for the coffee to brew. If I’m going to be awake at this hour, at least I can be alone with God and listen for his voice in the bible. I’m not really alone. There’s a big fat scorpion on the wall, Lucy is snoring beside me, and my cat is watching me in her curled ball at my feet. There are four children upstairs with many hours of good sleep ahead of them. I’m feeling an incredible push to teach the bible to the children in Uganda. I leave for Uganda in two and a half weeks. The children there are always on my mind, and snug deep in my heart. I ask God incessantly, “what can I give them? What can I do for them?” This morning he showed me, “Psalm 34”.
The children there have so much faith. They can nearly hold the presence of God in their hands and give testimony for ways He has provided that would inspire a saint. But they lack bible knowledge. It excites me so much to hear Phiona’s reports of reading the bible stories to them and how many questions they have when the story is finished. They are hearing it all for the first time. The word of God is fresh to them. They devour it like a succulent and flavorful meal. They can’t get enough of it.
Then I think about those cute kids sleeping upstairs, who can’t remember a time in their lives when they haven’t been in Sunday School. They yawn, oh yes, Noah looked like a fool for building the sky scraper boat during the dry season. What’s for dinner? Will you take me to the store? Can I turn on the tv? Never mind Noah displayed an unusual faith and responded with obedience to a strange request. What can I do to make the word of God fresh to my own children?
Clothe yourself with compassion, that’s what it says in Colossians 3:12, and it’s a virtue I’m not only supposed to practice myself, but teach my kids. But all of their experience here in this American life indicates to them that they should be in the pursuit of happiness, mostly their own. Their needs are all met, so the list of wants grows and grows. My kids don’t know what it feels like to wonder how long they will have to wait before there is another meal. They haven’t spent a night alone on a street, orphaned or abandoned. They’ve never had to walk for days to find safety, or hide for months listening to cries of violence in the street (thankfully). But the children in Uganda have suffered, and their response is to know the God who saved them. They throw their hands up in praise and give thanks to God that they have a bed, clothes, food, and school fees, the things we expect and take for granted.
I might plan my trip to Uganda to serve the children, and that’s the purpose, but what I get in return from them has far more of an impact on me than what I am able to give them. I am hungry for that meal of humble pie. No, I am starving for it. I need to go back and get a fresh serving of what really matters in this life. It’s not how much I know, how much I have, what I get, or who I know. It’s what can I give.
What if I brought nothing and I just showed up with my bible in my hand. I know for these children that would be more than enough. I don’t need to bring crafts (I will), or treats (of course), or correspondence (I hope). They know I love them with the love that first comes pouring into me from God and is spread out over them all with a supernatural force. I can talk to them about what God has taught me in my experiences with His word. I can show them how to find Him and what peace really means. They will thank me with songs and dance, hugs and smiles. And they pray for me.
What does it mean to clothe myself with compassion? I have to put it on, it’s not going to just slip in there, and it’s not a fruit of the spirit in that it will naturally grow. It is a decision I need to make and it means I’m going to step out of my comfortable place and take a few risks. What this is looking like for me currently is getting on a plane alone and going to Uganda for a week to teach the children. I’m giving them only His word, no fancy projects, no big illustrations, no entertainment, bribes to listen or gifts to cure boredom. They are hungry to know God. I’m bringing the meal.
A mission trip is not a romance. It is hard. The last time I went to Uganda I got really sick. My stomach will protest. Traveling so far throws me off balance but I can’t lose time because it is too precious so I’ll have to push through jetlag. Leaving my children here is so difficult for me to do. Stepping out of my life for ten days means when I get home it will be piled up and waiting for me to unknot it. I leave a great burden on Craig with my absence. I’m going to be hot, dirty, sticky, hungry and alone. I may go days without electricity and internet. (gasp) I’ll breathe enough fumes on the street to kill a rodent. I’ll need to make sure I take malaria medicine, and keep my mouth closed tight when I’m in the shower, and hope for hot water. And oh how I will miss the sweet face of my Kira, and the warmth and comfort of sleeping next to my husband.
But I don’t trust my comfort zone, I trust God. He said, “Go.” So I’m going. What I hope is that my children will see me clothe myself with this compassion, and they will naturally pick it up and put it on as well. Comfort is overrated anyway. I’ll take the adventure with God any day…because I really don’t want to live a life with regrets.