Adapted from a blog post by an Alliance CAMA worker, serving in West Africa
A weary, soul-depleted Alliance worker finds peace in a mud brick sanctuary.
We were up at the break of dawn on Christmas Day. We’d committed to join a small gathering of believers at their church about three hours from our home.
As I lay there trying to gather the energy to get out of bed and weary from several busy weeks of ministry, I thought that maybe, just maybe, we had overcommitted ourselves.
My mind remained in that train of thought as I dealt with teenage angst from the 13-year-old who wasn’t thrilled with her Christmas outfit. None of the kids were particularly happy about being up at dawn, a day of driving on bumpy roads (a.k.a. donkey-cart trails), or a long Christmas service in a foreign language with strangers.
I sure didn’t get it. I had wonderful memories of my Christmases growing up in West Africa, and I was pretty sure I never complained to my mom about wanting a more “normal” Christmas.
So we were a rather disgruntled family as we piled into the car. It only got worse when down the road the car started to make a funny noise. I told the still-pouting 13-year-old to pray that it wasn’t anything serious.
That’s when we had our first Christmas miracle of the day. She prayed not only for the car but also that God would change her attitude. Oh, HAPPY day!
The noise turned out to be a stick that had caught under the car. So we were off once again.
We arrived right on time for the service, which meant we were early in Africa time. The church was still being swept out, and the women were preparing the lunch meal.
Our family sat in the empty church, waiting for people to start trickling in. The kids were bored, their Christmas outfits already filthy, and they were pestering to know how much longer.
I was having my own little pity party, missing family and wondering again about this life we were living—wishing for a different one. It all seemed so pointless. Honestly, what impact could we really have on the immense physical and spiritual poverty in this part of the world?
My thoughts filtered back to what we’d already seen in the community we were visiting. Children dressed in little more than rags, a handful of Jesus followers, children with bloated bellies and orange-tinged hair from malnutrition; a dilapidated church building; sandy-brown drinking water offered to us for refreshment; a pastorless church; a thriving school for followers of the majority religion (plus a large, well-maintained house of worship for those majority-religion believers); and wind and sand, which meant our Christmas dinner would be gritty.
In the quiet, in the waiting to celebrate the birth of my Savior, in the beauty of that mudbrick sanctuary, my body weary and soul depleted, I surrendered.
I laid my burdens at His feet and sought His presence once again. “The suffering and injustice in this world, the hardened hearts—they aren’t your burdens to carry,” was the quiet whisper to my soul.
Is all hopeless? What is it you celebrate this day? Has the Savior of the world not come? Yes, the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Yes, life in all its fullness!
My world was righted again that Christmas morning as my soul found peace in my Father’s presence. I found rest in His sovereignty, even without fully understanding, because His ways aren’t always easy, but they are good.
We weren’t a large group gathered that Christmas morning—20 at the most. But you would have thought we numbered in the hundreds with the volume of our worship. Such contagious joy!
We stood with this handful of persecuted Jesus followers who stand as a light in the darkness in this land—sharing a message of hope that the Savior of the world has indeed come