This past summer I was fortunate enough to go on a missions trip to Africa. Over the course of 3 weeks, I explored new countries, relationships, cultures, happy times, and even heartbreaks. I found out what it meant to live in a third world country and experienced the differences from my everyday life. There were many sights to see and stories to hear, but what I think I held onto the most were the epiphanies that took place in my own heart and mind. One moment in particular lead to this discovery: God definitely knows what He is doing, and He places us where we are for a specific, evident reason. Through this epiphany, I saw what real dependence on God looks like. It always seems that the stories of "life changing moments" take place when people least expect them. This was mine.
Throughout the first week of my journey, I started to struggle with the question of "why me?" I wondered why I was given so many great things when I was meeting these people who were phenomenal human beings and yet had nothing. They seemed to have no hope of a future because of the corruption in their country and the lack of things I considered essential. "Why them?" Why were they here? Had God forgotten us once and for all?
Then a clarity moment happened for me.
Along my journey in Africa, I kept a journal as frequently as I had time to. Thankfully, I took it with me while the team went to do house visits one rainy day in Mbale, Uganda. Because of how muddy and rainy it was outside, we were only able to do one visit. Instead of the other visits planned, we went to the "ribbon cutting" of the new pit latrine (a very simplified version of a bathroom with no water) that was built for an elderly community that had never even seen a bathroom before, and now they had their own. As we were all piling back on the bus, having our shoes scraped of mud before entering, I looked over and saw a woman building her house. Now, when I say scraping mud off, I mean the mud there sticks so badly, we all had multiple layers inches thick of this clay attached to our shoes. However, the same mud we were scraping off as an inconvenience to us was what that woman was building her house out of. I immediately had a God moment.
Frantically pulling out my journal before the words left my head I wrote this:
"...In this moment, though, sitting on the bus watching our drivers and friends scrape mud off of our shoes, I realize that--even though this is all foreign and strange to us--it is a perfect reminder of how in control God is. These people who don't have the luxury to just buy a built house are able to use the perfectly sticky mud and a multitude of sticks to build a shelter. And this woman fearlessly scooped up cow dung to make the foundation water/rain proof (don't ask me how that works). It's just so perfectly placed--this particular kind of clay soil in this particular desolate location. It may seem like a bother to us, but to them: perfect. "
For some, that moment may seem completely random and devoid of a meaning. To me, I was able to get a glance of God. People are worried that in today's age, God had left us. With how many sins we consider "OK", the amount of hate in our world, and the stupidity we have all been exposed to at one point or another, free of all compassion, we've concluded that we have been left alone in this big, scary world. But I am here to say we are not. In one tiny town in Uganda, Africa I saw plain and simple that we are not.
Let me explain what this means to me.
As an American, I had never seen mud so sticky. I immediately did not want to be walking in it anymore. I wanted to get back on my comfortable bus, drive safely back to where we came from, and wait out the rain. I saw that life as an inconvenience. However, that rain will become one of few this year necessary to supply nutrition to the multitude of crops. That mud will become hundreds of shelters for families with nothing but a bit of borrowed land. That downpour will become drinking water for thousands without clean and easily accessible water. God has never left them.
We as first class citizens would never know what to do with that kind of foundation. We wouldn't know how to build our house because the mud could slide leaving our homes physically broken. These people, however, rely so heavily on God daily to survive that they take those small blessings and use them to their advantage. We look so quickly to the bad and the hurt of this world that we can't even stop for a second to smell the flowers or else we may miss the next big thing coming to a store near you. We don't see God because we pray to Him to fix the bad and only supply good without changing our ways or attitudes. We expect huge things to happen when if we would just stop.
if we would just stop and look around, we would notice that all of the big things we expect to see are already here. God created the universe. He created earth and sky, water and wind, sun and moon, and with His one and only son he created a love so big we could never fathom it.
God placed that mud there for that woman to have a house. He placed my head in my body and my foot in that path so that I could see that moment. He proved to my logical and somewhat skeptical brain that the cliche "everything happens for a reason" is not just some saying. He is truly in control.
This article may have seemed to be a waste of your time. You may read this piece and feel absolutely nothing. You may not understand what God has to do with mud. You may still be stuck on the cow dung thing--look it up! However, I challenge you, whoever you are, whatever you believe, wherever you are in your walk, to stop and look around you. Where in your life have you taken for granted a moment that God truly showed up? Sometimes it's in the simplest of things. Sometimes it's in the biggest life changes. But I think that if we all just stopped and took a second to realize God is in control, He has a plan, He works for our good, and he is the ultimate provider, we may feel a little more stable in this seemingly uncontrollable world.
For me, I stopped to see the mud around me as a blessing. I gave gratitude to God for the blessings we receive every day. And I answered the question of "why them?". I found out that though we have lots of things and are saddened that the wonderful humans we meet in their terrible circumstances have none, it is really the opposite. Their everlasting reliance on God, true faith, blows our "blessings" out of the water. The question turned from "why do I get to have the nice things?" and "why are they here in this saddening circumstance?" to "how can I be more like them?". I used my God moment as a reason to simplify my life to see more of God. I realized that to have will never be as good as to have seen. To have things is nowhere equal to have experiences. And to have control will never be anything close to having let go.
And I will forever be grateful that God is in control and that I am placed right where He wants me.