Beautiful Things

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Adventures in West African Maladies

Last week… I had malaria. There I said it.

And you know what? I’m alive and well!

Yep. I read a lot. I slept a lot. I spent a lot of time in the squat pot. A lot.

I guess I need to explain something before you can realize the gravity of this experience…

When the 10 of us arrived in Cote d’Ivoire and were going through our weeks and weeks of orientation, one of those weeks was focus on health and wellness. We went over all those things that could make us sick and I realized in that seminar that I had some real fear brewing inside of me. I remember Rod saying, “You’re probably all going to get amoebs at some point during your time here, and probably more than once”. I was thinking, “No, no, definitely not me. I don’t like being sick and it’s just not going to happen”. Then, when Rod talked about malaria, it just sounded like a four letter word. I thought, “That’s right Naomi, you get malaria and you’re life is OVER! [insert ominous and foreboding music]

So there you have it. Quite possibly my worst fear for this year here was sickness. I’ve had amoebs 3 times (1 of those times those little guys put up shields and went into protective mode, which sounds a little bit like Star Trek lingo to me). Now I’ve faced the dreaded Malaria monster.

The thing is that God doesn’t promise us we won’t face struggle and hardship. He doesn’t promise that we will never suffer or hurt. God does promise that He will never leave His people.

Isaiah 43

1 But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you.
  O Israel, the one who formed you says,
"Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
  I have called you by name; you are mine.
2 When you go through deep waters,
  I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
  you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
  you will not be burned up;
  the flames will not consume you.
3 For I am the LORD, your God,
  the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom;
  I gave Ethiopia* and Seba in your place.
4 Others were given in exchange for you.
  I traded their lives for yours
because you are precious to me.
  You are honored, and I love you.


Now, I can’t really say that malaria was all that bad. I mean, not “fires of oppression” bad! But God has been so gracious in reminding me that even in the little sufferings (tiredness, homesickness, anxiousness, spending-too-much-time-in-the-squat-pot-ness), He’s always right beside me. What JOY is found in that one fact!

And that “Others” mentioned in verse 4… that there is Jesus. How is it we could be cherished enough to be worth the life of God’s precious Son? Oh goodness, He loves us!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rainy Season Thoughts

We've hit rainy season here in Cote d'Ivoire. It's been a wonderful relief from what felt like an endless summer. It's been a poignant reminder that in God's timing all things are made new and refreshed. The dust is being washed away and everything is growing here. Mont Korhogo stands as a beautiful green monument from the veiw from my street.

I'm feeling refreshed too. As ministry really starts going and we head into our last 4 months, our team is faced with the dreaded question: What about next year? Some will stay another year to continue work and lead the next journeyer group. Some of us will go home to work in our own communities and go back to school. We've hit the point where this question has to be faced. With that comes stress and more questions, like: "God, what am I going to do with my life?!"

I've been learning the lesson of letting go. It's been a rough one and I'm sure it'll be one of those lessons I'll learn over and over again. I'm learning to open my hands and realizing that I was grasping plans and ideas of my own. The rain coming is a relief from the heat and dust, but it also feels like it is washing away all my questions and worry about what's next.

When it rains here, the sound is overwhelming. It's like a symphany of tin cans and a whole herd of cattle dancing over your head. It wakes me up in the middle of the night and puts me to sleep again. It's strangley comforting- I think because my room at my parent's house in California has a vaulted ceiling and no attic space, so the sound of the rain is always louder there. Last Sunday, the rain was coming down so hard that the pastor couldn't continue with the message, he was on the verge of losing his voice at this point, so they brought out the balifones and we danced until the rain calmed down. It was freeing- we were thanking God for this crazy downpour with our voices, with our hands and feet, with our everything!

That's what He wants from us: our everything. Our plans, our ideas, our hopes, our skills, our gifts, our love, our days (all of them). I remember reading a quote from Elisabeth Elliot earier this year; it said something to the effect of: It is in offering what is in our hands that God gives Himself. So I'm learning to hold with open hands, knowing that what God has planned for us is infinitely better than what we can imagine ourselves.

If you get a chance, you should listen to "Always Enough" by Casting Crowns. It was a great reminder of all these things for me this week!