Where are you, God?
On my way back to the United States, I felt like I couldn’t get away from my thoughts. My head was spinning as I flashed back on everything I had experienced during my 3 months in Ghana. I looked at my lap and there were 2 little puppies fast asleep experiencing this journey with me. They were flying to the land of opportunity, where they would be loved and cared for daily and would never be mistaken as dinner again. I was flying to a different world, a different mindset. I was going back to the life I had left in efforts to live out the will of the great commission. I was going back to what seemed the “better life," where pollution didn’t fill the air, poverty wasn’t so visible, and laundry was as simple as pushing a button on a machine. On paper, America looked so beautiful. Yet I struggled returning home because I had fallen in love with the people and the simplicity that comes with living in a village.
I looked at the cup of clean drinking water the flight attendant handed me and I felt a tap on my shoulder. The American gentlemen in the seat next to me politely asked, “Where are you coming from?” “Ghana,” I said, “What about you?” “I’m leaving the Congo for the first time in 2 years. I’m going to see my kids and wife for Christmas,” he said.
I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and somehow I felt closer to God. This man understood the thoughts that were spinning in my mind. We talked for 10 hours about our experiences and specific people each of us had met along the way. He told me that in the Congo, every day was a fight to be alive. Markets were all shut down and trading was prohibited at the time. Food was scarce and water was nearly impossible to find. I told him about my favorite day in the beach village, where I gave a small boy 1cede for the fish he caught with his bare hands. I carried the squirmy fish until the boy could no longer see me, then I threw it back in the ocean. I told this man that those moments of pure joy were the ones I thought I would miss the most.
“It’s different over there, the problems are big,” he said.
My mind drifted off in this thought. He was right. The problems in Africa were big. The corruption. The brutality. The child-labor. The death rate. The despair. The need was big, but not bigger than us, and it surely wasn't bigger than God.
Adjusting back to the American way of life has been difficult. I barely leave my bedroom and I don’t enjoy talking to people the way I used to. I haven’t wrote since that day on the plane and every time I pray I find myself weeping. I have no words to explain the pain of everything I saw and the brave children who persevered through the chaos. It’s like God showed me a different side of universe that I didn’t know existed. I didn’t know pain could be so deep and I don't know how to just act like everything is okay in the world when my eyes have seen the brutality of children in poverty. My body is here but my heart is there. It has been so challenging to come back to the present moment and enjoy the life around me, but I’m trying. I’m trying to distract myself, run from the pain, and start living a normal life again. I’m trying to distract myself with Netflix, coffee shops, and I keep a cool front when people ask how Ghana was. My heart and my mind wrestle with the stories that are yet to be told and I can’t keep them to myself any longer. I’ve tried to bury the stories and keep my journal closed, but it isn’t working. I know too much now and I’m going to have to let the pain boil on the surface and use writing as a bridge to connect these two worlds.
Pain is too beautiful to just run from it. We have to be okay with not being okay. We have to know that we are human and it’s okay to weep over a Nation. Sometimes we have to wrestle with darkness and understand that children in the world are worth more than our own comfort. We have to sit in the pain, be present in it, and know that we aren’t alone. God doesn’t leave the people in the Nations, and He doesn’t leave you or me either. He doesn’t promise that there will be no pain, but He does promise to never leave us or forsake us. Even when we can’t see him or hear Him, He is there, and He wants us to know that the pain the world is too heavy for us to carry on our own. ISAIAH 42
We have to be willing to let our pride down and hand it over to Him. There is no doubt that He has shed more tears over the Nations than I have, but He hasn’t given up and He will never decide that the pain is too much for Him to bare. He stays present, the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The question in all of the pain isn’t where is God? The question is where are we?