Friday, February 15, 2013

Prayer, answered

In the mornings when I shuffle out to my back deck with sleep in my eyes and a blanket on my shoulders, I can watch the smooth pink of the sun rise over the fourth-biggest lake in the world. It's a great time to pray for Uganda, because I can see some of the city beneath me: roofs of terra-cotta or corrugated tin, the silhouette of acacia trees, smoke rising in dusky ribbons from cooking fires. I pray against the corruption that seems to permeate so deeply, exacting its tax from the backs of the poor and orphaned. I pray that God would relieve extreme poverty; that Jesus would be King in the hearts of Ugandans.

It's sobering, there from the wicker couch my husband bought for me, gazing out on a slice of the city waking up for another day. I never really see the city change, apart from the weather. It's been a year now. So I admit to some discouragement that has washed over me as I continue to pray (or in all honesty, sometimes fail to continue) when things seem the same as before, despite a year of hard work and some personal heartache and costliness. In fact, they seem worse, because I'm more aware than ever of their depth, I think--which is still deeper than I'll ever really know.

I want to pray big prayers, because I think God works through them. I think of Daniel, and how his apparently "delayed" answer to prayer was actually deal to an intense spiritual battle. I think of Samuel, and his words in 1 Samuel 12:

For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you...
I also can't count the times I've looked over the chaos and pain in the crush of Kampala and thought of a reaction of Jesus': When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. At any rate, the one-year mark has been a bit of a reality check. I've been convicted of my own lack of faith when I'm slogging through moments of discouragement.

But a cool thing happened at my rather long appointment at the embassy (which, BTW, is not really the little slice of America I was hoping for. Well, except the extensive security measures. Even the TV was a Chinese channel). I introduced myself to a couple I'd seen at church. Turns out the guy's working with International Justice Mission, specifically with judges and lawyers to work against corruption in a 10-year plan. It was almost as if God had His hand on my shoulder, a knowing smile on His face. And You thought I didn't hear you. Pretty cool for the couple and me, I think, to find out that God had us working together before we'd even shook hands.

Tonight I'm thankful for a God who keeps working, seen or unseen.


Ruthie H. said...

Janel, thank you for sharing this encouraging story, and congratulations on your family's one-year anniversary in Uganda. I marked three years in January and have found that the longer I am here the less I seem to know and at times I wonder what difference am I really making. Then I am reminded, like by posts such as yours, that God calls me to be faithful where He has placed me and He will take care of the rest. May God continue to bless you and your family and give you grace for each day!

John and Janel Breitenstein said...

Thanks, too, for your encouragement, Ruthie. Great to hear from someone who's been here through all the nitty-gritty and keeps pressing on! Grateful for your faithfulness, and certainly for God's. May He give you remarkable strength.