Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)
Some steps along our way have required a leap of faith, others have been straightforward, but recently we have faced steps that have been very hard, and have involved – at least for now – a change of direction.
When we last wrote our blog we were preparing to return to Nairobi at the end of 4 months in the UK on ‘home assignment’ – a time to catch up with our home church, our wonderful supporters and our family.
However, after just a month in Nairobi, we find ourselves unexpectedly back in the UK due to two family crises.
Returning to Nairobi
We did return to Nairobi as planned at the end of April and were welcomed warmly by friends and colleagues. It was very good to be back in our apartment at Africa International University, and feel at home looking out on avocado trees.
Following a couple of days of unpacking and getting our apartment straight, we were both straight into work. Mark set out with a colleague from Tumaini to Nakuru, several hours drive north of Nairobi, to join the AIM Personnel Officers Forum, where we were reconnecting with AIM recruiters from around the globe and giving a presentation. There is always more that we want to do than there is time! (However, maybe this means that we were attempting to do more than God actually called us to do…)
Meanwhile Barbara set about 2 weeks of teaching English to African Bible translators working with Wycliffe Bible Translators from various countries around the continent.
Before these things even started, after just a couple of days back in Africa, we heard that Barbara’s mother had fallen and fractured her pelvis. She was in hospital for a few days followed by a move to a rehabilitation unit. Wondering whether she would be able to return to independent living, we recognised that at least one of us would need to return to offer her support when she was ready to be discharged.
Then on 12th May we heard about another family crisis which quickly went from bad to worse, and we realised that we would both need to return to the UK, at least for 2 months and possibly for an extended period.
We flew back home at the start of June, once it became clear how we could best help, and after just one month back in Kenya.
Lessons in prayer
When life turns difficult we learn things: who are friends are, what really matters, and above all whether God is faithful. Actually, it’s not God that is put to the test; rather the test is how much we really trust Him; it is not a test of God’s faithfulness, but of our faithfulness!
We are not at the centre of this storm; we are merely family who love, and so hurt with those in the middle of the difficulties. Yet there are so many layers: the consequences of practical actions, the personal and emotional pain, the relationships involved and the spiritual battle which rages, seeking to divide and destroy.
Through many tears we can bear witness to the compassion of many brothers and sisters in Christ who have come round us and our family, to pray and to stand with us and to offer practical support in so many ways that have gone much deeper than simple kindness. Through them we have been reassured of God’s love, presence and faithfulness.
It is going to take weeks – or more likely months – for this situation to play out and come to some kind of resolution. Our prayer is that we would all remain holding fast to our heavenly Father, who is a Master at bringing redemption and healing to the broken, and whose whole nature is to bring new life into what feels like an impossible situation.
An aside on comfort
Of course, there are practical aspects to such difficulties, as well as relational aspects, but there is also a spiritual dimension. We know that being a Christian does not promise anyone a comfortable life! Despite our God being full of love and compassion, we repeatedly see Him using difficult times in order to bring His people – in the Bible, and those we know personally – to greater maturity.
In the Bible, Romans 5v3-5 remind us: “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (We make no claim to ‘glory in our sufferings’, merely to clinging on by our fingertips.)
And 2 Chronicles 20v12 is a passage we can relate to at present: “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
What about Tumaini and Barbara’s teaching?
We had to suddenly pull out of most of our commitments such as teaching English and leading a Ladies Bible Study, for Barbara, and working at Tumaini for Mark. Africa Inland Mission has graciously released us from our roles for the time being and we are on Compassionate Leave. But our absence clearly leaves gaps back in Nairobi, where there are real needs.
At the moment we don’t understand God’s purposes; we know that there is work there for us both to do with Africa Inland Mission and that the need is considerable. Yet we also know and believe that it is right to be with and support our family at this time. Although we don’t see or understand the bigger picture, we are trusting God our Father to meet the many needs in each sphere.
And things at home?
We have just spent time with Barbara’s mother, who is now back in her own home with carers coming in each day, and – so far – doing better than we expected. We wait, praying, to see whether her living independently, as she wishes, is sustainable.
However, the other family crisis is almost certainly going to take quite some while to reach a conclusion. The future looks very uncertain, and its implications for us are unclear. We would certainly like to return to Nairobi to the roles we have there, but this is in God’s hands.
At one level we are confused and hurting; at another, we still trust that God is at work even through these difficult circumstances. And we go on trusting that He will continue to make the way forward clear one step at a time.
Please praise God with us for:
- the many ways in which family and faithful friends have stood with us all in these difficult times, demonstrating Jesus’ love through their prayers and actions
- the opportunity to serve and support our family by being with them in the UK
- that Barbara’s mother is settling well back at home
And please pray for:
- the team at Tumaini who have been so gracious in releasing us for now, but face a sudden increase in their workload through my absence
- for our family who are distressed at this time, and that we will all look to Jesus, who is a firm foundation
- that we will continue to rely on the Lord who is our refuge and strength.
Finally, a picture in lieu of our ‘bug of the month’
This holder for ‘stick-its’ is on our table in Nairobi. It says: “God is not fickle; He will not be fickle towards you“. (Chameleons are often regarded with some distrust by Kenyans, because they change colour!)