It amazes people who know me how I could hike from village to village without roadside signs and still arrive at the right community to treat the sick. But in the US I can’t even find the town I’ve been living in without a GPS.
When I first moved into the village, the chief informed me. “The name of our community is Djoni-cope, but it is pronounced Johnny co-pay and sounds like your American president Johnny Kennedy who lives in your white house.”
Without signboards in Africa I used landmarks. At the fork with the pile of cement blocks I veered to the right. Then I turned left at the gigantic flowering tree. But as I passed poles with red flags that day going to the village I knew I was on the wrong trail and reversed my steps.
I ended up in the teak wood forest. Inside the thick, clusters of trees I was terribly lost since no one lived in the forest.
After tripping over underbrush I fell flat on my face in a heap of charcoal and cut my arms and legs.
” Help!” I shouted three times in three different languages.
There was no response. So I walked farther but fell again at the same mound of charcoal. I had marched in a circle, but couldn’t get out of the loop.
So I sat down on a log in the forest, sobbed and wept to my Lord, “I’m lost and willing to die. Forgive me for all my sins. I know this is the end of my life so take me to Heaven without too much suffering when the wild animals eat me.”
In the still quiet I heard God’s voice, “GO WEST. Walk through bushes, trees and foliage and keep heading west. Walk straight into the sun.” With that little hope from God, I jumped up and started hiking right into the descending sunset.
That morning I’d read II Samuel 5:20-25. David inquired of the Lord about fighting the Philistines. God said, “Do not go straight into them but circle around to the balsam tress.” David won the battle by obeying the Lord.
So if I obeyed God, I should get home.
God said it again. “Go west and walk into the sun.”
I traipsed through the forest, tripped over roots and trekked into the quickly setting sun.
After 30 minutes of hiking through bushes and foliage I reached a footpath. God said, “Go left.” I had no idea where I was or where the packed-down earth ended. But in Africa all well-trodden trails led to people. That one ended right at my little mud hut with the thatch roof.
Custom dictated that I check in at the ancestral home of the elderly chief, who frowned at me. “How did you get all those cuts, gashes and blood on your arms and legs?”
The chief’s wife pointed. “Why are you covered in charcoal dust?”
The ancient man shook his head. “What happened to you? There are long grasses sticking out of your hair.”
“I got lost and couldn’t find the village.”
The chief scowled. “How can anyone get lost when the trail is so clearly marked? Why didn’t you just go straight?”
“Going straight is hard for me when the path is twisted and turned, with equally trodden trails heading in different directions.”
They roared in fits of hysteria. The chief’s sisters fell to the ground in laughter. I shook my head at my pitiful condition and began laughing with them. Will I ever learn?
- That going straight is always more difficult because the trails are always twisted, turned and troublesome.
- But if we stop, take time and listen to God’s voice, He will always show us the way.
- And when the trail is unbelievably hard, we must keep going, if that’s the one He told us to follow.
- As crazy as His directions may sound, if we obey his voice, it will always lead home to peace, provision, safety, joy and Heaven one day.
When will I ever learn my lesson without suffering injuries and bruises along the way?
Until next Saturday,