For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
I was sitting in my living room with my mom and pastor. We were completing the arrangements for my husband’s memorial service. I’d selected Scripture passages, hymns, and friends to read. There was one final thing that was most significant to me.
“I want my friend Debbie who’s chair of the University music department to sing I Know That My Redeemer Liveth from Messiah. It’s a beautiful statement of faith, and I know Peter would have liked it,” I told Momo and my pastor. With that settled, my pastor prepared to leave.
And then Helen came in. “Marthe, the bishop has a conflict for our upcoming trip to Uganda, and he’d like to know if you can go?”
Without pausing for breath, Momo said, “She can go.” Just like that. Without asking me or without thinking twice. And that’s how I made my first diocesan mission trip.
Goli, our mission base, is a beautiful little village stuck off in a remote corner of northwestern Uganda. One does not accidentally arrive in Goli. It is too far off the beaten track. Standing on Prayer Mountain and looking north, the mountains of Sudan are visible. Looking west, the jungles of Congo are within a few short miles. The Nile is not far from Goli and offered protection from the Lord’s Resistance Army in past years.
On that first visit I noticed that electricity hadn’t yet reached this remote outpost nor had indoor plumbing. Most of the floors were dirt, and the houses had beautifully thatched roofs. Community buildings were constructed of cinder block with concrete floors. Although the people of Goli lived far below the international standard of poverty, they were some of the richest people I had ever met.
Our small team of six traveled up and down the Nebbi Diocese for three weeks over red dirt roads pitted with holes large enough to swallow small animals or do serious damage to vehicles. We saw school children in lively memory verse contests, spoke at countless village churches, conducted Bible studies, visited women’s groups, met local missionaries, and made friends.
The Sunday before we left was Easter. It was not lost on me that my first Easter without Peter found me on the mission field among scores of new friends who loved Jesus as much as we did. After the first service at the village “cathedral” the Korean missionary, Sister Kim, invited us to brunch at her house. We stood in a circle, holding hands for the blessing. As soon as we finished, Sister Kim reached over to a shelf and pushed the button on a battery-powered tape recorder. Out of the small plastic machine rolled the words, “I know that my redeemer liveth…”
Coincidence? British composition on a recorder played by a Korean missionary in a modest unelectrified home for American missioners in a tiny African village. Hardly a coincidence. Instantly, I knew God had a plan for me, to give me, a newly minted widow, a future and a hope. What the future held, I had no idea, but I knew God was already there opening the door. Peter’s death was not the end of my life. One era had ended; a new one through Christ had begun.
Sweet Lord, you do walk with us through the valley of the shadow to take us through to the other side. And I know that your plans are beyond anything we can think of or imagine. THANK YOU. AMEN.