Posted in Christmas, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel

Chilled to the Bone

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8

If it wasn’t the coldest night of my life…it was close.  Back in 2008 we began a journey of doing mission work in West Africa.  While I had traveled to several, and some would say many, countries nothing compared to West Africa.  Even a trip to the third world part of Bulgaria with the Roma people couldn’t compare.  When we arrived in Niamey, Niger late one night, I thought I and my teammates had landed on the far side of the moon.  It was that different. Rarely am I had a loss for words, but that trip like no other caused me to appreciate my home country but also the people and places on a continent called Africa.

Niger is in what is called Sub-Saharan Africa.  The Sahara Desert is a stone’s throw from Niger’s capital city.  After we had taken a day to acclimate, we headed north into the desert to a small town literally in the middle of nowhere.  We were visiting with a couple of single guys who were living there and doing some work with the local people.  The goal was to share with the people about someone many of them had never heard about.  That someone was Jesus.  We were really limited to what we could do, but we did prayer walking and would try and talk with some of the folks through an interpreter.  It was incredible.

On the eight-hour drive into the desert (and keep in mind we flew for hours and hours to even get to Niger) our missionary casually mentioned that we would need to buy some blankets because it was likely to be cold at night.  I laughed.  If you are like me you think Africa and the Sahara and then you think hot, dry and then hot again.  I told her I doubted very seriously that I would get cold.  She just smiled.  Late in the afternoon we arrived at Tchin-Tabaraden.  In case you are wondering I am pretty sure we could see the end of the world just outside of town. Smile.

We had a great time talking with the two guys that lived there and before long it was time to set up our sleeping arrangements.  We were going to sleep out in the courtyard.  There was a small house, but we chose to sleep under the stars.  We set our cots up and each one of us had a blanket.  I was sure I wouldn’t need mine, but being the team player I hung on to it.  Before long, it was dark…really dark.  There was no running water and no electricity.  After a while we decided it was time to settle down for our long winter’s nap.  It seemed just a bit cooler.

Soon the stars were simply brilliant. I am sure there are places in America without light pollution that really shows off the stars.  With that said, there is simply nothing as beautiful as the stars above Africa.  Then, slowly a huge full moon came up over the horizon. If you can imagine it, it was almost too bright to sleep, and I am not kidding. Then it happened.

It?  What was it?  It was the desert cold.  Slowly, almost without warning, the dry “winter” air settled in.  In just a few minutes I had spread the blanket lightly over me.  In another few minutes, I had tucked the blanket around me.  A little later I was trying to figure out how to put the blanket under me and over me.  Apparently, there was too much of me and too little blanket.  Then, well then, I just got bone chilling, you’ve got to be kidding me, am I really in Africa, COLD.  Let me just say, I spent a large part of that night wishing for daylight.  Oh, how I couldn’t wait to see my old friend the sun.  It was the coldest night I have ever spent.

Finally, at about the 4:30 in the morning the mosque right across the street began the first call of prayer for the day.  Of course, I had long beaten them to the punch.  I had been praying since about midnight for the sun to come up.  I figured if Joshua could pray for the sun to stand still, maybe I could pull off it coming up early.  Nope.  When the sun did come up and began to warm the compound, the first thing I did was apologize to the missionary for doubting her forecast of a chilly night.

Ironically, that wasn’t quite the end of the story.  For our second night at the compound, we decided we would cram into the little house where certainly it would at least be warmer.  Well, the joke was on us.  Just like that, the weather turned and that night in the little house, no one used a blanket.  In fact…it was downright warm…too warm. After the freezing night and then the too warm night, back-to-back, you might be wondering would I go back?  Well, the answer is absolutely.  Over the years, it has been my privilege to return time and again and each time the blessings far outweigh the hardships. No contest. I long for the day when my feet will be on African soil once again, sharing the Good News.

We have made wonderful friendships, experienced many diversified cultures, and seen countless people come to know Christ as Savior.  We have seen more than a few miracles and watched as God changed lives—most notably the fair skinned men and women from America.  I am sure it is impossible to go on a trip like this and not be changed.  It has a tendency to put things like we have experienced recently in perspective.  We whine because bathroom tissue is out of stock.  Go to West Africa…they don’t even have bathrooms.  Smile.

Well, there you go. As we enter this most wonderful time of the year, be sure and be thankful for all the blessings you have.  Paul, a guy who wrote a bunch of the New Testament in the Bible said, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” That’s right, Paul. You see, many of those people who lived in Tchin-Tabaraden didn’t face one cold night, or warm night, they experienced them all and without a blanket or the air conditioning humming quietly.  We are indeed blessed. The old hymn says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one.”  That is good advice and there is nothing like a trip to a third-world country to help you do it.  I am grateful that we never travel alone.  Our Dearest Daddy goes with us each time.  He provides rest in the midst of restless nights and no matter the obstacle or hardship, we know, “He’s got this.”