For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18
And then I remembered…it was hard. I was looking for a picture to use in one of my Grit’s stories and that caused me to go back…to reminisce…to remember. It was 2007 and I was part of a vision trip to Niger, West Africa to check out the possibilities of our church ministering in that West Africa country. It involved an incredibly long flight which included a 12-hour layover in Casablanca, Morocco. This was new territory for all four team members and trust me it was an adventure. Perhaps my favorite, and most eye-opening part, was when I asked a coffee shop owner if he took dollars. His only response was a shrug of the shoulders that seemed to say, “What is a dollar?” Apparently, I had found a place that didn’t think America was the center of the universe.
Later that day, we continued our journey to Niger and arrived near midnight and I was sure we had somehow been diverted and landed on the moon. The landscape, the sounds, the sights, the smells and the culture were so different…and that was just the beginning. Though I had spent three years in Europe and made a journey to the Eastern European country of Bulgaria, nothing prepared me for this. Even though we were in the capital city of Niamey there was still extreme property and many dirt roads. Amazing. But that was nothing compared to “the bush.”
We were more than just on the edge of the vast, almost endless Sahara desert where the scrub bushes and sand seemed to go on forever. With the exception of our own faces, everyone there bore the signs of desert life. Faces were weathered and worn by the desert winds and feet were toughened by the grinding of the sand. And yet, the people were amazingly content. Things such as family and friendship seemed to matter more than anything western culture provided. It was eye opening.
We were in the bush for several days and every day was an adventure and every day we learned more and more about this harsh, yet beautiful place at the edge of the Sahara with all its challenges and opportunities. We slept out in the desert air, we took bucket baths because there was no running water, we lived by flashlights because there was no electricity, and we ate new and strange foods…very strange. I learned that millet was not on my favorite food list and I also learned that this southern boy could, with difficulty, go without bread.
Well, we more than survived and would return a half dozen times or so to this different part of the world before the political climate closed that door and we had to move on to another part of West Africa. That was another adventure and another story. But as I looked at those pictures and went back…reminisced…remembered, I realized, at least for me, that was a difficult trip. For one who was used to so many creature comforts, it was hard. I also looked at some pictures from another trip to the bush a couple of years later and looked into the eyes of weary westerners—tired from a long day’s ministry, loving and helping people and remembered…it was hard.
But here’s the deal. It was worth it…in fact, it was more than worth it. Those trips, those days, were some of the most memorable days we have spent on the African continent. During those days I made friendships with people and learned from them. They left their fingerprints on my life and heart and I am different today. I hope that I too left good fingerprints on their lives—good impressions of Someone much greater than me. We told Bible stories during those days and for many that was something new—something they had never heard, Someone, they had never known. I still remember how some were bewildered and some intrigued. Yes, it was worth all the hard and only eternity will tell the final impact.
Worth.The.Hard. That is not only true for trips to West Africa or other difficult places, it is true of life. You see, everyone’s journey is different, and everyone’s journey will include easy and it will include hard—and both are beneficial. The easy refreshes us like a desert oasis and the hard teaches us like a strenuous workout at the gym. If and when, we learn we need both, life takes on a different and better meaning. We stop holding on only to the easy and learn to embrace the hard and we are better.
Paul, a guy in the Bible who knew a lot about easy and hard said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” Paul learned to appreciate both sides of the coin—the refreshment of easier days and the challenge of difficult ones. How about you? Can you imagine a better outcome when the harshness of life brings profit instead of loss? I know it is a challenge and a lesson that I am still learning. But there is one lesson that is at the top of my to-do list—to remember and believe, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne