Last year, at this exact time on the calendar, I was in Ethiopia. I have been reflecting on that trip and have been prompted to blog how God met me there. This is a long one, three parts actually, so bear with me. The trip was WAY out of my comfort zone, but a dear friend of mine was leading the trip, had lead it many times in the past, and my daughter wanted desperately to go. My friend had approached me about Emma going to Ethiopia after she read something I posted on Facebook regarding Emma wanting to be in the Peace Corp. As a side note, be careful what you post on Facebook. The moment I asked Emma if she was interested in going to Roggie Village in Ethiopia, which is where we sponsor a child (now two actually), a grin of sheer delight spread across her face and her eyes lit up like crystal blue diamonds.
The decision for both of us to attend the trip was made before my life was altered. Before I took a blow I did not see coming and before the second blow that came a couple weeks before our departure. So, as we prepared to leave for the trip, went to a travel doctor for a myriad of shots, gathered deet and wilderness wipes and the stuff hard core living is made of, I was trudging through a life of confusion, sadness and disbelief. But, for my daughter, as the trip approached, I put one foot in front of the other, no matter how thick the mud felt at the time. What I learned was the trip was as much about me as it was about Emma.
As we sat in the San Francisco airport waiting for the rest of our team to arrive and to begin this journey into the unknown, I started to feel anxious and quite crazy actually. At that time in my life, I was not feeling grounded, solid, faithful, or sure of anything. I was living moment by moment and felt like I was barely existing, like I was a failure, and seriously questioning who I thought I was going on a mission to Ethiopia. It was a hard place for me as a strong and confident believer who liked to plan and organize. As I was freaking out, I was reminded of one of my favorite stories of Joshua and his journey leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. This section of scripture is the second command God gives to Joshua and the Israelites as they prepare to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. The first instruction was inspiration for my blog posting, Clear Line of Sight.
We pick up in Joshua 3:8-17: “Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’ ” Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord —the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.”
The Israelites had crossed another body of water, the Red Sea. This was the previous generation but the story had been told and retold and was the miracle that led them out of the years of captivity they had been in under Egyptian rule. When the Red Sea parted, no one entered until the sea had actually parted. They didn’t go part way in, they didn’t jump in and try to swim, and they did not send anyone ahead of them into the water. They waited for Moses to do what God commanded him to do. When he did, the water parted and they crossed on dry land.
At the Jordan River, a generation later, they were asked to set foot in the water before it would stop flowing. The Jordan was huge, it was at flood stage, which means water flowing swiftly with a strong ability to pull them under. At that point in my life, I felt like I was at flood stage and did not know how I could possibly be of use to anyone, least of all Ethiopian children. The trip looked to me like a large body of water that was impossible to cross, especially since I already felt like I was swimming and out of breath. Now, I am not an expert on faith, but either situation, the Red Sea or the Jordan River, would require an extreme amount of faith, in my humble opinion. However, having to step into the river before it parted would cause me to think, “Hey, Lord, remember when you stopped the Red Sea? Can we just do a repeat of that? Why step in?”
The idea of this ‘stepping in’ gave me the courage to suck it up and actually, what choice did I have? I am sure the Israelites felt that swell of courage and that same feeling of a lack of choice. They did not want to remain in the wilderness, and the coveted Promised Land was on the other side of the raging river, all they had to do was muster enough faith to step in, and God would do the rest. Ethiopians spoke a different language, two of them actually, they had different cultural norms, they ate different food, lived in different conditions and the unknown was exciting and scary but I felt like I was running on empty. And I’m sure the Israelties felt the same way after 40 years of wandering! I knew, in my heart of hearts, that as soon as I stepped foot into that country, God would meet me, just as he did when the priests stepped into the Jordan and the water stopped and the whole of Israel entered the Promised Land.
Now the Promised Land was not perfect, they were met with the battle of Jericho, but they found God’s love, triumph and amazing strength, because they stepped in. More to come.
By His Grace