On my fifth trip into Nigeria, I expected everything to be, well, “normal” from the perspective of a 5th trip “veteran.” I expected to see suffering people, and bad infrastructure, and the failures and struggles of the Nigerian government. So I was “prepared,” but I quickly came face to face with the hurting in a way that I had not in the past.
The second day on the ground Dr. Iglesias led an extraordinaire tour of the hospital. I was struck by her commitment, passion, intelligence, and love for the patients and other staff members. She is a true hero and inspiration to me, along with the others serving in the hospital. During that tour, I saw a very sick boy. I reckoned him to be around 10 years of age, and later found out that he was 12. He had feeding tubes and was listless, his eyes dulled by pain and perhaps hopelessness. As I looked at him, I thought about his life as I tried to shake from my mind thoughts about his possible death. I thought about how young he was, and how it was unfair for him to be suffering in this way. Dr. Iglesias told us that he had undergone multiple procedures and that he was very sick but a fighter.
My faith started to fail, just a little. Ok, perhaps more than a little. I thought about my own son and loved ones, and how this child was simply born in a different place, and how all human beings are created in God’s image. I really didn’t know how to pray, so I leaned down and took him by the hand and prayed for God to restore him. There was nothing heroic about the prayer. It was as if God was prompting me to have just enough faith to utter a prayer. I don’t think it was a very good prayer from the perspective of vocational ministry, but it was all I could muster.
Two days later we joined the prayer team as they made their rounds in the hospital. The entire time I was thinking about the boy. Finally, we came around the corner, and I immediately knew that he was better. He was more alert and was talking to us at the bedside. He was moving around, and seemed to be in less pain. I was thrilled to see him.
This is not about my faith. It is about God doing something incredible in the midst of human weakness and brokenness. I travel a significant amount in the world in various places, and so I “knew” all of the theology about God using broken people and entering into our suffering and pain through the incarnation of the Son. I have witnessed many difficult situations. But often, God reminds us of human frailty as he moves among us in and through all of life’s situations.
The theme for this trip for me was “my weakness, God’s strength.” I was reminded, over and over, how “out of control” I really am. I was also reminded that when we talk about our fallen world, we cannot use the terms “strong and weak,” at least not with any accuracy. All of us are weak. All nations are broken and impoverished in some way. All people are touched with the ravages of sin and death. But I thank God for the people who are ministering in Egbe in a variety of ways. They are being obedient to God out of love, and that is not easy. I know they are paying a price. But love really does win in the end. And we often speak of the price of obedience, but almost never speak of the incredible price of disobedience.
God knows. There is so much we do not know in our finite understanding- but God knows. And God uses the weak things of the world and the foolish things of the world to confound the strong and wise.