I'm reminded of a story in the Old Testament where a young man with 11 brothers couldn't have imagined the outcome of his life even if he had tried. The story goes like this:
"So there's this young guy with 11 brothers, 10 of which are older than him, so for all intents and purposes he's really a "youngest child." Apparently, as the story goes, his father really liked him...even more than his other sons. One day he comes in to his father with a bad report about them. After that, his father makes a beautiful coat for his "favorite" son and Joseph's brothers had finally had enough of this favoritism. They plot to kill him, but through a series of events, end up selling him to a traveling group of slave traders on their way to Egypt.
As the story begins to unfold, Joseph is sold for 30 pieces of silver and finds himself at the mercy of the slave traders. Eventually, he's sold to Potiphar's house and works there as a servant of the captain of the guard. The story says that Potiphar noticed that the Lord blessed everything Joseph did so he made him his personal servant and put him in charge of everything he owned. After a while, Potiphar's wife noticed how handsome Joseph is and asks to sleep with him, but on several accounts, Joseph says no.
All it takes is a lie, and Joseph finds himself imprisoned, charged with "taking Potiphar's wife for himself." At this point in the story, I'm thinking man, this guy's been mistreated his whole life. First he's sold out by his family, then is accused of something he didn't do. Now he's sitting in an Egyptian prison, through absolutely no fault of his own. I know what I would be thinking...probably cursing God...and my brothers...and Potiphar...and the prison. You get the hint.
But again, Joseph comes to be responsible for everything that goes on in the jail, so that the real guy in charge didn't have to do anything at all. Then, through more twists and turns, he interprets a few dreams and ends up coming before the Pharaoh to interpret a dream of his. After a favorable interpretation, Joseph is put in charge of all of Egypt. The Bible says, "only with respect to the throne will you be greater than the Pharaoh."
Now comes the part that I really enjoy. Joseph predicts 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of horrible famine. During the famine, Joseph's brothers come to him for food and provisions, not once, but twice. The second time they come Joseph reveals himself and says, "God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance....So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God."
By now, many of you know of our decision to part ways with MAF at this point in our lives. There are no hard feelings from either us or the folks at MAF, we just felt DRC was not the right fit for our family, and before jumping right into another assignment, we felt it was prudent to take a little time off. I love what I did in eastern Congo and I'm so thankful for that wonderful opportunity, but I also need to be sensitive to the needs of our family. Right now I feel like Joseph must have in the back of a caravan, having just been sold out by his family. I can only imagine he was thinking how this could happen to him, why God would allow such a thing, what He had in store for the future. I'm sure many other things were rolling through his mind, but the Bible doesn't give us many clues and we're left to wonder.
Maybe I will write a few blogs about how we got to this point and give a little more history behind our decision, but suffice for now to say that after a lot of prayer, counsel, and thinking, we've decided to take a little time off from MAF to get our bearings, re-adjust our focus, and see what the Lord has for the future. I don't understand why I would spend 10 years preparing for service with MAF, only to serve one. That's where I sense some parallels with Joseph's story and what he must have been feeling on the road to Egypt, and again when he found himself in prison.
We thank the Lord for giving us such wonderful experiences, some that not many people get to experience. We thank the Lord for the many, many folks that have stood with us in preparing, sending, and keeping us in Africa. I may never know the impact of our presence in Bunia; that's not my place, but I do know that we have been blessed beyond belief, we've been sharpened by our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we have come to a deeper understanding of our Savior.
So...what's next?!? I'll leave that for next time!