Ministry of Margaret Nelson
Uganda, Africa

June 18, 2006

Traveling with Jesus

God works in funny ways sometimes. One of the things I've noticed in my 7 years of living by faith, trusting God to provide for all of my financial needs, is how He will use my needs and His provisions to lead and guide me. I'd thought of living by faith as simply trusting Him for money. But it's much more, so much more than that. The very idea of even trusting God financially used to terrify me. But after taking the plunge in order to live and minister in Uganda, I've found it to be an incredible life style.

Around December or so of last year, I was sitting in the Kampala Foursquare church office in Kampala with 2 other Americans. They were talking of their various travels to and from Uganda and other places, and in particular, the subject began to focus around how much they love London. I mostly listened. I'd flown through London a few times, but had come to avoid traveling that way. One thing was that London is terribly expensive. The other is that there used to be not only long layovers at the airport, but we had to change airports as well. That necessitated a one-hour shuttle between Heathrow and Gatwick on top of a 12 to 14 hour layover. Now we no longer have to change airports, but the layovers got longer, to 24 hours or more sometimes.

As they talked of their explorations of London during their layovers, I began to catch their enthusiasm and to remember my own times there. We discussed places to spend the night, as the layovers now usually necessitate that, and I was told of a hotel near the airport which had a particularly comfortable bed that could be requested. And for some reason, as I thought of my upcoming furlough in May, I began to think sleeping over in London was not such a bad idea. And maybe I could do a bit of sightseeing as well...

Things worked out so that I was able to make flight and hotel reservations for London. So in May I found myself on a British Air flight, heading for London with anticipation of a 23 hour layover, a wonderful bed to sleep in, and maybe a tour on the side. God had provided for it all. But here's where the story gets funny.

On the plane, I found myself sitting among 4 Foursquare pastors traveling from Uganda back to Canada, after ministering in Kampala for a week. On our nearly 10 hour flight, we had lots of time to talk, to sort out their first-time experiences in Uganda, and ultimately to plan for possible future ministry together in Uganda! In addition, one of them had bought a DVD movie made by a Ugandan ministry of the war in northern Uganda, which 2 of us watched on my laptop. I wept through much of it, knowing people from that part of the country, and having just taken a team to the north last August. After that movie, I turned to my TV set and found another African movie, which turned out to be of the Rwandan genocide in 1994. I wept throught that movie as well, and I thought, "God, what are you doing to me?"

Not only did I establish a relationship with these pastors, whom I did not know before, but these movies deeply touched my heart. The one of the war in northern Uganda actually showed me a broader picture of what He's doing in Uganda, and how the ministry I'm involved in in the central, Luweero, area, has a part in that work. I was so deeply moved by these things, and amazed at how, out of several hundred people on this flight, God had arranged for us to sit together, and for the pastors to have this movie that God wanted me to watch.

We got to London and went our separate ways. I found London to be more expensive than ever, with the pound now equaling $2. I got in a taxi to go only to the other side of the airport, and was shocked when it cost me 14 pounds, or $28! Obviously, I had to save that much to be able to return for my flight to Seattle the next day! Then I got to my hotel. When I'd reserved my room, it had been about $30 more than my friend had quoted in December. But upon my arrival, I learned it was now $33 higher yet, and on top of that, they wanted a $50 deposit for the wet bar and breakfast! I did not have enough money for these added costs, and all I had on me was an expired debit card (we don't use them in Uganda, so I didn't realize til my flight that it had expired last November!).

Finally, the clerk decided she could put me in a cheaper room (with the same bed I'd requested), and she didn't charge me the deposit. I asked her what a proper tip was for the bus boy waiting eagerly to help me with my one bag and decided I could take myself to the room without his help. I unlocked the door of my non-smoking room and was immediately hit with the odor of fresh cigarette smoke coming out of the bathroom! And as I walked on into the room, stale cigarette smoke was also very strong... and the TV was on. But I was too tired to go back down to the desk and hassle things, and I knew my nose would adjust shortly.

When I checked the hotel menu prices, I decided against having dinner. Fortunately, I had a large bag of home grown peanuts I'd roasted and brought along for snacks and gifts, so I was not hungry. I found breakfast to cost nearly $35 for a continental breakfast, so I had ala carte, knowing I'd eat better on the plane. If the bed was anything special, I didn't notice. Needless to say, I didn't go on any sightseeing...

After my arrival in Seattle, Washington, I spent a couple weeks soaking up family, and then I returned to Everett. I found that my church had arranged for a place for me to base out of, to live in whenever I would return to Everett during my 3 month furlough. I'd thought it'd be someone's extra bedroom, but was amazed to find that it was actually a 2 bedroom fully furnished basement apartment! When the owner showed me my choice of the 2 bedrooms, I was attracted by the sweet smell coming out of the smaller one. It also had a tall bed that I liked. I chose to sleep in that room, even though the other bedroom had antique furniture which normally would've appealed to me more.

That night as I snuggled down into the tall bed, with its cloud-like comforters and pillows, and the sweet smell in the room, before I went to sleep, I realized what God had done. My desire to go to London and sleep in that hotel with its nice bed, was not what it was all about. It was that God wanted me on that particular plane with those Foursquare pastors, watching those movies that broke my heart again for Africa. God had provided financially for my time in London, but it was a bomb.

Now, instead of a stale, smelly room, I had one that smelled so delicately of sweetness, and the most comfortable bed I could have dreamed of. Instead of an expensive taxi, I had been provided with a minivan with a full tank of gas for my use while in the States. And instead of peanuts for dinner, I'd been provided with food for the refrigerator in my apartment, and gift coupons for Safeway and Starbucks coffee!

So while God had led me to go to London, it was not as I'd expected, because He'd had a different purpose all along. Now it seemed He was making it up to me. I had been obedient to Him, and now He had provided so much more for me than "London," and it is for 3 months, not for just overnight!

In the Message version of the Bible, the first verses of Psalm 23 say:

God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction ...

Margaret Nelson