Good Friday morning ...
One of my favorite movies is "Out of Africa." You might have guessed that with my twenty-year back-and-forth mission trips to East Africa where the movie takes place. The fascinating thing is that pretty much the same environment exists today when I visit from when Karen Blixen and Denys French Hatton ranged across that part of the African continent in the early twentieth century.
The same flat, endless plains seem to swallow me in remote silence as I travel the territory of the Maasai. The grass ... only fractions of an inch high before being nourished by the rains ... seems matted against the rough soil, baking under the midday sun ... in some places yellow, in others a reddish orange. Along a gravel road, a pile of bleached bones ... or more often a skull of a zebra or wildebeest ... lay exposed to the elements. There are few trees ... very few.
Abruptly, a herd of Thomson's gazelles comes into view, their heads lowered as they graze on the sparse grass. Some of them look up quickly, their black tails wagging doglike as they scrutinize the intrusion of our vehicle. Suddenly one ... then the others ... turn and sprint away, clouds of dust exploding from their hooves. In places the plain is pierced with odd-looking dirt pinnacles erected by termites. Where there is a pool of water, hyenas loll about, scampering to their feet as they are startled by our presence. Slowly, they lope off, looking back suspiciously ... disturbed by our intrusion.
Occasionally, a clump of mammoth gray boulders appears, isolated on the plain as if scattered among a giant game of marbles. These are called kopjes, the result of some long-ago volcanic activity providing sanctuary for a variety of vermin, rock hyraxes, birds and reptiles. To the side of a dusty path stands a Kori Bustard gazing off into the distance, unplused by our presence.
Daytime on the plains of East Africa are hot, dry and quiet. But after nightfall, the relative quiet of the day gives way to an explosion of animal cries and insect calls ... some near, some far away. Many of the animals that are inactive during the day begin moving around at night and the open plains become a dangerous place to those unfamiliar to this untamed environment.
Sunrise comes early. A small crease of orange in the blackness opens in the far distance into which the blackness seems to drain and disappear ... slowly transforming the violet-black night into pink hues ... kind of like the color of cooked shrimp. Gradually the plains take shape as the sun rises and the silhouettes of acacia trees give way to the vastness that lies beyond, and another day opens for the world to see.
Life on the plains of East Africa is hardly romantic as some portray it to be. But despite its harshness, it is just one marvelous part of God's wonderful creation. And it is into this part of His creation where He has placed the equally marvelous Maasai tribesmen to whom He has called me to minister. With joy I anticipate yet another trek into this sparsely populated habitat to share life and faith with some of God's special people.
The climate, the terrain, the environment in East Africa is similar today to what it was one hundred years ago. But the needs of the people who inhabit that place are also the same. They need food, shelter, education, gainful employment, etc. But they also ultimately need Jesus and therefore my continued attraction to assist and encourage the fulfillment of that need.
As is the case everywhere these days ... COVID-19 hinders but does not negate the basic needs of God's people. And so, we pray, we plan, we prepare ... not knowing what the future will bring ... but knowing that God is still at work behind the scenes, above the clouds, in the midst of a world-wide pandemic ... and knowing that His good and perfect will is certain to be accomplished in His time and in His way.
"Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." [Hebrews 13:20-21]
Have a blessed weekend ... seeking to do His will where you are ...