“Faith is moving forward even when things don’t make sense,
trusting that in hindsight everything will become clear.”
- Mandy Hale
How true this can be in our lives. Hindsight can make everything clear and it can also be a real encouragement. It allows us to see things differently after we have been walking by faith and we realise that God's plan makes sense after all. We discover;
how God works in mysterious ways
how God can use us when we feel we have nothing to offer
how God is passionately interested in and at work in our lives
how He is interested in even ‘the one’
In 2015-2016, I experienced all of this, not that I knew it at the time! Only with hindsight did I see God at work in a very real way within my life as He used me to fulfil a specific purpose. After being a nurse within a private surgical setting for several years, I was looking for a new challenge. I particularly enjoyed coming alongside my patients and educating them on how they could self-manage their treatment, so when a role became available as a Stoma Nurse, in which I would care for those who were suddenly facing life with a colostomy or ileostomy bag, I was eager to move into this field (what is a stoma?).
Unexpectedly, the transition to this new role was challenging; not only did I find myself on a steep learning curve, but I also found myself working in a small office with a colleague who was very difficult to work with. Yet, in hindsight, the skills and connections I made in this new position were to serve a unique purpose I would never dream of happening.
Five months into my new role, I attended a homegroup where a woman from Southland (NZ) was visiting to share about the work she was involved in with ‘Fountain of Peace’, an organisation based in Uganda. ‘Fountain of Peace’ rescues infants that have been abandoned or orphaned and provides them with a home and a future. Jane’s story was very interesting, but it felt so remote to the family challenges I was experiencing in my own life at the time. Then as Jane was sharing how she took teams over to Uganda twice a year to help with the work in the Baby Homes and building new water fountains or school buildings, I suddenly had an odd, inconceivable experience. I felt God lay on my heart that I would be heading away with Jane on one of her future visits to Uganda.
I immediately doubted this very clear sense that I would be visiting Uganda. What a foolish notion! There were many reasons I gave God for why it wasn’t a good idea. Firstly, I had NO interest in visiting Uganda. In addition, my family life was far too complex for me to consider such a notion, and we certainly didn’t have the cash spare for a short three-week mission trip like this. And lastly, I definitely had NOTHING I could offer any future team.
However, God wasn’t about to let me dismiss the idea so quickly.
I went home and shared with my husband, Blair, what Jane had talked about. I jokingly told him that during the talk, I had experienced a sudden feeling that I would be visiting Uganda with Jane. To my surprise, he told me I should remain open to this idea. What? He must be joking. Then, that weekend, I was sharing with a friend at church about this strange undeniable experience I’d had. They didn’t say a lot at the time, but within the week I was unexpectedly gifted large amounts of money from two sets of friends. To this day it gives me a shiver down my spine to think of it, but at the time it sent me into a spin. I didn’t want the money as this meant I needed to actually take notice of God’s prompting and even consider joining a future trip to Uganda! I tried to push back and raise other reasons for why I could not even consider going with Jane, but each one was met with a solution.
It was up to me, now – would I choose to ignore God or move forward in faith?
To be honest, I really couldn’t see why He would want me on the team, but I felt, in light of everything, how could I say no to God? I put my name forward and hesitantly agreed to join the team on the next trip. “Oh well,” I thought, “maybe things will change by the time I have the capacity to go.” In November 2015, the ‘time to go’ suddenly arrived and flights were booked to travel. Amazingly, God had also prompted a friend from Auckland to join the same team as well, so I knew, whatever the challenges ahead, I had a friend who would share the experiences we found ourselves facing.
Interestingly, a week out from heading away, Jane called me and asked about my skills as a Stoma Nurse. The team in Uganda had come across a young boy in a small settlement not far from the Baby Home, who had a stoma from birth. The issue was that, in such a remote part of Uganda, the only way of managing his condition was to wrap strips of cloth around his waist to contain the faecal output from the stoma. This meant he was often surrounded by stench and flies and as a result, he had few friends and was unable to attend the local school. Could I do anything to help him?
With little time to think, I quickly accessed as many expired colostomy bags as possible from work and put together picture instructions on how to use them. There was some excitement now – was this why I was going? But I also asked God, how would we ever manage to provide a continued supply of colostomy bags in the future? Isn’t it cruel to provide this boy with some hope of a different life, only for him to potentially struggle to find a long-term source of the bags for the rest of his life? I could not answer these questions, but I felt God ask me to trust Him.
I could say a lot about this trip to Uganda, such as the challenges to all my senses with all the sounds, heat, and poverty, or how confronting it was to be given a gift of 2-3 eggs knowing that this was all they had to feed their family that day. But the highlight by far was meeting this young boy – so shy and withdrawn. I was able to teach his family how to use the colostomy bags that would contain his faeces and maintain his personal hygiene so that he was able to attend school and make friends. By the end of our time there, the family were calling me his ‘Muzungu Mama’ (White Mama). Even more joyous for me was seeing the transformation in him over the three weeks I was there. He had a new light in his eyes – the light of hope. He also allowed me to tickle him and make him laugh like kids do, and I realised that he was not used to being tickled, touched or even hugged.
His peels of laughter filled my bone-weary soul. He was in fact, filling me with a joy I had struggled to find in my life at that time.
Still, a nagging question remained – how was I to find a source of colostomy bags to maintain this gift of hope for this young boy? God had asked me to trust him and I discovered God did have a plan. Over the next year or so, God brought forward a surgeon from the UK who was able to review my young boy’s treatment. A plan was made for surgery the next time the surgeon was visiting Uganda. This surgery would reverse his stoma and enable him to ‘poo’ in the way most of us do – for the first time in his life! Surgery that meant he would not need a constant lifetime supply of colostomy bags.
This young boy’s name when translated into English is “He who is Known”. Do we have an incredible God? Indeed, we do! This young boy was known by God from the day he was born, and I also discovered, this middle-aged woman was also known by God. He knew my life situation, my bone-weariness, and my need to see and understand afresh that He cares. As we left Uganda, I was the one who was changed, enriched by this young boy. This gift in my life was a surprise but so needed.
Don’t get me wrong, this didn’t mean that life suddenly became easier. The same job God put me in that gave me the skills I needed and access to colostomy bags, required me to work under someone who destroyed my confidence in my nursing ability. I soon found myself resigning from that job and not returning to nursing for 18 months. It wasn’t an easy time in my life, however, in hindsight, I was able to see God’s hand in every detail, not only for the sake of this young man but also for my sake and the plans He had for my future.
I discovered afresh that faith is about moving forward even when things don’t make sense, trusting that in hindsight, everything will become clear.
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