Question: What happens when two missionaries get lost in a foreign country with no map, a non-functional GPS, and no cell phone?
Answer: God does what He wills. (Alleluia!)
Last night, Amanda and I spent some time with all the fabulous folks from St. Tomas parish in Roermond (NL) for XLT. We had managed to get to the church no problem–even early, which is a feat in itself for us!–and counted it as a blessing from God, because we didn’t even have to turn around once. It was almost like our car was on auto-pilot to the church. Anyway, it was a great night: we prayed, we praised the Lord, Amanda shared her heart in her testimony, we sang, Jesus showed up in the Eucharist (!), and we got to know some of the teens and Core from the parish. God definitely moved–there was such a spirit of freedom while we were praying with everyone! After cleaning up and putting the church hall back together, Bernadette sent us home with some St. Nicholas candy (happy feast day!) and joy in our hearts.
After saying a prayer of thanksgiving for the night and asking for safe travels, we started driving home. Amanda and I were so excited on the way back–we were talking about how great it was to pray with everyone–and so we didn’t think much of the fact that we didn’t have directions for the way back home (we’re still trying to figure out the freeway system here…it’s not quite the same as navigating the freeways back at home). We trusted that God would get us home safely. And He did…eventually.
After several wrong turns, many variations of the question “do you remember this road at all?”, innumerable signs pointing to Venlo in all directions (still have no idea where it is), driving along the Belgian border for awhile (how many countries can you visit in one night? we’re up to 3 so far…), getting directions from a well-intending (albeit incorrect) group of Dutch men in a Burger King, a GPS navigator that could somehow only manage to say “make a U-turn now,” and 2.5 hours travel time for a trip that should have taken 30 minutes, I felt like I understood Psalm 139 in a whole new light: “my travels and my rest you mark; with all my ways you are familiar.”
When I first realized we were lost, I was frustrated. I was anxious–no, I was worried. How are we going to get home? What if we get in an accident? Do we have enough gas? It’s disconcerting to be in a completely foreign place, with no means of communication, having completely zero idea where you’re going, or how you’re going to get home. But even as I’m writing this, I’m realizing that last night’s adventure was a real-life example of what my spiritual life looks like, and how God is trying to teach me to trust more in Him–to trust only in Him.
At some moment along our journey (it might have been as we were sitting underneath a bridge in before-mentioned Venlo, realizing that REALLY, only God could get us home), God’s grace won over my humanness and I let go of all my worry. We were lost. There was nothing I could do about it but trust. Trust in the face of what seemed like an almost impossible situation. Trust even though it seemed crazy because we had nothing. Trust even though I had no idea where we would end up (maybe home? maybe Poland?), even though I was driving the car.
How many times have I prayed “God, what are you doing? Where am I going? How am I going to do this?” I don’t think I could count all of them–and it seems like the longer I live as a missionary, the fewer answers I have to those questions. But when I recognize that–when I admit that I don’t have anything, that I don’t know the way, or the why, or the how–and when I completely surrender to God, abandoning myself to Him in a way that seems like insanity, then I’m able to just enjoy the journey.
Amanda and I had a great conversation in the car. We were able to see a little bit of Belgium (and she got to read French, which she was excited about). We were able to witness in a very small way to the guys who gave us directions (“no, we’re not students, we’re missionaries…”). We learned a little bit more about what it means to “pray without ceasing” and to invoke the intercession of our guardian angels. And miraculously, just when we stopped needing it, the GPS started working and we ended up back at home with gas in the tank to spare. It’s amazing what God can do with a heart that gives Him the chance.
“Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27)