On the day I arrived on African soil, one of the greatest fears of travelers happened to me. As I was taking some time to walk through the city and pray, I was approached by two young boys begging for food. One grabbed my left arm and clawed his fingernails into my skin. While telling him to stop, the other child pressed a magazine into my side as though he was trying to sell it to me. Their actions were familiar to me as petty theft, so I put my right hand into my pocket to protect my iPhone. In the meantime, under the magazine the child on my right unzipped by side bag and pulled out my wallet, which had my passport, driver’s license, cash, credit cards, insurance cards, immunization record, and receipts. I had no idea. The children finally left me alone and briskly walked away. I even watched them closely, but couldn’t see that my wallet was tucked behind their magazine. Fifteen minutes later, I sat down to lunch and realized it was gone.
That’s one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had in my whole life.
In a fog of shock, I retraced my steps. The boys were nowhere in sight. I desperately begged God that it all wasn’t so, the kind of prayer that’s really more of a whimper than an logical request. I couldn’t find a police officer anywhere. I had no phone. Honestly, I felt so alone, so violated, so scared. I ended up at a police station and asked them over and over if I could use their phone to call my friends. They just looked at me. Finally, one of them offered his phone and I dialed some of my former co-workers, They immediately dropped everything and came to pick me up. I was exhausted, dehydrated, and my stomach in knots, but my friends hugged me and prayed confidently over me. Now I know more than ever why Paul hated to be alone (Acts 17:15).
For the past five days I have been one of the neediest people you could ever meet. Without a passport, I had no country. Without my wallet, I had no money. Without money, I had no way to live. All my plans developed meticulously over the past few months had been thrown out the window in an instant. And yet God has restored all that he has taken away. Despite their extremely busy lives, my friends have embraced me into their home and work. Not only we been able to provide much-needed mutual encouragement to one another, we’ve been able to share the gospel nonstop while jumping through the million bureaucratic hoops involved in being a countryless man in the third world. Surely my friends have been as the Good Samaritan to me. But more than that, they have reminded me—and helped me to joyfully believe—that the Father intended all these trials for much greater good than I ever could have planned for. My heart and faith is somehow healthier than it was before all this happened. I’m glad to be the idiot who got duped by a couple of little boys if it means that the power of Christ rests on me (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Miraculously, in the next few days I will be able to complete the original itinerary I had planned. Please pray for me, the Sojourn partners I will care for on behalf of our church, the Sojourn team that will soon arrive, and those who await to hear the good news of a risen Savior.