Let’s meet up. Where do you want to meet? Sure, we can meet at the Starbucks, but can it be after Bible Study? Sure. Looking forward to seeing you.
He said; “You are able to adapt to anywhere you find yourself. Even when you find yourself in a situation that is not the best, you are able to see the good things in it.”
I sat there, dumbfounded at the unsolicited compliment. There are other things he said, but I had withdrawn inside for a moment. I asked myself. “I am adaptable?” “I make the best of situations?” “I swear I am always complaining about things.” “Wait, people notice what I do?” “I am humbled”. I tuned back in, we chatted for a while longer, and then we parted ways.
On the way home, I could not but think about the comment he made. Yes, as a compliment because he knew I was about to travel, but it was also a challenge. Am I adaptable? Do I make the best of any situation in which I find myself? Am I able to see the good in the not-so-good things? The nudge inside of me to take some time to spend with God seemed to be stronger. Sigh. With all that is going on this year, taking time off will only be eating into the limited time I already have to work with. So much to do. So much to get through. The nudge persisted. Upon arrival at home, I decided to eat, and forget everything else. The nudge intensified. Fine. I’ll take the morning off. Sigh. Did I ever tell you that it is much harder to be away from work than it is to be there? In my line of profession, I would much rather be there. All the preparation that needed to be put in place took a couple of hours, but they were done. All ‘before work daily appointments’, were cancelled. I would wake up at my regular time (5:30am), and spend the whole morning with God. Anything else that needs to happen can happen in the afternoon.
So it began. Truthfully, the time with God was more still than I expected. It consisted of listening than anything else. I was surprised. Shouldn’t I be praying more? This is God’s presence after all. But each time I started, there was a shift that whispered, ‘be still’. The time with God was one where questions were asked, some went unanswered, and decisions were made –‘where you go, I will follow’. The time with God was one where above all else, peace was the focus of the day. ‘Peace be still’, ‘Peace be still and know’
“Peace be still, and know that I am God” – Psalm 46:10.
As afternoon hit, my phone started to buzz like crazy. I try to do my best to honor my time with God, so I ignored it. Then the phone calls started to come in. One missed call, two, three, four, five, I put the phone on silent. Alright, it is time to get ready for the afternoon (got to get off this mountain top and be useful in daily living). Plus, the shower is a great place to hold a praise concert. Shower done, resources packed, it’s going to be a long rest of the day, heading out the door; Oh yes, I have missed calls and messages to attend to. Let me get to those.
First message: “Call me ASAP”
Second message: “This is very important and a decision needs to be made”
Email one: “About the trip tomorrow…”
Email two: “The team leader and another team member has decided not to go”
Third message: “We are making a decision and need to let you know how we are moving forward…”
I stopped reading. Sigh. I did not expect to step out of my time with God into chaos. I thrive under pressure, but I hate it simultaneously. Let’s check the calls. Same number, more times that I was going to count. Ok, get into the car. Dial back.
“Hi, it’s Iyanuoluwa. You have been trying to get a hold of me.”
“Yes, glad you called back, hold on for the director.”
Pleasantries exchanged. “Iyanuoluwa, I have some bad news. By the looks of it, and with the travel advisory given, we are going to pull the plug on the mission trip at this time. We will reschedule it for later in the year”.
(In my head: Sigh. This cannot be happening. I literally just worked this out with God. I didn’t even really want to go, but He brought me to a place where I was able to submit. This is just confusing. If You knew I wasn’t going to have to go, why all the nudging God?)
“Later in the year does not work for me. I have planned out my year, and this is my only available time”. (In my head: What the heck did I just say out loud? This was my way out)
“Oh really? We were hoping to postpone the trip to August when there is more free time and the pandemic may have died down”.
“August does not work for me, there is a big shift happening in August that is already in the works”. (In my head: Why am I not taking the easy way out? This is my easy exit!)
“What about December?”
“I have planned my year, and this is the optimal time for me to go on this mission trip. Honestly, I do not care what anyone else is saying. Left to me, I will be on that plane tomorrow”. (In my head: Seriously? This was a free excuse out! Why won’t you take it?)
“Iyanuoluwa, I see what you are saying. I agree with you. Let me think things over with the office team, talk to some people, and get back to you”.
“Sounds good. I will be at work, but I will give you a call shortly after I finish”. (In my head: What the heck just happened?)
I was upset. I vented. “What is going on God? I was not fully committed to going. I was battling this for months. I always battle this before a mission trip. For going is not easy. To be able to come alongside the pain of others, open myself up to be vulnerable, to be able to identify with others, carry their burdens for the short time I am there, and not go to “fix them”, but instead to let You work in them through me as You see fit. Even as You work in me through them. It is hard. It is hard because working through me often requires that you first break me. Break me, so that I do not break myself. Break me so that I do not become a stumbling block to others. The breaking is the hard part. The part that takes time. The part that needs a slower processing speed. The part that goes counter to how I have been conditioned to living. I know I said yes to going, but I was not fully committed to going. Then you nudged, we talked, I argued, You were patient, I surrendered. And now, the plug is being pulled on the whole thing? I can’t even. I’ll just focus on work and everything else that needs accomplishing this afternoon and evening. You know where to find me if you need me. You also know that I meant what I said, “wherever You lead, I will follow”.” So I delved into work and appointments.
“Hey Iyanuoluwa? Yes. So I talked to my team, you and your brother have the green light to go to Iquitos tomorrow if you choose. Because it will just be the two of you, the program will be modified, please be adaptable, and know that each day may be different from the last”.
Hmm… There is that word again. Adaptable.
“Great. I look forward to flying out tomorrow. If there are any other details we need to know or prepare before leaving, please let us know”.
The following day came. Heart racing; partially from all the running around that needed to be completed before the evening flight, and partially because we were running towards what everyone else was running from. Palms sweaty; partially from the overheating of the body from driving between appointments and tasks with only 10 minute rest periods, but also because besides the MVC team on Canadian soil, no one else knew that we had the option NOT TO GO. Head swimming; is this the right decision? Is this the right direction? Why is there so much peace in the midst of all of chaos? Also, wow, the airport is so empty. Express security clearance for the win! Oh well, Iquitos here we come.
14 hours later, we landed in Iquitos. .5 hours after that (14.5), we were in the home of our host family. .5 hours after that (15 hours), we were eating breakfast and learning Spanish. 4 hours after that (19 hours later), we were on the streets of Belen – one of the poorest areas in Iquitos, working with and sharing with the children who lived there, as well as sharing and checking in on people in drug houses. 2 hours after that (21 hours), a young man by the name of Lenny was sitting in front of our host house with us, freshly showered, after having decided to stop doing drugs, thrown his pipe to the floor, and walked out of the drug house with my younger brother, because he wanted a fresh start. .5 hours (21.5 hours) after that, Lenny was sweeping the floor of the barbershop at the front of the house, which is used to generate income for low to no income youths and young adults in the area who desire to work. This was after he had begun to open up about his story; why he does drugs, what led him to where he was, why he had tried repeatedly to end his own life (he even showed me the scars on his wrist to prove it). An hour after that, we settled in for the night. My head was spinning. So. Much. To. Process.
24 hours after that, after attending church service in Spanish on Sunday morning, facing my fear of the water in the swimming pool in the afternoon, and sharing the word of God and words of encouragement with a congregation of all Spanish speakers at night, we woke up to the news that Iquitos was on complete lock-down. We were not allowed to leave. No one was allowed to get in. No one was allowed to go out. We watched as all flights got cancelled, domestically and internationally. At least for the next 2 weeks, they said, truthfully, no one knew for how long.
Peace. Funny enough, I had unpacked my suitcase the night after church. If you have ever traveled with me, you will know that I never unpack. I take living out of a suitcase very literally, no matter how long or short I am staying for, no matter how big or small the space I am in is. But, that night, I unpacked everything, as though I knew that I was going to be staying a while.
You see, what God wants to do, does not always make sense to us from the get go. Truthfully, it does not often make sense to us at all. If I am being honest, I still do not know the extent of what God did by our presence in the land of Iquitos during the time we were there. Truthfully, this trip on a whole does not make sense to me in totality. I cannot figure out every part and say with confidence that ‘This is why we were in Iquitos’. I can delve into stories. Stories of families we were able to support with basic needs like groceries or child care, people we prayed for fervently, conversations we were able to have that encouraged others, individuals who we connected with in an extension of God’s family on earth, the devotions we delved into, I could regale you with stories. But, those were parts of the purpose, not all of His plan.
You see, this past month was an adventure like no other. It was chaos. It was peace. Peace in the midst of chaos. Going, when the entire world is telling you to stay. Seeing your fears, your doubts, your challenges, your inadequacies; then living right in the midst of them all. Outside of your comfort zone, in a place so foreign and isolated than what you are used to. Outside of your norms, among a people you do not know, surrounded by a language you do not speak. Outside of your daily benefits that is often take for granted, in a culture so different from your own. Living right in the heart of your beliefs, in spite of all that you have been taught to believe. Oh yes, and doing all of this in the midst of a global pandemic (Pandemic not required)
But there is an inexplicable peace.
Peace in the midst of chaos. That tells you that you are exactly where you need to be. Peace in the midst of chaos. That calms you despite your fears and doubts. Peace in the midst of chaos. That is your guide when you hit the ground running. Peace in the midst of chaos. That whispers, ‘Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Diligent’.
So, how are you going to let yourself adapt? How will you allow yourself to see the good at the very center of your not so great situations? How are you going to allow yourself to heed the nudge that most often leads to inexplicable peace – though the path may be uncharted and rough? I wasn’t fully committed to going, but going even when my heart had to crawl to get there was the step in the right direction. For it wasn’t until I got there, stayed there, lived in the midst of my fears, that I realized there is nowhere else I would have rather been (I mean there was a clinic 3 houses down from us and someone died there – if you want to talk about fear, ask me what it feels like to watch doctors and nurses panic right in front of your eyes from your front door). But, in spite of it all, despite the shaking of my faith from its very foundation, coming back, was a whole lot harder than going, because I knew that there was exactly where I needed to be.
I have found that in my greatest fears, doubts, uncertainties, and challenges lie my greatest breakthrough. They aren’t meant to stop me, they are meant to challenge me to go further, be stronger, believe deeper, do better, aim higher, and if I fail, fail with grace.
So, how are you going to let yourself adapt? How will you allow yourself to see the good at the very center of your not so great situations? How are you going to allow yourself to heed the nudge that most often leads to inexplicable peace – though the path may be uncharted and rough? This is my story, are you willing to live yours even in the midst of a global pandemic?
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