By KRISTAN DOOLEY
As I’m typing this I am on a plane returning to the United States. I just spent the past ten days with some amazing people serving orphans in Jos, Nigeria. It was life-changing. My pictures will never do it justice. God’s voice was so loud. His promptings were so clear. The level of brokenness so intense. The need for God, so in your face. I’ve also never sweat so much in my life! I can’t wait to take a real shower, drink coffee with real creamer, and not go to bed under a mosquito net.
The trip was dangerous, but I was surprised at the way we moved through each day with ease. There weren’t many moments when I felt fearful of my surroundings though my surroundings were intense.
After eight amazing days in Jos, I was sad to leave, but greatly anticipating rejoining my family back in the United States. The majority of our team crammed into the nicely air-conditioned rental van while Dave, my friend Renee, and I opted for the non-air-conditioned, less-crowded option. On people overload, I gladly gave up the air conditioning at the thought of having an entire van to myself for the five-hour drive to the airport.
Had someone told us ahead of time that not having air conditioning would be the least of our problems, maybe we would have reconsidered, but there we were, traveling way too fast, on barely paved, dusty roads, surrounded by an environment forcing us more and more outside our comfort zone unaware of what was about to happen.
The road is littered with army checkpoints. At each checkpoint, Nigerian soldiers carrying automatic weapons waited to greet us. It was extremely intimidating and something I could live the rest of my life not having to do again. Small tribal villages usually line the sides of each checkpoint. At each village the people would greet us with opportunities to purchase merchandise of all types. In one stop I could buy gum, windshield wipers, dead chickens, and a baby present for the shower I had coming up. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Thirty minutes into the drive, I noticed a commotion going on in the front of the van. My husband, Dave, and Alfonzo, our Nigerian driver, seemed to be struggling to keep the van from overheating. In order to conserve the engine, Alfonzo would turn off the van and coast downhill every opportunity he had. When that tactic stopped working, Dave turned the heat on full blast to cool things down under the hood. That too, proved to only work for a little while. Maybe losing the ability to shift gears had to do with the overheating engine, maybe it didn’t. Either way, next the gearshift went out.
I sat in the middle row of the fifteen-passenger van and prayed over and over again. I prayed for God to get us to Abuja. I prayed for God to give us a new engine. I prayed for the old engine to start working. As the engine continued to die and my husband continued to make the necessary adjustments to keep us going, I prayed for anything I could think of.
I don’t do cars (I barely pump my own gas). I know nothing about them or how to take care of them. But my husband does. He loves cars and can fix anything! I am so thankful Dave and Alfonso were speaking the same car language and seemed to be having fun figuring out what to do next. My cluelessness left me out of the loop and less panicked than I would have been inside the loop. Only being able to pick up some of the details being discussed in the front seat left me much more equipped to keep my eyes on Jesus instead of the circumstances circling around us.
All of the sudden I heard a loud pop and the van jerked to the left. We ran over a nail and popped our back tire. Alfonzo steered the van to the side of the road and jumped out to survey the damage. I watched in disbelief as our partner van in front of us grew smaller and smaller, seemingly unaware we were falling behind. My heart sank deep into my stomach. I may have struggled to understand what was going on with the gear- shift and the overheating engine, but I knew what a blown tire meant. Looking around at the miles and miles of dirt hills and mountains, I thought to myself, This is how people die in third world countries. They get a flat tire on the side of a dangerous road with thousands of dollars worth of luggage packed away in back and no one to call for help.
I’m not sure I have ever seen Dave move so quickly. Without a word, both he and Alfonzo jumped out of the van and got to work. The jack to hoist the van up looked like it wouldn’t hold up a bike, but somehow it lifted the van, luggage and all. Our popularity grew as more and more of our non-English-speaking, Nigerian village people made their way over to check out the scene and offer their assistance.
I’m laughing now as I imagine what they must have been thinking. Each car that drove by slowed down to peer into the van. With Dave and Alfonso under the back tire on the opposite side I’m sure they wondered what Renee and I were doing sitting, stranded, helpless on the side of the road. Every once in a while someone would walk by, stick their head in the van, look at the luggage, look at us and then say something in a language I didn’t understand and keep moving.
The danger before us was real. It wasn’t in our heads. But as we pressed into the Spirit of God living inside of us, the fear seemed to subside and be replaced with peace. My husband is my hero and I’m convinced he could outwork any pit-crew team member in the country. When we needed him the most, he stepped up and hit it out of the park. They got the new tire on and we jumped back on the road, hoping to make it to the airport in time to get home.
From that point on I truly believe the three of us prayed that van into Abuja. Each time the heat threatened to take us down, I prayed. Each time the gears refused to shift, I prayed. Each time we stalled in the middle of an intersection because we were forced to downshift, I prayed. Panic was not an option. Fear was not our choice.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT Danger is external. Fear is internal. To some extent, we don’t necessarily choose the external circumstances we find ourselves in. We do, however, choose how we respond to them. At any given moment, I can allow the danger around me to take over my mind and turn to fear. When I take my trust out of the hands of my Savior and try to hold my future myself, fear and panic always seem to follow close behind. I don’t remember panicking on that road headed toward Abuja, because we didn’t. Fear didn’t grip us, peace did. His presence was tangible and His presence brought comfort.
I don’t know where you are panicked. We live in a world that easily induces it. The enemy can appear larger than life if we allow Him the opportunity. I know that fear is not from the Father and I know that in the midst of it He can and will provide you the grace to activate your faith and press deeply into His provision. Can you do that today? Can you take a deep breath and allow Him into your circumstances? You can press forward and do hard, even scary things because “Greater is He who is in you than He who is in the world,” (1 John 4:4, NIV.)
PRAYER Father you are bigger than my biggest fears. Empower me today to recognize you in the midst of my stress and angst. You are my protector. You are my guide. You are my security. There is nothing this world can take from me because I have all I need in you. Help me today to walk talk and face fear as a child of God. Thank you for your strength. Thank you for your provision. Thank you my future is secure in you. Amen.