As we left Fort Hood we knew it would be a long day. It ended up being a long two days of travel. From Fort Hood we flew to North Carolina, then on to Maine before going on the long flight across the Atlantic. We stopped in Germany to refuel and then off to Manas in Kyrgyzstan where we had, for the most part, a day and a half of down time before leaving for Afghanistan.
Manas is a good transient base. It has most of the things someone would want for a day or two layover. After lunch the first day there, I was walking with a couple of my fellow soldiers and looking around at what the base had to offer. The three of us stopped in the chapel to check it out. While there, one of them said we should pray, specifically about the A/C not working in their tent. For just a split second I thought to myself, “We’re on way to war and you want to pray about the A/C?” But that’s what was important at that moment, so I led us in prayer. I added parts about keeping us safe on the mission and stuff like that.
But this reminded me of when I went to India in 2005 on a mission trip with three other guys from church. Leading up to that trip I prayed about some things. Of course I mentioned safe travels, that we’d be well received when we got there, and that the trip would be successful not only to us, but in God’s eyes. But most of what I remember praying for was that the airline wouldn’t lose my luggage on the way there and that there would be food to my liking for the 10 days we would be out of the United States. I would need clean underwear, right? And I’m a picky eater. These two requests were important to me.
We traveled around, visiting and speaking at churches in little villages. At each church, at the end of the sermon it was their custom for the visiting missionaries to pray over each person that wanted it. They formed four lines, one for each of us, and one by one made their requests through a translator. Most everyone asked for food, money, or someone in their family to be healed. The areas we visited were some of the poorest people I’ve ever seen, many of them sick from malnutrition and various other ailments from a lack of medical services.
But this one girl blew me away with her request. She must have been somewhere between twelve and fourteen years old, wearing a purple dress. She had a confident smile and beautiful eyes. As she walked up I could tell she had a joy about her. To me, these people, being as poor and sick as they are, have every right to ask God for food and health, and even some money to get by on. She didn’t ask for us to pray for her family’s health, or money to buy food with. She asked us to pray on her behalf to receive wisdom to understand God’s word better.
That was a turning point for me on that trip. I felt ashamed that I had asked for things so petty and missed the big picture. It was ok to have asked for the airline to not lose my luggage and to have food that I liked. But that had been my focus. While I was doing work to make the lives of others better, I was still focused on me and not on the work to be done. I learned a great lesson on that trip. And from a young lady no less. Turns out, at least in my opinion, the one asking for wisdom was more wise than one being asked to pray for it for her.
Check this out. My luggage made it to India just fine. The food was wonderful. But on the way home, as I flew from Chennai to London, then back to the states, my bag went to France. I truly believe God has a sense of humor. It was three days later that my bag showed up. And in that, He was telling me it was ok to have prayed for something as trivial as my luggage, but don’t miss out on seeing the whole picture. I have to remind myself of that from time to time, that’s why I share this story.
Pray for us as we begin our mission in Afghanistan. Good day and God bless.