It was roughly a year ago that I arrived back on the Africa Mercy in Tenerife with the expectation of sailing to Benin in five days. Well as you may remember or can read here not only did we not sail in five days we did not sail to Benin at all. Roughly two months later we arrived in Madagascar to begin an incredible field service in which we saw the Lord move in amazing ways through incredible crew, day crew and patients.
Well as it is often said, the only thing that is constant in Mercy Ships is change. Yes we are still sailing to Madagascar but seeing as we were scheduled to set sail on 3 August and are still in a dry dock berth with the propeller and shaft disconnected we are once more in a period of delay.
Surrounded by frustrated nurses and other medical professionals who are again eagerly waiting to begin the work they are so passionate about we tend to wonder why. Why are we once again stuck when all we want to do is serve the Lord who has called us here?
But where is here?
I was sitting in church on Sunday and the pastor was preaching from some of my favorite verses in Jeremiah 29. A lot of people will know Jeremiah 29:11 by heart. They have seen it on an inspirational greeting card or as part of a graduation message “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” However, the verses that precede this have become some of my favorite in the Old Testament and are often overlooked when quoting verse eleven.
The Israelites have been uprooted from their home and exiled in Babylon for 70 years. While the normal reaction would be to sit and pray to be returned home or to remain in a small community waiting, God commands them to invest in their new home.
4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
While I am not saying we are in exile and we certainly will not be here for 70 years, at least I hope not, we are in an unexpected location apart from what we perceived our calling to be. God knows what he is doing. He knew that we would be in Durban for the next few weeks and I am sure he has a mission for us here just as much as we thought we had a mission in Madagascar.
Sometimes I have such a vision of what I think I am supposed to be doing that I miss what God is actually asking me to do. I miss that he is saying just surrender to me here. Be with me here. Meet with me here. Be a light to the people here. Be a light to those around you whether they are crew members, DORMAC workers in a Durban shipyard, the people of Durban or the people of Madagascar.
Why am I limiting God’s call on my life to a specific job in a specific location? No I don’t think I am supposed to build a house here in Durban but I am called to invest wherever I am for however long that season may last. One of the most crucial lessons I have learned in recent years is to bloom where I am planted. Right now I am planted in Durban. Yes I’d rather be sailing on the ocean or securely tied to the dock in Toamasina, Madagascar but this is where I am and my attitude is the only thing I can change about the situation. So for the next few weeks or until whenever we arrive in Madagascar I will chose to meet with God here and invest here in my current location.