Our church in Kigali has been a great blessing to us. It’s a community that has welcomed us, it’s a place where we consistently hear the word of God preached, a place to serve, and it’s a space to worship with our new neighbors. It’s obviously different from our sending church in the States where we know each person and are surrounded by so many who know us well, but that too will come in time. As we progressively root ourselves at St. Etienne, I’ve also enjoyed journeying with Redeemer from afar via its weekly podcast.
I put on my headphones today and cued up the latest sermon. I listened to Fr. Jay begin his message with a story about dreams — the passage was on ‘Jacob’s Ladder.’ Jay’s story sounded pretty familiar to me, but I assumed that was because I’ve been around him a good amount. Then, halfway into the sermon there was a reference to the church’s hopeful new building (see here and you’ll realize that the new facility is way past the theoretical stage at this point). I looked down at my phone and realized that I had somehow played an old sermon from last July. Oh well, I’m sure it’ll be good to hear again. A few lines had already grabbed my attention, especially about the reality of God meeting people in specific places (see Genesis 28, where Jacob has his dream at Bethel). Jacob says, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” God met Jacob, the schemer, the guy who one commentator called “more scoundrel than saint” and decided to use him. God promised to watch over him wherever he went.
At this point in the sermon, Jay spoke directly to me. I don’t mean that in a theoretical sense…his next words were actually addressed to Natasha and me. Turns out, this was the sermon from the last week we were at Redeemer before leaving for Rwanda. Whoops… I guess that day was a bit of a blur (teary eyes and all) and I didn’t remember all that was said 🙂 Here’s a the ending:
“Ethan and Natasha… the Lord will be with you. He’s not just sending you; he’s going with you and is already there. I pray that you will hear the words that were spoken over Jacob… God will keep you, God will be with you, God will provide for you. There will be hard times, harder than you think. There will be times better than you think. We pray God gives dreams and insights in those times.”
My accidental podcast selection seems less of a coincidence and more of a God appointed insight, even a dreamlike incident. I don’t think I’m currently in a “harder than you think” moment (not that I’m great at identifying those times… Type 7 – for all you lovers and haters of the Enneagram), but a reminder that God goes with us, that he’s here, feels very timely. It’s been easy for days to merge together, for time to slide away, to feel more scoundrel than saint, and to lose sight that God is present and working. I was out on a walk in our neighborhood as I listened today. I was in a place that overlooks a valley and the outskirts of the city. It’s become a specific place where I’ve been able to pray, even when that task seems more difficult everywhere else. One year ago, when Natasha and I were in Rwanda for the first time together, I remember the sense of God speaking to us and confirming our call to be here. I’m thankful to know that affirmation again today, and to have places and spaces where God meets us.