Mzungu! Where Are You Going? by Ashley Hatmaker

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*This past July, Ashley Hatmaker, a CLDI Youth Works staff, took one of our South Side youth, Sabrina, on a 3 week mission trip to Uganda. We have been blessed to work with Sabrina the past six years and watch her grow into a young woman passionately in love with Jesus. As a junior at Billings Christian School, Sabrina is an integral player in making disciples of South Side youth. What an amazing gift and encouragement Sabrina is to us as a disciple of Jesus seeking to make disciples, not only in Billings, but the world abroad. So also are we thankful for Ashley and her willingness to commit her life to make disciples of Jesus both locally and abroad.

“Mzungu! Where are you going?!” I turned to see a young girl and her baby brother running after us up the road. They had apparently seen us walk past their house, and by the time we had made it one or two hundred feet beyond, they couldn’t contain their curiosity any more. The truth is, we weren’t really going anywhere in particular. I tried to explain, but the concept was foreign to them, as were we, as was our language. The girl was about 13 and her brother maybe 4. She had been in school long enough to learn just enough English to start a conversation with us, but not enough to complete one. Her baby brother only knew how to say a shy, “I’m fine,” when asked anything directly. I shared the gospel in vain, praying that some amount of my words would make sense, but realizing that without a translator, this endeavor was pointless. So instead of wasting more words, we pulled a bubble wand out of my pack.

There is no joy like the joy of a Ugandan child in the presence of bubbles. Big bubbles. Little bubbles. It doesn’t matter. Any amount of seriousness on their face is immediately replaced with pure elation at the sight of these floating bits of soap. If we couldn’t speak their hearts to an understanding of Jesus, the least we could do is love them for Him. We played in the road until almost all of the bubbles were gone. We prayed that the Lord would provide school fees for the young girl to go back to school and for the health of their mother, left them with the wand, and continued on our way.

As Sabrina and I continued on our walk, it occurred to me that we were, in fact, discussing that very same question, though perhaps not in the way that our new friend had intended. Where were we going? What were we doing? Why had the Lord brought us here? Despite having done a handful of “good” things during our stay, neither of us could shake the disappointment that it felt like we had done a good bit of nothing as well. Many of the promised adventures and destinations hadn’t come to pass. The work that we had hoped to do and the people we had hoped to share the truth of Jesus with never made it into concrete plans in the schedule, and so, they never happened. Was the trip a waste?

I knew that the answer to this question was “no.” In God’s mercy, nothing is wasted, but it took a good while for my heart to catch up with this truth. I cried out, “Lord! We were obedient to your call! We did the leg work! We showed up! Why is it like this?” I had to be reminded that His thoughts are not my thoughts. His ways are not my ways. And He sees and knows what I, in my finiteness, cannot.

He knows the girl who carries six gallons of water home to her family each evening needs a light, unexpected conversation at the well. He knows the boys playing soccer in the field feel encouraged when they know someone’s watching them. He knows that the children at the orphanage haven’t had someone to hug them or hold their hand in many days. He knows that the songs sang and the prayers prayed over the little ones in the hospital are powerful. He knows that the woman having her baby doesn’t have a mother and the presence of random mzungus in her room after surgery feels like family. He knows that bubbles communicate love.

“Mzungu, where are you going?” I didn’t have to have a destination that day to know that I was traveling in the right direction. Now, I hear the Father say, “Daughter, where are you going? Are you following Me? Is it ok that it’s different than it seems? Can you trust Me that it is good, as long as you are with Me?”  I am reminded again that I don’t have to know everything about where I’m going or what I’ll accomplish when I reach my destination. I just have to know the One who’s taking me there.

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