I’ve endured, since 1987, many weeks and months of electrical blackouts. Living in Africa it’s part of the deal; there will be many opportunities for us to go without power. Some years ago our family lived 3 months straight without electricity, I call this period of time in my life a “bad hair quarter.”
I complained quite a bit in those days until one day while wrapping up things after a Sunday morning service I commented to someone in the congregation that the power had been off for some weeks. Their reply to my insensitive remark was, “Oh, we never have power at home.”
A large part of the world’s population, about 1 billion, does not have access to electricity. I’m sure I’m not smart enough to grasp the reason why so many go without power; I simply have learned to be thankful for the power that I’m blessed to have, even when it goes off periodically.
I know Thanksgiving has passed, but I keep thinking of how shallow I allow my thinking to become from time to time in light of the suffering of those who have less than I do. On Thanksgiving day, our power was cut (I’m so thankful for my gas stove). We had invited our Burundian friends over to celebrate with us and took time to explain to them what the day was all about: giving thanks for all of our blessings together with family and friends. Family from the States called and it was one of the best Thanksgivings we’ve had overseas.
**On a side note to make this story interesting, we couldn’t find a turkey so we opted to make enchiladas instead. No, nothing was store bought, nothing came in a package – it all came from raw ingredients. That’s the whole enchilada (pun intended)!**
The power stayed off for nearly 5 days after Thanksgiving. Due to the fact that we don’t have a backup generator or solar system to help us during power cuts, we lost everything we had in the refrigerator and freezer; an expensive cut for sure. When power was restored, I gave thanks for having a clean refrigerator and freezer.
Knowing full well that the power might cut again quickly after being restored, I decided not to be in a hurry to restock the kitchen. Then last night about 10:00 pm, the power went off yet again. We do have a small battery backup that lasts some hours but the fans turned off around 4:00 this morning. Temperatures began to rise and sweat ran down my temples; my first thought was how glad I was to have waited to get groceries.
Even as I write this post, I’m using my battery power hoping that somehow this power outage won’t be as long as the last!
Checking my attitude at the door, I gave thanks for the running water (which is also known to be cut from time to time) and a roof that doesn’t leak. We’re at the onset of the rainy season and life could be a whole lot more miserable if I didn’t have a roof for shelter.
My husband is a preacher and he’s never afraid to address tough issues. One of my favorite quotes of his is, “No matter how bad you have it, there’s always someone who is worse off than you are.” It’s so true; the things we complain over rarely (if ever) are worthy of the energy we put into them by complaining.
I pray this coming year to have my eyes open to not only the blessings that I have but also to really see those who go without – and to do, give, and make whatever difference I can.
It may be little, it may not be much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s my offering.
Today our guest blogger is Jacqueline Nkunku. Mama Jackie as we know her is a true daughter to me in the faith. We have shared many amazing times together, our daughters grew up together, truly she is as close to me as any biological family could be. Today, she shares an intimate and powerful testimony of the healing power of love.
Mama Jackie has served alongside her husband pastoring our church in Bujumbura, Burundi. She has an amazing gift of wisdom and has been a powerful minister in the church for many years. May you be blessed by her words as I have already have. Her contact information is below.
My father was in the military and my life as a child went like this: I was born in Camp X, grew up in Camp Y, and then we would move to Camp Z and start all over. We lived with most of our family belongings in boxes because we could move at any given moment. I made friends in the different military camps we moved to but lost those friendships each time we had to move. I hated it. I lived life as a nomad.
My relationship with my father was tied up, much like a bundle of ropes. I was always complaining about what he did or did not do. He once slapped me when I was in 3rd grade for telling him that I had done so well at school, that I knew I would be at the top of the class. He said I was a liar; it was impossible that I was that bright. I resented him for those words and concluded that my father was bad and mean person. He obviously did not love me so I decided I would not confide in him anymore about school and education. Not after that slapping. I was young but I remembered.
I finished high school at 17 but the year before my father said he would no longer be paying for my education. Somehow I was able to finish high school without his support. I was angry but what he said confirmed my perception of his lack of love and consideration for me.
I wanted to get a BA in education and that is what I worked on. I completed my studies and I started working but lived with my parents. My culture did not allow young women to live alone.
I fell in love with a young teacher, former classmate and after many years of pleading, my family accepted to receive the bride price from him (this is the custom in our part of the world).
The account of the last week I spent in my parents’ house is as follows:
My in-laws-to-be brought the bride price on the Tuesday afternoon, before the wedding. On Saturday morning, my fiancé and I went to the Mayor’s office for the civil ceremony (this is the legal procedure in our country) and then the church wedding was planned for that evening. However, between Tuesday and Saturday, something very unusual happened.
I came back from work on Wednesday evening; my father wasn’t in his recliner as he always was after coming home from work at 4:30 pm. Every day like clockwork, he would sit in his recliner and monitor all the comings and goings of our household.
To our friends and neighbors, my father was known as “The Leopard.” When The Leopard was at home, everyone knew to make himself or herself scarce. Everyone knew him to be a rigid, angry military man.
I had been working for an international airline and my schedule was tight; I had no time off before the wedding and would only go on leave for a week after the wedding. That Wednesday evening when I came home from work, I could not see my father at his self-assigned observation post. I went from room to room looking for him and I found him in my bedroom. He was listening to my favorite song and my father was CRYING. I had never seen that before. I was alarmed at this point and asked him what was wrong because I could not associate my father with tears. Impossible. The Leopard was crying?
He told me that he was so sad I was leaving home. Since my in-laws-to-be brought the bride price, he understood that he would not be seeing very much anymore, that I would be devoted to my future husband and my own family. Dad proceeded to tell me that he had always loved me but did not say it very often. He told me he had named me Jacqueline after his own name, James. He then opened up and told me how he had been forced into the military by the colonial powers of the time. He had been brought from a foreign country into a new and strange culture, traditions and languages. He had no one to turn to. Before his time in the military, he had been a businessman, and in one day that all changed when was forced to become a soldier in the military. He lived in frustration, unable to voice his own anger and pain. Dad talked to me about my heritage and explained that he was from a royal family. He said he missed home and could not even get news about his family – he felt lost and forsaken, he was hurting like a lost child in the wilderness.
I discovered a completely different person that night. Then it all came back. I remembered Dad and I taking long walks in the different camps where we had lived. He would carry me on his shoulders and we would have fun together. There were times we went to another camp for helicopter rides. The memories flooded back and the tears ran. That moment is when I realized that I had locked my father in a prison of hate and did not want to let the love flow.
We spent Wednesday night talking and talking and I realized that Dad never hated me. He did not know what to do with his own frustrations, hurts and challenges. We spent Thursday night talking some more. We spent Friday night together, still talking.
The wedding took place on Saturday evening. I went away with my husband but I was happy that Dad and I had had time to talk and mend. I had always loved my father.
I shared this story to explain that very often we judge things and people’s actions from our own perspective, our hurting selves, forgetting that we have to consider all aspects before drawing conclusions.
I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken off] branch, and withers and dies; and they gather such branches and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:5-6 AMP)
The last week that Jesus spent with His disciples is full of insights and kingdom wisdom. He shared on perspectives, focus, vision, concentration, principles, the way forward, keeping up the fire, heaven, mansions… He could sense that His time was close and that His earthly ministry was drawing to an end. He wanted to pour out His soul, emotions, and feelings.
Very often we assume that the Lord our God does not love us, that He does not care about us because we did not have our bread with turkey ham. We are not even aware that there are people who have no bread at all and we complain about turkey ham!
The Lord wants us to understand that He does not hate us because we are going through hardship. He desires for us to understand that no matter the circumstance, He is with us. The Lord wants us to focus our attention and vision on Him alone. Our circumstances do not change Him, we cannot change our circumstances by our own strength but He can change our circumstances as long as we put our trust and faith in Him alone.
I had focused so much on the fact that my father had slapped me when I was in 3rd grade that I forgot about the years that he had paid for my education. I was the one who had decided that I would not inform him about school related issues.
I saw him through my eyes full of hate and misunderstanding. I was the judge and had sentenced him to life without my love.
There are times we focus so much on our problems, challenges and shortcomings that we put the blame on God because we feel He does not show concern and He does not provide solutions. That is how we look at Him through our biased lenses.
The Lord wants us to live a life filled with Him and thus we flourish and bear fruit. It makes no sense to lock the Lord out of our lives because we are going through difficulties.
Later on, my husband received my father as he visited his office. He would drop by to know how we were doing. Dad would come home whenever he felt like it. He would tell me that he had wanted to hug me and that is why he dropped by.
There was a time while he was in the military that my father hit the chaplain who was sharing Jesus with him. So great was the change in Dad that later on, my husband shared Jesus with my father. To our amazement, Dad bowed his head and received Jesus Christ as his Master and Saviour. A year later, he passed away.
We need to yield to God’s plans, vision and purpose for our lives. Remember the Lord’s conversation during His last week on earth – many things will come into order as your attention is drawn to what He wants you to see.
Do not think that the Lord does love you because you are going through difficult circumstances. Jesus does not hate you. Jesus loves you and He wants to see you through. Stick to Him. You will bear much fruit. You can do nothing on your own. You find your purpose and significance in Him alone. Everything else is an illusion or smokescreen.