It seemed like such a small thing in comparison to the Hebrews’ deliverance through the Red Sea. Nonetheless, I felt like bursting into a song of praise like Miriam did when the water came crashing down on the pursuing Egyptian army (Ex. 15:21). The Lord had triumphed gloriously on our behalf, parting the tempestuous waves of our fears. We rejoiced to see the rock-solid foundation that remained unshakeable beneath our feet. My husband, David, and I often reminisce about this story from nearly five years ago. We don’t want to forget what the Lord taught us that day.
It had been two days since we stepped foot onto the sizzling tarmac at the airport, with all our earthly belongings strategically packed into six black trunks. “Hey guys! Over here!” we heard an American accent lift above the din of the noise once we were outside the terminal. “I think that’s him,” David said as he scanned the crowd of people. “Can you see him?” he asked. “I dunno,” I replied. I had met our friend Rick* only once, about a year before we landed, plus we were at a breakfast buffet at the time. I memorized all the varieties of pancake syrups, but I didn’t remember Rick’s face.
“Welcome to the Arabian desert! You guys must be exhausted.” He pushed through the crowd to get us. “Hi, Aliza, did you like the airplane ride?” Our 16-month-old gave him a sleepy once-over and laid her head on my shoulder, where she fell asleep while we walked to the car. We loaded our luggage and drove a few hours into the desert to our new home for the next semester. It was pitch black outside, as there wasn’t much moonlight to illumine the dunes. I took notice, though, of Rick’s unique sunglasses, which he wore on a strap around his neck. I asked a casual question about the glasses, and received a thorough explanation of the importance of proper eye care in this desert climate.
I don’t remember the next day, since the three of us slept for 13 hours. After we came to, we made a list of urgent errands. We would have to go to the big city to get these things done, so my husband, our traveling companion, our toddler, and I climbed into a Jeep to make the drive. Our hosts gave us good advice for our errands, and reminded us not to eat or drink in public because it is illegal to do so while the sun is up during the fasting month.
The sandy dunes yawned on and on for almost two hours before we saw the skyline on the dusty horizon. Although I was tired, overheated, and nauseous from being pregnant, I was excited about this great adventure the Lord was taking us on.
When we rolled into the city my enthusiasm quickly waned. Everything was intimidating and unfamiliar—the driving habits of other drivers, the street signs, the roads that didn’t match the GPS, and the people we asked for help. Lost, hot, hungry, and irritated, we pulled into a petrol station to re-strategize our errands and eat a snack in the bathroom stall. Then we all piled back into the Jeep with no more direction than when we parked the car.
Little Aliza began to cry and complain that she was too hot. Her frustration matched ours, and pulling back onto the main road proved it. Like many of us do when we’re lost and upset, the two men in the front began to argue about where to go. Then we saw the sign that meant we were about to pass under a tollgate, and everyone simultaneously remembered that the car didn’t have a toll sticker. Now all of us were arguing, and I began to pitch in with my unhelpful thoughts. “This whole day has been useless and pointless.”
“Fine. Great—just great,” my husband muttered as he changed lanes to get on the next slip road. He pulled up to another petrol station and got in line to refill the tank. The tank was nowhere near empty, but we were empty on patience and hope.
Watching the numbers tick by on the gas pump, my anxious thoughts multiplied within me. Lord, how are we going to do anything here? We can’t even get a simple errand done much less help start a church. Lord, how? How? The cares of my heart were interrupted by something I saw out of the corner of my eye. Walking into the fast food joint next door was a man wearing a pair of unique sunglasses. It was Rick, the one man we knew in a city of nearly 2 million people. Was I seeing a desert mirage? Of all the places in the city for us to have a meltdown, the Lord ordained it to be a block away from our friend’s house when he had a craving for take-out. We cheered and thanked the Lord for his providence and grace. Rick led us to his house where he fed us, encouraged us in the Lord, and sorted out some of our errands. Some of us even dozed off on his couch.
This incident seems so slight when we consider all that God has done, but it’s an illustration of God’s faithfulness, which is hardly a small thing. What I needed in that moment was to remember that when the cares of my heart are many, the Lord’s consolations cheer my soul (Ps. 94:19). God made it clear to us that by his mighty hand and his outstretched arm he takes care of our family. This is how he will accomplish his work in this place. Scripture reminds us again and again of the rock-steady consolation of God’s promised presence as he leads us through frightening valleys, tumultuous waters, and overwhelming deserts.