The earthquake measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and destroyed everything. Everything was ruined. Every building fell, gas mains ruptured, and terrible fires broke out over the whole city. Where the plains were before the quake, hills appeared. Half of the mountain fell into the sea. The harbor for the fishing fleet disappeared and dry land appeared where homes stand today.
Earthquakes are not restricted to the earth. Nations, churches, organizations, families, and individuals sometimes experience an upheaval in their lives that can be compared to what a quake does to the earth. A seismic change occurs.
I recently encountered a personal earthquake in my life that arrived unexpected and uninvited. But it came nevertheless.
On January 6th of this year, I came to discover that some friends of mine, for reasons that are unimportant to me, made a relentless effort to vilify my character in order to have me jailed and deported from Uganda. That effort was made by way of filing criminal complaints with the police department. The investigation of my character and work started either in August or September of 2016. I had no idea that my life would be turned upside down and inside out when 4 policemen showed up at my house with a court order granting them permission to inquire, break in, enter, search, recover exhibits from my residences and arrest me.
I have never had such an experience. As the events of that day unfolded and I faced the seriousness of the hatred of four people that was being expressed toward me and my effort here in Uganda I began to realize that my life here would never be the same. Most of the complaints voiced to me by the police were imaginary and all of them were unfounded. But, my life has never been the same.
By nature I am a very open and transparent individual. The gate to my compound could be the only open gate in the city of Jinja. I don't have guard dogs or human guards that stand watch day and night. I welcome all visitors and give people the benefit of the doubt with both trust and access.
But the terrain of my life in Uganda was changed dramatically on that day. Not only did I become much more security conscious, but my suspicion of nearly every individual I encountered reach a very high level. After all, the effort to sabotage my life and work came primarily through the effort of someone who lived in my house and benefited greatly from my wife and me for more than 3 years.
Everything that had been quite predictable in my work has changed. When an earthquake happens, it can be difficult to recognize the geography. My new world was in an upheaval. There was a seismic change that occurred.
And, I was in danger. Not just because I had become aware of human enemies. Imagine being in a literal physical earthquake. Would you be concerned first about self-preservation or tending to the broken community? Because, in times of pressure we tend to think first about ourselves and isolate.
Think about this: Earthquakes reveal what is flexible and what is rigid.
What is rigid gets broken , but what is flexible gets stronger.
Emergency workers have a specific strategy they follow when responding to a disaster situation. As they follow a 4 step process, they are able to help those who suffered from the earthquake recover and even rebuild.
This past week I was the recipient of this amazing process. Let me share it with you.
Compassion - The victims of a tragedy need to know that they are going to get care as quickly as possible.
We have a short term missionary from Sacramento, California working as an associate of Next Generation Ministries. Kelci wrote a personal note with my name on it and attached it to a Coke Zero. The note was in her handwriting, but the message was from God. God affirmed that HE is the One who brought me here and HE is the One to give me a different assignment. I am convinced that He is not finished using me here in Uganda. Kelci has a tatoo on her wrist that speaks to me as well.
Finally, an unusual thing happened when my daughter Rebecca, sent a message in the middle of one of my days with a one sentence question: "Why can't I sleep?" I responded, "Maybe God wants you to pray for your dad. He is struggling today." She prayed. God heard. I benefitted greatly.
|Rebecca N Hunter|
When a person's life has been threatened and they end up in an emotional pit, their dreams of making a difference in this world may end up terminal. When others express care and compassion, hope begins to erase discouragement about the loss they have suffered. I not only had these immediate expressions of care, but also have other family and a few friends who have been representing my challenges to the Lord as well.
When any kind of devastation comes to a person's life, God wants real people to be the ones to carry his heart of compassion and care to those individuals.
We need to remember to love, to come alongside and embrace those that have needs. We all have needs, but we must learn to live outside of our tendency to look toward meeting our own needs and desires.
|My wife, Pam|
These relationships became a sort of emotional and spiritual refugee tent for my brokenness. Everyone should be so fortunate to have a life partner like Pam.
When everything else is broken, we need to tend to community.
Do you know what helps?
Connection - It is too easy to become disconnected from the bigger story that we are a part of.
This past week I had the privilege of sitting down with three older spiritual leaders. They reminded me of that divine connection to God's redemptive story. They gently, but firmly, put this "earthquake" within the context of the much bigger story of my life in Uganda. They refused to let the enemy use this upheaval to define my 11 years here in Uganda.
It helped to have them reaffirm that I have a lot of work left to do in their nation as I keep my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith. Actually, the connection was a re-connection.
It is too easy to lose direction when the earthquake happens in our lives. We become survivors only. We tend to think about cleanup without any eye toward rebuilding.
Compass - It is easy to lose our way when we encounter something that shakes us to the core. The only way to stay on course is to be pointed in the right direction. Knowing that we are part of a bigger story than our challenging experience, maintaining a sense of genuine identity (knowing who we are), and knowing why we are here in the first place (purpose), produces a rebuilding of the dreams we have for being useful to God and His world (vision).
Believers in Jesus Christ are pregnant with destiny. They dream of being used by God in ways that only His intervention can explain. But, just as Joseph's own brothers attempted to kill his dream by killing him, some of us also encounter that kind of opposition. And, it is important to recognize that between the pit and the palace there could be prison ... even suffering for crimes never committed.
So, there has been a pretty good shaking in my life this year. But, that which cannot be shaken still stands. And, that which could be shaken and has been destroyed. It is time now to move forward and replace what was with whatever God rebuilds. He will build a new normal for me.
[Thanks to Mike Breen for his earthquake metaphor in LEADING KINGDOM MOVEMENTS which help me articulate my journey through my personal earthquake and back to dreaming about making a difference in Uganda for the glory of God.]