God has a way of changing our plans
The only way to describe what has happened the last 16 months in my life is to say it is a "God thing." It all started a year ago January when I learned that my aunt, in her mid 80s, is dealing with a progressive dementia. So I decided to visit her while she still knew who I was. So I spent a week in British Columbia, visiting her every day. We thoroughly enjoyed our time together and my agenda was fulfilled.
God, however, had another plan. While in British Columbia I also visited my siblings and one day overheard my brother, Walt, talk about a ministry trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. My husband, who grew up as a missionary kid in DR Congo, often talks about going back to visit. So I asked Walt about his trip and soon knew I had to explore further.
Walt arranged for me to visit with Murray Nickel, a medical doctor who is the MBMS International representative for DR Congo, and MBMSI staff member Jamie Munday. With this additional information, my husband and I decided to join a trip—he to visit his Congo roots and I to go along for the ride. That's what I thought, but God had other plans.
When Dr. Murray learned that I had been an educator for many years and had led numerous teacher in-service programs, he suggested that I participate in a teacher education conference in Tembo, a Congolese town on the Angola border. There are a significant number of Mennonite Brethren living in the area who sponsor one high school and 28 elementary schools. I agreed to give it a try.
I would be one of three presenters at a three-day conference; the other two would be Congolese. I was asked to prepare for six hours of workshops with 15 participants in each session. I wasn't sure exactly what to plan for, but I knew that I would not have access to electricity. Conflicting e-mails and phone calls from several sources left me in a fog. In frustration, I told the Lord I had no idea what to plan for and how to pack but that he knew. "Help me pack what I need," I prayed.
When I got to Tembo, I learned there was a change in plans. Since I had come such a long way, I would be the only presenter. I went from six hours of presentations to 16 hours in one minute! Thankfully, years of experience have taught me to improvise and adapt. Even without electricity and with 55 participants, we had a successful conference. In the end I actually had three activities “left over.” The Lord had helped me pack and prepare for the unknown!
After we came home, we contacted Pakisa Tshmika, a Congolese now living in Fresno, Calif., who we knew was planning to fill and ship a container of school supplies to Congo. My husband and I arranged to have lunch with him when he visited relatives in Kansas. My agenda was to see if I could arrange to send stuff in that container for the schools in the Tembo area.
That was my agenda, but the Lord had another one. Dr. Pakisa knew of our education program in Tembo and wanted to know more about it. After an extended conversation, he invited me to be part of an upcoming education conference planned for Kinshasa where delegates from three Congo Mennonite Conferences would explore ways to improve the educational programs in their schools.
In the middle of all these events another “God thing” happened. I am a retired schoolteacher who has no intentions of going back to work. Last June the local school district asked if I was willing to work half-time this school year as a math coach in one of the elementary schools. My weekly schedule could be flexible, as long as I worked the number of days my contract specified. Amazingly, this experience has given me a refresher course in current educational practice and is providing the money needed to pay for the trips to the Congo. I could not have made all these arrangements on my own.
And so as I write this I'm wondering: What is the next “God thing” going to be?