I feel like “traveling mercies” are the new, hip thing to pray for these days. Whenever someone is on a journey, that’s the phrase that gets thrown around. We know that His mercies are new every morning… and yet we feel the need to pray for extra special ones whenever we travel. I don’t mean to hate on the phrase, because I need them as much as the next person! Safe travels, kind seatmates, and edible airplane food. No lost bags, no delayed flights, and no unexpected or extended layovers.
Recently I had some good luck with travel that felt like a gift from above – like the three seats to myself on the long leg of my journey to Uganda! I also had the humorous-stories-in-the-making that, at the time, don’t feel so humorous at all that seems to always come with travel. There was the Asian man on my first flight who tried to steal my window seat. Then there was the nice man from Cameroon in the airport who gave me so much insight on life: “You travel a lot. You aren’t married? That’s why. Once you get a husband, he wont let you leave!” The lady who sat right next to me on my layover, where I was reading my kindle in a deserted wing of the airport, and proceeded to read a book of her own – out loud. The man next to me on my last flight, who stared at me the whole time, then chose the exact moment I decided to fall asleep as the opportune time to strike up a conversation and “practice his English”.
Travel, I’ve learned, also looks slightly different on this continent. As anyone who has spent time in Africa knows, “plans” carry a different meaning than in the west. Originally we were supposed to drive from Kampala up to Kitgum Thursday morning. Which got pushed back to Friday morning. Then Friday afternoon. Then Saturday morning. After leaving bright and early on Saturday (success!) our car’s accelerator stopped working after hitting a pothole. Four hours of driving at 10 mph and twice letting a mechanic work under the hood, we finally arrived in Kitgum – 12 hours after we left the capital. TIA.
Recently I feel like I’ve seen traveling mercies through a new lens. This isn’t something simply related to road trips, international flights, and vacations. We also travel through life; we journey different seasons. We drive from one transition to the next, taking a needed exit every now and then, always hoping we packed the right things. And traveling mercies are needed just as much.
Seasons have been a tough lesson I’ve been forced to learn lately. Around October God made it clear to me He wasn’t calling me back to Malawi anytime soon – and I was bitter, upset, and confused. Yet now, with hindsight that always proves to be 20/20, I see that he was preparing me for this new season; this new job, this new country and culture to invest in. Pastor Sean at Flood Malawi spoke on seasons a few weeks ago, and he pointed out some fruits grow in fall that can’t grow in the summer. Some things can only grow in the winters of our lives that God cannot grow in the spring.
The more time I spend in Uganda, and the more time I spend getting to know IGF, it’s clear to me that God has been growing me for this particular role for a while. My skills, my passions, my experiences – He has molded them all. Two years ago I couldn’t have dealt with leaving Kampala two days behind schedule – and then breaking down on our journey; last week I just shrugged my shoulders and kept clicking for a new episode of Criminal on Trent’s iPad, barely noticing the four hours that passed. A year ago I wouldn’t have been able to meet with the board of my new organization at a moment’s notice; three days ago I found myself at a table with seven African men, smiling and nervous laughing galore, yet taking it in stride. Gifts that I’ve felt particularly strengthened and validated in lately are what my new colleagues are looking for. Lessons that I didn’t particularly enjoy learning recently are knowledge I needed before arriving. I can see God’s handiwork throughout everything that brought me here, every season I journeyed through granted me something I needed. Traveling mercies.
This morning, as a new school term started at all four of IGF’s primary schools, I got to sit in on staff devotions. Pastor Alfred focused on Psalm 1. The tree it talks about “yields its fruit in season” (verse 3, NIV). It hit me, again, how important seasons are. How, if I had tried to force this job some other time, in some other season, it wouldn’t have worked out. How, so many times before, I have tried to sow some things in the wrong season, or reap others out of season. How necessary it is to know the seasons of your life, and to know the Creator of said seasons.
Traveling mercies, to you, as you journey this season.