“Wait patiently” doesn’t mean the same thing in Africa as it does in the United States. In America, we might decide to come back later if the line has seven people waiting in it. We might call back if the waiting time is longer than ten minutes. Even 5 minutes microwave cooking time can seem like too long to wait!
And yet, when we wait in line in America, we hope that our patience is rewarded in the end. One of the features of life in the Third World, or where a disaster strikes, is that our patience isn’t always rewarded as we would hope.
How can we learn to make the most of the times we spend waiting for something, even if it ends up being waiting in vain?
Back in September 2010, our family needed to find a place to live in eastern Chad. We had just arrived back in Chad and were living in the capital city of N’Djaména, 14+ hours west of Abéché. A friend in the capital promised that we could rent his home in Abéché.
To start moving in, all I needed to do was to pick up the key from the Sultan, his brother.
While you’re waiting, make some friends
After making the long trip east, I arrived early at the Maba Sultan’s residence. Because of he had just returned from his pilgrimage to Mecca, he was only resting up and receiving visitors to greet them. We called the assistant to our friend who had a home available for us. He told us that he was in a meeting. The school year was about to begin, so he was getting his teachers ready for their classes, and was very busy. So it was agreed with the Maba Sultan that we would get back in contact once we heard who was holding the key to our friend’s house here.
While I waited, I went to the market and bought a plastic mat for our travels with the help of some friends. Before going to buy it, however, we sat around and talked, then ate a flavorful, huge watermelon together. Then I went home to pack and rest and make phone calls periodically to the assistant.
Around noontime, I went to use the internet at an office and waited for the call from my friend about who holds the key. I was still calling his number periodically to get in touch with him. When I didn’t hear from him by 3 PM, I decided to go over to the Sultan’s House again.
Keep on asking, asking, asking
As I got into the car, a storm started brewing, the type of storm that starts with a violent, dusty wind. I called my friend, and he answered! He told me the name of the person who had the key and gave me his phone number.
I went over to the Sultan’s residence to get help to find him. However, he was resting, so I wasn’t going to be able to see him until he stirred himself. So I waited there, sitting in the clean sand under the shade next to the entrance . I periodically called the number of the man with the key, if perhaps he might pick up, and tell me where his house was so I could go directly. However, he had shut off his cell phone.
The sun set, and I was still there. The men prayed the Maghrib prayers, and I was still there. After they prayed, it was 7 PM. I sat on their prayer mat, which accommodates 30+ people. I waited a little longer… and the Sultan showed up. He spoke to his representative, telling him to go with me to the house of the man with the key, to see if we could get it. We went there together.
Keep your expectations low
On the way there, the Sultan’s representative explained that he could not do anything until he received orders from his leader. That is why things suddenly started moving quickly once his order was given, and not before.
I felt excited. I stood in front of the home offered to our family for a few months! The one who held the key had traveled north, and they were waiting to contact him by phone.
Then, around 11 PM, they broke the news to us: the home had been rented a month ago to some Catholic sisters! We returned to the Sultan’s residence, who called my friend. Both seemed surprised to hear this news, and the audacity of the one who held the key to rent out someone else’s home. But in Chad, you learn not to leave someone looking like a monster. So I told the Sultan’s representative, it was far better to know the reality of the situation than to keep on believing it is something it is not.
At least, I was ready to return to N’Djamena the next day and to be with my family again. In a way, this trip had been in vain… but at least we knew the truth.
It is better to trust in the LORD…
Psalm 118:8 tells us that it is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. In the story above, my friend in N’Djaména, his representative and the Sultan, had all let us down. But God did not. With time, He provided a beautiful place for us to call home.
Just like in the story, we may have to wait a long time for our Sultan, the LORD Jesus Christ, to intervene. But unlike with “sultans” here on earth, we do not wait in vain!
Is there something you are waiting for God to do? If so, please let us know about it in the comments below, so we can pray with you.