It wasn’t your usual carry-on luggage. I removed the binding shoulder strap and gently placed the heavy bag on the desk. The security guard began to search it. He became curious about the two carefully wrapped jars. “What are these?”

“Spare parts,” I quipped. Back in those days in Ghana you didn’t go anywhere without carrying spare parts for your vehicle or computer or anything else you carried that might need fixing. This time the jars actually contained formaldehyde with organs removed from me in a recent operation. I was taking them back to the United States for pathology study. The guard took a closer look, grimaced and quickly handed them back to me.

Surgery in Africa was not part of the plan for me when our family headed back to our beloved Ghana one summer. As I became sicker and sicker, I questioned God’s wisdom. My imminent need of surgery seemed poorly timed. A number of urban ministry workers had gathered from all over for important meetings with my husband. This surgery was throwing a wrench into one of the main purposes of our visit.

Also, the thought of being cut open in Ghana terrified me. Being a nurse, I was well aware of how things would have been done at a hospital at home. I knew that here we had scrounged around for IV fluid and the expiration date on the bottle had long passed. My surgeon arrived dressed in a vivid yellow rubber apron and a cap jauntily attached to his head. In an attempt to lift my spirits, he showed me how he could open two bottle of Coke against each other. The fizz sprayed on my face as he took a sip. But, my fears began to fade and were replaced with an overwhelming peace only God could have provided. As I was wheeled to the operating theatre, I had a clear sense of being carried in the arms of God. The comfort was great and it’s a feeling I’ll never forget. I came through the surgery with flying colors. Looking back, it was a precious time in my life, as hard times often are in retrospect.

I remember how frightened I often felt years before when we were new global workers in Ghana with a toddler and a baby. The country was at its lowest point economically. Many times we didn’t know how we would get milk for the children. We went through a military coup, stranded at a guest house less than a mile from the military base. The explosions of gunfire sounded as close as our front door. Another time, I shoved my children down on the floor when shooting erupted suddenly outside our kitchen window. Someone was growing marijuana plants among corn stalks next door and the police had come to raid the place. My husband had three major illnesses, almost dying from one. It seemed our young family had one trauma after another. But we never gave up, because through it all, God’s presence was strong in our lives. His purposes for us being in Ghana were continually obvious and we clung to that awareness.

Looking back, I wouldn’t give up those years in Ghana for anything. As with the surgery, God taught us many precious lessons. Maybe the most simple but profound one, which I hope I have fully learned by now, is that God does not make mistakes. Wherever He leads us to serve Him is the very best and very safest place for our family to be, with or without spare parts!

Dotsie and her husband, Gary, have been global workers with SIM for 18 years, originally serving in Ghana, West Africa. They currently live in Charlotte, NC where Dotsie does writing and editing for SIM. They have two teen-age sons.

©1998 Thrive

View the original print magazine where this article was first published.