One of the lovely memories of my thirty-two years in Ethiopia relates to an Old Country Roses bone-china tea set given to us as a Canadian wedding gift in l964. Three years after our wedding, we came to Ethiopia to serve as career missionaries with SIM, Int’l. Our tea set accompanied us, wrapped carefully in newspaper and boxes within a metal drum by my patient husband, and to be enjoyed by many guests over the years.
Following Emperor Haile Selassie’s overthrow in l974, our lives were somewhat disrupted during the ensuing years as we lived under a repressive regime. In l978, while directing a theological school in S.W. Ethiopia, we were evicted from that province along with all other missionaries. Marxist officials demanded the keys to our house, car and entire campus and expelled us from all that was home and ministry to us. As we and our three little sons were forced to leave and traveled empty-handed to the capital city of Addis Ababa, I grieved over the loss of all that we possessed. Soon afterwards, we left for a furlough in Canada.
On our first Sunday morning back in Vancouver, we were visiting a supporting church. Before we left for church that morning, a joyful group of church women appeared at the house where we were staying and surprised me with, “Lila, we have something for you!” I couldn’t imagine what. Back in a bedroom, the unveiling occurred, and behold! A complete tea set in Old Country Roses pattern. I wept with pleasure and thanksgiving.
I was overcome with the goodness of God. We had lost everything we owned. And the first thing God gave back to us, even before we had a place to live, was not old sofas, stained linens, battered pots and pans or hand-me-down clothes. The first thing he gave back to us was beauty, the extra, the cream. That is the kind of God we serve. He blesses us far above our expectations or hopes. He is not a begrudging or stingy God.
It was a poignant lesson for me. To live with an open hand, to accept losses, to live hopefully, not fearfully. In the years since then, I have learned increasingly that no matter what comes, God is with us, providing more abundantly than we could ever ask or imagine.