Planted In Red Soil
“Sherry, I don’t think your help will be needed,” our colleague explained politely.
“The Kom people already have their literacy program up and running.”
“I see,” I responded flatly. There seemed nothing else to say.
“So,” I said to myself, “I’m not needed.” Through the small window of our village house, I spied several Kom people walking past carrying large bundles on their heads. This was my new home in Africa. These were the people my husband and I came to serve. Randy came as a Bible translator and I had hopes of being a literacy teacher.
I thought back to years ago, when I was a single, working professional. A great interest arose in my heart to see a tribal people learn to read God’s Word in their language. I met my husband during my linguistic training. He wanted to translate the Bible in an African language. Together, God led us to Cameroon with our two little daughters. Now I was told that my skills were not needed since the Kom people had taken initiative to develop their own literacy program. I was happy for them. Still, where did that leave me?
My heart felt like it had been swept up onto the shore to dry. During that bleak time, my husband encouraged me to make our village place a home and to meet our neighbors. I soon found myself very busy between language learning and domestic responsibilities. I learned new ways of cleaning, cooking, and marketing. I started a small garden with my girls, Courtney and Jessica. Working in my garden opened many opportunities to meet my neighbors. One day, the handle of a hoe was slapped into my hands by one of my neighbors. I bent over and dug into the red dirt until blisters formed on my soft hands. As I watched her drop seeds into the red soil, a thought struck me. “Oh, God, could I be like that seed? I must be in your hand so you can plant me. Then, I must trust you for the rest.”
One afternoon, the heavy, hot air drove me outside into the cool shade of our verandah. I read a few children’s Bible stories to my girls. Before long, our little neighbors came and joined us. Soon a crowd of chocolate faces surrounded my towheads. My spirit bubbled with happiness as our porch overflowed with children. I invited the children to come again. This was the beginning of our neighborhood Bible Club.
Presenting the Bible stories in simple Kom was a good language-learning experience for me. As the group enlarged, however, I realized I needed help. So, I recruited the two young ladies who worked with me in the house. I stood amazed to watch Dorothy and Eunice work with the children. They had a natural ability for teaching children. Seeing their giftedness, I decided to help them learn to teach the children. And as Randy and the team of Kom translators finished some of the Scripture portions in Kom, I began teaching the ladies how to read the translated texts. From then on, reading Kom Scripture portions became a part of every Bible lesson.
One afternoon, some five years later, I sat on a wooden bench watching Dorothy present a Bible story to the children. I looked up to the mountain behind our house. It reminded me of God’s faithfulness and goodness. I just had to chuckle. I understood why God had taken away my initial dream. He wanted me to surrender my will to His so that He could reach out to the Kom children. In the process, He allowed me to teach two faithful women to read Scripture in their mother tongue. In that moment, my heart overflowed with joy and I cried. He had hoed up old soil, formed a new bed, and planted fresh seed, a seed called “faith and trust”. He put me where He willed, not for service but for surrender.
Oswald Chambers, in his devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, said so insightfully, “It is the work that God does through us that counts, not what we do for Him. All that our Lord heeds in a man’s life is the relationship of worth to His Father. He puts His saints in the most useless places. God puts His saints where they will glorify Him, and we are no judges at all of where that is.”
I knew then as I do now that I am exactly where my heavenly Father wants me. How I choose to respond to my life circumstances is dependent upon my relationship to my heavenly Father. I can be happy anywhere, as long as I am near my Father, surrendering my will to His, and bringing Him glory.