For the last number of years on the field, I was blessed to be a part of an international ladies’ Bible study. We were a real mix: Kiwi, Aussie, American, Canadian, and Belizian! Despite our different cultural viewpoints, we were all the same in the sense that we were all God’s children living far away from the cultures where we grew up. We were all foreigners in a foreign land. It was a wonderful fellowship—a safe place to ask hard questions and be honest about our struggles in our host country.
As a mom with young children, I also treasured this time as a few hours set aside from the family responsibilities I carried. It was a time of spiritual refreshment no matter how much of a study we “accomplished.” I often found comfort from those in the group who were a little further along on the raising-a-family journey. They encouraged me and gave me sound advice. They prayed for me and for my family. They were an invaluable source of God’s sustaining me for those years.
One day, one of those dear friends commented on the beautiful flowers that were blooming on a tree beside a particular building in the capital city. I listened to her joyful recounting and wondered, Where in the world is that tree? I have been past that building many times and have not seen it. As we talked, another landmark was mentioned. It was right by a big pile of garbage on the street. I had seen the garbage pile; I had not seen the tree. I needed to look up.
What a revelation God gave to me through that simple event! I can choose to keep looking at the garbage that surrounds me and the difficult circumstance in which I find myself—or—I can choose to look up and see the beauty! I need to have my eyes on Jesus and my hope set on things above to have joy in the midst of the garbage. And I needed a sister in Christ to remind me of that.
Unfortunately, we do not all have good fellowship nearby, and indeed for the first many years on the field there was no women’s Bible study to attend. There was no safe, restful place to delve into the Word or share meaningfully with other believers. There was not even a place to walk safely alone to get away from duties and reflect with the Lord! We were surrounded by people who did not understand us and whom we did not understand. God was certainly present—we relied on Him for everything—but we were hungry for spiritual food and the encouragement of the body. When that fellowship finally came after what seemed like an interminable wait, it tasted very sweet! The hymn Lily of the Valley states, “With His manna He my hungry soul shall fill!” That is how I felt about that Bible study.
Now we are back in our “home” country, and I have been able to be a part of a few ladies’ Bible studies. I am grateful for them and love the women who are involved, but it is different. Am I not as hungry as I was overseas? Are we more disconnected as women here because we do not share the common bond of aliens in a strange country? I am not sure. What I do know is that meeting together is a life-line. We need each other in this journey of life. We need those reminders to look up, to taste and see the goodness of the Lord, regardless of where we live or how hungry for manna we may be.
Question to consider: How are you being intentional “to look up, to taste and see the goodness of the Lord”?