Do you remember those moments in your life when you felt like you could cry for days and, somehow, it would still not be enough? That is how I feel when I hug my friend Rehema. We dampen each other’s shoulders and hold onto each other until we can stop shaking, because, for the first time in my life the words of the hymn, “If we never meet again this side of heaven,” are very real. The Lord has closed a door for us here in Uganda. He has made it clear that the best thing, the necessary thing, for our family is to move back to our home in Kentucky. We have lived in Kampala for seven months now. Seven months? How can it be only seven months, I wonder, when I think of Rehema–my neighbor, my sister, my friend–and how we have called to each other over the wash line every morning. How we have sat in the dark and cried for each other’s sorrows. How we have huddled in the dawning chill with unbrushed hair and “lasos” around our shoulders and prayed. When I think of her contagious laughter and how we have mothered each other’s children.
How can my heart not break when I think of Natasha picking me up off the floor when I had collapsed from blood loss? When I remember how together we have mourned the lost who saw the narrow way and determined that the cost was too high. How we grieved with young Janet over her sin and gloried in her new birth. How we have helped each other grow through hard conversations and shared both the laughter and agony of motherhood.
Is seven months enough to have gained a brother/son of 25 years? We sat across the table from Brian last Sunday night. His countenance was heavy with grief as he said to Greg, “I just can’t imagine it. How can you go when you are the one who showed me the way?” And a river was not enough. Nor was it when Hassan sat on our couch and asked, “Why?” with eyes disbelieving and full of hurt.
There are tears for the past and tears for the future. For the moments we will miss in the coming weeks and months…When Peter and Mary, who so much desire repentance, make their relationship right in legal marriage and are washed in the waters of baptism. Watching Evas and Aysha and the other “mamas” from the savings group blossom in their faith. The growing up of all these little ones to whom I have been “Mama Lorna” the past seven months.
I will not get to say good-bye to Wanda, who has been a mother and friend to me for so much longer. With whom I have shared the hope and despair of counseling young women, girls barely more than children, bearing children after the horror of rape. Wanda, who has been my rock. No, a river is not enough.
But I wouldn’t trade it–this time, and even these tears. I would not trade all that God has taught us. I am not strong right now. I struggle to pray and am often distracted when I read the Bible. Greg and I fumble over how to comfort one another each out of our own sadness. Our children are, once again, revealing the stress of transition in their behavior.
But I have to laugh at myself also, because I see that the lesson is the same all over again. No, I am not strong. I am weak. I am broken. I am hopeful, but I am afraid. Yet I, like the frightened disciples, can cry out to my Lord and know the blessed, “Peace, be still.” “Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea, or demons, or men, or whatever it be, no water can swallow the ship where lies the master of ocean and earth and skies. They all shall sweetly obey thy will. Peace, peace, be still.” And I find that I could sing crossing the ocean once, and will sing crossing it again, “Be still, my soul, thy God doth undertake to guide the future as he hath the past. Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake. All now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still my, soul. The wind and waves still know his voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.”