"Then the men of Judah gave a shout ". . . 2 Chronicles 13:15
This may become our theme for the year. Abijah, great-great-grandson of David on his mother's side and great-grandson on his father's, had been king over Judah for three years when his rival Jeroboam came against him in battle with twice the forces and over twenty years of experience reigning. Abijah stood on a mountain and gave a rousing pre-battle speech pleading with Jeroboam's Israelites to abandon the battle because "God Himself is with us (Judah) as our head .. .do not fight against the LORD God of your fathers." But while he was making his speech, Jeroboam had sent an ambush around the rear of Abijah's lines. So that when he finished, they found themselves surrounded, and in a panic they cried out. Very reminiscent of the Red Sea scene when the fleeing nation of Israel was between the water and the pursuing Egyptians.
"Then the men of Judah gave a shout ". . . not a shout of confidence I think, but one of desperation. It was a gut-reaction, a cry for help.
As the southern tribes of Judah shouted, God struck the attacking northern tribes and scattered them. "The children of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the LORD God of their fathers." A decade of peace follows this battle.
This is a pattern that reads well in a story, but is no doubt a very different story on the battle field, if you're surrounded and facing defeat. The build-up to the shout, the growing sense of isolation or doubt, the impending sense of doom, that culminates in a visceral yell, could not be pleasant. And can happen in the middle of a faith-filled all-the-right-words speech, it can happen when one has followed God's lead into a potentially victorious but frightening situation. Which brings us to 2011. We are, in many ways, right smack in the middle of classic transition stress. Ahead and behind, things look hard, and we feel surrounded. Ahead we have the daunting task of language, a stack of verbs on cards to memorize, stumbling attempts at expression. We have wards full to the brim with extremely ill patients. Scott plunged in on Friday and Saturday, managing the adult male ward, thankfully with a very competent third-year resident . . but the weight of men on the edge of death is heavy. We both have this sense of unworthiness, that we have lost skills over all these years and that the rustiness will harm patients or disappoint our colleagues. It takes a lot of the joy out of medicine. We have a house that is in the throes of repair and painting, a total mess, which we are supposed to occupy imminently, but without a vehicle yet to shop with or a place to have anything delivered, we've not managed to collect any of the essentials of living. We're paring down expectations to mattresses on the floor (beds can follow later) and a stove and fridge. But even that requires some effort to arrange . . . And all of that leads to a sense of restless uncertainty, restless sleep, and strained relationship.
And behind, we sense the collective intake of breath as the world waits today on the preliminary results of the week-long referendum in Sudan. Peace, or war? As always, the beginning of the school year in Bundibugyo is riddled with crises, new teachers to be hired, plans to be made, and we grieve for the burden that falls on Travis and Amy as we pray and interact and suggest but can not really rescue. Doubt and guilt. Lonely sms's from our boys there, pull our hearts. We need to find time and energy to catch up with our Kenya teams and work on visas for an exploratory trip to Burundi with a potential new team. Further behind still, the ache of Luke so far away, tired already as the first week of classes finishes, and he begins a part-time job on Monday.
Like Abijah, we can say with conviction that God is for us, that we are not alone. We are thankful for this incredible community of saints in which we have landed (Saturday all three kids went on different outreaches arranged by teachers: Jack picked up trash in a trading center nearby, Julia loaded a tractor with firewood which a group of girls then distributed to a handful of widows, and Caleb went into the valley to help build a house for a needy family, and Caleb is on another outreach this morning building friendships with the young men who sell roasted corn on the road). We are thankful that we are close to closing a deal on a vehicle. We know God has provided this season for our good. But like Abijah, in the midst of all that knowledge and thanks, we can look ahead and behind and see the enemy and panic.
So we lift a shout, and invite our supporters to do the same. Ask God to bring HELP to the Johnsons and CSB. Ask Him to give us supernatural wisdom in dealing well with patients. Ask Him to give us progress in communication. Ask Him to provide what we need for a home by the end of the coming week. Give a shout.