July 2011

Several days ago, I got an early morning phone call. My friend Pat who has spent most of the past 17 years in western Uganda was on the line. She’s been in North Carolina for the past few months, but she had received a late night call the day before. The news was that the home she was about to settle into in August had burned. It was still standing but the whole interior had been destroyed. The cause of the fire remains unknown. Once the alarm was raised by a neighbor who heard an explosion, other friends rallied around to try to put the fire out – there is no fire brigade in this town – but they were too late to salvage much of anything.

Gone was the brand new fridge Pat had just purchased, along with her bike, two new bikes for her daughters, all her clothes and her other personal effects. Just like that, in a matter of hours, almost all of her worldly possessions had turned to ashes. And the home from which she had planned to launch a new ministry for women in the textile arts was now just a smoldering shell.  This was a house I’d spent time in with the previous family who had lived there, eating many  meals around their dining table and sharing stories in their kitchen. Even I felt a sense of loss though I no longer live in Uganda.

Pat’s reaction amazed me. While I was worried about all she had lost, she kept focussing on the fact that the house was empty at the time and no one had been hurt or injured.

And she was right.  Her belongings are replaceable, but losing loved ones is quite another thing.

What the future holds for Pat is murky though she still intends to return to Uganda in August on schedule and begin the process of re-building her home. How best to move forward is not clear but God remains the one who will guide and direct her path and Pat claims this assurance.

Thanks be to God, the one who brings beauty from ashes, for his mercy in the midst of this terrible loss.


I recently had breakfast with S. one of my fellowship group leaders. She had just come back from Japan where she’d lived for 14 years. On this last trip, she spent one of her days with a  particular friend; they cooked Japanese food together. This was a friend she desperately wanted to encourage. They used to attend the same church but the friend had stopped going.

During a break in the cooking, as they were chatting about this and that, the friend got all excited and said, “I’ve got to show you this new book I’m reading. It’s really having an impact on me. It’s by an American pastor. Have you heard of him?” 

And with that, she pulled out a Japanese translation of Tim Keller’s ‘The Prodigal God’!

S. was able to say, “Yes, I’ve not just heard of him, but he’s my pastor and I’ve read this book.”

Who knows how God will use this book in the life of S.’s friend? That remains to be seen. Yet I can’t help but stand in awe of  the God who orchestrated this connection. What are the chances of two friends living half a world apart where one picks up a book written by a pastor in the U.S. who happens to be the pastor of the other friend’s church? How mind-blowing to see God at work, weaving these women’s lives together with his.

 A glimpse of the master planner at work.