This week the Field of Hope team has been busy busy busy with outreach trainings to the surrounding communities of Lira. On Thursday we went to Otino Waa, a local children’s village, to speak to farmers about agriscience practices. At the start of our meetings, we always begin with prayer, followed by personal introductions, which then segways into the training. On this day in particular, Nicholas (FOH staff) came over to Heather (the other fellow) and I, saying “I need you two to come up with a ten to fifteen minute speech to give these women before we start.” I froze. What?! I didn’t prepare for this! My type A personality was shaking in her boots, as I was completely caught off-guard by this request. Immediately I started rifling through memories, thoughts, experiences in the agriculture industry, ways that I related to this group of women, or really anything I could think of.
I know you know how I was feeling. Have you ever been looking for your wallet because somehow its gone MIA and you’re 97% convinced that it’s been stolen, but you look for it in fervent hope that the other 3% is actually what happened? So you dig through everything you have, searching through bags and under the seats in your car. Notta. Ok, ok don’t freak out yet. You make your way back to Target, thinking maybe it’s still sitting at the self-check-out. Still nothing. In a last ditch effort you drive back to Chick-Fil-A, making sure you didn’t leave it on the counter. Nope, not there. Panic, ok!! I’m allowed to panic now!
THIS WAS ME. Except, in my mind. Frantically searching for words that would fill ten minutes of time, but seemingly coming up empty. Amidst the delusion of my two-minute internal frenzy, I’m not sure how many times it was repeated, but I remember saying “Nicholas, I don’t think I have anything.” Meanwhile, I thought to myself “Sam, you literally never stop talking. WHAT IS YOUR DEAL SISTER??” And then I stopped. Somewhere along my filtering of memories I landed on a phrase that God had taught me earlier this summer. Joyfully endure.
It comes from the verse, 2 Timothy 2:10 which says “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.” Let me give you some background, Paul is near death, writing from prison, and giving Timothy one final charge. Despite the persecution that Paul’s faced, he says with full confidence that the very thing that landed him in prison (preaching the Gospel) is the reason for why he endures. His purpose is set solely on Jesus and bringing salvation to others through the transforming work of the Gospel.
Paul’s words were powerful to me. As I read the verse over and over, “endure” stood out, almost as if it was bold and italicized. I decided to do a word study and found that when endure or hardship or suffering are mentioned in the bible, a lot of times they are associated with joy or blessing. Why was this? Is enduring a good thing? Because in my mind it wasn’t so much. Think about it. No one wants to struggle or undergo hardship or experience pain. Yet, James 1:2 says “consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Joy in trials, hmmm. And Hebrews 12:2 says “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Wait, so you’re saying that it was joy for Jesus to experience pain and persecution and death? Precisely. Not joy in the sense of laughing really hard at a perfectly timed joke, but rather a purposeful, eternal joy that results only from obediently following the Father.
In that moment, I knew these were the only words I needed. These women, they didn’t want to hear some thrown together story. They wanted to hear truth. Regardless of the fact that I’m from America and they’re native to Uganda, we’ve all faced challenges even if they may look significantly different from one another. We’ve all had times when we’ve struggled, faced a roadblock, or felt underappreciated for our work. These women can relate all too well, as they tirelessly work in the fields, providing means for their family to survive, not being respected for the exhausting toil they put in day in and day out. But on this Thursday afternoon, God provided hope for them in the form of agriscience education so that their physical labor may be more fruitful. And not only that, but hope through the encouraging words of Paul. That we get to choose joy, despite less than desirable circumstances. We get to live with eternal gratefulness through blissful obedience to our good God. We get to joyfully endure.