I don’t even really know what to write.  You know when you have so much going through your mind that it’s hard to sort it into comprehensible thoughts?  Yeah, that’s me right now.  But I really want to share more of the story behind our relationship with Ahmad.  It’s an example of God’s faithfulness and has His providential fingerprints all over it.  We are quite awed — awed by the way God heard our desire to help and awed by the way he undoubtedly orchestrated this opportunity.  It certainly doesn’t look like anything I expected as I have been praying for opportunities to touch people’s lives.  But that’s why God is God and I’m not!  His “thoughts are high above mine”!!  (Some of you know the whole story, so if you do, just skip to the last sentence! 🙂 )

The work God is doing in our hearts through this is undeniable. We are being softened and inspired.  It just feels right to be sharing our bread with this man… It has confirmed our desire to train our ears to listen to God’s prompting so we can follow where He leads (even when we don’t fully understand the big picture.)  Teach me, Lord, to hear and obey without terms and conditions! Sometimes I think it’s easy to talk ourselves out of things because we feel like we don’t have enough to give… or like we need to wait for things to be aligned perfectly before stepping out.  I know I have felt his way!  But, truly, all we have to do is open our hearts and say we’re willing and we’ll wake up one day with an African stranger on the couch! (Okay, well, maybe you won’t!)

Anyway, I shared some of this last week, but in case you didn’t get the chance to read it, I wanted to share it again along with “the rest of the story”.  It started when we were reading the newspaper a few weeks ago and read an article about a Liberian man on a six-month visa working and training with a fire department a couple hours south of us.  We called to see if we could meet him because it was an incredible opportunity for us to talk to a man from our son’s country.  We also felt led to offer him the chance to come and stay with us for a few days to work with Peter in the shop and put on some skills if he wanted to (I was literally thinking just a few days!) We didn’t plan on things unfolding the way they have —  It’s like that in life!  You see a door and head toward it not knowing what’s on the other side and the next thing you know you’re holding on for the ride! 

Ahmad met the man he was staying with (I’ll call him Al) while Al was in Liberia driving fire trucks for the UN.  They worked together for a while and got to know each other a little and Al offered to bring Ahmad here to take a fire-training course and live with him and “shadow” Al’s fire department.  It was an incredible opportunity for Ahmad.  A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come to America and get a certificate (and put on other skills) that would change his financial future by opening doors for him when he returned home (employment opportunities or starting his own business, etc.)  If you have any understanding of what life is like for most of the people in Liberia, you understand the ramifications of such an offer.  Ahmad is the oldest of eight siblings, and since his father’s death, is responsible for taking care of his extended family.  He understandably jumped at the chance and accepted Al’s offer. 

However, after Ahmad got here it became apparent that Al’s sexual orientation was not traditional — And that his purpose in bringing Ahmad here was not for Ahmad’s sake.  It was really a tough situation for Ahmad because he was in a strange country and knew no one; he was deeply uncomfortable with the unexpected turn of events and yet to return home meant losing a priceless opportunity.  It meant giving up the chance to put on skills that would drastically alter his life and family’s future.  So he stayed for two months, putting up with lewd advancements from Al.  Ahmad repeatedly told Al that he was uncomfortable and that the situation was not what he anticiapted, but nothing changed.   Ahmad’s wife encouraged him to tough it out because she wanted him to finish the course.  Finally though, Ahmad had enough and was going to fly home when out of the blue, a total stranger (Peter) called and gave him an unexpected and very welcome invitation — a God-Send out of nowhere!  (We, of course, had no idea what we were walking into.  We just knew we felt prompted to call him and extend the invitation… pretty crazy, huh?)

So last Sunday, (not knowing any of this) Peter drove down to Spokane and brought Ahmad back here for the week.  After they got here Sunday night, Peter pulled me aside and explained the whole situation.  Whew, talk about a shocker!…  Ahmad told Peter on their way here that he simply couldn’t go back to Al’s… and we understood that decision, but it put us in the place of feeling like we were suddenly responsible for what happened to him next. It was, in a strange allegorical way, like walking past the man in the ditch in the story of the Good Samaritan and we felt compelled to do something.  I had been thinking he would be here for maybe a week or two — enough time to connect and sow into his life… but not long enough to turn our lives upside down.  I feel terrible admitting it, because here we have been praying for God to use us however He wanted!  We have been asking God for months to position us to be able to touch people’s lives and minister to those in need however we could.  But… but I wasn’t expecting this!  It was, however, really obvious to us that it was set up by the Lord and was a huge opportunity, we just needed to figure out what it was going to look like on a practical level and how deeply we were going to get involved.

So we spent last week talking and praying and seeking God about how to proceed — we wanted to be wise and protect our family… and yet we also wanted to be open to the promting of the Lord.  There were two sides to the argument — needing to be circumspect and yet also recognizing the potential for God to do something BIG in Ahmad’s life and our lives as well.  So, after praying and seeking counsel and spending the week with him, we felt a peace about moving forward with a more long-term relationship under some clear guidelines and boundaries.  He still has four months left on his visa and it looks like he will be staying with us for the rest of the time.  He will be going down to Spokane on the weekends for Fire Training (for at least the next seven weeks) so at this point he’ll just be here during the week.  He is actually sleeping on our couch right now because we don’t have a guest room.  *Which really brings the scripture Matt. 25:35 to life! (“I was hungry and you gave me food; I was a stranger and you took me in” ) Wait, God, you meant it literally??  (Oh, and by the way, don’t worry if we have talked about your family coming out to visit us, we would put you up in my parent’s house across the road… you wouldn’t all have to sleep on our couch! — Just thought I’d better clarify that! 🙂 )  Anyway, we are looking into borrowing a travel trailer to park next to our house for him to live in for the rest of the time he is here.

We are excited about the next four months!  We feel very expectant and are praying for God to completely have His way in Ahmad’s life and our lives during this season.  We feel ourselves being stretched.  We have laughed with this man and cried with this man and know this relationship is expanding our hearts deeply in a way that only personal involvement can.  I think it has particularly impacted Peter because he hasn’t read as much as I have about Liberia and the condition of the country.  He has been really stirred by talking with Ahmad.

For those of you still worried for us — we are being cautious and careful!  We are trying to be “as wise as serpents but as harmless as doves.”  Ahmad is with Peter at the shop most of the day and we are being very careful with Jo.  We have had some good conversations with him discussing our relationship. But when it all comes down to it, we are trusting God ultimately for both protection and guidance.  We don’t want to shy away from a tremendous opportunity because of fear.  We are seeking the balance of walking in discernment, not judgment; awareness, not ambivelence; circumspection, not presumption.  And, he seems to be a good guy.  We’ve enjoyed getting to know him.  We are often amazed at the level of principled thinking that comes out of him.  You know when you meet people that have a lot of common sense and have their heads on straight (okay, funny phrase… my grandma used to say it! 🙂  He is like that.  He shares things that are quite insightful and his perspective is amazingly intuitive for not having had much formal education.  We have had a few verryyy interesting conversations; but, what an easy way to transition through culture shock — in your own home!  I’m thinking I’ll be a little better prepared for traveling to Liberia.  And, on a practical note, he is a huge blessing to Peter in the shop and it is a definitely a win/win all around.  We are working out the arrangements as far as gifting him his wages as an “investment” when he leaves since we can’t legally pay him due to his visa.  He is a hard worker and seems pleased to be learning so much from Peter.  It’s an amazingly reciprocal relationship. 

I do have some stories to share… stories he has told us about growing up in “the bush” and about his family and life before and after the war. Things that may not be quite as interesting to those of you not adopting from Liberia, but fascinating to those who are!  But, I have rambled on enough today.  They’ll have to come in installments.  🙂

Thanks for all your prayers.  Please keep praying!