Author’s Note: This is part 1 of 2 from a two-day journey out of WiFi range. This segment pertains to Day 8, June 15.
There is a Chris Tomlin song: indescribable, uncontainable, you placed the stars in the sky and you know them by name, You are amazing God. All powerful, untamable, You see the depths of my heart and you love me the same. You are amazing, God.
A year ago, before my first safari, I was warned that the night spent at the Hlane Royal National Park would be the blackest night I would ever experience; told that I wouldn’t even be able to see a hand held mere inches in front of my face. Like most of the warnings I was given a year ago, I figured it was a slight exaggeration and packed a small flashlight. I remember being so unbelievably blown away by not only the sheer number of stars, but also the brightness, clarity and sheer magnitude of the sky above me. I wish I had the equipment necessary to photograph that sky because my words, nor the beautiful words of Tyler Knott Gregson, are enough to describe the magnificence of creation. A full year later, this sky is still the last thing I see before I fall asleep.
Tonight, as I looked up at the same sky I imagine every night, I was totally astonished all over again because not even photographic memory does justice to God’s handiwork. A night this beautiful makes me think of scripture so much–not only the creation of the night sky, but also the Abrahamic Covenant found in Genesis. God promises to make the descendants of Abraham as numerous as the stars in the sky, and we see this promise fulfilled by the time we reach Nehemiah. But mostly what comes to mind is Psalm 8. I had to read Psalm 8 about forty thousand times this semester for my Christian Discipleship class and to be entirely honest, it was not my favorite thingbut Dr. Lister would be so proud of me right now.
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you set in place, what are mere mortals that you should think about them? Human beings that you should care for them?
[Psalm 8:3-4, NLT]
This night makes me feel so small in the hands of my Creator, but is a comforting feeling. I feel very much like I did as a child and I crawled into my dad’s lap, which is so appropriate because today is Father’s Day.
This morning, I wandered into the new preschool building on the Njojane Care Pointe to discover maybe six children, age range 4-9, sitting silently their cute little preschool chairs and waiting for children’s church to start. I sat down on the floor in front of them, much to their surprise, and began speaking to them in a language they understand: sweeties. I put a Lifesaver into each of their hands, taking just a second longer than necessary. These children are so starved for attention, and every second counts. A few more trickled in, and soon I had sweet babies of all ages stacked on me, beside me, all around me, laughing and giggling and speaking love through our actions. It was one of my favorite moments of this trip. I had planned on staying for a few minutes, just to see how children’s church operated (as this was my first opportunity to do so) before walking over the to main service, but there were so many small hands to hold, songs to sing, babies to love…I spent my whole morning under a pile of children as we sang and danced and listened to bible stories. As we worshipped in Siswati, I realized I was singing along, in Siswati, to a song I did not know comprised of words I cannot pronounce, nor understand, and not of my own volition. I realized this is what heaven must feel like: open, honest, pure worship for a shared Savior, despite cultural ties, languages, and preferences. It was so beautiful, to be worshipping and praying alongside such unfamiliarity so comfortably that my eyes welled with tears. I felt so big, like what I was doing mattered and like it wouldn’t be over in just a few short hours.
Our host family’s oldest child and I had a little astronomy lesson tonight. From Hlane, every star in the sky can be seen, as well as Jupiter and Venus. I pointed each of them out, the stars I know by name and constellations. There were easily hundreds, foreseeably thousands of stars visible.
You placed the stars in the sky and you know them by name. You are amazing, God.
Being here totally, entirely, completely blows my mind. I look better, I feel better, I am better here. In the same day, I have felt larger than life and humbled by the Creator of the universe. Who am I that God should think about or care for me? Questions like these are the ones that make my mind spin out of control when I’m home and supposed to be asleep but instead, lying awake and trying to wrap my mind around the enormity of the creation and struggling to do so. It is beautiful the way this place puts all insecurity to sleep, as if it never existed.
I have to be honest: in the weeks leading up to our departure, there was a devil on my shoulder. I kept questioning why Swaziland—what if, upon looking back, I had romanticized last year’s trip and the idea of being a missionary? What if I came back and it wasn’t the same?
You know the depths of my heart, Lord, and you love me the same. You are amazing, God.
Sometimes you look up and there just seems to be so many more stars than ever before. More. They burn brighter and they shine and they never vanish in your periphery when you turn your head. It’s as if they come out for us and to remind us that their light took so long to come to us, that if we never had the patience to wait, we never would have seen them here, tonight, like this.
That as much as it hurts, sometimes it’s all you can do, wait, endure and keep shining knowing that eventually, your light will reach where it is supposed to reach and shine for who it is supposed to shine for.
It is never easy, but it is always worth it.
I leave Swaziland in 2 days and I’m already mourning my departure. Being here on the ground has only further confirmed what I already knew—this is where I am meant to be. I just have to be patient.
It is never easy, but it is always worth it.