Monday, August 30, 2010

Why God said, “No"

When my team got to Kenya 23 years ago there was a large cistern full of rainwater that we used for our drinking and cooking needs. The tank collected rain, we treated the rainwater and were then able to use that water. Pretty simple concept. The only tricky part was it had to rain in order for the cycle to continue. But it didn’t rain. Not once. Not one little raindrop. And we ran out of water. So we did what any good group of Christians would do: we prayed.

As a naïve 17 year old, I was convinced God would bring rain. Why wouldn’t He? We were there serving Him and I was sure He wanted us to have water to drink so we could continue our work.  Surely he would bring the rain.

We prayed and we prayed and we prayed. And God said, “No.” Not once, not twice, but for the entire six weeks we were in Kenya, He said, “No rain for you.”

Our worksite was situated near a lake; when it became clear rain was not going to come we each took our one-gallon buckets to the lake, filled them up with lake water and walked them up the hill to the cistern and dumped them in. Thirty one-gallon buckets to fill a huge tank… you do the math (‘cause you know I’m not going to). It took forever and was one of the hardest work days I experienced that summer. But it was water that we were able to filter and drink. It was nasty, filthy, disgusting water. But we had water.

Even so, I was perplexed and disappointed that God didn’t send rain. Weren’t we praying fervently? Our motives were as pure as they could be, but not one drop of rain fell the entire time we were there. We saw so many other "Yes" answers to prayer; why did God say, “No,” to this one?

Often we don’t get to know why God answers prayers the way He does. But sometimes He graciously allows us to see what we couldn't. And after our visit back to Kiserian this summer, I know why God didn’t send us rain:

We spent three days in Kiserian last month, and it rained each night. Not little, sweet summer rain; no, it was, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore,” rain storms. Gusts of wind, sheets of rain. The downpour we’d prayed for 23 years ago came this summer.

And when we saw what happened when it rained in Kiserian we understood why God didn’t send rain when we asked in 1987. We would never have gotten our work done. Our concrete floor wouldn’t have dried; we would have been hard-pressed to start the building, much less finish it. And on a personal level, it would have completely soaked those of us in tents – all of the boys and six of the girls (including me).

We had to cut our visit to Kiserian short by a day because of the rain – Dan was concerned if it rained one more night the vans wouldn’t be able to handle the muddy, river-like roads. And as we drove out of there, I thanked God for not sending the rain in 1987. And for letting me know why he said, “No.”

Walter helping Shannon out of the very stuck van.

Trying to get to dry ground...

Dan, the police and our bus drivers, figuring out the best way out.

Kiserian police in their Land Rover, pulling our van out of the muck.

Amy, waiting in Dan's Nissan, which made it through all the yucky roads beautifully.  It should have commercials made about it - it was a perfectly fantastic truck for those conditions.  Even though it looks stuck, it's not.  Dan hopped right in and drove out.

Dan, with his Nissan.  He drove the heck out of that thing.  You're the man, Dan!