Hope in heartache

Steve and Sharon Entwistle have been leading a new team in CAR, but instability and fighting in the country has meant that their time there had to be brought to a close early. In a recent prayer letter, Sharon talks honestly about how it feels to have to evacuate a country as a missionary, leaving friends behind.

My mind and heart feel so muddled today, I don’t know where to begin. So much has happened. There are so many emotions, events, thoughts. You know, there have been a few things in these past, transient, confusing weeks that have remained the same. The first being the faithfulness of Jesus, walking with us, speaking his words of life to us, making us lie down in green pastures. If you could see where I am right now… Lake Victoria is sparkling below me, the bright green grass invites me to take a stroll, brilliant fiery flame tree blossoms catches my eye with every swoop of the breeze, exotic birds lifting praise songs… we are very grateful for this gift of God. We are blessed with a restful five days to be just the two of us, to reflect, read, pray and walk, asking God to restore our souls, and we are thankful to friends who have made this possible.

And that leads me to the second constant: the body of Christ. In our time of exhaustion the body of Christ has stood in the gap, with words of encouragement, prayers lifted up, phone calls and statements of faith for us. I can’t describe how grateful I am. We are blessed beyond what we can believe!

Is it possible that it was nearly three weeks ago now that we were scrambling aboard our rescue plane, hoisting one jam-packed carry on suit case onto the air craft? Pressing our noses to the window, watching precious people wave weary arms, seeing sad tear-stained faces stare in disbelief as our plane engine roared to life. Explosions had rocked their world the night before and terror, disbelief and anger seemed to seep out of each slumped soul. Their hope was dissipating. The Ugandan Military that brought such promise was turning their back and returning home. The US military, that so many claimed the rebels feared so much it would stop them coming, was at that moment— the very moment when things seemed to be building to a frightening scream — gathering their troops to pull out. And now their own missionary friends were fleeing, leaving them to face the impending, darkest of clouds, alone. And there we sat, buckled safely into comfy seats, lifting higher and higher away…

It’s hard to describe our hearts right now. Often I feel blank, like there is too much to feel so it is better to just glance over the top. Sometimes I feel deeply angry, confused, relieved, guilty, mournful, sad. And then I decide to whisper the word ‘hope’. Reflecting Habakkuk, who states that even though he doesn’t see hope in front of him, he still knows who hope is. “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord…”

Somewhere, high in the powder white clouds, gliding towards our safe-haven, we made some decisions. First the kids, then the team, then us as a couple. We as a family needed time to recoil, to debrief, to pray, to laugh, to play, to talk and then to settle our kids for the third term of RVA’s school year. After a memory-filled week in Kenya, we said heartachey goodbyes, opened our white knuckled grip and released our kids into our Heavenly Father’s hands, again.

Then we set our faces for Uganda, setting aside four precious days to spend with those we’d trudged with — down a trail so incredibly surprising that it could only have been designed by our Creator. “You had discernment when the rest of us missed it … you joyfully cheered each one on … you pushed us all to dig deeper, to examine our hearts…” These were just some of the words we heard concerning different members of the team. What a reminder of the body of Christ! Each member absolutely necessary, each one making up the whole. Tears came freely, laughter surprised us, and memories stirred us. What we had planned to be three-years together had melted into a few emotion-packed months. Our hearts stretched in every possible direction as we prayed together and sought healing and understanding. New doors are already opening for some while others wait and pray and watch and wonder. We are so excited to see what God has planned for each of those who have so earnestly sought him, believing that he will create beauty from ashes. But there is more aching in our hearts with each goodbye.

So again, I’m reminded that there are two things that stay stable for us. Our perfect, competent King, and the incredible body of Christ. That is what keeps us hopeful. That is what keeps us going. Thank you.And that brings us back to this shimmering spot on the great Lake Victoria. Steve and I have slept, walked, eaten well, read the Word, prayed together and we have been still. We are country-less, home-less, team-less, direction-less, answer-less. But we feel grateful, blessed and certain that we know the one who holds our yesterday and our tomorrow. And we whisper that word… ‘hope’! I practice picturing the great throne of Jesus our King, and laying down on that immense solid platform the wars, fears and anguish of CAR, the resolute Zande Church, the vast throng of Mbororo, the faces of those precious team mates, sweet friends, the hearts of our children, and the huge questions of our blurred future. Then, claiming in faith that only Jesus is able.

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