The first time we went to Uganda, January, 1991, was to check out the country to which we felt God was leading us. Unfortunately, our original plan, to leave in early December, 1990, fell through. We shifted the departing date a couple of times, and ended up scheduling it for mid-January ... which, unexpectedly, turned out to be two days after the first Gulf War began. We left Omaha with eighteen boxes and pieces of luggage: eleven boxes of materials a local ministry had collected from a number of churches -- shoes, clothes, books, small tools, and even a trumpet -- and seven supplied by us, items we had collected or purchased, including toiletries, OTC drugs, school supplies, lots and lots of twin-sized sheets for orphanages, paint brushes and paint rollers, and M&Ms, granola bars, and small fruit cups. On top of that, we had our own clothing. Overall, lots and lots of stuff.
We did fine -- from Omaha to St. Louis, that is. But when we reached JFK in New York, because of the war, everything fell apart. Too many details to hit, but the final result was that we reached Uganda two and a half days late, and, although we left home with eight hundred dollars, we reached Entebbe with forty-seven dollars and change. To leave Uganda we needed forty dollars for airport exit tax, which we automatically set aside in Dave's wallet ... so that meant we really had only seven dollars for our five-week stay. Talk about intense... and downright scary!
God brought us through in many ways, one miracle after another. However, one always stands out for me.
Three days after we arrived, I was asked to put a library together for the orphanage in Kampala where we were helping. I asked a Ugandan lady to sort through the three hundred books in the evening and I'd come back in the morning and take on the job.
When I walked in, she had several stacks in her room -- yep, she also slept there -- piles of text books, fiction, non-fiction, and Bibles. Many, many Bibles.
When I sat down in the chair to begin the job, I glanced at the Bible stack. On the very top there was a Bible that looked trashy. Embarrassingly so. I asked "Who would give a terrible looking Bible like this away?"
I reached down and picked it up and as I opened the cover I was stunned. It was MY Bible. I received it for my first birthday in the Lord and had lost it at a writer's conference at Boys Town in Omaha ten years earlier. It had my maiden name in it, so no one would have known it was mine. However, as I looked through it I found that all my old notes were still there. Nothing had been lost.
Overwhelmed by the joy, the miracle, I immediately started jumping up and down, crying, screaming, laughing hysterically, and startled the children and adults around me who didn't know what had happened -- including my husband. The director of the orphanage outside of Kampala, where we were going to be helping a week later, walked in at just that moment. It was Jay's first view of me: an hysterical, insane, crazy-acting nutty woman.
However, I also immediately knew that in the midst of all our confusion and challenges, God was telling me that we were in the exact place He wanted us to be at exactly the right time and that He would take care of us. [And He did!]
When I had the blessing of sharing or preaching while we were there, I always told this story. I said, "I lost my Bible ten years ago, ten miles from my home, and God gave it back to me here, ten thousand miles from home." And then I lifted the Bible and showed it to them. They always came to their feet cheering, overwhelmed with joy -- and I always cheered right along with them.
I have that Bible. It is on a bookshelf in a zip-lock bag. I pull it out occasionally just to be reminded by sight, touch, and even a little bit of smell, of the gift that my Father God gave me - Twice.