I was the only white person on the bus from Natitingou to Cotonou to renew my visa. Next to me sat a big guy, sweating profusely, eating something that looked and smelled strange. I tried to listen to my headphones, but the bus driver cranked up the volume on the bus radio, and it totally drowned out my MP3 player. Well, its only a nine-hour drive, I thought. Ill survive.
As I looked out the window, I could feel a headache coming on because of the noise and heat. Unfortunately, I had been too late when I bought my ticket, so I didnt get a seat on the nice bus. I got a seat on the one without air conditioning. From my last trip, I knew the bus would stop only once, so I paced my water drinking. It was getting hotter, and the potholes we bounced through felt like craters. My head pounded in sync with the music.
The guy behind me seemed to not feel well, either. He began throwing up and lurched for the windowmy window. Some of the mess landed on my left arm. Oh, what a wonderful day! All the smells and the noise and the heat and the potholes, and now a wet arm! I felt horrible. I couldnt even rinse it off.
I started to get annoyed with the people around me. How rude are these people? I thought. Im a missionary, and Im supposed to love these people? How does this work? Getting nauseous myself, I closed my eyes and put my hands over my ears to pray and ask God for help. And He did help. He gave me peace, and we finally arrived in Cotonou.
Now I just have to take a motorcycle taxi to the guesthouse, I though. That shouldnt be too difficult. But my taxi driver took me to the wrong place and then tried to rip me off.
Worn out and feeling gross, I finally made it to the guesthouse just before dark. Dead cockroaches and spots on the sheets. It looked like the room hadnt been cleaned after the last occupant.
The next day wasnt any better. I was supposed to meet a guy who would help me with my visa, but he was late, and we barely made it in time to the immigration office. Then the clerk rejected my visa application.
Sitting alone in my dirty guesthouse room, I was tired and disgusted. I just want to go home! I fumed. Im not the right person for mission work. I cant do it, and I dont want to! I poured out my heart to God, and slowly His peace permeated my being. All of a sudden, I could laugh about what had happened.
I felt energized, and I wanted to do something. I spent the next hour planning, and an idea began to come together. I consulted with my team members in Natitingou and called my parents in Germany who agreed to do the fundraising. Everyone was excited. In February we would have a retreat for the girls I was working with at church.
Most of the girls in Benin dont know much about the Christian way of courtship and marriage. Often they get pregnant and then end up marrying the childs father. At this retreat, we want to show them Gods plan for marriage and how they can make wise decisions. We also want to talk about childrearing. Here in Benin, its usually not the mothers who bathe their babies, but an older grandma or aunt. They wash them in extremely hot water and give them a hardy massage to make their bones strong, they say. I know one baby in church whose collar bone was broken that way. At this retreat we hope to give the girls new information in a practical way, in a setting where they feel safe, and give them opportunities for growth and learning.
What if God hadnt let me get so frustrated? What if I had gotten a seat on the air-conditioned bus and dozed the whole way to Cotonou? What if my guesthouse room had been clean? And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).