I came here to film a documentary. My husband was working the glide cam, and beginning to work on a new well pump design while we were privileged to travel with the NGO Water for Africa.
In one fateful hour last week - walking to the markets across the road to buy bananas, we were caught in a dump of torrential rain, thunder, and lightening. We arrived back at our locked room, still locked, to find no computers at our desk, no full-frame Canon camera's in the room, external hard drives gone, no smart phone in the bag, and no backpack. Eight days of footage and weeks of planning and income and portfolio lost in remote Tanzania.
One member of staff is still in prison until he talks.
'Finding Faith' assumes you've been looking for it. And sometimes you really do have to look for it. So perhaps we should talk first about losing faith (fortunately or unfortunately, I only find myself qualified to talk about my own).
Rewind seven years, and I'd lost a lot of faith in a good God; in knowing a God who wasn't a tease. I was a few years into battling a chronic illness and seemed He promised me much but saved me from little.
Rewind to the days before we left for Tanzania and I knew I was still a victim to my past. I couldn't trust that God would give me favour and often felt like I was fighting in the natural for my spirit to believe His plan was for me. But I was more determined than ever to become one of those people who really believed good things would happen. Not because I had the strength to but because I couldn't find peace any other way.
Rewind to that fateful hour spent at the markets across the road from our "hotel", and as we came to the door of our room I was literally still talking desperately about how things just didn't seem to be working out for me as I thought they should. Rightly or wrongly, I often found life incredibly hard. However I had enough faith filled people around me to keep me pushing through – however messy and unempowered that looked.
So when we walked through that "hotel" room door in remote Tanzania to thousands of dollars lost, at that crux of practicing 'faith', my cries to God weren't pretty - at all. Really God?!
Fighting for Faith
Possessing faith like a child, as God recommends it, involves a good fight we get older. An adult fight to maintain a child-like relationship.
Some of you will know that when we don't ultimately believe God's plan is for us, it's hard to have an intimate relationship with our Creator. For a long time I couldn't get past those trust issues with God, yet I was determined to. Living without confidence in a God who would look after me was contradictory and confusing.
I found out too that it only invited worry and anxiety – and I couldn't afford the energy to indulge in those any longer. They subtly robbed me of strength. And I only realized just before our Africa adventure how much I was entertaining them.
And this is my victory story … it turns out the 'break through' I'd been seeking came in the form of this one last blow. A multifaceted loss of the majority of our income and resources and a rupture to key business relationships - in a foreign land in which I was already looking forward to escaping from back to the unmerited comforts of home. A blow that made me realise I couldn't fight to understand God anymore. But mostly one that made me realise this blow wasn't attributed to God. And one that made me realise that we were in a battle. Because:
1. I believed God wanted this documentary to be made.
2. I believed other supernatural forces didn't want it to be made. It was only going to spread the love of God further in to Tanzania and Africa through clean water projects, be broadcast internationally, and empower people to live extraordinary lives for God in the unique way He is calling them – through the story of Phil and Julie who started Water for Africa.
3. And I also believe that we live in a fallen world where crap just happens – people sin, poverty intrudes, and thieves abound.
I'd been fighting for it in the natural, but it took a supernatural gust of grace within misfortune to get my fight back in the spiritual.
Play Fighting for Faith
My journey of being shocked from an earthly realm of human discouragement in the painful events around me, into accepting God's promises despite earthly circumstances will be different from every other individuals own acceptance of God.
But I believe it largely involves maintaining the capacity to fight. And it involves doing our best not to be run down by worry and by pain; to do our best to enjoy God. And if we find we can't enjoy God, because our season has been too hard, that it be the first thing we try to get back.
From hearing others stories like my own, I believe it is the long term discouragement that wears down our childlike faith in God, rather than the much sharper acute pain of disappointment or even sometimes grief.
And I can now understand why I came against quite amusing resistance by my husband and other close friends to my desires for and excitement about "growing up" when I turned twenty-six last year. I thought that's what I needed to do more of to embrace life's hard ships and quit the victim mindsets I had developed. To accept even more that life can be disappointing and to build resilience so that I could have that gusto that I wanted and needed to follow God's crazy plans.
I understand now that it is quite an opposite truth that I needed to flourish within me.
God loves me.
He favours me.
No matter my circumstances.
Faith like a child as God recommends, might take fight as we grow older within our fallen world. But children are ultimately designed by God to enjoy safety and take it for granted - to know that if something bad were to happen it wouldn't stem from their parents (or such would be the case for super human parents anyway i.e. God). Children enjoy safety, and take for granted that they are favoured and loved, and thus they have faith.
Yes consequences are gradually introduced and pain becomes known, but it is ideally then a managed part of life. And through pain we can be encouraged into God's love even more.
That is the relationship I am fighting for. And I am fighting for it through childlike enjoyment of Him. Yes we will cry together. But we will also climb trees together. Sometimes the trees will seem too high, and sometimes the branches will be rotten underneath. But I'm choosing to believe that I can be swinging through the trees with Him – even in this life as His kingdom comes to earth.
It sounds a bit much like The Lion King actually. God bless Africa, but I can't wait to get home.
Janetta Hayden is a Social Anthropology and Visual Arts graduate from New Zealand, based in Perth with her Design Engineer husband Ryan. Janetta works and volunteers in film and community development, with a business idea up her sleeves.
Janetta Hayden's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/janette-hayden.html