“-the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Being alone in the middle of Africa feels different than being alone in one’s own culture and country. Many people feel lonely. In the 2018 U.S. Loneliness Index 46% of Americans reported feeling lonely sometimes or always, and 47 % reported feeling left out sometimes or always. (usnews.com/
Study: Many Americans Report Feeling Lonely/ May 1, 2018).
Loneliness, whether perceived or real, can be an overpowering feeling. As a six-year-old child, I was letting myself into an empty apartment by a key which hung around my neck. I felt brutally alone during that season. But it was then, that I first heard the song “Jesus Loves Me.” I clung to the promise of the presence of God and willingly grasped at the chance of a friendship with my new-found Savior.
As a teenager, I felt lonely in my youth group. Although the group began spiritually strong, the public affair of a beloved youth leader knocked the group off its moorings. As the group drifted towards immoral habits, my sense of loneliness increased. During these years, my grip on God as my Companion grew more experienced. Even as a single adult waiting to find a “mostly normal” man, I was lonely. But my patience paid off.
But the feeling of being alone in the Congo was different. It felt more distant, forsaken, and hopeless; more complex than the way that I had already experienced it throughout my life. Both Gale and I had a similar occurrence: we were outside at night to use an outhouse. We had flashlights and toilet paper with us. The sky was brilliantly lit by the stars that were undimmed by the lights of mankind. Suddenly, far above us, we heard the sound of an airliner, flying at 35,000 feet above us. We witnessed the feeling of being abandoned by culture and a modern way of thinking. We both felt like children who had been forsaken by a parent. That parent was our country, America. And the loneliness that accompanied that experience was deeper than any we had ever felt before.
But a deeper, more comforting thought came to mind. We were not alone. We were exactly right in the middle of God’s work in our lives. We were bringing the light of the gospel to the Congolese people. We were not forsaken, for our God had traveled with us to this place that felt like the middle of nowhere. We were young missionaries: still learning the language; still cutting our teeth on the culture. We gained friends among those in the Congo, both nationals and western missionaries. But in that moment when we felt the most alone, we gained the most comfort from the God who never leaves or forsakes us.
God had gone with us. We were not forsaken.