Finding God in the desert

What reminders of God’s love do you find in unexpected places? What events have led you to experience God as far away? 

Have you ever had the experience of being surprised that God seemed present when you least expected it? What happened? 

What does silence offer you in this season of your life? 

Is there a goodbye that is needed to create space for a new hello? What do you find yourself wanting to say hello to? 

These were some of the reflection questions from an online retreat I was part of in August. We listened to the stories of Hagar, Elijah and Elisha and looked into how they found God in the desert.

In November 2019, I was deported from Zambia—my home for the past few years—because of visa issues. I had to pack my bags in seven days and journey into the unknown. Then, the pandemic happened. I just had so many layers of unknown that the only thing I knew was that I didn’t know. Didn’t know when to go, when to return, where to stay, what to do, how to get visas…God sent me into exile.  

I still remember when the immigration officer asked me: “Where is your home?” I looked at him blankly before saying: “I don’t know…” I must have been one of the most confusing cases he had ever dealt with. I felt like I belonged nowhere. There was an internal earthquake in me. All I knew was falling down. However, through the shaking of my foundation, I realised all I have is God alone—which is good enough for me to face each new day. 

Now I am back in Zambia after almost a year of exile. The stories in the desert echo in my heart. It is on this unexpected dry ground where I experience God’s love and faithfulness. I truly agree with Hagar’s words in Genesis 16:13 “You are the God who sees me” (NIV). This was not an easy road, but it was full of grace. Jesus walks with me step by step. The many tears are the water helping my spiritual life grow in this season. 

Here are different areas where I have seen God work in my life in the past few months:

Provision from the body of Christ 

When I left Zambia, I didn’t—and couldn’t—have a long term plan as COVID made my journey even more complicated. I felt like Peter walking on water. One step at a time and I had to fully rely on God with each step. 

In South Africa, Thailand and Taiwan, no matter where I went, there were missionaries who took care of me. Many of them didn’t even know me well, but they still showed me hospitality. God met all my needs physically, emotionally and spiritually through the body of Christ. 

 I moved more than 14 times in the past year. Almost every month end, I was not sure where I would go next. Then, someone would contact me to offer a place to stay. Even with the little things like a haircut or winter clothing, God showed concern and blessed me through the people around me.  

Though I joke that I was homeless, God actually gave me so many new homes all over the world. I gained so many new families during this season. 

A call to be faithful, not successful 

God calls us to Himself, and the requirement is being faithful. It was only when I was not able to do ministry that I realised I had built my identity and pride in it. God had to take me out of ministry to learn to trust Him alone. It’s about God, not what I do for God. 

I am not in charge of my life and the ministry. Everything belongs to God. I need to let God lead and guide. In the beginning, I felt like God was wasting my time, and I couldn’t fulfil the purpose He created me for. However, God told me to let go. Glorifying Him is my ultimate purpose, and God is the one deciding how that looks. 

I learnt to trust my team more because I was not there to do the tasks myself. It was a learning curve for all of us. It helped me refocus and gain a better picture of what God really wants me to accomplish in the field, instead of doing things always the same way. 

Jesus weeps with me

There were days I just wanted God to tell me when the exile would end. He didn’t give me answers, but He promised me that He is there with me. I learnt to lament in this season and know that Jesus weeps with me. 

He cares about how I feel, and He sent people to pray with me. In this season, there were more people reaching out through the internet to pray with me than ever before. Even when I didn’t have the energy to reach out, someone would drop me a message. 

I am free to throw all my emotions to Him. Before He gave us the victory of the resurrection, He shared the pain of the suffering. Injustice, sickness and loneliness… He knows it all, and He is listening to the pain as He comforts us.   

His grace is sufficient for today 

“Don’t borrow tomorrow’s worry and pay it with today’s grace.” This was the quote that I held on to this season. When Israel received manna, they could only collect what they needed for that day. The need for tomorrow is not on today’s worry list. This was hard because I like to plan. However, God challenged me to let Him take care of me completely. Again and again, He showed up in unexpected ways where I could not have thought of the solution myself. 

 During the lockdown, South Africa was actually the best place for me to be. I could work with the Africa Area office and still be in the same time zone to connect with my team. I also had a better internet connection and the time to do online training and other new projects that I would not have been able to work on otherwise. I could also catch up with so many old friends and study materials for spiritual growth. 

I learnt to walk with God in the present. Take the challenges one step at a time. Fix my eyes on Jesus, so that everything else falls into the right places. I don’t have to figure it out myself. Now looking back, exile was not bad at all. I truly see the hands of God sustain me through and through. Each time I wanted to give up, He gave me enough strength to move one more step or He would carry me for a bit. And by the way, for the people who read to the very end, the best gift God gave me in the past year was meeting a guy who loves Jesus and me. It was worth the journey.

 Friends, please don’t give up. God is there walking with you. I don’t know how long the exile or the desert will last, but He sees you.  

Ivy, previously a city girl rushing into the Taipei metro every day, now enjoys walking around beautiful villages at Lake Tanganyika, Zambia. She likes to listen to people's stories and write newsletters (really a rare species). Her dream is to become the shortest giant in the world. 

Share this Resource

Leave a Reply

You might also like:

AIDSLink Zambia Ministry Leader Zambia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleA Leader among of Leadership team of AIDSLink. Develop volunteers and sustain community ministries with making VCJFs as the goal
Full Details
Farm Manager Zambia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleKansuli Farm is a sustainable project of OM Lake Tanganyika. It is a means of assisting local missionaries as they share the gospel of Jesus Christ, funding local ministries and the farm is an access path to sharing the gospel to nearby communities.
Full Details
School Administrator Zambia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleOM Lake Tanganyika is situated along the beautiful lakeshore of Lake T. Our Good News II school seeks to reach out to the orphans and the vulnerable children to see them grow in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Good News II School strive toward excellence, continued growth and compassion to our pupils. A School Administrator works to bring together these values at our main campus and in other village pre-schools. Pupils are in need of great care as many come from difficult situations.
Full Details
Sustainable Development Manager Zambia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleDo you have a heart to see people in mission field, to succeed in reaching the world with full gospel in all areas of life, spiritual, emotional, financial, and intellectual? Then we need you at Lake Tanganyika.

The sustainable projects done at Lake T will support the running of ministry and support local missionaries. Projects will assist in the continuance of God's work.

Full Details
Administration and Communication Co-Ordinator (AIDSLink) Zambia    Go & Live    As soon as possiblemedical aim, community, vulnerable
Full Details
Support Services Leader Zambia    Go & Live    AnytimeThe Support Services Leader is a core role which oversees and is involved in various ministry activities. The Support Services team serve as the engine of the Ministry; through administrative, financial, personnel and communication functions, frontline missionaries are able to be cared for as they spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The role of Support Services Leader is needed in the furtherance of the gospel.

Full Details
Tutors in Communities (AIDSLink) Zambia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleEducation, community work, vulnerable
Full Details
AIDSLink Zambia Ministry Team Leadership Zambia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleMake plans and decisions; strategize, organizing ministry if needed, give direction and suggestions in ministry
Full Details
Administrator Zambia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleAcross OM, we have a strong need for individuals gifted in administration to aid ministry taking place on the mission field. Those with administrative skills are needed in almost every facet of ministry to ensure that outreaches, meetings and programmes operate with efficiency, and that tasks, paperwork and coordination involved in organising people and events is accomplished with completeness and attention to detail. If this describes how God has wired you, consider here how you can use your administrative gifts to see more vibrant communities of Jesus followers established among the least reached.
Full Details
Bookkeeper Zambia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleAs a bookkeeper serving on the mission field, you will provide much-needed support to the accountant on the OM team, and you will fulfil a vital ministry role toward the purpose of seeing more vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached. We are looking for knowledgeable, detail-oriented individuals who will handle the paperwork associated with OM's business and ministry transactions, including petty cash, data entry, bills, accounts, banking and record keeping. Participation in local ministry and team life may also be aspects of your role
Full Details
Accountant Zambia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleAs an accountant on the mission field with OM, you will use your financial management skills toward the purpose of seeing vibrant communities of Jesus followers established among the least reached. This important role is vital to ministry on the field. As an accountant in OM, you would provide accountability for the cash transactions conducted on the field and perform duties to assist with accounting functions pertaining to bank accounts, budgets, journal entries, financial reporting and administrative changes, guided by precedent and guidelines of established polices. Participation in local ministry and team life may also be aspects of your role.
Full Details
Sending Officer Zambia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleRecruiting, follow up on placement. ( local and international)
Lead the recruitment process to achieve a good fit between recruits and ministries in the field and other OM fields including the ship.

Full Details