Yesterday was Good Friday in the Christian faith, and we spent the bulk of our devotion time in the morning reminding ourselves of the pain and suffering our Savior endured for us on that Friday over 2,000 years ago. I have heard and read the description of His beating more times than I can count, have been taught what that kind of beating did to his body and have taught it to my students many times. It doesn’t matter how much I hear it, read it or see it portrayed on television or in a movie, though; I never get over the fact that He – the perfect Son of God – did that for me, not because I was so awful in my sin, (although I am) but because HE is so wonderful and loves me so very, very much.
As I reflected on what He endured that Friday and thought about His arrest, his night in prison, the scourging, the crown of thorns placed on His head, the road to Calvary, the actual crucifixion – all that His death entailed – I was reminded that on that day in history, there was nothing good about that Friday. Can you imagine how overwhelmed the disciples were feeling that day, how hopeless they must have been, how devastated they surely were, how lost they appeared, how afraid they might have felt, how the sadness may have washed over them, how they probably wandered around in such a state of confusion?
Think about it. Their friend and teacher, the one they left everything familiar to follow for three years, was dead. They had given up much to follow Him and become fishers of men, and some of them were probably just beginning to believe He was truly the Messiah. Just when they think everything is going according to plan (remember Palm Sunday and how Jesus came into Jerusalem so triumphantly), their whole lives are turned upside down and the very One who claimed to be their deliverer has been arrested and crucified. There was nothing – not one single thing – that was good about that Friday, despite the fact that the disciples and early followers of Jesus had been faithful to His leadership. Sure, they had questions and had trouble “getting” what Jesus was up to a lot of the time, but they trusted Him enough to follow Him any and everywhere, and where did it get them? Jesus was dead. Not a good Friday at all.
Our house and our campus has had a very difficult few weeks. The school year began with great celebration when all of our girls in the Esther House returned, and The Amazima School held an open house/grand opening to receive the official “blessing” of the Minister of Higher Education in Uganda. This man, who has one of the most prestigious titles and positions in all of Uganda, folded up his prepared speech at our grand opening and talked for 20 minutes about how he sensed the Holy Spirit on our campus and knew God was doing something here because of what he saw in our students. That is simply unheard of here, and we were basking in the joy of knowing that God is, indeed, doing something here.
Maybe that’s when the enemy sat up and took notice because that’s about when the attacks began. We recognize that we are in a spiritual battle for our families and our children and that we are on the winning side, but let’s be real – war is hell. We know that we know we are victorious because of our faith in God, but there has been intense fighting these last few weeks, and we are battle weary. Like those early disciples, we left everything familiar behind and have been following Jesus, not always “getting” what He was doing but trying hard to learn more about Him and be more like Him. We have had our triumphant moments – too many to even count – and we’ve been grateful that in following the One True God, He has allowed us to witness His power and glory over and over and over again.
And just when we were feeling confident that we had this family mentor/missionary thing down, Friday dawned, not just for us but for our entire team. Though we know we will win the war because King Jesus is our commander in chief, we have suffered losses. One of our students quit school and went home, for reasons known only to her and God because she refuses to tell us, our Ugandan partner, our incountry director, her former mentors, students, her mother, her sister, anyone at all, why she refused to stay at school. This is the student who was awarded our top female servant leader award last year, a room mama at our house, and the stewardship prefect Joe worked closely with every week to plan campus chores and cleaning projects. She walked away from not only a scholarship to The Amazima School but also being part of Amazima Ministries. Just said she was leaving and then left.
In the middle of her making her final decision she was allowed to go home to think and pray about whether she really wanted to quit school, and we were told on Monday of this week that she had decided to return to school. Our girls had told us Sunday night that if she decided to come back, despite her terrible treatment of them in the two weeks prior to her leaving, they wanted to celebrate her homecoming the same way the father celebrated his son coming home in that parable of the lost son. Every single one of them told us we had to have a party to welcome her back, and that’s what we planned to do. I baked a cake – should tell you right there how much I love this girl – and Joe bought a crate of soft drinks. We even arranged for our students to be released from classes for a few minutes to be on the porch to welcome her home with clapping and cheering.
And then she got here and told us she never intended to stay. She just came back to collect her belongings and leave. We were then and are still devastated. There is absolutely no understanding why she made such a decision; no one gives up a scholarship to secondary school here!
As the girls – and we – tried to recover from that shock and disappointment, our student from last year who lost her mother and started having seizures from the stress of the loss had a series of seizures. She was in the same room as the student who left, and we believe she just could not handle the stress of the situation, so in the span of a week, the girls in that room lost a roommate and witnessed one of the worst seizures Joe and I have ever seen. These girls are feeling like it’s Friday.
And even as our house is experiencing such heartache, there are similar stories of struggle all over campus. Many students are struggling, and we could tell story after story of the hardships our students’ families are enduring back in the villages. One of our missionary families is experiencing a level of attack on their character the likes of which I’ve never seen, and every time they think they may be coming out of the storm, the winds start swirling again, threatening everything they know to be true. There is no doubt they have been in a Friday.
I could give more examples, but I don’t want to give the enemy any more space than he has already taken up in our lives and on these pages. Because here is what has always been true, is true today and will always be true: SUNDAY ALWAYS FOLLOWS FRIDAY!
For the first disciples facing the death of Jesus – the literal, physical death of their friend and teacher – Friday almost destroyed them. But then came Sunday, when Jesus came up out of that grave and revealed Himself to them in a new way, a way that gave them strength, hope, courage and comfort. They went from being totally wrecked and powerless to being the men and women that God would use to literally change the world. What a difference a day makes!
As we continue to look ahead to celebrating the resurrection of Christ tomorrow, we cannot forget the pain of yesterday, but we can rejoice in our suffering, knowing that, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, we are heirs – heirs of God - and coheirs with Christ IF indeed we also SHARE in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17) Sunday is coming; we know this; we rejoice in the Truth; and we refuse to let the events of “Friday” defeat us. As we celebrate the “greatest day in history,” we must remain aware that Fridays will come in our lives. After all, He told us in John 16:33, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
And when did He overcome the world? When He defeated death and grave, walked out of the tomb and empowered the disciples to walk in this truth, the same truth He calls us to walk in: “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in Me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to the Father.”
We feel Sunday coming; we can barely contain our excitement over sharing in the joy of His resurrection with our Amazima family tomorrow morning because it’s Easter, but more importantly, Sunday is dawning in our lives, and we refuse to let the wounds from Friday’s battles defeat us.
“Because He lives
I can face tomorrow
Because He lives
All fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
Life is worth the living, just because He lives.”
*I apologize for not getting this posted Saturday. It posted to our other social media sites, but I just totally forgot to post it here!