When Times are Tough and Hope is Lagging, Look UP!

My Column for The Elgin Review, April 1, 2020

In my experience, sometimes manna from heaven looks more like a roll of toilet paper sailing over four stalls, trailing a beautiful white train behind it, than like some sort of bread miraculously provided for the people of Israel wandering out in the desert. If you aren’t familiar with the story of manna for the people of Israel, it’s in the book of Exodus in the Bible. It’s a story about God providing what God’s children need when times are tough and hope is lagging.

When I was a brand-new young missionary in Zaire, I’d been in our home for a week or so when I decided one of the things that I really needed was some fabric to make curtains for our windows. Pastor Efefe and the school’s driver agreed to take me to the city ten miles from our village where I could do some shopping. I’d selected my fabrics and was standing in a long line waiting to pay for my purchases when my gut clenched. Zairian food was not something I was yet accustomed to and my GI system was in full revolt. My need was urgent.

Bashfulness and modesty be damned, I turned to Pastor Efefe and asked in French “where is the restroom?” His eyes widened to match mine and he said, “we have to go to the church offices here in the capitol.” Grabbing the driver by the arm, we made quite a scene leaving the store. The clerk hollered from behind the counter, “Hey, where are you going? We’ve already cut the foreign woman’s fabric” And Pastor Efefe yelled in a loud, clear voice, “She’s got the runs! We’ll be back later.”

This is how bad my situation was; I wasn’t even humiliated.

We made it to the church offices, and Pastor Efefe pointed down the hall to the rest room. Never in all my days, neither before or since, have I ever been so thankful for a toilet. Sweet, sweet relief quickly turned to horror however, when I realized there was no toilet paper in the stall. There was nothing, and there was no one else in the restroom to ask for help. Minutes ticked by. I was contemplating tearing my cotton dress off a few inches above the hem and using that instead of paper when Pastor Efefe’s voice rang out from the hallway outside the restroom door. “Madame Le Pasteur” he hollered while opening the door, “en haut!” which means “up!” And there, like manna from heaven came that most blessed roll of toilet paper sailing through the air above me. I was saved.

It’s a funny story that came back to my mind because of the current toilet paper hoarding that’s going on due to Covid-19. Remembering the story now reminds me that God is always at work finding a way to provide us with what we need. Even when what we need is humbling and oh, so very human.

My friends, look up. We won’t always be in this situation. A day will dawn when this crisis is past and a brighter future is ahead of us. Look up! God’s help is on its’ way.

Park Congregational Church is worshipping by Zoom these days. Contact me at beckyzmmcneil@gmail.com and I’ll help you connect with us for worship.

 

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