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Attentive Waiting

Attentive Waiting


Everything looked familiar, but this time it was different. We were no longer looking through the lens of visitors, but the lens of newcomers. We were not going home to Africa. We were already home.

“I am doing a new thing,” God spoke to us one Sabbath while we were in the U.S.A. on home assignment. “Pay attention,” He said. “I am doing a new thing.” We committed to remain in a spiritual posture of listening, not wanting to miss what God would reveal. In response to further discernment, Jeff began collaborating with his supervisor on a new leadership structure for WGM Uganda. But still we heard, “I am doing a new thing. Pay attention.”

We returned on schedule to Uganda, hearing, “I am doing a new thing. Pay attention.” We engaged in the work in Uganda. After a couple of months, Christine began having brief bouts of anxiety. “Pay attention,” God whispered. “Do you not see it? I am doing a new thing.”

Photo of Christine taking a mother's blood pressure during a prenatal visit in Kampala.

In our Advent devotions, we read of God’s work of preparation for Jesus’ birth. God’s people waited for years, expecting God to do something new, to bring the promised Messiah. While the people waited, God was at work, bringing everything into place for the birth of His Son. Mary and Joseph each heard from God, realizing He was doing a new thing. They waited for each step of God’s plan to be revealed to them. They remained in a posture of listening and obeying.

Soon after returning to Uganda, Jeff’s arm was injured during a basketball game. “This is serious,” the doctor reported to us. Christine felt anxious, and she asked the Lord, “What is this? What are we to do?”

A photo of Jeff teaching young African leaders

God replied, “Pay attention. I am doing a new thing. This is bigger than Jeff’s arm, bigger than what you are undergoing. Pay attention.” We were evacuated by air from Uganda to Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, where Jeff underwent surgical treatment on his arm. Christine’s anxiety disappeared. God kept offering to us, “I am doing a new thing.” We continued listening, paying attention throughout Jeff’s rehabilitation and recovery. We waited on God, trusting that He was at work to accomplish His plan, His new thing. We remained in a posture of listening and obeying.

Two months later, we clearly heard Jesus inviting us into a new thing: a new role within World Gospel Mission. Saying, “Yes,” to this new thing meant giving up the present life we loved—living and serving in Africa. But as we remained in our posture of listening and obeying, we knew we did not want to miss participating in what God was doing. We did say, “Yes,” and within three months, we moved from Africa to Indiana.

Photo of a busy, dusty Ugandan road and a photo of a rural Indiana road through cornfields

This new thing God brought us into felt joyful and grievous at the same time. We grieved leaving the ones we love in Africa. We grieved leaving our home and life in Kampala. We rejoiced that we could be in a land with changing seasons, close to our daughter and her family, able to be present grandparents. Grief and joy mingled together sometimes equals confusion. We lived with the fog of transition stress for some time. Indiana is a new culture to us. We have so much to learn about how to live here: everything from where to get our hair cut to funeral etiquette. We have only visited the U.S. for so many years that we don’t recognize this culture or feel confident in how to conduct ourselves within it. We know for sure Jesus invited us here, and we find Him here, but He didn’t choose to make this an easy transition for us. We remain in a posture of listening and obeying, learning something new every day. God reveals each step of His plan to us, and we yearn to obey.

Mary and Joseph did not have an easy transition into their marriage. God invited them into the culture of Bethlehem, which was not the same as that of Nazareth. They had a lot to learn about being parents of the Messiah, we’re sure. Then God invited them to Egypt, where they had a big cultural transition. They waited, listening and obeying as they knew.

We are encouraged by their obedience. God invited Mary and Joseph into His plan, at just the right time, having prepared them for this new thing—Jesus on Earth, God with us, the Incarnation. His plan is good, and they were pleased to join Him in it.

Photo of Jeff and Christine

We, too, can look back and see how God has prepared us for this new thing. It is hard to learn another new culture while we still grieve the separation from our previous cultures. We miss our loved ones in Africa. Sometimes we feel very isolated here. But we continue listening, trusting and obeying, expecting God. His plan is good, and we are pleased to join Him in it.

What might God invite you into as you pay attention to Him this Christmas?

PRAY: Spend time in prayer, listening as the Lord speaks this season. Don’t miss joining Him in His invitation by holding tightly to what you have or are doing now.

Author Bio: Jeff and Christine Stanfield served as missionaries in Kenya and Uganda for almost thirty years. They are now part of the member health team at WGM headquarters.

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