I remember when my mom made the decision to move back to Liberia. I was just starting college, and she was planning to return to Liberia as soon as I finished my education.
A part of me didn’t really believe she’d go. We had moved to the United States when I was just four years old. My parents had both been educated outside of Liberia for most of their growing up years. So while Liberia was very much “home,” it was often this home away from home. Certainly for me – I sounded as American as they come. Apart from entering our family home (always filled with relatives to my delight!), hearing the sing-song tones of Liberian English and smelling the aromas of our traditional foods, no one would guess that my world beyond school and soccer practices was culturally Liberian.
It’s only now in my adulthood as I’ve reflected upon my parents own upbringing that I realized that they too grew up mostly outside of their native culture. It’s also only now that I’m beginning to grasp the magnitude of my mother's decision to move back, after making a life in the States for nearly twenty years. I didn’t realize it then, but I was learning to watch in hope.
I was terrified of my mom returning to Liberia. She went at a time when the brutal civil war was just coming to an end. It was a nation still quite unsettled and unsafe.
I remember one evening, a bit before she left for Liberia, there was a prayer meeting in our home (this was the norm for us, growing up in a “house of prayer”). My mom woke up in the wee hours of the morning, every morning, to pray. It was most often the first sound I heard waking up – the sound of my mother praying.
When difficulty or tragedy arose in our family, it went without saying that before doing anything else, we would pray. In one particular instance, we had received bad news from Liberia. One of our relatives was in danger. And I watched my grandmother, my mother and my aunt fall prostrate on the floor and begin crying out to God. I remember not even knowing what news they’d received, but I knew to join in prayer. After a few minutes, they got up and began making calls to deal with the situation.
I was learning to watch in hope.
I was learning that our hope is not in human institutions.
It is not in human beings.
In these formative years, I was learning to hope in God alone.
So during that prayer meeting (the one before my mother returned to Liberia), this pastor began praying that she would be like a “Jeremiah, the weeping prophet.” Jeremiah spent most of his life interceding for the nation of Israel with many tears. And it was what my mom was being called to as well. She would be doing in Liberia what she had always done these many years – interceding with tears.
But honestly, as lovely as that all sounds, in the moment I was not feeling it. All I wanted to know was – uh, was Jeremiah a martyr?!? I didn’t think this going to Liberia thing was a good idea at all. And just to pray? Say what? This. Sounds. Crazy.
But, apparently…I was learning to watch in hope.
Last month we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of my mom’s ministry to Liberia.
What began as a seedling of prayer, sprouted with little neighborhood children gathering in the courtyard of her home, hearing Bible stories, eating biscuits and learning about the love of Jesus from this “foreigner” in her own nation. Those little neighborhood gatherings have now grown into two schools and seven outreach centers, with hundreds of children receiving meals and discovering that they are seen, known and loved by their Creator.
We watch in hope.
I was reading Romans 8 today, which is what inspired this blog post. So much of that chapter talks about hope.
We do not hope for what we already have. We hope for things that are yet unseen. (Rom. 8:25)
And the chapter goes on to say: Prayer is also like that. We often don’t know what to pray. But the Spirit within us intercedes on our behalf, to align our lives with the will of God. (Rom. 8:26-27)
When God whispers to our hearts to take a step of faith, hoping in what we cannot yet see, of course we don’t know what it will look like. We often don’t have any more instruction than my mom did at first – go to Liberia and pray. I honestly wonder if that would’ve been enough instruction for me to get up and move as she did. I hope so.
But this is the life of faith. It is a life of watching in hope. Believing what you do not yet see. Placing our hope in the God who made us.
For we have been saved in this hope and for this future. But if we wait expectantly for things we have never seen, then we hope with true perseverance and eager expectation. (Rom. 8:24-25)
In this we place our hope. God himself is working in our hearts – the place of the hidden works of God – to align our will with his own. The Living Christ is interceding for us.
I don’t know how this journey that I’m on will turn out. I don’t know what God will do to work all things together for my good.
But I know that he will do it.
His word bears witness to it. There is a legacy and a history of his faithfulness to the saints throughout the Scriptures. And there is a legacy in the lives of those in my own family. And in my own life.
I watch in hope.
I stand on a record of the faithfulness of God. And he will be faithful to perform his Word.
Perhaps you are in a situation today where you are losing hope, where you don’t know how God will work your situation out for good.
Watch in hope.
If you are breathing, you too have a record of the faithfulness of God in your life. And he will be faithful to perform his Word over you.
We are not like those without hope.
We are a people with a legacy of hope.
And so we wait, and we watch in hope.
But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. (Micah 7:7)