Why You Are Where You Are: For Such a Time as Now

It’s like the skin of this place is red.

Everywhere, red soil sheathes things, like hardly under the surface of Africa’s dirt is her heart. Like you could scratch your toe here and feel the pulse of what’s alive. Everywhere here is a thin place.

We drive red roads to meet Anna.






We pass bicycles grunting under water jugs, bags stretched taut with cassava. I lean out a window like a windblown sheepdog to get a photo of the bike with a real live pig tied down behind the driver.

The Farmer’s not going to believe it. Until he sees it and does. Hope and I unanimously decide we won’t be showing that snapshot to any of her brothers. There are certain things that really should not be tried at home by amateurs and one unwilling, oversized hog.

The van turns at El Shaddai’s Vetrinarian Service, right next to Slow-but-Sure Salon – no kidding. The van jolts to a stop. This church must be it? This must be the Compassion project right here? So the last five years our letters have been opened right here.

Anna has grown up right here, the girl with the goat and the white patent future-sized shoes. Hope reaches over my shoulder to sling open the van door, anxious and ready to crawl out over my neck if need be.

And it’s written right there in the dirt beside the van, right into the dirt in front of the church:

Welcome to True Love Baptist Church.

Wait — the child we sponsored on Valentine’s Day, 2008 – she’s ministered to by Compassion at True Love Baptist Church?

It’s like the rusting sign out front’s nodding and grinning.

It’s like the wind just turns for a moment and a corner of your life lifts and you get an unexpected glimpse of the underside of things and His ways steal a bit of breath from the common lung.

It’s like if you could see the underside of your life you’d see the God over all the details of your life.

It’s like we aren’t made of cells but stories.




And then Hope points to a little girl in a white dress.

A little girl in a satin white dress with a white summer hat, with handmade paper white lilies in hand and she’s walking across red soil.

“She looks like a little queen” — Hope whispers happy – and all I can think is of Esther and for such a time as this.

For such a time as this to cup a child’s face, for such a time as this to take a reaching hand, for such a time this to lose yourself in the joy of giving your life away.

Her cheek is warm in my palm.





My name is Anna.” I have to lean in.

Her voice is slow, this buttery whisper. She doesn’t look up, just takes my other hand. “I am so glad you are finally here.”

What takes us so long to finally get to here?

Why in the world does it take us so long to love?

She tells us this is Elizabeth, her sister. I tell her this is Hope, who has written so many of her letters. Hope kneels all of her six feet down.

“Hope.” She taps her chest, there above her heart.

Anna nods. “Auntie Hope.”

And her other hand takes Hope’s.

And I close my eyes, heart too close to the surface.


We serve her dinner. She serves us stories.

This was where the Lord’s Resistance Army used to terrorize. Her mother gestures toward the window. Here. Across her chest is this slash of a raised and glassy scar.

“Twenty years of warring—“ Anna’s mother’s looking past us. Like she’s lived through half a wilderness.

“And then there is the AIDS.” Her eyes tell a whole wilderness. Anna taps my knee. “I want to tell you of Peter.” She tells us of Peter who is 4 years older, who is away at school, of her cousins whose mother died, who are orphans now, who live with them now, she tell us of Daddy who has left for Kampala to try to find work. She tells of us all the things missing.

“It is a long time since I have seen Daddy.” Anna pulls at the edges of her dress. I almost don’t hear her. “Sometimes my mother cries.”

Sometimes women cry alone and children see.

What in the world are we all doing for such a time as this?

Anna laces her fingers through mine and I look down at the little girl in the white dress and she is no queen Esther in the palace. I am.

I am sitting at a Compassion project in Africa, sitting with all the Mordecais in sackcloth outside the palace gate. We’re the ones inside the palace gate.

I am sitting in Uganda and all I can hear pounding in my head is Mordecai’s message to Esther:

“Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all your people suffer. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief will arise from some other place, but you and yours will die.” There are a thousand ways for your soul to die, to be the living dead.

You can look into eyes and hear the whisper from those outside the gate:

“You’ve got to use the life you’ve been given to give others life. If your life isn’t about giving relief — you don’t get real life. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?

You have got to use your position inside the gate for those outside the gate – or you’re in the position of losing everything. There are a thousand ways to be the living dead.

If you have any food in your fridge, any clothes in your closet, any small roof, rented or owned, over your head, you are richer than 75% of the rest of the world. We are the Esthers living inside the palace.

If you have anything saved in the bank, any bills in your wallet, any spare change in a jar, you are one of the top 8% wealthiest people in the world. We are the Esther’s living inside the gate.

If you can read these words right now, you have a gift 3 billion people right now don’t, if your stomach isn’t twisted in hunger pangs, you have a gift that 1 billion people right now don’t, if you know Christ, you have a gift that untold millions right now don’t. We are the ones living inside the gate.

It’s like you can hear the cry of the red soil of Africa’s pulsing right here with the heart of God: “You have got to use your position inside the gate for those outside the gate – or you’re in the position of losing everything — of losing your soul.“

You are where you are for such a time as this – not to gain anything — but to risk everything.

You are where you are for such a time as this — not to make an impression — but to make a difference.

You could have been the one outside of the gate. You could have been the one with the Lord’s Resistance Army slitting your child’s throat in the middle of the night, you could been the one born into a slum, raped without a hope, you could be the one born into AIDS, into starvation, into lives of wild Christ-less desperation. The reason you are inside the gate for such a time as this – is to risk your life for those outside the gate. If I perish, I perish.

Anna’s squeezing my hand.

My heart’s squeezing hard.










Under the same tree where the goat picture was taken, I untie a bundle of letters and I show Anna her letters, how we have kept them.

I show her the photo of her and the goat under this exact tree and how it’s been on our fridge for years, and when I turn it over, there is one cheerio stuck to the duct tape on the back. I pick the one stuck cheerio off the back of the photo.

I’m shaking my head, awed, us sitting here in Uganda at True Love Baptist with the little girl we sponsored on Valentine’s Day in 2008
and I choke it out, “Did you ever think that we would be sitting here under your tree with your goat photo?” I roll the years old cheerio in my hand.

“Yes. Yes, I did.” Anna nods.

“Wait — you did think this would happen? You are not surprised at all that we’re here? So we’re the only ones surprised we are here?” I ask her wide-eyed, half-laughing, half-stunned.

Anna smooths out her white dress.

“I knew that you would come.” She whispers calm. Her eyes find mine —

“I always knew that you would come.”

My head drops. How could Esther not come?

How could anyone on the inside of the gate forget the reason WHY they are on the inside of the gate?

For such a time as this — now.

I scratch my feet under Anna’s tree. And it’s like the red soil of Africa’s bleeding right here with the heart of God.




An Internet Love Story {Part 1} : How to Live Free
What Does a bit of Radical Christianity Really Look Like — Right Where You Are
Part 3 of #FarmGirlsinAfrica tomorrow, Lord willing




There’s one child on the other side of the gate today — who needs you not to turn away but to look into theirs eyes and just pray…
For such a time as this. For such a time as Now:
Here if you are in Canada and here if you live in the US