May 13, 2005

A Dream and a Prayer


OK, son, if you want to go to that Adventist academy in Egypt, I guess you can, said my father. But you'll have to pay your own way; I simply cannot afford to send you to study there. You know how difficult it already is for me to pay for your studies at the government's day school here in Juba. Only in my dreams could I afford to pay for your studies at a private boarding school abroad.

So, at a mere 16 years of age, I set out with my young Adventist friends to earn scholarships selling Adventist books in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

I was raised in a mixed Christian/animist community in southern Sudan, so living and working in a Muslim city was a new experience for me. Sales were especially difficult. After four months only one other friend and I had not earned our scholarships.

We were very much discouraged. Worse yet, as minors, we feared our parents might ask us to return home if they heard about our predicament. So we prayed. And we worked.

Finally, in December, after working six months, we reached our goals.

Desert Passage
We bought tickets for the journey and on December 22, 1986, set off for Cairo, traveling north through the Sahara desert. The first two days were spent perched precariously atop an overcrowded and filthy train pulled by an old steam engine from the British colonial era. Next, a rumbling steamer took us across Lake Nasser, a sprawling reservoir of the Nile River. By the time we reached Egypt's port city of Aswn, we had almost run out of money.

We had just enough money to buy a single train ticket to Cairo. How could we get money for a second ticket? We had no friends, no acquaintances in Aswn. Even as this question tormented me, I suddenly remembered the beautiful Casio sports watch I wore, which I had purchased in Khartoum a month before we set out on our journey. Would the ticket seller accept it instead of cash?

I removed the watch from my wrist and handed it to her. She admiringly examined its fine craftsmanship. Finally, she handed me a ticket. We were on our way to Cairo, praising God for His gracious mercies.

Alone in a Crowd
After disembarking from the train in Cairo, to our dismay we again found ourselves in a tight spot. We had expected students or staff from the academy to meet us, but no one was there. Hiring a taxi was out of the question. We didn't even have enough money to use a pay phone. A kindly young Egyptian man gave us some coins, and we tried, without success, to call the academy.

Questions for Reflection or for Use in Your Small Group

1. When has God answered one of your prayers in a dramatic, even unexpected,
fashion? Describe it briefly.

2. Does God honor our faith by answering our prayers, or are answered prayers designed to give us more faith? Explain.

3. The problem with stories about answered prayers is that they are so quickly dated. What has God done for you this past week in answer to your prayer?

4. Is it possible to live faithfully without occasional divine reinforcement? Explain your answer.

Exhausted after four restless days and semisleepless nights of travel, hungry, and all alone in this giant city of 6 million people, I felt moved to pray silently; I knew that only God could help us.

We asked the kindhearted young man who had just helped us to take us to any nearby bus station. Very much preoccupied with getting to the school, we did not think for a minute about how we were going to pay the bus fare. Together we walked across a pedestrian bridge above a busy street. The evening air of Cairo made me shiver.

All of a sudden I heard someone call my name. When I turned to see who called me, I saw two Sudanese Christians walking toward us, their faces radiant with smiles. I recognized one of the young men, whom I had met the year before at the Seventh-day Adventist Church compound in Juba, southern Sudan. He had stayed there briefly before traveling with a group of young men to Egypt to join the same school we were struggling to find. However, it was his companion, a total stranger to me, who had first recognized me and called my name. He had once seen a photo of me with one of the other students from the academy. Out on a shopping errand, the young men were as surprised to see us as we were to see them!

We greeted one another with big hugs, and I felt tears of joy streaming down my cheeks. I simply could not believe that God had actually come to our rescue barely 10 minutes after I uttered my prayer for help. I must confess: that was not how I expected Him to do it!

Later that evening, while riding a bus to the academy, my thoughts turned to the inspired words of King David, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1, NIV). I was overwhelmed with joy to realize that I had personally encountered the calming and timeless truth of this ancient psalm. Such is the God I serve.

Rombek Sokiri writes from Cairo, Egypt, where he is an accountant for the Egypt Field.