You hold my hand; you love me: King of this whole world, you lead me, making my right hand your chosen tool so that each act becomes a holy service in your master plan. You hold my hand; you love me: Lover of my soul, you treasure me and nurture every gifting given and make each weakness a new way to intervene with strength. You hold my hand; you love me: Father-love that cares for me that clears the rubbish from the path that grasps me tight when gale-force winds would sweep me off my feet. You hold my hand; you love me: Spirit-love that fills me up and squeezes out the selfishness so that instead your love and joy reach out with grace to spread your peace. And you are God: the One who made me the One who sent me always with me.
Remember what it was like to have Daddy or Special Uncle hold your hand when you were small? That is one of my treasured memories. When my dad took me exploring, whether it was nature or a new town somewhere in the world, I would reach up to his strong hand and grab at least a finger, and he would clasp mine in his. Yes, I did have to learn to lengthen my stride to keep up with him, or sometimes run. But it was worth it, and taught me a confidence and a love for walking ahead that has stayed with me.
Yesterday we arrived back in the land of nine years of my childhood, and over forty years of mission service, the Côte d’Ivoire. We are still in the huge city of Abidjan where our flight landed, but already the memory triggers are flooding my smiling soul: moms with babies wrapped on their backs with colorful cloth, a young girl and a toddler “helping” Mom sell attieke (manioc processed so that it is like tapioca beads) at the side of the road, sons hauling sheep by ropes down the road while they try to keep up with their father who is walking ahead in a hurry. Traffic is roaring by, but each of the kids is safe with that trusted adult.
Tomorrow we will fly to the north to “our” town of Ferkessédougou. We became “Maman” and “Papa” to lots of kids there, and seeing some of them again, more grown up of course, is something we are eager to do. Glenn is especially good with kids, and when we entered the village of Tiepogovogo where we were learning language and culture and eventually planting a church, several would run up to hold his hand as he walked through, greeting people. That relationship was one of feeling accepted, loved, belonging.
And on July 31, there will be an Event, the one we came here for. We will be joining the Ferke community in celebrating the Scriptures now available in print in the local Nyarafolo language, a language that had not even been written before the Lord brought us to that region with that people group on our hearts. Many others joined us along the way, each one adding their gifting and background to accomplish the task. I didn’t know, growing up, that my Father was getting me ready to be part of his plan for this linguistic work and Bible translation! It is when I look back that I can see how very kindly he was holding my hand, often pulling me along, comforting me by tightening his grip, pulling me back on the path when I stumbled or took a faulty step. And it was indeed because of his loving hand guiding me and others too that now two-thirds of the Scriptures are in a printed Bible book for them: the New Testament, Pentateuch and Psalms. It was, after all, what he intended them to accomplish, that he empowered them to do!
I am so glad that this is what our Father is like, and I can only shout my praise and gratitude — so I will, in this blog and soon in the company of Nyarafolos and friends as we sing and dance and thank him in community. We may come from different earthly nations, but we are all one Family, and he holds his children’s hands.
And he is not done yet: he is holding out his hand to many more people, inviting them to slide their hand into his and let him be their loving guide and protector. May they accept the privilege!