Having spent the last ten years doing extensive travel, I have a pretty good idea how to pack for a trip. My packing list is quite detailed, and special care is taken to pack my computer bag. After all, what is in that bag are the tools of my trade: training Bible translators in technology to advance Bible translation. This last trip to Cameroon for a ten-day workshop, so I got my computer bag all ready: thumb drives, adapters of all sorts, back up hard drive, foreign plug adapter, and power strip. My passport and yellow fever card were also in it, as well as a pen to fill out immigration forms.
For this trip, we decided that I would fly out of New Jersey since the ticket was $500 cheaper and it would give us an excuse to visit my parents on the weekend before my Sunday afternoon flight. So we went through my checklist and loaded up the car for the trip. I was confident I had everything I needed. About 3 ½ hours into the trip, I decided to get some work done to prepare for the workshop. P.J. likes to drive, allowing me time to work. At a rest stop, I popped the trunk and reached in my computer bag and… NO COMPUTER!!! Somehow, in my attention to detail I had gotten all the right adapters and accessories but had overlooked the most important tool of all: my computer.
It was out of the question to turn back. This would add 7 hours to our 12-hour trip to New Jersey. I was stunned. Mortified. How could I have done this? God, how could you let this happen? I couldn’t show up in Cameroon without a computer! What could I do to prevent this trip from being a complete failure?
What if I just buy a new computer and try to sell it after the workshop? Since we were refueling next to a Walmart, I ran in and looked. I wasn’t happy with any of their options. This would be a machine I would have to make do with for two whole weeks AND it would have to be something reliable that I could easily sell when I was done. At the last exit before New Jersey, there was a Best Buy, so we stopped. As I entered, I went straight to the “open box” section. That is where the returned computers go after being cleaned and reset. In what has to be the fastest computer purchase decision I have ever made, I landed on a decent computer that had all the specs I wanted for $715. We threw it in the trunk and continued on our way. That night I was able to get it configured for the needs of the workshop and I was able to take off for Cameroon, confident that I had the tool for the job.
There was just the issue of how to sell it and get my money back at the end of my trip. But I needn’t have worried. My colleague Jenni immediately claimed the computer when I explained it would be for sale at the end of the workshop. In fact, Jenni was overjoyed. You see, she lives in Chad and is one of my most productive team members. Her computer was getting old and was starting to give her problems. She had been praying about how and when to get a new one, because options on the continent of Africa are somewhat limited and expensive.
Jenni went so far as to suggest that God made me forget my computer so that I could bring this new one for her. I love it! So I wasn’t actually forgetful—God just blinded me so I didn’t see my laptop in plain sight on the desk while I was packing my things. Or we can just say that God worked all things for good. In any case, we didn’t realize the full extent of God’s provision until I grabbed my receipt to show Jenni how much she owed me. Remember I paid $715? Well the receipt showed that the original price was $1,300—and yet for some reason it had been marked down to almost half price. I’ve purchased my share of open box deals at Best Buy in the past –but nothing was even close to this level of discount.
God is good and provides for his children. We need to understand this and live by it. For me to buy that computer in the first place was a risk. What if nobody wanted to buy it from me when we were done? I’d be out $700! But I took that risk, knowing that God would have a plan for that computer and that I wouldn’t be left holding the buck. We all need to step out in faith at times, without figuring out all the details first, without relying on our own understanding. Which is why Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of my favorite passages:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.