In the 1980s, I spent the lesser part of 5 years in Africa, most of that in Ghana. During my stay, I had many God moments. Some literally saved my life but all of them eventually saved my soul. God showed me, through trial, beauty and awe what grace means. This throwback is one of those moments.
First for a little background. At the time this happened, I lead a team that provided rural water services to villages in Ghana’s upper region. On most days, I’d ride my 125cc off-road motorcycle to villages to repair or maintain hand pumps, install latrines, build cattle troughs or teach classes on sanitation. This one day, I was hurrying to a village I had never been to, trying to catch up with some of my team.
I found myself riding through a teak forest on a dirt track that rose steadily. The tall straight trees blocked out the view of everything so, when I got to the top of the hill where the forest ended, the sudden appearance of a vista shocked me. Breaking hard, I locked my wheels and skidded to a stop.
My first impression of the view was that I was looking at a three-dimensional picture painted by God himself. A plain of infinite size in three directions spread out before me. There were no cities or factories spewing plumes of steam or smoke, no noisy cars throwing up dust, no bridges or sirens. Nothing glinted. As the track went before me, it narrowed and quickly vanished not too far from where I stood. I saw a few villages. The round, mud huts with their thatched roofs looked more like stylized mushrooms than houses. No sign of modern farming did I see, none of that quilted effect that is so commonly seen from the air in the U.S.
There were no planes in the sky, nothing there at all but small cotton ball shaped clouds stamping shadows on the earth here and there. To the west a brush fire advanced, a thin line of red-orange line of flame spewed a massive wall of black smoke that rose high into the sky where it feathered and streaked further west. In the east, a thunderstorm marched towards it. It’s massive clouds nearly touched the ground and in the tiny gap between, the rain looked like rubbed pencil lead. They were two giant armies moving toward each other, determined to do battle.
I stood there staring at it for fifteen minutes with tears forming in my eyes. It was a masterpiece only God could have painted.
I truth, my description is woefully inadequate and does not describe the profound beauty of the scene – I simply lack the necessary skill. All I can really say is that it was one of the most magnificent views I ever beheld. What I remember most was thinking that I was being shown a picture of the earth, the way it looked thousands of years ago. Now, much later, I know that it was God’s doing to bring me to that place. So he could show me an illustration, a visual parable, of what he showed Abraham when He made His promise.