Several years ago I was asked to speak at a reunion of the Navigators at Estes Park, Colorado. At the end of the week, one of the men drove me back to Denver so I could catch my plane. And on the way, he said, “Can I tell you my story?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Actually, it’s a story of closed doors and open doors.”
“Great,” I said, “I’ve had a few of those, so tell me what yours were.”
“Well,” he began, “my wife and I could not find peace, in any manner, staying in the States. And while at a conference years ago with a number of the leaders of the Navigators, I was offered the opportunity to open our work in Uganda.
“Uganda,” he said. “I could hardly spell it when they pointed to me and said, ‘Perhaps that’s where the Lord would have you and your family go.’
“I went home, I told my wife and our children, and we began to pray.” I believe he said they had three small kids at the time, and their oldest son was just about to start school. And he said to his wife, “Honey, are you ready to take on the challenge of Uganda?” And she said, “If that’s the door God has opened for us, I’m ready for the challenge.” Wonderful response.
So they flew to Nairobi, Kenya, where he put his family up in a hotel while he rented a Land Rover and drove across the border into the country of Uganda to check out the situation.
This was just after Idi Amin’s reign of terror. My friend said, “One of the first things that caught my eye when I came into the village where I was going to spend my first night were several young kids with automatic weapons, shooting them off in the sky. As I drove by, they stared at me and pointed their guns.” Nothing happened, but it was that kind of volatile setting. And he thought, Lord, are You in this? His heart sank as the sun began to set.
By now the streets were dark, and he pulled up at a little dimly lit hotel. Inside, he went up to the registration counter. The clerk, who spoke only a little English, told him there was one bed available. So he went up two flights of stairs and opened the door and turned on the light—a naked light bulb hanging over a table. He saw a room with two beds, one unmade and one still made up. And he realized, “I am sharing this room with somebody else.”
That did it. He needed the kind of encouragement only God could provide. “I dropped to my knees and I said, ‘Lord, look, I’m afraid. I’m in a country I don’t know, in a culture that’s totally unfamiliar. I have no idea who sleeps in that bed. Please, show me You’re in this move!” And then, he said, “Just as I was finishing my prayer, the door opened and there stood this six-foot five-inch African frowning at me, saying in beautiful British English, ‘What are you doing in my room?’ ”
“I stood there for a moment, and then I muttered, ‘They gave me this bed, but I’ll only be here one night.’”
“What are you doing in my country?” the African asked.
“Well, I’m with a little organization called the Navigators.”
“Aahh! The Navigators!” And the African broke into this enormous grin, threw his arms around his new roommate, and laughed out loud.
“He lifted me up off the floor and just danced around with me.”
“Praise God, praise God,” said this African.
Finally they sat down at the table, and this brother in Christ, this African fellow Christian, said, “For two years I have prayed that God would send someone to me from this organization.” And he pulled out a little Scripture memory-verse pack, and at the bottom of each of the verses it read, “The Navigators, Colorado Springs, Colorado.”
“Are you from Colorado Springs, Colorado?” the African asked.
“I was,” said the man. “But I’m coming to Uganda to begin a work for the Navigators in this country.”
The door of new hope flew open in my friend’s life. That African became a member of the man’s board, helped him find a place to live, helped him rebuild a section of his home, taught him all about the culture, assisted him with the language, and became his best friend for the many years they were there, serving Christ . . . who “opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens.”
Doors are closed. Doors are opened. Lives are changed. — Swindoll, Charles R. 2001. The Mystery of God’s Will: What Does He Want for Me?. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.