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A dear friend gave me a lovely letter and a homemade bookmark with a bead on it from when we were in Nairobi together. She writes things on the bookmark that I need to read—needed then, need now, need repeatedly for the rest of my life.

One of the things is Isaiah 58:11-12.

The LORD will guide you always;

He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations;

You will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

I feel the feeling of having read these verses again for the first time. Certainly, I’ve read them a hundred times before, but they seem new, perfect, for me even though I know they are for everyone.

I read “sun-scorched” and think of the Middle East. I read “strengthen your frame” and think of my own weaknesses. I read “rebuild the ancient ruins” and think of ISIS’ destruction in Palmyra and Mosul and Homs. I read the titles—“Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings”—and think such names are above me, beyond me, that they suggest a neocolonialist attitude by which I might rebuild a thing in a land not my own.

But then I think: maybe this is the world talking and maybe I am allowed to help others rebuild and restore, for God himself is the master Maker and Builder, and if he gives me orders, who am I to say, “But that’s not my home.”

In the end, every land is God’s land.

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