When I Saw Him.


I see visions.

When I pray. When I don’t. When I sleep. When I’m awake.

They allow me to see God’s heart. I sometimes see people, not as they are, but as they can be.


I see visions. It’s really nothing new.

God often gives them to me as I pray over His children. They help me understand what the Holy Spirit is doing, or what he desires to do in them.


But I wasn’t prepared to have them suddenly stop.


On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we slink into a busted-up matatu, plant ourselves in the raggedy seats, grab the windows and lock our limbs to keep from being thrown across the van as we traverse the bumpiest mountain road in Africa. The pungent vehicle drops us off at Kijabe Hospital, where we spend all day praying.


We pray with every patient in every ward. In an African hospital, things are shocking. They are blatant. They are inescapable.


And I walk.


The Amazing Baby Center. Little ones twisted with spina bifida, their bodies so tiny compared to their inflated heads, ballooning skulls. Hydrocephalus. Salome ward. Tiny grandmothers crying in pain. Emaciated ladies with unknown diseases. A woman with her mouth sewn shut.


Men’s ward. Metal protruding out of broken legs. A grandfather gasping as his lungs collapse. Urine in buckets. All day long, I pray. I force shaky smiles, I hold trembling hands, I breathe in odors that make my stomach lurch. I pray boldly, proclaiming healing, establishing peace. In spite of myself, I do.


I don’t see visions here. The visions before me are more than I can take.

Jesus, I know you’re here. Even when I don’t see you.

My first day in this place, I wept. 


One of my favorites, fifteen-year-old Omar, is from Somalia. I thought he was having physical therapy to walk again. After praying with Abdullah, his father, the turban-wearing man pulled me over to the bedside and pulled up Omar’s shirt. His wan stomach was a mishmash of shredded, freshly-scarring flesh. In thickly accented English, he whispered one word.



Jesus, I know you have to be here… Even though I don’t see you. 


I walk. This time, a shared, private room. A handsome young man sits in a chair, directly in front of a woman in a wheelchair. His head is sunk between his strong, silently convulsing shoulders, his face on her lap. His dark hands hold her caramel fingers. Her hand limply rests on the side of his face. His body heaves, breaths to heavy to keep. I think she is old; I look again.


She’s my age. Younger, even. Her baby-fine hair is short, bald in patches. Her skin, rice paper-thin, is gorgeous even in the throes of disease. The man between her knees is crying softly, a rare sight in Kenya. Her face is emotionless. She feigns comfort for his sake, but her beautiful, feeble eyes are black pools of despair.


Tears as I pray over her.

Tears as I see his tears.

Tears as my prayers cause her waterline to shimmer.

Tears as her fragile hand grips his with meager strength.

I see the matching gold bands on their fingers.


Jesus… You’re here, right? I sure don’t see you. 


I walk. I see Lydia, sitting on the bed, her wild hair shifting the Arsenal logo of her skullcap askew. In her arms, there’s Godfrey. The nurse is putting in a new IV. He’s wailing, his voice ringing violently in the deepest part of my ear. He’s naked save his shirt because the small, fetid room is steamy with bodies and odor. He’s two and he has no face. Swaths of scar tissue cover hellacious burns. He has very minimal facial movement, but his one eye wrinkles in pain, tears streaming down the collage of scars and skin grafts that make up his little face. He catches my glance, reaches for me. His tiny hand has no fingers.


Jesus, where are you?!

No visions.

No understanding of what you’re doing here.

Just tears and tears and tears.

I walk.


Immediately, I see her. She has huge tears running down her young face. I can’t tell how old she is, but she’s young. Maybe fifteen. She’s all alone, she looks scared, she’s in tremendous pain. I walk up to her and ask her name.



I take her hand. Her left leg is in a huge cast. I ask her what happened. In a quivering voice, she tells me of running to class and falling. Her leg snapping. The pain, unbearable, and it won’t stop. She whimpers, buries her face in her hand.


I begin to pray. Her weeping is uninhibited. I know it is more than just her leg that’s birthing these tears. I hear the word, alone. God, she feels alone, doesn’t she? I keep praying, proclaiming immediate healing and relief over her. 


In a surprised, but still openly sorrowful voice, she softly says, “The pain… The pain is gone.”


Rebekka, Ellie, Kristin, and Rachael begin to pray over her, and I hear them all speaking the same words,

Lord, help her to not feel alone.

Let her feel your love and know how near you are.

They were all praying, not for her leg, but for her heart. I open my eyes. And I see Jesus. My four girls, all circled around, standing behind Rachael, who is kneeling on the floor, is Jesus.


I see visions. This is not a vision.

In this place where I have not heard his voice, seen his face, or received his visions, In this place, of all places, With my very physical eyes, I see Jesus.

Behind Rachael, he stands. and all of a sudden everything has changed.

Oh, if I only had words. 

 Arms open, palms up, head bowed, lips moving. Praying with us over Jecinta.

 He is luminescent.

His body is in hues of blue, white, and grey, like a spirit.

Holy Spirit.

My breath catches and I can’t speak. No vision has ever been this.

The slimmest second, and suddenly everything has changed.

 Oh, if I only had words. My description of him is insignificant and so vague, but what I feel is enough to write a book.

I can’t pretend to understand all the pains of the world. But I now know that he’s at the foot of every hospital bed, palms up to remind us of what he paid for, face bowed in prayer, interceding on our behalf.


Even now, beloved, he stands at the foot of all your hospital beds.

He’s not far and away, he’s not sleeping, he’s not indifferent.

No, love. He’s at the foot of all the hospital beds in your life.

He’s speaking Somali to you, in a foreign land when no one knows your language.

He’s strengthening the vows of your marriage when death is at the door.

He’s grafting newness where the fires of life have deadened you.



Oh, beloved. He is closer than you can possibly imagine.


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