Over the course of the past few weeks, I have learned a very important lesson about trusting God and His knowledge of the bigger picture.
In April of this year, I left for England with cautious hopes. Since it had been my dream to live and work there, I decided after several months of pros and cons lists (and what felt like a lot of prompting from the universe) that I would give it another try. I had found a free room in exchange for some voluntary care and with few bills to pay for and freelance writing gigs popping up, I felt that I could survive quite nicely. I also was investigating the possibility of acquiring a volunteer visa which would allow me to stay up to 2 years in England.
For approximately 3 weeks, all seemed to go along perfectly: my new flatmate and I were getting along well, my friends and I were reuniting with plans for a fun and exciting summer, and England seemed to be welcoming me with open arms.
Then everything changed dramatically. Due to having a tourist visa, I found out that I couldn’t legally live with the woman I was caring for and was told that I had 4 days to move out and find a new situation. (I still don’t completely understand what happened there.) I sat there staring at the letter I’d received and felt the tears pouring down my face. I laid my head on my arms and silently cried. I had little money and I was about to become homeless. I had a return plane ticket to Utah, but I hadn’t come to England to return so quickly! What happened over the course of the next two weeks was a desperate journey to find a new situation with almost alarming results.
After spending almost a week with a kind church member, I found what I thought would be the ideal situation. I would be managing a house that was rented out on a daily/weekly basis in exchange for a free room. This house was attached to a business that was also owned by the landlord. After he met me, this man (whom we shall call Ahmed), seemed impressed enough that he wanted to offer me some work with his company. And that’s when the problems began.
Ahmed and I met to discuss what kind of duties my job would have. All was going well until he asked me to join him in the conference room for a private discussion. I figured he wanted to discuss salary, but after briefly discussing it, he launched into an hour long discussion of how his marriage was falling apart. At first, I thought he was asking for relationship advice (which I thought was a little strange) and then he told me he was separating and would be staying in one of the rooms in the house. It then began to dawn on me that he was making a pass. I mentally rolled my eyes and told him I would think about the situation.
Obviously this wasn’t going to work for me, as I was not going to share living quarters with a man who was supposed to be my boss. I told him shortly thereafter that I would find my own place. I was still without an income and little money, but thought I could afford a place for a week and then use what he paid me to find something better. I made arrangements for a hostel that looked decent in the photos. When I arrived with all my luggage in tow, I found something completely different. After ascending 4 floors, I realized I was in nothing more than a drug/prostitute house. I stood in the room with my two suitcases and knew I quickly had to find somewhere else to go. I texted my boss and asked if I could lock my luggage in the office while I figured out what else to do. He agreed.
After 3 bus rides, I finally dragged all my luggage into the office and collapsed on the nearest office chair. Knowing that I was exhausted, Ahmed offered me the couch in his rental house for that night. Grateful that I was in a “safe” place, I slept on the couch the next two nights. By this point, I was so tired that I no longer cared about anything and told Ahmed I would take the situation of managing his house.
Ahmed then approached me and told me he didn’t feel I should stay on the couch as it was supposed to be for the use of the other guests. So he offered me the room that he had been sleeping in and said he would go back to his other home for the time being until my new room would open up. I agreed, but felt distinctly uncomfortable. He said he would remove his things when he had a chance.
That night, as I lay in his bed surrounded by his things, the discomfort turned to fear. A man who had already made a pass at me once, not only had keys to the house, but also to this bedroom. I tried to reason with myself and shoo the feeling away, but it persisted. Then the thought popped into my head “How long before things turned worse?”
The next day at church, I suddenly felt tired and overwhelmed and couldn’t stop the tears. For the next three hours, they came off and on in a torrent. After church, I spoke with the bishop of this new branch and told him my story. He kindly listened, but I could see the expression on his face turn to one of concern. He then said he felt that he needed to warn me to leave the house that day. He spoke of another woman he had known in the same situation and she had not left when she had been warned. It had gone badly wrong for her.
I knew he was right and sighed, knowing I would have to find another place to stay before nightfall. As I returned home, Ahmed was waiting for me and seemed upset that I had not returned earlier (even though he wasn’t supposed to be there as it was Sunday). He took a picture of my passport on his cell phone giving me a strange excuse for the reason and then quickly left. My mind began to jump around to different stories I’d heard and I knew the bishop was right in telling me to leave.
Unfortunately, most of my belongings were still locked in his office, but trusting my instincts and knowing I needed to leave that day, I left with little but a carry-on suitcase and a few clothes. As I sat on the train taking me to my friend’s house, I thought about all those over the years who had to flee different situations for their safety. I still didn’t see myself in that same category as I had nothing but a spiritual warning and gut instinct to go on, but for me that was enough.
I wrote a polite letter telling him that the living and working situation wouldn’t work for me and wished his company the best. His response were several very angry and unreasonable texts which confirmed my suspicions that all wasn’t right with him. I spent the next few nights with another friend and finally decided to go home. I didn’t understand why everything had come crashing down the way it had, but I was exhausted mentally, emotionally and physically. I no longer cared why and just wanted to be safe and still.
I did question many things on the return plane flight, such as why did I feel I should go in the first place? Was I over-reacting and being too dramatic? But since my return home, I have come to discover that I was justified in my feelings. Through conversations with other people and answers to prayer, I believe I was spared from more than just one frightening and dangerous situation.
Sometimes, even though it seems as if our dreams are falling to pieces, we just have to let go and trust that God knows better than we do. He sees the bigger picture and understands the end from the beginning. Though it is still a struggle for me to trust Him sometimes, I am repeatedly shown that He does indeed know best.