"Although I had seen refugee camps on TV, I had no experience with all this," explains Wafa Goussous, recalling her first weeks as director of the UCC-supported Middle East Council of Churches in Jordan. "There were scorpions and snakes and people living in tents with no clean water, no clean food, no clean housing, no clean anything! Children cried. Chaos reigned. I wanted my own bed. I started crying and could not stop. People around me said, 'That's OK. This is your first time. You'll get over it.'"
But she didn't. She cried even more when she left, feeling guilty about leaving those desperate people behind. She said, "Lord, I cannot stand being there." Yet, she returned. She sat inside the tents and talked with refugees. Joy filled her heart. She wanted to jump up and say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord!"
Two years later, when the Presbyterian Church (USA) honored her as an International Peacemaker, once more Goussous was flushed out of her comfort zone. Flattered, she accepted the award only to find 100 speaking engagements waiting in colleges, schools and churches. Saddled with a life-long fear of public speaking, she found herself facing audiences from 10 to hundreds of persons.
"Every time I started speaking, I was completely scared," she says. "But, I would open my mouth and words would start coming out. I was not so much using my brain as letting someone, something speak through me. I was scared because I thought this was the Holy Spirit speaking through me."
By stepping out of one's comfort zone, she says, by experiencing things that are new and different, we learn what God expects of us. And we are ready.
"It's Matthew 25 again, the 10 virgins," she says. "They had extra oil with them. The extra oil that we carry all the time is for when there is darkness. We have some light: of education, of prayer, of caring for others. This is the oil that prepares us to go out of our comfort zones and through the darkness."