What do a large basket, three hundred trumpets, water from a donkey’s jawbone, and three boxes full of fruits and vegetables have in common? Continue reading to find out the answer.
On Saturday March 3rd, my sister and I were peacefully sleeping in my little house in the jungle. “Zujkywa*, Zujkywa!” Xibu’s frantic voice woke me from sleep just after 1 o’clock in the morning. “Pandet morreu!” (Pandet died).
“Whaaaa-aat?” was the first shocked word out of my mouth, before I realized I needed to be speaking the tribal language, or at least Portuguese, if I wanted to be understood. Jumping out of bed and telling Xibu we would be right there, Bri and I changed out of our pajamas as quickly as possible, and headed to Pandet’s house, where almost everyone in the village was already gathered.
Thankfully, Pandet was not dead, but he was completely unresponsive. (One interesting feature of the this tribal language is that they use the same word for faint and for die. Yes, that does complicate conversations). So when Xibu called through my bedroom window in Portuguese, she apparently translated the phrase literally as she would have said it in her language. While we were thankful that Pandet had only fainted, his breathing was very shallow and his extremies were frighteningly cold. It was obvious his life was in danger.
His wife and daughter-in-law sobbed loudly, while the rest of the villagers gathered around his hammock or in the next room, all with somber, grief-stricken, fearful faces. Candles and flashlights did little to illuminate the bedroom and nothing to cheer the atmosphere. We were helpless, under the shadow of death which hung in the stifling jungle air.
Before my sister and I arrived, Adam, who has basic medical training and is responsible for first aid in our village, had taken Pandet’s vital signs. Since he was completely unresponsive, though, he could not give him medicine or food. It appeared that Adam did not know what else to do.
Wishing I had relevant medical knowledge to share, I began to do the only thing I could – pray, asking God to somehow save this dear man’s life. How could he have gone hunting just the day before and now be lying pale and unconscious in his hammock?
Later, we found out that he had been having diarrhea for a few days. Then, several hours before, he ate cake and drank kool-aid, which is not the best bedtime snack for a diabetic.
Last to arrive on the scene were the chief’s oldest son and his wife, Eliana, who realized that Pandet was experiencing a diabetic coma and quickly assured everyone she knew exactly what to do. Eliana’s younger sister has the same type of diabetes as Pandet, so Eliana had cared for her during many similar crises. After she gave Pandet enough sugar water to revive him, Eliana had him eat some food, which gave him enough strength to sit up in the hammock. He spoke in a very agitated manner as his family members cried. I was not able to understand anything that was said. After ten minutes or so, we all headed back to our homes for the night.
To understand the full impact of this story, you need to know that Eliana does not live in our village. She is a “city Brasilian”, so their family has always lived in the city, but finally built a house in the village last year. Although they travel back and forth frequently, they spend more time in Ji-Paraná than in the village.
Now let’s rewind to the afternoon of the previous day, Friday, a couple hours before Pandet ate the cake. Xibu and her family returned from the city where they had been for about a week. They brought me three boxes of vegetables and fruits, purchased by Ouripio, another missionary. His ministry is maintenance and oversight of the mission base property, as well as supply-buying for us who work in the villages. I leave him with money and a shopping list of vegetables and fruits. After 3 weeks or so, since that is about the length of time that the last vegetables will run out (winter squash and onions have the longest shelf life), if he finds out about anyone traveling from the city to our village, he makes the purchase and sends my groceries along. Don, who does daily Bible studies and Sunday services with native people in the city, keeps Ouripio informed of their travel plans, so there is a lot of teamwork involved.
In this case, on Wednesday night, Don found out that a family was planning to travel back to our village early Thursday morning. So he and Ouripio rushed to the store, boxed up the groceries and took them over to the family. Well, they changed their mind and stayed in the city (until now, actually), but the boxes with my name on them were all ready to go.
Then on Friday night, at about 8 pm, Eliana and her husband arrived in the village, about 3 hours after Xibu’s family. They stopped by to say hello, drop off letters from misisonaries at the base, and give us the last groceries, a small styrofoam cooler with cheese and processed meat. Eliana also asked if we had run out of food, which seemed an odd question.
Saturday, after Pandet’s middle-of-the-night crisis, Eliana told me that they hadn’t been planning to make a trip to the village yet, but all of a sudden her husband said, “Let’s go to the village today. God put it on my heart to take Zujkyp’s* groceries to her.” Finding out about this, Xibu, who is his sister, and her family decided to go that day also.
*Zujkyp is the native name I was given.
Being an impressively flexible and supportive wife, married to someone from a very different culture, Eliana prepared for the unplanned 5-hour trip and they headed out the door. Granted, the chief’s son is known for being spontaneous, but this was different than normal. It wasn’t an idea he came up with, but a conviction that this was something God wanted him to do immediately.
Eliana continued, “That’s why I asked you last night if you and Bri had run out food, and if you were both alright. It was just so odd for my husband to talk that way.”
My voice was hushed by the awe of realizing that something far more important than groceries had been at stake. “No, we were fine. Our fruits and vegetables ran out a couple weeks ago, of course, but that always happens, and we had plenty of other food. After what happened last night, I guess we know the real reason God put it on your husband’s heart to come yesterday. It wasn’t for Bri and I.”
Tears came to my eyes as I reflected on the miracle that had taken place. God knew that Pandet would go into a coma and that Adam wouldn’t know what to do. Not only had God prearranged the timing of the grocery purchase so that the fruits and vegetables would be there just waiting for a ride, He prompted the chief’s son so strongly that he felt compelled to come, arriving in the village only five hours before the crisis occurred. If Eliana hadn’t been there, it was very possible that Pandet might have died.
Are you facing a crisis in your life, friend? If God could set events in motion to make sure the right person was in a remote Amazon village, hours away from emergency medical help, to save Pandet’s life, you can be confident that He is in control of your situation too.
That doesn’t mean everything will always turn out the way you want it to, but it does mean that God has a plan. Will you trust God to work in the hardship or crisis you or your family might be experiencing now?
We serve a God who still works miracles and saves lives, sometimes through very ordinary, commonplace objects and people. In Scripture He used things as varied and unexpected as a basket, water from a donkey’s jawbone, and three hundred trumpets and pitchers. Last month, in our little corner of the jungle, He used fruits and vegetables.
Experiencing such an amazing example of God’s foreknowledge and lovingkindness challenged me to be more sensitive to His leading in the events of daily life. If you ever feel that God is putting something on your heart, even if it seems odd or unexplainable, let me challenge you to do it. We never know when our obedience might be a small cog in the machine of a current-day miracle of God. And we wouldn’t want to miss out on that.