Mountain Biking and Missions

Back in July 2019, my first stop in the States on home assignment was Colorado, where I visited my brother Eli, who lives in another beautiful region of the world, where he is surrounded by mountains instead of jungles. He was excited to introduce me to one of his new hobbies, mountain biking.

That intense adventure with my brother in the Colorado mountains led me to reflect on intense adventures with Jesus in an Amazon village.

A few days after the bike ride, I jotted down some thoughts and analogies, which I will attempt to explain and share in the next couple posts. (I had been in the village right before visiting my brother, so the following reflections are based on experiences which had recently happened there).

For someone who has done quite a bit of road biking over the years, this experience was a first. The unpaved, rocky trails twisted up and down and through the mountains, impossible to predict.

Within the first twenty minutes, I didn’t turn sharply enough for a curve and flew over the handlebars. Losing control and wondering how hard I’d hit the ground was terrifying. Nevertheless, flying through the air, while not very safe, did bring a certain sense of exhilaration. And even from the vantage point of lying in the dirt, spitting some of it out of my mouth, the view of the surrounding mountains was beautiful. Thankfully, I sustained only some bruises, a tiny cut, and a few thorns.

This incident reminded me of a verse that had strengthened my heart on many occasions during the first several months of 2019.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.”  Psalm 37:23, 24

Many times in the village, when hitting sharp curves or unexpected major bumps in ministry, it felt like I had flown over the handlebars, and was lying bruised on the trail. The unpleasant sensation of tasting gritty dirt in those moments was surpassed by the delight of seeing God’s glory in the surrounding beauty and tasting the rich flavors of grace. Even though I sometimes fell into doubt, discouragement and even fear, the Lord upheld me and I was never utterly cast down.

Can grace ever be more precious than in moments when Jesus picks us up, brushes us off, pulls a thorn out of our knee, and reminds us that He loves us and that with Him as our Guide and Protector, we are more than conquerors?

You see, it doesn’t matter how rough or intense the trail is if the trail guide is fearless and competent.

Eli made the trail look so easy, zipping up and down each incline with grace and skill. Our expedition was his idea. He was the one who planned it and invited me to participate in an adventure that would have been foolhardy to attempt on my own. All I had to do was go along for the ride, confident that Eli knew what he was doing and that we would have a great time together. I felt honored and privileged that Eli included me in this aspect of his life.

Missions is Jesus’ idea. He is the One who is building His church, calling out His Bride from every tribe, language, people, and nation. He laid a plan which started before the foundation of the world and reaches to the ends of the earth. Jesus wants the villagers and the rest of their people to know Him and become His disciples, and He invited me to participate in this part of His mission. What an honor and privilege to be included in what He is doing!

It would be foolish to go to dark places and preach the gospel on our own.

But the expedition narrative changes with Jesus as our Master and Leader, our Trail Guide.

In Jesus alone we find confidence to set out on the winding, rocky path. We journey to jungle villages and other places knowing that the One we follow is completely dependable and worthy of our allegiance. While Jesus doesn’t tell us the details of what will happen as we obey His great commission, He promises that He will be with us always, even unto the end of the world.

We have counted the cost and realized that the joy and delight of relationship with Jesus far surpass the risk and danger of riding with Him. Believing that safety and health and comfort are overrated, we relinquish any perceived rights to these benefits. Moreover, safety and health and comfort are not actually guaranteed to anyone, no matter where a person lives and works.

Just as mountain trail biking isn’t the safest outdoor activity, life on the mission field is not safe. In recent months I’ve realized more profoundly the levels of risk and peril involved in this calling.

This journey has been lonelier and rockier than anticipated, so intense that it has required nearly every ounce of focus and concentration just to stay the course. All I could do was follow hard after Jesus, 40 hours/week of ACL* with my village friends, and just enough cooking and dishwashing and laundry to get by. There was no leftover physical, mental or emotional energy for anything else. So I streamlined routines, simplified life, and cut nonessentials. I stopped blogging, didn’t plan for home assignment, rarely even called family or responded to e-mails. It was survival mode.

(*Acquisition of Culture and Language)

With God’s help, I tried my best to keep my eyes on Jesus and the people He sent me to, and not let anything else waste precious energy and attention. Nevertheless, a few minor crashes occurred, but by the grace of God, no injuries worse than scrapes and non-life-threatening wounds. I’m entering home assignment bruised and weary, yet with a spring in my step and a smile that emanates from a secret, deeper place of joy than I even knew existed a year ago. This is still the best life ever, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

A Getaway Plane, a Virus, and Resurrection

At 11:07, near Gate 75, I nearly fall asleep while typing, wondering if there is any point in even trying to capture these thoughts in a meaningful way. It is not only a moment of personal exhaustion but also of worldwide panic. If I don’t concentrate on something, though, I’ll fall asleep and miss what could be one of the last planes leaving for my other home.

It was supposed to be a flight out of Syracuse originally, then JFK. But at the end of a crazy day, I’m in Toronto, because the chances of actually getting back to Brasil from here seemed higher.

It’s only one day sooner than I was supposed to leave, and there is no denying the conviction that I need to get out before the door closes. As wonderful as the past 8 months of home assignment have been, the time has come to leave. Whatever happens in the coming weeks and months, my American home is not the place to wait it out.

After my dad and a friend from church dropped me off, I verified that the flight was still on time, then paused, overwhelmed with gratitude and relief tinged by uncertainty. The normal emotions of saying goodbye and heading off alone were accompanied by slight guilt for leaving a place and people that I love in a time of crisis.

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Holding back tears, I wished my phone had enough battery left to watch the video of “Confidence”, the song four friends played and sang as a going-away surprise in church yesterday.

A woman walks down the hall many yards away. From that distance, her red coat looks like the one a friend has been wearing all winter. For a split-second, my heart jumps with a thrill of joy, then falls immediately when I realize that my friend, who I said goodbye to less than 7 hours ago is back in Lowville, and we won’t see each other for three years.

And already I miss her and her family so much that my eyes fill with tears, prompting the question,

“Why am I even doing this if it hurts so much?”

But now is no time for reflection or meditation, or meltdowns. I must stop thinking about friends and family and all the special memories shared in recent days. That will have to wait.

So I go into travel mode instead, and get in the Air Canada line to check my bags.

Having pushed aside the grief of departure, I suddenly remember how much I love airports.  As liminal places, where transition is the norm, not the exception, airports facilitate both reunions and farewells, and are portals for people embarking on new adventures.

If I lived in a city with an airport, I would go there frequently to get work done. It would be an ideal place to think and pray and write, with plenty of events to watch and people to meet during study breaks. Despite certainty that a direct flight was the wiser choice this trip, it was actually rather disappointing that this new flight eliminated my 11-hour study time during the intended connection in Miami.

But back to Toronto. In less than half an hour, in addition to checking two 70-pound suitcases, I was able to:

  • Chat with an endearing family from Johannesburg, South Africa, whose holiday in Canada was cut short and who were very enthusiastic to hear that I’ll be doing Bible translation.
  • Meet a lady who has to have a layover in Brasil and is hoping not to get stuck there as she attempts to find a way home to Chile in the midst of cancelled flights and closing borders.
  • Help an Asian man figure out how to make water come out of a fountain. He expressed his gratitude enthusiastically with a series of bows and a huge smile.
  • Encourage a young, exhausted-looking mom of a two-year-old boy, who had to cancel travel plans to visit his daddy in Trinidad.
  • Talk with a man heading to visit his family in Pakistan, where, according to him, they are safe from the virus.

Did I mention that airports are delightful? Besides the thrill of every takeoff, I love meeting people, hearing their stories, making connections, and sharing Jesus.

Did I also mention that airports are confusing? Staying up all night to finish packing didn’t contribute to mental clarity.

Three proofs of my exhaustion:

  • Trying to go through security with the baggage cart.
  • Misinterpreting the gestures of an agent, thinking he was telling me to dump my water, which I was planning to do anyway, when he was actually directing me to a different door.
  • Walking through security with my sneakers on the whole time, never even thinking about taking them off until other people were putting theirs back on.

In my defense, by the time the sneakers incident happened, I was focused on a new temporary life mission: Cheer Up as Many Security Workers as Possible in Two-Minute Encounters. Most of them seemed really grumpy and irritable, which totally makes sense with all they must be dealing with recently.

Unfortunately, the only joke that came to mind was one I made up today with a reference to the book of Habakkuk. Since that would not be universally appreciated, I stuck with smiling and making an extra effort to be grateful and friendly.

The security workers must have been almost as overtired as I was, since they didn’t notice my sneakers. Or maybe they simply chose not to say anything out of kindness, because this is not a typical night in a typical airport.

Today, nearly everyone who is flying is facing unexpected circumstances or life changes or cancelled plans because of a global crisis. And that goes for people who aren’t in airports as well.

A virus so tiny we can’t see it is changing our world in ways so huge they cannot be denied.

We are fragile, vulnerable, formed from the dust to which we are destined to return.

Yet disease and death are not invincible superpowers. They will not be the end of the story for anyone who is in Christ Jesus.

As He said to Martha, four days after her world had fallen apart, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” John 11:25

If we believe in Jesus, we have eternal life today, right now.

We, as people of the resurrection, have the opportunity to breathe Jesus’ life to those who only sense the death and darkness, the chaos and confusion of these moments.

What words of life and hope and joy can we speak to people around us?

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The Friday before coming back.

In the midst of isolation and social distancing and separation, will we encourage others, intentionally building bridges of relationship in new and creative ways?

Even though our specific situations and responses to challenge and loss vary, can we be honest about feeling some combination of frustration, fear, anxiety, grief, or other messy emotions?

Can the solidarity of knowing we are all facing sudden unprecedented change connect us to the rest of humanity in a way that wasn’t possible before?

Will we have the confidence to believe and declare that Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, is still at work in and through our lives, and in this chaotic world?

Remember the Red Rose

This is the post in which I share a story from nearly 6 years ago that I have been too ashamed of to write down or tell anyone. So if you have other things to do, feel free to stop reading. Just kidding. Hopefully the lessons God taught me using a red rose will help or challenge you.

Last week was Valentine’s Day, as you probably noticed. I went to Wal-Mart to buy pizza toppings, the last phone card needed for this home assignment, and the thinnest socks possible for bug protection in the jungle. I hadn’t been in the USA in February since 2013, and had forgotten what a commercialized holiday this is. Flowers and chocolate and sappy cards, oh my!

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Still, I remember enough of North American culture to know that February 14 is a day when emotions run high, hearts are especially fragile, and hidden pain resurfaces.

So, standing in the candy aisle, a random urge from the night before to buy a Valentine’s gift for someone, didn’t seem like the best idea. Even expressions of friendship can be taken the wrong way when you don’t know a person well. And I am no longer comfortable enough in the American culture to navigate social situations and holiday expectations skillfully.

That insecurity prompted a flood of other fears. In my heartfelt desire for friends and acquaintances to experience Jesus’ love and believe in Him as their Saviour, do conversations end up being directed by me, and not His Spirit? Do I say things that push people away from Jesus instead of draw them towards Him? Do I try to run ahead of the Holy Spirit instead of walking after Him as a follower of Jesus? What if, whether here or in the village, in efforts to connect and serve and be a friend, I just mess things up?

As these emotions stirred in my heart, I gazed at the overwhelming number and style of candy boxes.

And a small voice suddenly whispered, “Remember the red rose.”

Even a siren or a snake or a stampede of army ants couldn’t have gotten my attention any quicker. I hadn’t thought about the red rose for a long time.

It happened in 2014, the summer that Brazil hosted the World Cup. Lots of ministry sprung up that year, some of which focused on outreach to women working in the sex industry, as well as prevention of human trafficking, which escalates in places where major sporting events are held. One ministry initiative was Festa na Rua (Party in the Street), a monthly event held in a different urban location each time. One evening that I had signed up to help, my Brasilian dad found me a ride with a young couple who were heading towards that area of the city, to spare me the normal 2 or 3 hour commute by public transportation.

Enroute, we were accosted by a street vendor. It is very common for Brasilians to go into business, selling candy or bottled water or other small items on the streets. Drivers stopped at red lights are viewed as potential customers.

This businessman was not peddling any of the common commodities, however, but was selling red roses. This was the first time I had seen a flower salesman at a stoplight.

And I suddenly felt an urge to buy a rose. “What kind of crazy idea was that?” I wondered. Sure, I come up with lots of crazy ideas on a regular basis (don’t ask my siblings), but this one seemed especially odd. Why in the world would I buy a rose?

For one thing, I had never made a habit of buying from street peddlers, and, less than halfway through missions training, I was on an extremely tight student budget. Also, I’d be helping set up for a party, and taking public transportation back home at midnight. A rose would get ruined. And what would the people I was riding with think of a strange American who randomly bought a rose for no logical reason?

But a small internal voice insisted, “Buy a rose!” I didn’t listen.

The light changed to green, we drove on, and I suppressed the feeling that I had made a wrong choice, distracting myself through conversation, and the building excitement for a Party in the Street.

The group heading up the event had a well-laid plan. We talked, prayed, and headed out to the designated corner, loaded down with food, soda, decorations, music, gift bags, and excitement to see God work.

Our location was a neighborhood known as “Luz”, the Portuguese word for “Light,” yet a place of darkness, where women work in an industry which devalues and dehumanizes them. Unimaginable stories of hopelessness, tragedy, poverty and abuse, in many cases, drive women to places where instead of receiving compassion, they are often judged and stigmatized.

Our desire was to bring light into this dark neighborhood, and connect with ladies working there. We prayed that they would sense that we loved and valued them as individuals, and start to believe that Jesus loves and values them and has a purpose for their lives.

It was an unconventional and terrific party! Many people who stopped by seemed excited about the refreshments and small gifts and the chance to socialize.

One of these was a lady we’ll call Annabelle. After listening to her story and sharing a bit of mine, I asked Annabelle the question which had been suggested by the party coordinators as a way to turn the conversation towards Jesus, and lay the foundation for the Gospel message to be shared.

“What was the most memorable or meaningful gift you have ever been given?”

Her answer came without hesitation. The most meaningful gift Annabelle had ever received was red roses.

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My heart sank with the realization I had messed up big-time. God wanted to use me to give Annabelle another red rose as a tangible expression of His love, to show that He saw her and knew her story and her heart. The small gift of a red rose might have proved to her that God’s big gift of salvation through Jesus had her name on it as well.

But I had disobeyed the Holy Spirit, classifying His voice as a “crazy urge”. Choosing common sense over the illogical, propriety over spontaneity, safety over risk, a seat in the boat over a walk on the waves with Jesus, I didn’t buy a rose. What seemed like an insignificant incident became a significant regret. If only it would have been possible to go back to that stoplight, buy the rose, and give it to Annabelle.

She still heard the message of the Gospel that night. I pray that she still sensed Jesus’ love and compassion during our 15-minute conversation. But she didn’t receive the rose. And I missed out on being the delivery girl for what could have been a meaningful miracle.

As a daughter of God, I already know I am loved and valued, yet I still need the Gospel just as much as anyone else.

So what is the Gospel? The good news about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Even though we were all born sinners by nature, wanting to do things our own way, with a bent toward sin and away from God, He loved us so much that He sent Jesus, His only Son. Jesus died for you and me and for the whole world, regardless of our job or background or belief system. He took the punishment for our sin to bring us back to God, as His children, and give us everlasting life.

But not only did Jesus bring me back to God when I believed in Him for salvation from sin; He continues to draw my heart back to God whenever I turn away. Being in vocational ministry and living in a jungle does not exempt me from ignoring God’s direction or believing lies or living in fear of what others will think. So Jesus continually calls me back into the light, when it feels safer to stay in the dark corners of the nearest comfort zone rather than walk by faith.

God is still transforming my heart and renewing my mind. He graciously used the red rose incident as a catalyst for growth and change.

Since then I have been more aware of His still, small voice, and obeying it, sometimes even without being 100% sure of whether it is the Holy Spirit or a random urge. While it’s still a struggle sometimes, I’d rather do something that appears crazy than risk missing out on being part of something God wants to do in another person’s life. Although it often means embracing the unknown, jumping out of the boat, and redefining comfort zones, I’m all in. 

So on February 14th, while not overly excited about the commercialism of this holiday in our culture, I bought and delivered the box of candy embossed with a shiny red rose, along with a small bouquet of fresh flowers.

Did those Valentines’ gifts become miraculous tools used by God? I have no idea, which is fine. That’s God’s business. But I do have faith that the Holy Spirit is at work in the heart of this person, praying that He will draw her to Jesus someday, and that my attempts of friendship might be seen as small expressions of His love.

In the adventure of walking by faith, in confidence that the mission is His, not mine, I’m trusting that God will keep me from messing up too badly as I continue to grow in grace, learning to recognize His leading in both the major and minor situations of life. I’m believing that as I live by God’s Word and abide in Christ, my conversations will be led by His Spirit not by my own agenda.

And one of the things I am 100% sure of is that whenever I do mess up, or even choose to disobey, like that afternoon in São Paulo, our loving Heavenly Father will always forgive, and continue to use me, not because I’m perfect, but because He is so perfect that He is powerful enough to use weak and broken ones to accomplish His work in this world, despite our failures and mistakes.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

The Corn Speaks Again!

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I am the corn.

Whatever this means for today, for 2019, and for the remainder of the days You give me on this earth…

Dear Lord Jesus, I am available!

Another year is just about over; 365 days of adventures with Jesus to treasure up and ponder. Just like the last day of 2017 and 2016, this morning found me trekking through the jungle with friends, harvesting corn from their gardens and watching them work long hours to prepare tasty traditional dishes.

As usual, I reflect on the work of God in my heart and life, thanking Him for His good gifts of joy and suffering in 2018.

Please check out this story I wrote that was published online by Ethnos360, along with a few pictures from our village, including one of a dear friend.

And The Ear of Corn Speaks!

 

 

The Babies Someone Wanted

We forget many conversations almost immediately while others impact us so deeply that the words are etched on our minds forever.  In March, a friend, sitting on my kitchen bench, started an unforgettable conversation by saying, in a quiet, anguished voice, “I killed my baby.”  In response to my questions, she told me as much of the story as I could understand.  It wasn’t her choice.  My friend’s father-in-law didn’t want the baby for some reason, and said that she had to follow the cultural procedure of burying the baby alive and leaving it.  She told me how it’s cries grew weaker until it’s little life was over, and how she cried because she wanted and loved her baby.

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A few days ago (12-18 – it was about three weeks ago now), the little elderly grandma in our village told me a similar story from her youth.  In her case it was her own husband that didn’t want the baby and said it had to be buried.

On Monday, as part of ACL practicing, I decided to spend one of the hottest hours of the afternoon lying on the cool tile floor of the bedroom while listening to audio recordings.  That conversation with the grandmother was first on my review list.

So much for my scheduled hour of listening practice.  Three minutes and 18 seconds into the audio recording, I was bawling so hard I had to hit the pause button, and never did finish practice time that day.

These dear ladies still carry the weight of strong negative emotions decades after their babies were buried.  The emotion they both named was sadness, but their comments and facial expressions lead one to suspect the possibility that pain, trauma, bitterness, helplessness, guilt and anger also reside in their hearts. 

These women each lost a baby.

Babies they nurtured in their wombs for nine months, babies they wanted and loved, babies they were not allowed to keep.

I cried so long and hard today.  I cried for the countless babies in this culture who were left to die over the years, before the Gospel came.  I cried for the mamas who loved and wanted their babies, and still have not been comforted.  I cried for the dads and grandpas whose hearts were hardened toward these precious little lives.  I cried for the people groups that are still living in total fear and bondage, as my friends were just 42 years ago.  I cried for the sorrows and fears and questions that my village friends still face.  I cried about my own fears and insecurities.

If these things grieved my heart so deeply, why would I write about them and risk bringing sorrow to you?  Even as I write this, I’m not certain I will post it.  This is the third time I have written about similar cultural topics and my reactions, but the first time I have had the courage (or audacity) to post.  Perhaps the time has finally come to share this part of my heart and ACL adventure.  You want to know why?

First of all, because it’s hard to cry alone. 

I need you, my family and friends, to come alongside me in prayer.

Will you please pray that Jesus will fill me with courage and hope?  I’m not very strong or brave, friends.  Monday proved it.

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As a result of the power of the Gospel and the changes that Jesus has already brought to this culture, the practice of burying “unwanted” babies ended years ago.  Praise the Lord!  By His grace, some of the enemy’s lies have been vanquished by Truth, and many dark places have been illuminated.

But it would be naïve to think that all is now well in this village and culture.  Yes, there is evidence of true joy, hunger for God, and Christian fellowship.  Yet darkness and lies and bondage and pain still exist among this precious people.  And how could it be otherwise?  They don’t have the Word of God in their language yet!

I want to make it very clear that I am not judging this culture or saying that it is worse than North American culture.  Our culture also has dark and tragic aspects that grieve my heart and would shock people from other countries.  Just as no individual human being is perfect, no people group is perfect.

Every people group has wonderful characteristics, and I prefer to share the parts of this culture that I love and appreciate and participate in.  But it would be dishonest to pretend that life here is completely lighthearted, one cool jungle adventure after another.

And that is the second reason I might actually post this.

Because you are part of the ministry team God is using to reach these people, so you need to know at least some of the hard, heartbreaking details. 

How will you be able to pray knowledgeably for us if I never tell you that this culture, like all others, is contaminated by sin and marked by darkness? 

How will you support us in the battle if you only know about the triumphs and not the defeats? 

How will you hold the ropes for me personally, your sister and daughter and friend, if you don’t know what makes me cry, or sometimes want to run away? 

Can I be very real with you, friends? Even though the very reason for being here is to shine Jesus’ light into this dark place, my own fears and insecurities show that darkness is still trying to claim a stronghold in my heart. 

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After two years of great fun, hard work, and dependence on Jesus, I can speak well enough to discuss serious topics and investigate slightly more profound aspects of this culture.  Thank you, Jesus!  But suddenly, since September, new questions have begun to trickle into my heart and mind.  On Monday that trickle turned into an overwhelming and unexpected flood…

What if I discover unspeakable hidden customs, not from this culture’s past, but from their present reality?

What if my trusted friends start telling me unbelievable things that shock and grieve me?

What if I can’t handle it? 

What if I’m not strong enough?

What if I don’t know what to say? 

What if I don’t have what it takes?

And, you can guess what happened next.  I started bawling again, this time out of fear instead of sadness, until the Holy Spirit quieted my heart with the realization that while my questions are real and valid, there is another question that trumps every single one.

“What if God’s grace is enough?”  And I worship God through the tears.

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That question is not a true “what if”, my friends.  The blazing truth revealed by that question answers all of my fearful questions.  Of course I’m not enough for these things.  And I don’t have to be.  Jesus didn’t bring me here because I am qualified or tough or have what it takes to do this job.  He brought me here because I am a weak, foolish, fearful vessel, and that is the kind He loves to use to demonstrate His power and glory and sufficiency.

God’s grace is enough. 

God’s grace is enough for me and for all my fears.  His grace is enough for the elderly little grandma and for all her grief.  God’s grace is enough for you, and whatever you fear or grieve today.  God’s grace is enough for this whole people group, for my home culture and your culture, and for all people everywhere.  And isn’t that the good news we celebrate this time of year?

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.   And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  Luke 2:10-14  (emphasis mine)

Will you please pray for me with regards to all of this? 

Will you please pray for these sweet elderly ladies whose hearts need God’s healing and peace? 

Will you pray for this people group as a whole, and for each individual, that Jesus’ light will shine brightly into the darkest hidden places, bringing freedom and life and joy? 

All of us, wherever we live and work, are in a battle.  Light versus darkness. Truth versus lies.  Good versus evil.  Faith versus fear.

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What kind of darkness do you encounter in your community?  I would challenge you not to turn away from the lies, the tears, and the needs around you.

We who walk in the light do not need to fear the darkness.  Ask Jesus to show you the dark places where He wants you to shine.

And please feel free to comment or e-mail me with how I can be praying for you about these things.

A Wednesday Poem

Because Wednesday was the day this was written, and I can’t come up with a good title.

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I don’t want a life I can handle.
I don’t want a job I can do.
I want to stand on the Impossible’s brink
And see it accomplished by You.

I ask not that the path would be easy.
I ask not that the tears would be few.
I want to run this race so hard that I stumble,
To be picked up and carried by You.

Send me giants to slay by Your power.
Give me mountains faith only can move.
Clear a path through the sea and destroy every foe.
So the victory brings glory to You.

Let the world see Your power in weakness.
And give credit where credit is due.
This weak, trembling servant could do nothing alone.
But yearns to be used greatly by You.

 

Night at the Orchestra

November 1st, exactly one month ago, was my last day at home in Itapecerica da Serra, and definitely the most memorable last night on record.  After we had all survived the excitement of Camila’s wedding, my brother Antonio suggested doing something fun and special to celebrate before I headed back to the jungle, and together we decided that visiting the Sala São Paulo for a concert would be just the thing.  Since these plans were made a bit on the last-minute side (as most brilliant plans are), it took some effort and planning to coordinate everyone’s schedules, but Antonio worked it all out for the family to go.  Our dad, who isn’t actually a big fan of classical music, and preferred to spend the evening babysitting his adorable grandson, passed his ticket on to Danilo, our married brother.  So it was the five of us that went.

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For you to appreciate just how unforgettable our night at the orchestra was, you have to understand that after two years in the jungle, my soul was almost starving for beautiful, classical, live music.  I knew I missed it, but hadn’t realized how much until the hunger started to be satisfied, bit by bit, during October.

First came the chance to play a piano while waiting for an event to start.  It was only for half an hour, but oh!  A real piano!  It had been nine months since I had played an electric keyboard, and 14 months since I had touched the keys of a real piano, so this was a rare treat.  My mom and brothers sang along on a couple hymns, which was fun, and brought back special memories.

Just the chance to attempt to make music awakened something in my soul that had fallen asleep.  While I sing every day in my little jungle home, singing is not the same as playing piano – following the measures in a hymnal, four fingers at a time, blending the carefully-chosen chords and harmonies.  Delight!  Even now imagination brings back the beautiful sounds of the last few measures of The Solid Rock, when I finally played them correctly after several tries.

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The second magical musical moment happened when someone left a guitar at the house.  I can’t remember which brother picked it up first, but when he started to play…oh the beauty!  It almost made me cry.  When there were instruments at home, playing music used to be part of the everyday routine, so I had really missed listening to it.  Both Gustavo and Antonio are very gifted musicians, whose playing glorifies God in a remarkable way.  The beautiful melodies they create fill the hearts of those who hear them with wonder, joy, and worship.

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Sala São Paulo is a beautiful historic building.  Architecture is a type of beauty that I normally am not especially drawn to, but in this case it was impressive enough that I noticed.  And excellent acoustics for performances.  Our seats were behind the platform, which was terrific because we were so close to the musicians, and could see the conductor’s face.

And then we went to the orchestra.  The classical pieces composed by Beethoven, Hummel, and Rossini, and played by the world-famous Sao Paulo orchestra were indisputably another level of beauty altogether.  I told myself to remember and treasure each moment and measure, so that I could savor them later when in need of that type of beauty.  For although I am surrounded by beauty every day here in the jungle – the natural beauty of tropical plants, the linguistic beauty of a tonal language, the human beauty of smiles and friendships, a corner of my soul had been longing for another type of beauty for a long time.  That yearning was satisfied by a special night of music a month ago, and I am thankful.

Music, at least in my heart, does something that no other type of beauty can do, nourishing and speaking to me in a special way.  Music of the caliber we heard that night, instantly prompts my soul to step into God’s presence, worshipping Him as the Creator of all beauty, the One who deserves my love and life

As we listened, drinking in the beauty of our surroundings and the music, wishing it could go on forever, my thoughts drifted to a place where beauty will never end.  There, the music will be so glorious, that in comparison, I suspect that those brilliant orchestral masterpieces will seem as inept as my five-year-old self playing “Do a Deer” with one finger.  In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes that “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” I would venture to guess that these unimaginable things include music, one of God’s great gifts to us, and thus especially appropriate to offer back to Him in worship.

In the car on the way home, we talked about music nourishing the soul, and about the many types of beauty there are in the world.  We considered how all beauty points us to Jesus, and increases our longing for eternity.

Then my brother mentioned how deeply he was impacted by The Lord of the Rings movies.  I haven’t watched them, so this will be based on his comments, as well as I remember.

Antonio said that the movies do a masterful job depicting a world dominated by ugly beasts and malignant forces.  They show the power of evil in a way that makes you feel sick, drawing you into despair and hopelessness, because it seems impossible that the evil will ever be defeated.

But then, at the end, in the darkest hour, in stark contrast to the reality which has been presented throughout the entire movie, a good wizard comes and defeats the seemingly invincible evil.  Light and goodness and beauty prevail!

All of that is a copy and reflection of truth, giving us a small glimpse and understanding of God´s omnipotent power and authority.

All cultures and individuals are contaminated by sin, yet despite that knowledge, it is hard to see the darkness of deception, pain, and guilt in this people group that I love.  Hearing details of the war that the devil waged on them, the lies he used to cause the literal death of family members of my dear friends, triggered sorrow and anger.  I also felt the darkness of fear and doubt in my own heart as I wrestled to not react according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, depending on Jesus alone.  He used these hard situations to remind me of who He is and what He will do.

At the end of time, in a way even more remarkable than any movie could portray, our God will gloriously triumph over all the evil in the universe.  When all we can see and feel is ugliness and darkness and despair, we must remember His promise that in the end, the truth and beauty and goodness and light and power of Jesus Christ will prevail, making all things right and all things new.

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Last night with the family (some of them), until the next time!

And just as I finish editing this post, the generator turns off, allowing a beautiful jungle lullaby to be clearly heard.  The instruments playing tonight are steady rain on the thatch roof, voices of birds, and insect songs of a thousand varieties.  On November 1st, God blessed me with orchestra music and special family time.  And that night, I felt so loved.  On December 1st,  He blesses me with the music of nature and special time with Jesus.  And tonight, I feel so loved.

If I can live by the truths mentioned in this post, and rejoice in whatever types of beauty are part of each day, always keeping my eyes on Jesus, the One altogether lovely, my heart will never be truly hungry or afraid or in despair, though feasts of beautiful, soul-filling music might be few and far between.

ACL Evaluations are finished and the Results Are In!

Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village

(Please excuse the rambling, and lack of editing in this post.  I am still exhausted, so my writing is not up to par and this is much longer than it should be, but I know some of you are eagerly waiting for ACL evaluation news, so want to share it before heading out for a morning of errands). 

Our ACL evaluations are over!  Last night I went to bed early – mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted, although thankful that the last three days went well, and relieved that they were finally over.

Despite leaving us exhausted, these days were very good, positive days which included laughter and memorable moments, as we enjoyed time with our friends who came from the village specifically for our evaluations.  As Sergio told them, although he prefers to visit missionaries in the village, when necessary, it works just as well to do their ACL evaluations in the city.  The deciding factor is whether native language speakers are able to come to the city as well.  Without Xibu and her husband’s help, there would have been no way he could have evaluated our language levels.

Since arriving in the city on Saturday, from early morning until bedtime, in between other activities, I spent as many hours as possible reviewing vocabulary, talking aloud in the language for practice (alone in my apartment), listening to audio recordings, and reading over culture observations.  Oh, and running next door to bug the missionaries who are fluent in the sister language with questions about grammar.  They were so gracious, helpful and encouraging!

Although I certainly wasn’t able to review all the linguistic data collected (nearly two years spent in the village, after all!) the intense, focused studying helped a lot in keeping more words and sentence structures and information fresh in my mind.  Since Bible college days, intense, this strategy has always been productive for me.  The big difference since then is that I now stop studying at my normal bedtime instead of continuing late into the night.

Besides being helpful in preparation for the evaluation itself, these private study sessions revealed areas that I need to practice more with language helpers too, providing plenty of ideas for our study sessions back in the village the next couple months.

While here in the city, I had really wanted to make pizza as a special treat for Xibu and her family, Sergio, Denize (Okay, okay, also as a treat for me!  Not gonna pretend I don’t love pizza and have been wanting it for months), and that plan worked out well.  Everyone enjoyed the pizza, and since I love cooking and feeding people (at least in places with a refrigerator, air conditioning and access to grocery stores), it was a fun, relaxing way to spend an afternoon, and a break from language review.

So, are you wondering what an ACL evaluation really looks like?  Well, I had been wondering, and now I know.  While each church planting team and each ACL evaluation is different, ours went like this:

DAY ONE

Morning:  planning session – Sergio, Denize and I

Denize’s one-on-one meeting with Sergio

Afternoon: Denize’s language eval with Xibu and Iteran.  She has been here only four months.  Since the first level (Basic) of ACL focuses on learning words, Denize’s evaluation consisted mainly of  vocabulary.  “Name 15 types of fish.”  “15 different birds,” etcetera.  Also “survival phrases”, including greetings, simple questions, etcetera.

Early evening:  Pizza break!

Evening:  Denize’s culture evaluation with Sergio.

DAY TWO

Morning:  my one-on-one meeting with Sergio (8 AM – 10 AM)

My language evalulation with Xibu, Iteran, and Sergio.  Sergio gave me communication tasks, setting up the scenario to include one of my friends.  I was supposed to do most of the talking, but they ended up interacting a lot too, which worked out quite well.  He recorded these conversations with a voice recorder.  Yikes!  Nothing quite like the pressure of speaking in another language when your every word (including all the wrong words you know you’ll say) is recorded.

  1.  Sergio had come for a visit and Iteran asked me who he was.  I told hiim about Sergio’s family and work.
  2. I went to Xibu’s house and after a few pleasantries, she asked me about my family.  I told her about my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews and some information about each one.
  3. Iteran asked if it were true that my family lives far away in the USA and wanted to know what it is like there.  (The purpose of this exercise is to show if the language learner is able to compare and contrast).  So I talked about the weather, squirrels, snakes, cows, and corn, comparing and constrasting details with how things are here.  For instance, “American squirrels are small and have bushy tails, just like the jungle squirrels.”  And, “There, if the snakes bite us, they don’t harm us, so we’re not afraid of snakes there.  Here in the jungle, we are very afraid of snakes, because their bite is dangerous.”
  4. Explain the process of how to make something simple.  First Sergio suggested cake, but I wanted to do something from their culture, not from Brasilian culture, so asked if I could talk about how to make the traditional manioc root drink.  My friend Xibu liked that idea better too.

Afternoon:  continuation of my language evaluation.  We listened to the recordings from the morning session, one sentence at a time.  I was asked to translate into Portuguese everything my friends said, to check my comprehension.  They were asked to translate into Portuguese everything I said, so that Sergio could understand.  Then they corrected each mistake, and Sergio would ask if I understood the difference between how I had actually said the phrase, and the correct way to say it.  I actually learned some neat things about the grammar of the language during this process, which took over three hours.  At the end Sergio asked me to translate phrases and questions from Portuguese into the tribal language.

Early evening:  Denize cooked a delicious supper for Sergio and our language helpers, and then their work was finished.  Good thing, because it was pretty tiring for them too.

Evening: team planning/strategy session.  At this point, we stepped away from the ACL side of things as Sergio talked with us on behalf of the mission leadership team (he is one of 6 members) about situations related to the overall ministry in this village and people group.  Lots of helpful information, advice, and strategies for moving forward and acting in a manner that glorifies God and represents our specific mission well, in its goals of church planting, discipleship, and Bible translation.

Late evening:  Denize and I were really excited about one of the topics covered in our team strategy session, so we talked for awhile.  (I will send a quick e-mail update out today or tomorrow to share that news!  Thinking about it kept each one of us up until way after midnight, when normal bedtime for both Denize and I is between 9:00 and 10:30, so you know it’s exciting).

Also, since we had run out of time for Sergio to do an oral check of my understanding of the culture, he gave me a list of cultural topics for self-evaluation.  It only took about half an hour, while I ate leftover pizza, at 11 PM, just like a good paulistana (person who lives in the municipality of São Paulo, which is known for its amazing pizza and for eating late at night).

Sergio, poor guy, stayed up most of the night analyzing all the data he had collected, calculating our proficiencies and averaging the totals…this part sounded rather technical and mathematical.

DAY THREE

Morning:  Sergio met with Denize and I together to share and discuss our language evaluation results.  He also spent a lot of time encouraging us in the Lord, reminding us to keep our focus on God and who He is, and that all we are doing is for His glory, and other Biblical truth to help us in our journey.

Then right before lunchtime he got a ride to the bus station and headed back to Manaus.  Sergio said that we will hear from him soon via e-mail, with written reports and work plans.  During his trip he was planning to finish these reports of our evaluations and generate work plans based on our individual results to help us keep moving forward, in a focused, effective manner for the glory of God.

So, after all that, here are the results!  Solid, objective results that show where I am in the ACL journey, provide direction for finishing well, and prove that we serve an awesome God!  He really is the God of the Impossible, who uses the weakest of His servants, enabling their brains and ears and mouths for the praise of His glory.

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Remember that even though there is one more level not included in the picture (Proficient level), the star marks the level I need to reach in order to teach God’s Word.  The smiley face marks the level I am at right now – low Capable level.

Do you see what that means, friends?  Only two more sub-levels to go!  We are getting so close to the end of this ACL journey!  So that WOW is a “Look what God has done!” kind of wow.  There are tears of joy in my eyes right now at the privilege of sharing with you what your prayers and support have accomplished here in the work of God.  As I have said so many times before, it is not me.  Not even a little bit.  It is all Jesus!

So will you thank Jesus with me?  And will you remember and rejoice that you are part of this accomplishment, this victory that God has brought about?  And will you also thank God for Xibu and Iteran and all of our village friends?  They are a big part of this accomplishment too.  God has is using them to teach Denize and me their language so that we can someday teach them His Word.

By faith, let’s continue praying and believing for that day to come soon!  And please pray that we will all stay strong in the Lord and finish this race well!  

 For by thee I have run through a troop: and by my God have I leaped over a wall.  As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in Him.  For who is God save the LORD?  or who is a rock save our God?  It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.  He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places.”  Psalm 18:29-33

In this situation, I say, using words similar to David’s,

By my God I have run through these language evaluations.  By His Spirit and in His strength I have reached the low capable level in this tonal, tribal language.  His way and timing is perfect!  He protects me and is my shield as I trust in Him.  Jesus is amazing!  He is the One who gives me strength and brings me step by step, level by level in this ACL journey, giving me beautiful friendships and indescribable joy along the way.  He gives me sure footing when I would surely stumble or despair on my own, holding me up and sustaining me through every incredible delight and overwhelming challenge of becoming part of a new culture.

 

 

 

Level With Me!

Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village

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According to an online dictionary, the expression “level with” means

to be straightforward with someone about something; to be sincere or truthful about someone or something.

Well, today, I’d like to level with you about my progress in ACL.  I’d like to level with you, but I’m not going to.

This is not because I want to be indirect, insincere or dishonest about my progress.

Actually, I cannot level with you about this today because I need someone to level with me first.

As many of you have probably experienced in your workplace, ministry, family, or other areas of life, self-evaluation is a challenging task.  Can you imagine trying to evaluate your own progress in learning a tonal language spoken by less than one thousand people?  (In other words, there are no youtube videos, vocabulary lists, or handy little DIY proficiency quizzes online).  Well, I can imagine trying to evaluate my own progress, but I sure can’t evaluate it accurately.

Enter the ACL consultant!  His (or her) job is to evaluate the progress of missionaries who are doing ACL, to figure out what level they are at.

But maybe you are asking, “What levels? I thought you only need to learn the language so you can teach the Bible, make disciples, and plant a church.”  True, only that.

However, working towards that goal, in the ACL program, there are 4 distinct levels – Basic, Progressing, Capable, and Proficient.  Each of these is divided into 3 sub-levels.  These levels are used to describe and measure the learner’s language ability.  Each level has a different focus, which determines the most helpful learning activities, study strategies, and percentages of time spent on each of the 4 Ps.

In order to be approved to teach God’s Word here, I must reach sub-level 3 of the 3rd level, in both language ability and understanding of the culture.  Based on research and our mission’s experience, this is the minimum level necessary to communicate Biblical truth clearly, without creating confusion.

My language and culture skills are definitely NOT at sub-level 3 of the Capable level yet, but I am very eager to find out my current level, and get tips for accelerating future progress.

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The star in the levels diagram above marks the goal, the official finish line for the ACL journey!

Reaching that 3rd sub-level of Capable does not mean the end of learning and becoming, but the end of full-time ACL.  It will mark a transition into teaching ministry, while still continuing to learn about the culture and improve language ability.  The Proficient level isn’t pictured in the diagram for some reason.

Would you like to know a secret, though?  Reaching the proper level does not guarantee that a missionary will communicate successfully. 

The strategies and levels and learning cycles and evaluations of the ACL method are all helpful in working towards a measurable goal, and achieving it more quickly.  We use these tools, but we do not depend on them.  They would never be adequate to accomplish our objectives.

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In the ACL journey, success is not attained by the method itself.  Nor is effective ACL achieved through the missionary’s intelligence or ability or dedication to the task.  Successful ACL is absolutely impossible without the work of the God of the Impossible.

That goes for teaching ministry as well.  No matter how fluent and assimilated into the culture a missionary becomes, clear communication of God’s truth is not guaranteed by reaching the level-with-a-star and getting approved by a consultant.

As the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2,

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:  That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Clear communication of Biblical truth, in any language or culture, is dependent on the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit.  Fervent prayer is essential.  These are truths God started impressing on my heart in a deeper way last year.

There.  At least I leveled with you about something today.

So, please pray that God will empower me to do my level best during the next 10 days of ACL, and also during the evaluation itself – August 14th-16th. Those will be an intense and mentally exhausting three days, for my coworker, myself, our consultant, and the two language helpers who will be working with us.

My earnest hope and prayer is to come out of the evaluation amazed by Jesus and the mighty workings of His power.  Whatever level has been achieved, may the evaluation results make us all say, “Wow!  Look what Jesus is doing!  JESUS is amazing!”

Hopefully the results will also encourage the hearts of my faithful friends and language helpers with evidence that God truly is helping us and that in Him, our labour is not in vain.  And will inspire you to praise God with us, assuring you that your prayers and participation in this journey are making a difference.  Together, with His continued blessing, we will arrive at that star.

God is faithful, and He is able!  After all, He is the One who created my ears, brain, and mouth.  He has enabled me and sustained me, even through seasons of challenge and suffering.  He brought me here and gave me precious, meaningful friendships in this Amazon village.  He has planted in the hearts of our friends a hunger for His Word that is incredible to see.

I haven’t reached that star yet, but am still praying that God will give me the language this year, so that by the end of 2018 I will be fluent enough to teach His Word.  

Will you believe with me for this, friends?  Will you pray in faith, that the God of the Impossible would do great things in my heart, in this place, and among this people, for His glory?

What impossible dreams has God given you?  What goals are you working towards for the name of Jesus?  I would love to pray with you about these! 

 

 

The Vegetables that Saved a Life

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.

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Fruits and vegetables purchased at market yesterday to take along to the village on Monday.

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.