Bitten In A Third-World Country

22 06 2013

Blood ran down my leg as I struggled to get the dog to let go. He was medium-sized , scrawny, and mangy…and wouldn’t leave me alone.

It was my first trip to a foreign country on a mission trip. In this country, dogs are everywhere and more like rats than pets. They wandered around at the hospital where the medical team served, dug through the trash, wandered in and out of patient rooms, and watched for scraps of food to eat. They weren’t aggressive, so the one attached to my leg was unusual.

Prior to our departure from the US, the leader of our group, Suzie Smith, recommended that we memorize Psalm 91. This was the chapter the Lord gave to them when they began Global Passion Ministries in the 90s. I figured they knew a little more about the mission field than I did, so I followed her advice. I was thankful that I had.

After a few minutes’ fight with the animal I managed to chase him off. I looked over the open wounds on the back of my calf and wondered what to do.

We had come to this town to repair cleft lips, remove tonsils, and perform minor surgeries for the locals. In other words, I was with a host of medical professionals. If I told them about the dog bite, all attention would turn to me. It would be a huge diversion from what we were there to do. The focus would be on getting rabies vaccine shipped, and taking care of me.

What to do?

The Scripture I’d memorized came to mind; specifically this part:

 “Because you have made the Lord, even the Most High, who is my refuge, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.”

Psalm 91:9, 10

“Okay, Lord,” I said, “I get what You mean. The chapter begins with, ‘He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High…’. I am abiding in You. What plague could exist in You? Either Your Word – all of it – is true or You have lied to us. I believe You are Truth. Here’s my chance to walk in light of that truth.”

I returned to my room and cleaned up my leg with soap and water. I told no one.

Although the wounds were deep, they didn’t even turn pink from the barest hint of infection.

After we got home, I told Suzie about the dog bite. She immediately scolded me for my silence.

I responded, “You and I both know that all focus would have snapped to me. We weren’t there for me.”

“True. We’d have called home, bought the meds and had them flown here. One of the Customs guys probably would have kept it. That would have been a huge distraction. I’m glad you didn’t say anything…but don’t do that again!”

On the flight home, I read through Psalm 91, then closed my Bible and said, “Father, thanks for showing me that Your Word works when I’m in a third-world country. The next time I come, I’ll be sure to trust what You have said.”

He replied, “Oh, you don’t think you need My Word at home?”

Yikes! I certainly didn’t want to be tried in this way again!

This event served to strengthen my faith in the Bible…to live as if it is really trustworthy. As a result, my walk with God – and especially the way I pray – was changed forever. I no longer beg and plead for God to do something He said He would do, but instead thank Him for His faithfulness in the matter.

“Has He not said, and will He not do it?”





Help for the Hurting

8 05 2013

Life is often hard to handle. Pain is inevitable. When you’re up to your eyes in a struggle, what do you do? What can you do?

Many years ago I had kids who needed a godly man to come alongside them – take my boys under their wings and show them what Christianity-in-action looked like. I approached several men in my church and asked for their help. To a man, every one said, “I’ll pray about it.” That was the end of the conversation.

Years passed, and there was no one to help. I cried out to the Lord and asked Him to send someone to speak life into my sons. The ceiling seemed to be solid steel, my prayers going nowhere.

This seemed to be a repeat of what I’d experienced myself since childhood. Christian folks knew there were problems, knew I needed someone to show me the way. Time and time again I was advised, “Pray about it. Give it to God.” or my personal favorite, “Read your Bible more.”

This goes back to the post I wrote on Standardized Christianity. We seem to think, “What I believe about God is what everyone else believes.” Wrong!  Each person is a unique individual, and at a different place in their understanding of God and the Bible. Life experiences and role models affect how we perceive Biblical truths. Further, a young (in their faith) believer hasn’t learned how to find what they need from their Bible.

As a teen, I read my Bible every day – all the way through two or three times per year. Even though I went to Sunday School, Sunday service, Sunday night service, a Tuesday morning prayer breakfast, the Wednesday night prayer meeting, and a Thursday night Word of Life Club, I had no one in my immediate circle of acquaintances to help me sort it all out. I knew the Word, but did not know the God of the Word. There is a very big difference between the two.

Lacking understanding, I thought God was like my earthly father. Because I believed this, I read the Scriptures through the lens of “God is like my dad.” You’d be shocked if I shared some of the conclusions I arrived at due to my erroneous concepts.

When I spoke with one of my leaders about the problems I was having at home, they gave me the advice I stated above. In recent years, I’ve come to understand that what they said was shorthand for, “You’re a mess. I don’t want to get involved. Go away.”

**********

In February of this year, I went to Nicaragua with a medical team. It was a wonder-filled trip (as usual). The surgeons who accompany us repair cleft lips – a very big deal there. Countless people were served medically. Lives were radically changed (a person with a cleft lip is outcast and abused by nearly everyone).

The Sunday we were leaving, we attended the worship service at Verbo . The faces of some of the children who’d received treatment came to mind. I began to ask the Lord,

Why this child and not that one. Why him, her…and not him, or him, or her? I know that You are good, I’m not questioning that. I just want to understand how you choose who will be reached and who will not.

I sensed the Lord say, “Dig deeper.”

Why do you reach out to the kids who live in the orphanage, and give them people who can teach them about Your love, yet my prayers for my own children went unanswered? They desperately needed a mentor. Again, Lord, I know that You are good and that You will bring good out of this. I just want to understand.

“Deeper.”

I began to weep, then sob uncontrollably.

Why not ME? You knew that I wanted to love You and serve You with all my heart. You knew that I believed terrible things about You – believed that You were cruel, uncaring, unloving, and unpredictable. If You had given me someone to teach me what You were really like, I would have represented You better and never walked away from You.  You’ve brought so much that is truly good from all I’ve been through, but I don’t understand why I had to wait so long. I trust You. I know You are for me, and not against me. I just want to know why You chose this way.

My question hung heavy in the air as I left the church, and loaded my belongings into the back of the pickup so we could leave for home.

On the way to the airport, raindrops began to fall. At first there were just a few. All at once, torrents of water were pouring out of the sky. We could barely see the road before us.

The Lord spoke:

Tami, I am Spirit and cannot be physically present with every person. This is why I sent my Spirit to live in my children. They are my representatives. When they allow my Spirit to work through them, I can minister to people “with skin on.” I have empowered my children to bring life, love and comfort to those around them.  My desire is for them to strengthen one another, to build one another up, to be there when they need help. The problem is that I ask them to get involved and they either do not hear My request – or they ignore Me altogether.

Drawing my eyes to the cascading rain all around us, He said:

These are my tears for the lost, the hurting, the abused, the unloved. I care far more than You will ever know. 

Wow.

Whenever I have asked God “Why?” – not as in “How dare You?” – but because I don’t understand Him, He graciously responds. His desire is that we come to know Him better, that we see His heart, and that we know truth. He doesn’t hold out on us. He is indeed for us, not against us.

God’s revelation that Sunday healed some very deep places in my heart – things that stood between the two of us for decades.

If you are in a tough spot, keep asking God for His truth, keep seeking out godly people, keep knocking on others’ hearts until someone answers. Don’t give up hope, and please don’t walk away believing the lie that God does not care. The tears God showed me in Nicaragua were for you, too. He loves you with an everlasting love.

Dearest Abba, There are so many hurting people around us. Please give us Your heart for them. Help us to set aside our personal agendas, roll up our sleeves, and wade into the muck and mire that is the life of humanity. Teach us how to be You with skin on; how to love, nurture, support, and patiently minister to those in need. Help us to hear Your voice whenever You are inviting us to join You in the work You are doing, and to surrender our lives to You – whatever the cost. This is our desperate hour, and You are needed more than ever. Give us the courage to be Your ambassadors – to do what You would do if You were here in human form.

Because this is Your will for us, I can confidently ask this…

…in Jesus’ name.

Amen! 

NOTE: This post by J. S. Park was my inspiration for today’s message: http://jsparkblog.com/2013/05/07/question-im-struggling-but-church-keeps-saying-just-read-your-bible/





Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua

5 04 2013

This was my first trip to Nicaragua, and it was amazing. There I met brothers and sisters in Christ who sang this song with all the enthusiasm that we have here in the United States, yet their standard of living is…well, you’ll see what I mean. We’ve been blessed with so much. I wonder if we appreciate all we have been blessed with.