Having missed a week of my ‘listening time,’ I’m not sure where to jump back in. I celebrated my 11th anniversary last week up in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. Mom and Dad put Julie and me up in a cabin on Redfish Lake and it was beautiful. The drive there was so lovely that I drove 10 mph under the speed limit just to take it all in. We pulled off often at viewpoints for a picture and just oohed and aahed the whole time. I unwound as I drove, finding myself totally relaxed and fully settled into the R&R mode by the time we arrived at our destination. After checking in, we sat on the porch of the Redfish Lake Lodge and read our books. I sat there occasionally looking up at the view. I marveled at the parallel beauty of the woman beside me and our relationship over the past 11 years. I could not have a better partner in this life and owe most of the man I am to her. Surely God is the one shaping me through Christ, be He has blessed me with Julie as my ‘helper’ toward this end.
I picked up a book on my parent’s coffee table, Out of the Vortex by Dale Snyder. Dale and his wife were missionaries in Brazil, some of the first that my Dad flew for when he began as a missionary pilot in the late sixties. Dale wrote an account of his first years in a village of the Kaiapo Indians deep in the Amazon Jungle. He recorded the process of trying to teach them about God, Christ and salvation all the while learning about their culture and dealing with life as an alien in it. I was intrigued by the story of these courageous missionaries, but quickly switched my focus and amazement toward God as he revealed himself to these Indians and to Dale and his wife in the process. As I read, I found myself relating in a small but significant way to their experience. I felt deep emotion that surprised me and I think I’m beginning to understand it now.
Once Dale learned enough of the Kaiapo language, he began his sermons in the book of Genesis on God the Creator. One Sunday morning the village Chief asked that the sermon be done before sunrise so that the men could hunt. Dale grudgingly woke in the dark and stumbled down the path to the men’s house and preached his message. One of the young men asked him if God, “The Eternal Living One,” could control the animals that he made. Dale responded that God made them self governing just like humans, but then added that if he wanted to control them, he certainly could. Then the man asked Dale to ask God to send them a pig because they hadn’t had one for months and their families were hungry. At that point, Dale put it all on the line and prayed for not just one pig, but for a few. He went home and told his wife that they needed to pray because he just laid their faith on the line. Then he realized that it was God that was laid on the line. He then describes the moment that the men returned to the village with loud shouts. The man who first asked the question came up to him and laid a pig at his feet and said something to the effect that The Eternal-Living One brought them pigs. The flow of pigs kept coming until nine of them were laid before him. This opened the door and thereafter, people came forward with situations and the request, ‘Ask your God do this.’ An older couple, clearly past the age of childbearing prayed for a son and God gave them one. A child bitten by a poisonous snake was treated unsuccessfully by the witch doctor, brought to them in the middle of the night mostly dead, and God miraculously healed him. The seeds of faith were born in the village people, the story of redemption through Christ was given an analogy and people began to understand and respond.
I wept as I read this story. I read portions of it to Julie and we wept together as we sat on the porch. Over dinner as I unpacked my emotion, I realized that we had been a similar place with Maria and God had proven himself to us in a similar all-powerful way. I was reading about someone I knew – my Savior and my God. Let me briefly recount my experience. As I dealt with the reality of loosing our foster-daughter, Maria, I dug into the Scriptures. I wrestled with what they declared about God. I clung to hope in him alone and I made our case known to our friends and family. We were all looking in unison to God for an answer to our prayer. Answers were coming right away – strength, wisdom, peace and trust. All eyes were on him, not on us or our situation. And then he acted on our behalf the day before we were to give her to a family member, in fact just 2 hours before we were to meet her. The transaction was called off and every key player switched their favor toward us adopting Maria. It was in his timing, last minute when nearly all hope was gone. The result was that he received great glory and praise. Praise God that we still have Maria and things are progressing slowly toward her adoption.
But my emotion went much deeper than just relating to that story. Deep within was an intense desire to know God more and to see him act in similar ways in my life and through my life as I continue to be his ‘missionary’ to those around me – specifically to this world of foster care children and their families. Each kid opens us up to a new ‘village’ and culture of people who for the most part are just as estranged to God as these Indians were in Brazil. This type of cross-cultural ministry can be downright risky, taking me way outside of my natural instinct toward comfort . Ah yes, but this is the sweet spot where fear meets faith, when I come face to face with my weakness, heart-broken for people who have broken hearts, empty of self and full of the Holy Spirit, and finally fully surrendered to God who may use me wherever and however he chooses. O God, take me there and enable me to take others with me and encourage others to live in this sweet spot. It’s for your glory alone and for the redemption of those whom you are calling out of darkness into your wonderful light.