I remember preparing to come to the field and expressing that one of the reasons I wanted to serve overseas was because there would be ample opportunity (and in fact, necessity), to trust in the Lord’s wisdom and providence. I was too easily lulled into complacency in the States and wanted to learn to trust the Lord in a more visceral way- trusting because I had no choice. So naive. It turned out, that I did in fact have a choice, and I had to choose day by day, sometimes moment by moment (even out in a jungle doing THE LORD’S WORK). And I did not always make the right one. This post is not about those times, however (plenty of time for that later…).
This post is also not a story about the Lord’s miraculous healing or about crowds coming to him en masse, though such things would certainly be post worthy. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. This chapter began months ago, when a little boy named Menum was medivacked to the city for treatment for a head wound. He returned with stitches and seemed to be faring perfectly well. A few weeks later, they came back, concerned about local swelling at the wound area. Based on what we were told by the parents and the doctors, we assured them that it was probably fine, but to return if it got worse. It got much worse in fact (the whole story can be seen HERE), and over the next weeks and months our family had a crash course in intercessory prayer. Never in our lives had we prayed for someone’s life and the wellbeing of their family so thoroughly or so frequently, and we were seeing so many answers to prayer- Menum survived a weekend in the bush of no nursing and was still alive for the second medivac; the flight was partially covered by another organization; space opened within minutes for them to move to the surgery ward; time after time, we would pray and the Lord would provide. I was fully convinced that Menum would return to us alive and thriving. And then he didn’t. He passed away and was buried in a distant city, and we spoke passionately to our kids about the Lord’s love and wisdom as we mourned together.
Soon after, a friend (one of the first ladies we met before we even moved into Kovol) went into labor. Her husband came to us, telling us that she was struggling to give birth. The guys were gone for the day, so all we could do was send a few supplies and cover her in prayer. Word soon reached us that she had given birth to a baby boy- such a cause for rejoicing! The Lord answered our prayers! A week or two later she came with her tiny bundle, and excitement to see the baby quickly turned to concern. This child was much too small for a newborn, premature and emaciated from being too weak to nurse. For 2 days we sat with her, I would hold open his tiny mouth so she could express milk into his mouth, and I would pray every drop down his throat. On day three she disappeared in the morning to go back to her place, the blanket we had lent her balled up on our stairs. We heard later that he had passed. Sorrow once again.
As we did our (admittedly mopey) family devotions in the evening, I begged the Lord to lift the weight of sorrow and adjust our perspective so we could sleep peacefully that night. The verse we studied was Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”. What timing. Pulling things together for the kids, we started singing the praise song with (almost) the same lyrics that we had sung as children, doing a awful job at trying to sing it in a round. By the end of the evening, we were having a dance party to childhood praise songs (Father Abraham anyone??) in our kitchen. The love and peace we felt from the Father that night was so tangible.
So that was it, right? We had learned our lesson about trusting the Lord despite “unanswered” prayer, and now that we got that over with the Lord started intervening miraculously, yes? Of course not; thus began the practicum. Within the space of the same couple months, There was another death resulting in several orphaned children joining our community, more injuries, more people following their own cultural traditions instead of our recommendations (i.e. trying to fix their sickness with their reconciliation customs instead of taking their child to the hospital). Time after time our prayers were seemingly being ignored. Through all that time, the peace the Lord had given remained. We rejoiced to see evidence that, though some things were not resolved the way that we would have chosen to resolve them, something good was coming from the sorrow. Other times we just had to trust that the Lord knew what he was doing despite our not being able to recognize any evidence whatsoever.
So, what has the Lord been showing us? Sometimes the miraculous healing is not in the body but in the heart, and it is just as practical. The lessons we have needed to learn have not been regarding the Lord’s power, but rather his loving wisdom, and being able to trust it. It has been learning to relinquish our expectations and believe fully that He knows what is best and is doing what is best. It is humbling to realize that I am needing to learn the same lesson that Judas did. If my savior doesn’t perform as I see fit, will I turn away? Will I try to fix what God is allowing to be broken? Or is His sovereignty something more concrete and more dependable than my workarounds? Pray for us, friends, this lesson is not a one-and-done. Pray that we choose trust daily as we experience the Lord’s trustworthiness.