Precisely four days ago was September 4th. Back in 2003, 19 years ago, that was a Thursday. It was also a cool fall morning, my backpack heavy on my shoulders, my sins alarmingly less heavy than ever before. That’s the only reason I remember that morning on the school bus––I’ve generally attempted to erase any memories of those sloggy parts of my childhood––it was the morning the burden came rushing back, the morning the burden was then lifted forever by the crucified Savior of sinners. To the family in Ontario who had to lose two daughters in a horrible semi truck to car crash that summer, I am still filled with grief for you. But if it is any, very small consolation, one day your girls will meet in heaven a woman who will be there because God graciously touched her cold and careless soul with her own mortality through their early death.
There were times as a teen, and even as a young married woman that occasional, fleeting doubts as to my salvation would taunt me. My failures were too evident. My pride too great. My love for others sadly lacking. Could it be I was truly a child of God? I had struggled for salvation, was hunted down mercilessly by any passing evangelist. A moment on a school bus, a sudden realization of His finished work–was that truly it?
By the grace of God, those doubts have long disappeared. They gradually lessened and became very sporadic, but any doubt completely disappeared 8 years ago.
It is specific and rightly so.
Only a child can know the chastening hand of her Father.
Only a child can know the loving embrace of her Father.
Only a child can be carried by her Father.
As I look back over the tragedies and awfulness of the last years of our lives, I am truly filled with gratefulness. The refining fire has scorched any doubt whether or not the writer has been elected, redeemed, sanctified in the precious blood of the Lamb. The reality of His love, His presence is astounding.
Without meaning to, it looks like I took the summer off from blogging, partly because it has been a generally dry season to this life. We have been in a place of waiting, of wondering, of sandpaper trials. Nothing huge, just grating. Just enough to keep me silent, empty of shareable words. I hope you had a wonderful few months and were able to enjoy some special family time.
I ended last school year incredibly exhausted. We started it with a school in our yard for the village kids and ended it traveling a ton and with a two year old bouncing around. Harried is probably the most accurate word to describe my inner state of being.
We were thankfully able to take two weeks away, included in that time a homeschool conference which was very refreshing. I met a woman who was a missionary in Poland for 25 years. When, for personal reasons, they had to return to the U.S this last year, there was still not a steady group of men in leadership. “We told them, you’re just going to have to make it work and trust God.” She spoke of loneliness and all the things we know so intimately. It felt relieving to cry for what we both know is reality. Fully ripe Fruit is often not ours to be seen.
I also met a young woman who serves in the gospel with her husband in Pakistan. They work with believers who have been mutilated, others martyred for their faith. They constantly have to look for ways to share the gospel without endangering the new converts. We wept together. And laughed together. And encouraged each other.
The three of us ended up at the same table for lunch one of the days. It was of God. How long it has been since I have known that kind of fellowship! The body of Christ is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
After getting home from our trip, we began distributing literature in another village. It sits on the corner of the Usumacinta River and the Gulf of Mexico (Bay of Campeche, to be exact) and marks the beginning of the state of Campeche, boasting a grand total of 5 streets. We took it slow, trying to talk to somebody in each home if possible, offering studies if they seemed interested. People in small towns are naturally suspicious, so it takes some patience to work through. A couple homes seemed interested but on the agreed upon day for the study, they weren’t home. The final street is shaped like an L, connected to the rest of the town by a bridge spanning a mangrove swamp. The vertical stretch follows the river, the horizontal, the highway and bridge that crosses the river into Tabasco. There were only a few homes, so we left the kids in the van. David took the river side, I the highway. The inhabitants of the first house were under the bridge. Their home seemed more like just a storeroom, or a place to sleep when it gets cool. Under the bridge they had strung up hammocks, set up a wooden table and chairs, a fire ring still smoking from their late afternoon meal. The woman sat in her hammock, feet dangling over the edge, one of them crudely bandaged. I handed her the text. Herein is love. Not that we loved God but that He loved us. I wondered if she knew the love of God, this injured lady under the bridge. She didn’t. Because the prosperity gospel has blinded and confused her, the greed of man clouding over the love of God, leaving her with nothing–not even hope. David did my side of the street too. The dryness of the last months was flooded out by monsoon yearning for souls. Thank God for the gospel. Sometimes I think us who are believers almost need it more than the unsaved.
Nuevo Campechito did not produce the open doors we hoped it would. We may go again to do street preaching and try visiting our few contacts again–give it another chance. The lesson is to just keep searching for souls. To keep moving on and forward. I think as a whole, it is easy for evangelists to become discouraged because we continually rework the same neighborhoods over and over again. There is nothing wrong with that, but we need to constantly get uncomfortable and branch out, looking beyond to barren fields into which we can plant our precious seed.
I don’t really enjoy that uncomfortable part. As the years go by, the more I yearn for an unattainable stability, sameness, homebody-ness to my days. It’s another one of those things we have to let go of, learning to willingly lean into the unknown.
Which reminds me of another woman I met recently. We were in Cancun so one of us could get dental work done. As it was a bit of an intensive job, we stayed for the few days necessary for recovery. While there, I met a woman and we got chatting while our little girls played at the park.( I DO NOT chat well, so the fact I started this conversation is remarkable.) She is from Belarus and they have been in Mexico for a year. It seems they “fled” from home after participating in a peaceful protest against the government…after which said government began arresting those involved. They can’t go home with the threat of jail looming, yet her love for Belarus, her yearning for her family were heartbreaking. They don’t know where to go, hardly what to do. Her little Russian speaking girl played with my Spanglish speaking one in the way only children can. Smiles and waves and going down slides can say an awful lot more than a few strings of letters. I don’t even know her name, didn’t get a chance to share the gospel with her. It is one of those loose strings that will float behind me the rest of my life.
In many ways, I don’t really know where this post is going but I hope that at least one of the stories of these different women will somehow encourage you. After these years as a child of God, I can assure you of one thing. Life is hard, sad, full of difficulty but when you are carried on the shoulders of the Man of Sorrows, joy will always come in the morning.