Monthly Archives: July 2014

Praying That The Truck Stalls.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16b

Prayer has been on mind mind today, in particular in regards to some of the situations I’ve been in when traveling in South Sudan. One particular instance comes to mind. I was traveling in the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser with two other missionaries and several natives, going from the town of Bor to a village about three hours north called Liliir. The seasonal rains had run long that year, and there were huge sections of road that were virtually impassible. When I say virtually impassible, what I mean is that some vehicles made it, and some did not. We passed many vehicles that were stuck deeper than the wheels in mud, and were being unloaded to take the weight off so hopefully they could be moved. I remember one that had its rear axle sitting behind it, and was clearly not going to be going anywhere. I have a picture I took of one of those vehicles as we passed.

Toyota being unloaded to try to get it out of the mud, South Sudan.
Toyota being unloaded to try to get it out of the mud, South Sudan.

 

So now, knowing the situation, you would think that our driver would take the utmost care to avoid those kinds of situations on the way back from the village that evening. You would think wrong. He apparently had a terminal case of denial, and as we came to this very spot where only six hours before we had seen the above vehicle stuck, he decided to go through that very same spot rather than go the route we knew was safe. The thing about traveling in South Sudan is that you really don’t want to be doing it at night, and getting stuck would have put us in that situation.  Just for reference, since I’m unable to get the travel warning we were under at the time, I’m just posting the current one from the Dept. of State. ”

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to the Republic of South Sudan.  After review of our security conditions, the U.S. Department of State lifted the ordered departure status for the U.S. Embassy in Juba on June 12, 2014.  However, as a result of continued instability and a poor security situation resulting from the civil conflict which erupted in the country in December 2013, the U.S. Embassy will continue operating at reduced staffing levels for the foreseeable future.  The U.S. Embassy is therefore only able to offer very limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in the Republic of South Sudan.  This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on April 23, 2014.”

So you can see now why we wouldn’t want to be stuck out at night with no way to get back.  Despite our loud objections, our driver tried to put the vehicle into four wheel drive low, and descend into the muck. What he didn’t know, though, was that we had a team of people praying for us back home.

As our driver tried to put the vehicle into four wheel low, the engine stalled. He started it back up, tried to put it back into four wheel low, and stalled it again. This happened three or four times. Finally, he gave up, backed up the vehicle, and drove to the route we had come through that morning. As he got to the crossing, he dropped the vehicle into four wheel low gear with no trouble and no stalling, and crossed easily.

It’s situations like this that make you realize the difference between tourism and missions. It’s not the place you are going that makes the difference, it’s the spiritual currents that are running just below the surface. Is what you’re doing moving things in the spiritual realm? If they are, you are going to face opposition, and this is why those who are still at home in prayer are just as important if not more so than those who actually go. I will probably go into other situations where this was very apparent at a later time.  For now though, the subject of prayer is forefront on my mind as some of my friends are currently on their way to Kenya, some of them for the first time. Also, in the next three months, I’ll be going to Kenya as well, and then to Ethiopia. More on that later.

Spiritual and Other Gifts and Perspective

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same[b] Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?31 But earnestly desire the best[d] gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.

The previous verses come from 1st Corinthians 12. Paul goes into depth about spiritual gifts. I saw a video this week of a fantastic exercise in perspective; a piece of art by Bernard Pras. In this piece of art, he takes a large number of truly random items and places them in what initially seems like a completely haphazard fashion. It looks like a pile of junk on the floor, and walking by that is what you would assume it is. But walk to the right place, and look through a frame that excludes the extraneous distractions outside the  pile of junk, and you see that this seemingly random junk is in fact a beautiful piece of art. Here is a link. You may have to copy it into a new window, but it’s worth it.

I have heard people say, I have this gift or that gift. But it says in the scriptures, “earnestly desire the best gifts.”  This goes for spiritual gifts, but also for all gifts and talents. I know people, and I myself have been given or developed through God’s grace talents and gifts that at the time seemed random or perhaps even useless in the grand scheme. But nothing is left to chance with God. We are all unique and all useful in completely different ways because we each have a different set of gifts. They are only random until God lines those gifts up in such a way that the perspective suddenly becomes clear, and when we are obedient and step out in faith, we find out that the gifts we sought were only random because we lacked the perspective and fore thought that God has, who sees the plan from beginning to end.

So when we are told to earnestly desire the greater gifts, what we are being told is to make ourselves more ready to be used by God for whatever plan He has, even though we are totally unable to see it. So get up, pray for gifts of Prophecy, or knowledge, or wisdom. Get out there and learn a new language, or develop that skill that God has put in your heart, but you’ve always told yourself you were too busy to do, or that other things were more important. God wants to use you.

So in conclusion, in the words of the Neil Morse song,

“God can change the world with just one willing soul
Who will stand up for the truth and give him starring
role
So come into the fullness and open up the door
Maybe it is you he’s looking for”

On the Road to Bulletproof.

In the past couple months, a lot has changed. One of the things is that I now get to watch from the outside the experiences of someone close to me as she prepares to go to Africa. The person I’m talking about is my wife.  We have decided to go to Kenya, (together this time). We will be going to visit a little girl we have been sponsoring for two years now, and for once I will be going to Kenya for the sake of going to Kenya, and not just on route to somewhere more remote.

I’m excited for my wife, even if she isn’t yet excited for herself. I’m excited because I know some of what’s in store for her. We went yesterday to get her first immunizations for going overseas; not a terribly pleasant process. It was at this point, after the second needle, that the gravity of what was going on struck her and it became an emotional and difficult experience. The needle wasn’t the problem, it was the anxiety that this was real, that she was going WAY out of her comfort zone and going somewhere totally unfamiliar.

What is it that makes memories? What is it that makes life exciting and worth living? Let’s for now just touch on the trying new things part of the answer to that question.  Why do so many of us have such fond and romantic memories of childhood?  It’s because as a child, everything is new, and consequently everything is exciting. Furthermore, we have only the memories going backward, without the anxiety of not knowing the future. Our memories have been expurgated of most or all of the bad things, because the bad things rarely ended up being as bad as we though they might be, but the good things usually ended up being at least as good as we expected.

Fast forward to adulthood, where most of us have gotten into a long pattern of doing the same thing day after day. Where we worry about the future, and even though in childhood our worst fears never came to fruition, we still worry about anything new. Consequently the excitement ends, and many of us never do anything new again. How boring a life does that make for us?  Not only boring, but ineffectual. We make decisions out of fear, or we avoid a decision out of fear. The fact is that almost all the time, a decision based on fear is the wrong decision. Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” Though I consider Nietzsche’s philosophy to be a mixed bag, I believe he was right in this. We forget this as adults. We avoid pain and difficulty and consequently we avoid growth.

So in this I am proud of my wife. I know how difficult this is for her because she is not an adventurous woman by any stretch of the imagination. We talked about going to a number of places as part of our twentieth anniversary, and out of all of them she chose the most difficult. And even as she gets her shots so she can get on the road to becoming bulletproof, and she can’t yet look back and see that it was worth it, she has chosen growth over fear.

Getting her first immunizations to go to Africa. Today was Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever, and Polio. Fun!!
Getting her first immunizations to go to Africa. Today was Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever, and Polio. Fun!!