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It was early afternoon, and the wind was blowing stiffly. On our side of the mountain, if you are in the shade, you would think that it was fall all year round. l was watching a few children playing with the wild clover from my vantage point on the rock wall. I waited and listened and heard my friend moan. She was in a lot of pain and my mind was racing to try to diagnose the source of that pain.
We depend on medical guides, emails to doctors, the Internet and past experience to help us diagnose medical issues. We aren’t professionals and that isn’t ideal, but we are all our tribal friends have. The closest clinic is a two-day hike away.
Over the years it has been clear that the Lord uses the weak things, the imperfect things to accomplish His will. While I have lived in the jungle, it hasn’t been hard at all to know and see my weaknesses and my imperfections. However, it is in our weakness that Christ reveals His strength in our lives. So as I sat there trying to determine how often she was having these bouts of pain and how intense the pain was, I remembered a friend who had an appendectomy. I remember him telling me that over the years he could look back and know that his appendix had been the source of several bouts of sickness that he couldn’t pinpoint. I am confident that memory was from the Lord.
I went home and searched our medical resources, and she was having many of the symptoms. Mike returned to their house to do a few procedures that would give us a more clear diagnosis. Sure enough, she “passed” all the tests that helped us to determine it was in fact a severe case of appendicitis that she was suffering from.
We called to see if the helicopter was available for a medical evacuation. It was evening by this time and so it was planned that the following day, the lady, her husband, Mike, and another tribal friend would all head out to a distant town in hopes of help.
By the next morning our friend’s appendix had burst, as was visible by her distended abdomen and inability to lie down.
This story is a long one, but in the end our friend’s life was spared. Her appendix was removed, and she lived to tell the story. I remember thinking, “God surely saved her life, and in a few months she will be able to hear the clear teaching of the gospel and God will save her soul.”
However, stories don’t always end like we anticipate them. Months later, because she had been unable to bear children, her husband took a second wife and later a third. She left unable and unwilling to see that take place. I remember her saying to me, “I am going to my brother’s home,” and I didn’t realize she wasn’t going just to visit. Although she never came back, and never heard the Bible teaching, we had been used as vessels of mercy in her life. God poured out mercy and extended her life, and we were able to be a small part of that.
I have kept tabs on her travels over the years. Has she heard a clear presentation of the gospel? I don’t know. I often think of her.
But it wasn’t until the other evening when I was talking to a missionary friend who had rescued a sweet national baby from certain death that I realized something about the goodness of God. Even though his little life has unexpectedly been loaned to their family and my friend’s selfless acts of love are changing this sweet baby, she is seeing that he may not always be a part of their lives.
As we talked, I realized to a greater extent how we are used by the Lord to impact those around us. And as a result of being used we are able to participate in and be direct observers of the abundant mercy and grace of God. We aren’t always guaranteed knowing the outcome or seeing the results when we invest in people’s lives. I am wondering if that isn’t even the point. Perhaps the real point is for us to use our “here and now,” to use our resources today, to use our time today to care for those who are around us, reach out to those who are hurting, show love to those who aren’t loved, and all the while be aware that we have the privilege of being mercy bearers.
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