Answering The Call is an international missions organization dedicated to reaching people in difficult to reach places.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Joy of the Jungle

Missions can be exciting and venturesome. The last day on a recent trip to D.R. Congo our team decided to go into the forest, (a.k.a. jungle), to see the Silverback Gorillas in their natural habitat. I had no idea what we were in for; I just knew that the atmosphere among our team was brewing with adventure. This is the kind of stuff my husband and 2 man-child’s LOVE! I am much more reluctant to step out into the unknown. But, on this day I mustered the courage to do so. And I didn’t even have my 3 men, (a.k.a. husband and 2 boys), to talk me into it. May I add that I was a bit proud of myself and was sure they would be too.

We hopped into our beloved Congolese friend’s 4-wheel African safari vehicle, (a.k.a. van) and off we went. After two and a half hours on a very rough road, a flat tire, a busted radiator, which we stopped several times to fill up, we arrived at our destination. We picked up 6 more participants, (a.k.a. armed guards), who would join us on our adventure. Now, on the one hand I was glad to see them but, on the other hand, I thought to myself, “Why do we need six armed guards?” It was at this point I began wondering if this was such a good idea. It was also at this point I began to remember why I leave this kind of stuff to my men. Maybe the word for it is FEAR! But, I was NOT going to back out. I had to save face among my team members. And I knew that my men would be merciless to me if they found out I had chickened out.

As we began our trek into the forest, I noticed that 2 of the guards went ahead of us. I realized later that they were actually cutting a path with their machetes for us to walk. There was no path because the brush was so thick. Too late now; I was all in. Not too far into the jungle my legs began to feel as if they were on fire. Did I mention I had on Capri’s, (a.k.a. pants that don’t cover your entire leg)? There is this plant that when you touch it little stingers come out and do what they are supposed to do. OUCH!

Me, myself and I had a very difficult conversation on the way. It went something like this. “What were you thinking? You, (a.k.a. stupid), should have just stayed back. You should have worn long pants! You are going to die out here! Ok, you’re here so just suck it up. You can do this. You’re going to get to see the gorillas. How many people get to do that? Couldn’t I have gone to the zoo? Be thankful! Do these guards really know where they are going? How much longer do we have?! To get home that is!” Do you ever have these kinds of conversations with yourself?

One thing sustained me during the trek through the jungle. I would look up every now and then and see Desire, (a.k.a. our beloved Congolese friend), smile at me. Or I would see his look of concern for me. Sometimes I saw a look of excitement as if he knew something we didn’t, like what we were getting ready to experience. I took comfort in each of his looks.

We continued for about 2 miles and then came upon a vast open field full of bamboo reed. We still had a ways to go but this time it was not brush we were walking in, it was water, (a.k.a. swamp). It actually felt good on my plant-stung legs even though it was black and mushy. The guards gathered us close together and told us to be very quiet. I was nervous. Then I heard bamboo moving. I was more nervous. Then I heard grunting. I was really nervous. And then there he was, in his element, very aware of our presence and yet so unaffected by it. And here I was, standing in the middle of a bamboo reed marsh 10 feet away from an entire family of Silverback Gorillas in the wild bush of Africa. It was beautiful. Desire was smiling big at this point!

Sometimes in life we have no earthly idea where we are going. And sometimes even when we know, we have no road map on how to get there. At times we feel stupid because we are very aware of our shortcomings and failures. We wonder if we've made the right decision. We question whether we can keep going. We somehow know, or want to believe that where we are going is going to be good. But we get stung along the way with a few surprises and doubt and fear set in. We try and talk ourselves into thinking positive and we just can’t.

And then we remember that we have a friend, (a.k.a. Jesus), who is concerned for us, smiles at us, knows exactly where He is leading us and what awaits us. We may not know the way, and sometimes the where, but we can know the Who. He is good and He is intentional on the journey towards our destiny. There will be intrusions, but He will bring us into our element, a wide open space where we will be unaffected by them. Adventure is before us. Beauty awaits us.

Joy (a.k.a. Joy of the Jungle)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Just Like You and Me

There are two things that you can be assured of in the Middle East, a call to prayer and bad coffee. Knowing this we went prepared with Dunkin Doughnuts coffee. We came out of the airport early in the morning and the hotel shuttle we had expected was nowhere in sight. The airport was empty and so was the parking lot. All that was there were a few taxi drivers in old cars. We told the gentleman on the curb where we wanted to go and he directed our team to two taxis that would take us to our hotel. As we loaded up and drove off to our hotel, I thought to myself, “There is no better time than now to trust Him who has safely gotten us this far.”

Our goal on this particular trip was to teach a conference on Spiritual Warfare and minister to those working in the country. The enemy in the Middle Eastern culture is subtle and seductively evil. After about 2 and half days, softness fell over the group and they began to open their hearts to be ministered to by the Lord. You cannot imagine how draining the spiritual climate is there. Part of this softening was triggered by a word of knowledge that had come from two friends who were praying for this trip. The word was “fence.” As we shared it with the group, people were challenged to tear down the fences they had built to protect themselves and allow God in to work. They are not much different than we are. We build up walls, or fences, of unbelief and fortify them with what God hasn’t done for us. As we fortify this position of unbelief, our hearts grow hard, callous, and numb to the voice and tenderness of the Lord. From this position, we are unstable and can end up on the sideline of life quickly. As the conference concluded, over twenty workers and their families were re-energized, encouraged and ready to continue in the battle that has been placed before them.

Towards the end of our visit, we traveled to an older market section of town to do some shopping and prayer walking. As we walked through the shops and interacted with the people, we began to gain real understanding that we are not so different from them. Behind the head coverings are women who desire to be loved and the men desire pleasure and success. As we understand this, our hearts should grow tender to the point of interceding daily for this region.

As we flew out, two words have stuck in my heart and continue to resonate with me even now as I write, “STAND FIRM.” Paul tells us this at least three times in Ephesians 6:10-20. These days are peculiar and I believe He is calling us to a position of standing firm in Him, dwelling in His shelter and abiding in His shadow. We must continue to STAND FIRM and believe that God’s Kingdom will come to the Middle East where people are just like you and me; people in need of a relationship with the God who created us.

Mark Tippett