For a long time I’ve wanted to be a missionary. I had applied to mission school before, but during the application process my father became seriously ill and I withdrew. I worked for a while but then took the decision to go to university to gain a useful qualification before reapplying. That’s what I was doing in November, before Yolanda.
An open door
As usual, a crisis had drawn me closer to Him. The situation in the Philippines after Yolanda forced me to push out the usual distractions and really pray. After a week there was good news. Everyone I knew there was safe. But somewhere in that week, praying had created something in me as well as in Leyte. Not only a miracle, but also a door had appeared, an opportunity, a possibility. Should I go?
There are always possibilities. Not all good ones. I’d had to turn down many things in order to focus on university. Never have I had a prophetic word about the Philippines. Never have I even considered going there before now. Only compassion had compelled me to pray, nothing else. Okay, I thought, I’ll ask God to say what He thinks. The next night I went to a church prayer meeting to tell the story to my friends at church and give thanks to God for what He had done for me. Bankole prayed for me and saw in his mind’s eye a plane taking off. Confirmation? Maybe. At homegroup, Jeff gave me “Luke 10”, which looks like this: 1. Jesus sends out the 72 – specifically the kind of mission I had in mind for my life. 2. The parable of the good Samaritan. The Samaritan interrupts his journey plans to help a man in trouble on the road. 3. Jesus at Mary and Martha’s house: “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made..” Was I distracted by the “preparations” of going to university? Had I forgotten that “few things are needed – or indeed only one”. “God is going to pour you out”, said Liz. Ok, now things were stacking up. But I still wasn’t convinced.
Later while I was praying, a verse came to my mind. “When the enemy comes in like a flood. The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him”. It was familiar to me, and probably came to me because the situation in the Philippines was like this. The worst damage, in Tacloban and Guiuan (a peninsular city in Samar), was caused by a “storm surge”, tsunami-like waves driven by the winds of the typhoon. This flood was what had taken so many Filipino lives. I looked up the verse on Bible Gateway (I couldn’t remember the reference). The translation I remembered was the the King James Version. My NIV puts is differently: “For he [the Lord] will come like a pent-up floodthat the breath of the Lord drives along” Woah. That’s exactly like the storm surge that hit Tacloban. But where was the bit about the enemy? I backed up:
According to what they have done,
so will he repay
wrath to his enemies
and retribution to his foes;
he will repay the islands their due.
From the west, people will fear the name of the Lord,
and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory.
For he will come like a pent-up flood
that the breath of the Lord drives along.
Ok, there it was. A word for the Filipino people. God’s retribution was to be in keeping with the crime. His enemies had used the storm, a flood driven by the wind, to kill and destroy. In reply, God would flood the land with revival (“a pent-up flood”) driven by the Holy Spirit (“the breath of the Lord”). “From the rising of the sun..” The sun rises every day first over the islands of the Pacific (the name of Japan, Nippon, means “the land of the rising sun”) “..They will revere his glory”. Well, that pretty much sealed it. These verses put into poetry what I’d been feeling. This storm wasn’t from God. The people killed were the poorly housed. The people who lost everything were those who already had nothing. Because of this injustice, God would repay, revive and restore what was lost. That was the moment I got a vision for what was going to happen in Leyte. I was excited about it. But what about me? Was I to go? Surely I could just stay here and pray, just as I did during the storm.
Clearly I needed a push, because the following Sunday Jarrod preached on Joshua chapter 1: “There are moments in life when a bold move is required”, he said. “Our destiny becomes paralysed when fear and anxiety start making decisions in our lives”. I sat there thinking as he spoke. Fear had come between me and the mission school. My dad’s illness. Yes it was good that I was there to support my parents, but the overriding concern was that he might not get better. My dad fully recovered. He had a triple heart bypass which was incredibly successful and put 10 years on his life. With hindsight (or perhaps foresight) I could have gone to mission school. There was one other thing. To raise the money, I would have had to sell my house, I was afraid to do it. The house needed work. I was afraid I wouldn’t get the money I needed. Jarrod brought me out of my thoughts: “Do it, take a leap!” Oh man, I thought, God is totally not telling me to stay at home. I mean, if He is, He’s doing a really bad job, right? Nothing I’m hearing is telling me to stay where I am. I know I want to do this mission, but it isn’t what I’d planned, or, I thought, what God had planned. The plan was to stick to the plan. Get the degree, Chris. Don’t be distracted. That’s what I had needed to do to get this far. Now He’s saying “ok, go”.