An entire class of first graders shooting their hands up for the salvation call – that was one of many miracles we recalled in our nightly debriefs.
Jamie* and I were a few months shy of 19, at the tail end of our very first mission trip to Cambodia. The Lord had surprised us, over and over again throughout the trip. We gave thanks for open hearts and open doors, content to return home the next day.
However, I had one question left unanswered: Would it last? One of my gripes with the Lord had been about the “sustainability” of one-off mission trips.
By day, I gave thanks for the seeds of salvation. By night, however, I was given over to doubts about whether these seeds were falling on good ground.
Would three days be sufficient to root them in the basics of faith?
What if they swerved with the winds of false doctrine, got caught in the thorns of life, or ended up walking away from the faith altogether, bereft of a human shepherd?
In my mind, these were all good, practical doubts I saw as critical thinking. I was used to the logic of project management: real impact came by way of detailed theories of change. Every action should fit in the context of a five-year plan. We needed logic models and the like to ensure comprehensive distribution of resources.
To use Bible-speak: I thought the seeds we scattered came without roots, lacking in the necessary conditions to foster depth of the faith, as in the Parable of the Sower.
How many seven-year-olds truly understood what it meant to give their lives to Jesus? While I did believe that God would bring the right mentors into their lives to build their faith, I felt we could have done better as the hands and feet on the ground.
A miracle healing for our receptionist
I talked this over with Jamie as we walked towards the lobby, our doubts echoing in the late night quiet of the hostel.
As one last hurrah for the trip, we wanted to talk to the receptionist at our accommodation.
He was young, smiling, a Cambodian fluent in English who blinked far too quickly. Soon, we found ourselves deep in the throes of conversation about religion.
He pointed to his right eye. “My vision has been blurry here for months now, and I have no idea why.”
I glanced quickly at Jamie as she rubbed her fingers quietly beneath the desk – we both knew where this was going. “Would you like us to pray for you?”
We bowed our heads in prayer and asked God, simply and sincerely, to heal our new friend. There was a warm familiarity which came into the lobby then, and I knew we were in God’s presence.
The receptionist blinked once, twice. “I can see… all of it,” he said. He had just received healing from God!
I grasped Jamie’s hand tightly, restraining my own surprise at the immediacy of it. Of course it would work!
“Tell me…. tell me more about this Jesus of yours,” said the receptionist. His smile was softer now, as his fingers went over his eyes reflexively.
He was still in wonder – as we were! What had just happened?
Over the next few hours, we shared everything we knew about Christianity.
Jamie found paper in the copier’s drawer, and together we scribbled line after line of pastors, Bible studies and sermons to look up.
We even did up our own section of frequently asked questions: how to read the Bible, where to read the Bible from, how one prays, why does one pray…
We took question after question as he nodded, scratching out his own notes in Khmer.
… in the same hour he accepted Christ, this man shared his testimony with two other friends and prayed the salvation prayer (which he translated) with them.
Here’s the part that always shocks me: in the same hour he accepted Christ, this man shared his testimony with two other friends and prayed the salvation prayer (which he translated) with them.
As he gesticulated animatedly towards his friends in Khmer, Jamie and I looked disbelievingly at each other (and let’s be real, to God). Was this really happening?
Before we knew it, it was 3am, and we were a party of five now – ten hands closed tightly in prayer, trusting the Lord for a blessed week ahead.
What’s your view of God?
Much later, when I met up with Jamie and the mission trip team in Singapore, this incident inadvertently sprung up in a game of We’re Not Really Strangers.
“Which stranger has knowingly or unknowingly changed your life?” was the question.
Immediately, I thought of this young receptionist and his hunger for the things of the Spirit.
On further reflection, though, perhaps the real stranger was God. I realised that I had boasted in my own wisdom. I limited how God could and would work with our small hands on the field. Jamie and I had been unknowing partakers in a move of God.
The funny thing is, we didn’t see any of this coming. Ironically, I had been the stranger to God’s true nature.
I was unaccustomed to the immeasurable length, width, depth and height of His power and love.
A.W. Tozer says a high view of God is the solution to ten thousand temporal problems. What’s my view of God?
Sometimes, it still feels like a thousand veils of doubt winding in and out of my sight. Sometimes, it seems like a game of pass the parcel – each experience a new participant unfolding the infinite layers of His being.
Maybe that analogy hits too close to home, though. Too often, we grow bored with the layers of God we do discover. We end up casting them away like old newspapers in favour of something fresh, vivid, new – something that makes us feel.
His mercies are new every morning. But really, what is precious and perfect are His mercies – period. Mercies past, present and future.
We cannot architect salvation. We cannot author healing. We cannot logic the how, when and why of a miracle.
Such formulas are palatable to our human mind, which strains to conceive of realities within our control – a world in which we flip switches and captain the course of our lives. Yet it is never our striving that causes God to send heaven’s rain down to earth.
2 Corinthians 12:9 says it all too plainly: ““My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Surrender is our portion and gift. How paradoxical it is, that we are strongest on our knees in complete surrender before our Heavenly Father.
In all seasons of life, what would happen if we chose to let go and let God astound? Let Jehovah Jireh do what He does best: provide.
* This name has been changed for confidentiality.