“Hey, Randy! We just got a call for a medical evacuation.” The flight coordinator told me the location.
A bunch of thoughts ran through my mind about the nature of the emergency, the urgency of the injury, weather conditions, the amount of fuel in the aircraft, the duration of daylight remaining, the known airstrip condition and what I might find at the destination.
“How soon can you get there?” I quickly calculated flight times and the required fuel. I gave him an ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival). “Lord, please keep the weather open along the way and give me wisdom in the decisions.”
Flying over the beautiful peaks and valleys of the mountainous terrain, my destination appeared next to a group of grass huts as a smooth sloped patch of grassy green carved out of the side of a rugged mountain. The water gushed through the deep river valley below. I could see no sign of conflict on the ground. “Lord, please help me to see what I need to see. Give good judgment and safety in landing.”
The steep runway appeared clear of people, dogs, chickens, logs and any obvious soil erosion. I turned to final approach over the river and landed up the hill. I had to add power to taxi up the 10% slope to the parking bay.
I shut off the engine, climbed out of the aircraft and began preparing the cabin. Should we use a back board to load him into the aircraft? Is he able to walk or is he unconscious? How should I configure the cabin? There would be a guardian. Would a nurse be coming, too?
As I walked over to the patient I quickly realized there was a transportation problem. The patient had a five foot long arrow protruding about two feet from both the front and the back of his chest. He could not lay on his back. Laying on his side, the long arrow would prevent the cargo door from closing. He could not sit up in the aircraft and lean against the back of the seat. “Lord, please give wisdom and direction.” “What should I do?”
This is a story about something that happened years ago but I have lived there long enough to know that my co-workers continue to face similarly challenging circumstances. As they pray through their circumstances they would appreciate your prayer for them.
It has been said that the only step you can take by faith is the next step. Walking by faith has many faces but only one adequate object. We place our faith in God while we walk by faith through our circumstances.
Elizabeth Elliot wrote, ““Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.” (A Chance to Die)
Missionaries often face decisions during a day which affect the physical and spiritual well-being of the people they serve. Sometimes those are life and death decisions. Occasionally it is to diffuse a volatile situation. Once in a while it is stopping the flow of someone’s life blood while calling for medical help. In each of those decisions they need to turn to the Lord to give wisdom and to breathe life in their decisions. When they ask you to pray it is not a casual thing. It’s not one of those type of things where you say, “Oh, yeah! Call me someday when you get a chance!”
There are many situations which brought us to our knees for our co-workers.
- Families missing on a remote river en route to their jungle home.
- An angry tribesman swinging an axe at the water supply tank and house support posts while an isolated missionary family reported from inside.
- People missing at sea.
- Serious injury or grave illness at dark with no possibility of help until morning.
- Missionary families culturally locked out of their own homes by opponents of the Gospel.
- A vehicle full of people rolled down the side of a steep mountain.
- Tribal conflicts in process around a missionary’s home.
- The presentation of God’s Word was about to begin for the first time in an new language.
In the past God has placed some faithful prayer partners in our lives. They have had more of an impact than they may ever know. Some of them have told me, “I pray for you every day.” Only God knows how much He has worked through their prayers to accomplish His purposes in my life and in the lives of the people I served. Looking back I can see a lot of God’s answers to prayer.
God may change everything when we ask Him in prayer. Not that prayer changes anything but that God may change us or our circumstances when we pray. The glory belongs to God alone. He will not be manipulated. God alone holds the power, but He often chooses to work through the prayers of His people so that we may see His glory.
When we pray we tend to watch to see what He will do. How exciting to live a life of faith: believing that God will do what He has said He will do, asking Him to do it, working to join Him in it and then seeing what He has done!
People who have not learned to walk in Christ’s love hurt each other. Intentionally. Basic medical care is absent. To varying degrees medical work is a necessary part of missionary life; working with and loving people. I have heard from isolated missionaries who were assisting with difficult baby deliveries, sewing up machete slashes, treating communities in the midst of epidemics, trying to introduce peace in a local fight or looking for wisdom to satisfy an unsettled neighbor whose cultural practice of getting what he wants is to shout murderous threats while swinging a machete.
Is it any wonder that we have opposition in fighting the adversary of our souls? We have had times when we were up every night to thwart burglars. Sometimes we were ill with tropical diseases for long periods. Many other times we were just trying to peacefully resolve logistical and mechanical problems to continue serving others. In each of those circumstances we needed God’s intervention in our lives to bring about an outcome which would allow the work to continue and people to know Him.
In the context of Jesus as the vine, His followers as the branches and the Father as the gardener with the pruning shears, Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can you, except you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)
That constant attitude of dependence and petition while working out our faith is what we desire to practice. As a team we must continually cultivate an attitude of relating to our source of life to accomplish anything of eternal value.
I prayed as I looked at the protruding arrow and considered solutions.
“What if I cut the arrow shorter?” The barbs carved in the arrow were to prevent pushing it through. I could see that any movement caused him a great deal of pain. I did not have good tools to cut the arrow. Moving the arrow in any way might open the injury, nick an artery or cause internal bleeding and death en route. “What should I do?” Again I asked the Lord for a solution.
I removed the front passenger seat and the seat behind it, leaving the third seat. The patient sat belted on the floor and his guardian supported him from the seat behind for the half hour flight to the hospital. The aircraft was his only hope and I was the driver so I had to keep it together to transport him to where there was help.
My story runs the risk of giving the impression that every day on the mission field is adventurous, challenging and dangerous. While unusual circumstances might be more common because of what we are trying to accomplish, my flight logbook has a lot of days of hopping from place to place without any exciting notes. Most days are not very exciting and require persevering through the mundane.
Missionaries also need prayer in those days when they are persevering through seemingly endless days of language and culture study, wondering if it will be worth the late nights, the early mornings, the lack of privacy, the challenge of an unfamiliar environment and an uncomfortable climate. The pressures of normal living in difficult circumstances with limited resources while trying to accomplish something significant can be crushing. This is when they must apply 1 Cornithians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
Will you pray for the missionaries you know today?