His Ways are Beyond Understanding

I came to Botswana to be part of a Bible translation workshop. I’m here to work with four language groups in learning translation principles and getting God’s Word into their languages. And we’ve had a pretty amazing time doing just that. God has given us strength to persevere through set-backs; He’s answered prayers for healing and health; He’s grown the understanding and desire of translators to get the job done; and on Saturday evening we celebrated the completion of four New Testament books into one language, portions of the gospels in two others and a series of 25 Bible stories into another! That’s a lot to complete in just eight days! I was ecstatic as we celebrated God’s goodness and getting to be part of His Word “running to the nations.”

Sunday was our day off. We had accomplished what we came for, and we were going to rest and enjoy God’s creation on this day. Several of our team decided to hike up a rocky hill in the area that offers a beautiful view of the city. Although I am usually an adventurer, I just didn’t feel up for the climb and decided to decline.  So three of us, Tony, Celma and I, decided to visit a game reserve here in Gaborone instead. We had spent about an hour in the park, enjoying some amazing animals and nature vistas, when our driver pointed beyond the fence and said, “What’s that?”

Looking over, we immediately saw a person lying in the dirt. He was on the other side of the fence that surrounded the reserve. We called to him and honked our horn but got no response.

Without actually making a plan or even knowing what we were doing, we all got out of the car and walked over to the fence, shouting and whistling to try to get a response from him. None of us felt like we could leave without making sure he was all right, but we weren’t sure how we would get to him since the fence was rather high had what looked like electrical wires running along the top of it. Tony commented, “This is why we aren’t on that hike today. God sent us here.” With that realization, we began to discuss getting over or around the fence. Celma pointed to the bottom of the fence where the dirt was soft. “I think we can lift this enough for someone to get through.” That was the extent of our planning. Without any more conversation, three people began to pull up the fencing and I wriggled underneath, avoiding as much as I could the thorns and briars that littered the soft earth beneath me. Picking thorns from my hands and dusting off my jeans I headed over to the crumpled form. I kept wondering what I was supposed to do. What if he were dead? Is it weird to not want to touch a dead person? I wondered.

Bending over him, I shook his shoulder and spoke firmly, trying to wake him up. No response. His should was bony and completely slack. Everything about him seemed emaciated. I stood up and called to the others, “He’s gone.” But as I called out, I saw him tremble. Bending over him I spoke again and with a sudden start he pulled himself into a crumpled sitting position! He was young, maybe early 20s. And he was so week he could hardly move. I started feeling for his pulse and looking for signs of disease, trauma, or injury. I couldn’t even get a pulse neither in his wrists or along his neck. I couldn’t smell any alcohol on him, or see any signs of trauma, no bruises, broken bones or abrasions. I started talking to him, not sure he could even understand me, as he was completely unresponsive. The one obvious problem was that he was very dehydrated. Thankfully we had one full water bottle still with us. So the driver managed to get under the fence and bring me the water bottle while he called the police.

I knelt over him and tried to hold the water to his lips, just thinking maybe a few drops would drip into his mouth. But when he felt the bottle against his lip, he jerked his head so he could receive the water and swallowed. It was only after he drank the whole bottle of water, that I was able to get a pulse. It was weak. His chest barely moved as he took air in. But I began to think he might live!

For some reason, I can only define as God giving me direction, I kept thinking about how human touch has a healing effect. So I pulled his head into my lap and began to gently rub his head and cheeks, running my hand down his arm and telling him how much God loves him. He did not seem to have the awareness to want to live, so I kept telling him, “God made you and you are precious to him. He loves you so much he sent us to help you so you would not die here alone. You need to want to live, because God wants you to live. God loves you so much he sent Jesus his only Son for you. You need to live so you can hear about that….” etc.etc. And even though I don’t usually cry in crisis, tears streamed down my face. I sat cradling his head on my knee, and cried His Father’s tears over him.

Getting help for this man proved to be a long and tedious process, with many other obvious movements of God’s hand through us. Eventually he was able to be treated at the hospital. I found out today when I called to check on him, that he has mental disabilities and likely had wondered off without his family knowing it.  After being treated at the hospital, he was released to his sister.

Now I know within myself, I’m not a typically merciful or compassionate person. I don’t mean I can’t be kind. It’s just that I would prefer not to touch sick people. I don’t find myself running toward ministries or needs that might get gross or germy. But God gave me the gift of his mercy right at the point where I needed it.

As I reflect on this crazy experience I see how God moved in our little team of three to work together without even having to make decisions or define roles. We all felt a sudden and certain empowerment from God to do exactly the one next thing.  We came to Botswana with a plan to work on Bible translation for the tribal languages of this country. And God graciously provided for us to do that. But when we thought we were finished, God had more, more of himself to give, more of us to mold, more lives to touch with his love. I stand in awe of Him. His ways are truly beyond understanding!

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