The Weak Things And His Amazing Ways

The plane is over an hour late, which probably wouldn’t bother me if it weren’t on the end of a 30-hour around-the-world trip from Milwaukee, USA to Goroka, PNG. And I know, it isn’t over yet. As I walk across the tarmac to the porch where I’ll claim my carry-on, I try to imagine the three-hour journey ahead of me into the mountains by Land Rover, over rough, pot-holed, dangerous roads. But at least for that part of the journey I will have company. I smile and wave as I glimpse Brad’s face through the exit gate. I’ve never met him before, but he’s easy to spot, being the only white guy in the crowd. It doesn’t hurt that his six-foot-five-inch frame towers over everyone else. Brad and I have worked together remotely before, but this is our first time to meet face to face. I know we are kindred spirits. I’m bursting with anticipation as we climb into the Land Rover, together with Vincent our national partner and his cousin.

It doesn’t take long for Brad update me on the tense situation at the translation training workshop, or in the region surrounding the center where our team is working. I’ve seen the e-mails about tribal warfare–I know about the violence within the tribe, and that translators from both sides are sitting together at the workshop, translating God’s Word. As Brad fills me in, these facts are suddenly cast in a personal light. Translators whose hearts are stopped by simultaneous phone calls, reporting burned out houses and injured family members! But they aren’t stopping the work. Instead they are forging ahead furiously, attempting to complete the gospel of Mark.

Brad explains  their plan. “A few of us are going into the villages tomorrow, with the pastors. We’re taking the book of Mark with us. The pastors are each going to beg their villages to stop the violence. They are going to show their people the work done so far on the translation, and remind them, of what’s truly important.”

Something clicks inside me. “What time do we leave tomorrow morning?” I ask with a sly smile. “You know I need to go with, right?”

I don’t have any idea what I’m getting into. But I am certain that if God wants me to go, then he is going before, “making the crooked places straight.” I’m not afraid. And I don’t have any expectations. I am not even sure what my purpose in going would be.  What I do know is that it will take clear direction from God himself for me to be part of this expedition. I’m a white woman in a foreign land. I know the culture cards are stacked against me on every side. But I don’t have any inclination to fight against that. I know God can handle that if he wants me to go.

I’m actually surprised and elated when Brad approaches me at nine the next morning, to say, “You’re in. The tribal pastors have agreed to have you come along!”

“What!” I exclaim, glancing down at my skirt and white blouse. I had just prepared for a day at the training center. “I’m going?” That’s when I start praying for real. Not because I’m scared. But because I realize I have no idea what I’m doing. Why would I be going? Why did God open this door? What does he have for me?

Another God-surprise. Another divine adventure! I’m in…all in. A rigorous two-hour drive, and we arrive in the village. Warriors patrol the entrance, carrying homemade guns, machetes, and bows and arrows. Children run in the open area playing and women sit as if expecting us on grassy spots around the village center.  Surreal. That’s how I would describe the day. I spent most of it praying for God to give me clarity of thought and wisdom in my actions. Total dependence. Total trust. That’s how I felt. And that’s what I experienced, as the Holy Spirit worked in our midst.

Peace. God’s children are called to peace. He loves us too much to let us fight it out in the dirt and grime of this physical world alone. He paid the ultimate price for peace. That was the message shared by several pastors and members of our team. And that was the message received by all. So that peace did reign–God’s peace ending the tribal fighting right before our very eyes.

Weeks later, back at home in my office, I’m still mystified by how God uses “the weak things of this world to confound the wise.” I’m overwhelmed and overjoyed to be one of those “weak things.” I have witnessed God’s grace and presence in ways beyond my comprehension. I have been part of comforting women, holding their babies, eating yams cooked over their fires, standing over burned out houses, praying with the widow of a pastor whose death started the violence, and receiving hand-made gifts from them. I am undone by God’s power among his children.

This experience, more than anything has affirmed for me the miracle of oneness that God intends for his children. We went into that volatile, dangerous situation, not to exert any influence of our own—based on the world’s standards of class, race, or status—but as a simple act of obedience to our Father, to stand together as family—his family. We weren’t there with anything else to offer.

I have had the privilege of helping to start dozens of translation projects in dark and forgotten places of the world. Those experiences are all precious to me, as God has revealed more of Himself with each door of opportunity that he has opened. Perhaps that, more than anything else, is why I treasure the two-week workshop in the Papua New Guinea Highlands this summer. God delights to surprise us, to stretch us, to amazing us. And that is what he did for all of us as we watched him work among His people of varying cultures, and environments. We were challenged. We were broken. We were poured out. We were filled up. We were undone. We were empowered. We were brought face to face with His glory.

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