Friday, August 9, 2013

With Dmitry's Example before Us...

     Sometimes the inexplicable happens.
     The "this-wasn't-supposed-to-happen" does.
      Right now I am in a hotel room, two and a half hours away from home. My husband is sitting in an all-day training session about a mile away,wearing a back brace (that we bought last night) and relying on Aleve (which we bought last night)  to help him make it through the day.  This morning, as I pulled his sock onto his right foot, he joked that this hadn't been done for him in 50 years. When I helped him with his shoe, he joked that "he could get used to this."  But I know he just wants to quit hurting and the humor was his way of handling a difficult situation.
      This started Wed. evening, right before we left for a 4 day workshop that we had decided to turn into a mini-vacation.   His company will pay for Thursday night and for Monday night in the hotel.  So we added 4 nights on our own tab and decided we would relax in the evenings and perhaps do a bit of sight-seeing over the weekend.
      By last night, we had scaled our plans back considerably.  After our second night of intermittent sleep, this morning I broached the possibility of finding a clinic.   He told me this has happened  before and it will get better. But I don't ever remember helping him with his socks before.
      When I first realized he was in trouble and that it wasn't going away, I did what I always do: I asked friends to pray.
     And I know people are praying, for which I am grateful.
     I'm also thinking that maybe this is why God is able to teach us through all this.
     When we left home, in the providence of God, I was about 3/4ths of the way through a book called, The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken.   It is an interesting book and I highly recommend it.  The author writes about serving in Somali land around the time of the Black Hawk Down event.  Somalia was in chaos at that time,  people were starving in record numbers, and evil was visible on a scale that Ripken had never encountered before.  They ministered among some of the worst conditions the world had ever seen, gave it their all, and then.... their sixteen year old son died.
      Yes.  They buried part of their heart in Africa literally, before returning home, spiritually battered and broken.
     It's just not supposed to happen like this,is it?
     Go to one of the worst places on the planet and then, after years of sacrificial living, lose one of your children????  What kind of a God would allow that????
     So the Ripkens licked their wounds, tried to recoup, and wondered.
     Had they even accomplished anything in Somali land?
     On one level, they had accomplished much.  They had fed tens of thousands of people daily and that is no small thing.
    On another level - the most important one - they had accomplished either not much or maybe nothing. They had not shared the Gospel.     How do you witness to people when the four believers you just had communion with are assassinated one morning, each taken out on their way to work by their own individual assassin - all killed at the same time during an obviously coordinated attack?
    So?  What about non-believers???   Do you tell them about Jesus and then watch them get killed before they even come to faith?  In places like Somalia, that is a real possibility.  What do you do???
    In an ironic twist, as the Ripkens were preparing to bury their beloved son in Kenya, their home base at that time, a Somalian co-worker, a devout Muslim, walked and hitchhiked hundreds of miles in a five day period simply to be with them for the funeral.  When Nik opened the door, to his astonishment, there was his co-laborer and sweet friend who simply said, "I have come to bury our son."  The man was worn out, just wearing the clothes on his back, but he had made it  in time for the funeral.  The Ripkens were so touched that they had him sit between them at the funeral.
    Afterwards, when they were back in Somalia  - Nik to wrap things up there before heading to the states - this  wonderful Muslim man told the other office workers that there was something he did not understand about the funeral.  The people at the funeral were sad, which he got, of course.  But they were also able to rejoice in the certainty of where the boy was now living. They knew where the boy had gone,they knew he was in Heaven.
    This amazing man asked Nik point blank,  in front of all his other Muslim co-workers,  how it was that Christians know where their deceased go and yet they have not shared this news with their Muslim friends???
    Here was an open door to sharing the Gospel.... only it came just as the Ripkens were having to pull out of the country permanently.   (They were having to leave because of circumstances within the country which made their organization no longer viable).
   It's just not supposed to happen like that!!!
   So the Ripkens wrestled with deep questions.  Can you take the Gospel to hostile places like Somalia, places where there is basically no law and no freedom?     Can faith even survive in a place like that, where you take communion one day (in secret) and a few days later you are picked off by carefully staged assassins?   And is there more than a touch of insanity in God's command to go into all the world to make disciples, all the world including places like Somali land????
    In order to find answers to their questions, the Ripkens decided to systematically talk to believers from countries where persecution had been rife.  They came up with a list of over 40 countries and decided to interview people from as many of those  countries as possible.   Their plan was to try first of all to visit each  and every country and do the interviews on location if possible. However, if they couldn't gain  access into the country, then the fallback plan was to  interview people who had moved out of country.
    They started with the former USSR  - entering Russia not too long after the collapse of communism.  And that's really where the book got my complete and total attention.  They got to interview a man named Dmitry and I wish I could tell you his whole story but I couldn't do justice to it.  However, I promise that if you get the book and read his story as well as the others, you will be blessed.
    The main thing that I got from Dmtry's testimony was this: two things enabled him to keep his faith during 17 years of imprisonment.  Okay.  Seventeen years??  Of imprisonment??  That got my attention!
     What were these two faith-strengthening things?
      The first was a practice Dmitry learned as a little child.  His father taught him to get up at dawn, stand at attention, face the East, and sing a heart song of love directly to God.  In prison, he continued to do that every morning - even though it was  NOT popular with his prison mates.  And he believed that helped him keep his faith alive  in the midst of terrible trials.  Ya reckon???
     The other thing was that whenever he found a bit of paper and some charcoal or a pencil stub, he would write down every Scripture verse, every Bible story,and every hymn that he could remember.  Then he would place that piece of paper on top of a  concrete column in his cell, the highest place he could reach, as an offering to God.  He would leave it there until the guards found it, at which time he would be beaten.  But the next time he found a piece of paper, he would do the same thing again. Writing down verses and hymns, placing them on top of that column, and then standing back respectfully, his offering of praise and sacrifice there for His Lord and King.
      Wow!  Okay!  I got that!  Stand at attention first thing in the morning, face the rising sun, and sing directly to my King and Savior.  So I tried that yesterday morning. To my surprise, I couldn't sing my favorite hymns from memory.I could only sing snatches of them.   Hmmm...
       Guess what?? Yesterday I went to Lifeway Christian book store and bought a 13.00 hymnal. This morning I was standing at the window, facing the sun,singing a hymn.  (I don't know if God is insane but I kinda hope He's tune deaf... JK).
      Which leads to the next thing.  Wherever I go, I have my Bible and some index cards.  Thankfully, I don't have to grub around in the dirt when the guards aren't looking, to try to find a bit of charcoal and a remnant of a piece of paper.   I have a habit of  writing  out verses on these cards from time to time, thinking I  will memorize the passages later. Sometimes I do get around to memorizing them but I have to admit that I've written out far  more verses than I've ever committed to memory.  Still, just writing them out has often proven to be a blessing. Now, I plan to make that part of my daily routine as well.
      So what about a vacation-turned into something that is not a vacation?
      What about pain when we expected pleasure?  Tension-filled days, sleepless nights, and worry when everyone had told us (and we had agreed!) that we needed a break!
      Well,clearly, this is not the break we had in mind /=       But after reading about Dmitry and his 17 years in prison, I don't think we'll be complaining any time soon!  Would you??
      Instead, we'll be standing at the window (it doesn't hurt so much when Phil stands still...ha!), singing off-key:   "Blessed be the name of the Lord..."
       And  we'll be writing down some lyrics or verses from memory which means we'll be intentionally memorizing the whole lyrics to our favorite hymns, God helping us.
      With Dmitry's example before us, how could we do otherwise?

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