Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

The faith part of Faith-based Organizations

I’m probably biased when I say that missionaries seem to experience God’s providence in more practical ways than Christians who are not involved in spiritual work of that nature. Or possibly it’s not only missionaries, but anyone part of faith-based organizations where they have to rely on the goodwill of people for the daily running of their organization.
I recently had an experience that still gives me gooseflesh when I tell others about it. We have a client in Swaziland who hurt his leg in 1993. What started as a small sore on his leg, developed into a massive sore which just became progressively worse over time. In 2008 we had a volunteer, Tim Deller, from Milwaukee, who worked with us. Through one of our caregivers, Tim met up with this man. You can read about Tim’s first gruesome encounter with John and his leg by going to http://swazilandexperience.wordpress.com/2008/03/07/7-march-2008/ and then scrolling down to: “My New Friend Johane.” By the time Tim left, the size of the sore had drastically reduced and it seemed that it was merely a matter of time before the leg would be fully healed. But then, when Tim returned to Swaziland for a visit in 2009, he found that the sore had become much larger. His report on this visit can be read at http://swazilandexperience.wordpress.com/2009/08/03/3-august-2009/
At the moment we are fortunate that we have a young pharmacist who is working as a volunteer with us in Swaziland and I asked her to make John’s leg a priority. By the time she leaves Swaziland at the end of the year, I want John’s leg to be healed fully. We arranged with a nearby pharmacy to give her the medication she needed and she has now visited him a number of times to clean and dress the wound. There is one problem however: the dressing is extremely expensive. It is costing us around R75 ($10) for a single dressing (and one dressing is too small for the wound at this stage) which needs to be changed twice a week.
While I was recently in Fresno, California, we had a reunion of a team from Fresno that had visited Swaziland in July 2009. One of the team members arrived with two bags which she left in a room with the request that I check the contents and take whatever I needed. One of the other team members works at a pharmacy in Fresno and I asked her whether their pharmacy by any chance sold the product we use for John’s leg. I was hoping that we might be able to get the product in the USA at a more affordable price. I had the name of the company manufacturing the product as well as the precise item name, but because it was produced by a British company, it is not commonly distributed in the USA and she could not help us, save for trying to get the name of an equivalent product produced in the USA. (A bit of a disappointment!)
After the visitors had left, I opened the bags that had been left there. The larger part of the contents was too sophisticated for our caregivers to use, but I then opened the other bag and – you’ve guessed it – I found a bunch of the dressings that we use in Swaziland, the exact British company name and the exact item. It honestly didn’t even cross my mind to pray about this. God had provided in our needs even before we thought about praying about this.
Sceptics  may say it’s coincidence. I know it’s not coincidence. Statistically it would be hard to convince anyone that this had been merely coincidence. A product that’s not manufactured in the USA and not distributed in pharmacies in the USA, dropped at the exact location where I’m staying at exactly the time when we were trying (unsuccessfully) to source the product in the USA (and the person who had dropped the bags had NO idea that we needed that specific product. But furthermore, the fact that this is not the first time that we’ve experienced this type of thing happening, shows us that God really cares about the work we are doing amongst the people with serious health conditions, including HIV and AIDS, in Swaziland.
In more affluent societies people spread the word of their needs and others respond. Working within poverty-stricken areas, people tend to be more focused on God’s provision. I am not a man of “great faith”. Often I feel like the father of the boy possessed by evil spirits of whom me read in Mark 9:17-27 who said to Jesus:  “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” But each time something like this happens, then it helps me a bit further on the road of overcoming my unbelief.

Monday, February 8, 2010 - Posted by | AIDS, Cross-cultural experiences, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Mission, Poverty, Prayer, Swaziland, Theology


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    Comment by Sipey | Monday, February 8, 2010 | Reply

  2. I’n not too sure it has anything to do with affluence or lack. It has more to do with expectation.

    In the mid seventies I was asked to write up the story of an indigenous work in Indonesia. I traveled, slept, ate with Indonesians. The few missionaries I came across couldn’t figure out who I was. As I was researching, I would continually hear how God had provided and answered prayer. I went back and asked a couple of missionaries who were there about some of these things and they got all excited. I thought this rather odd. Why would the local people just casually tell what had happened and the missionaries get so excited? So I went back to the local people and asked them. Did these things happen? Yes, they told me. Why aren’t you excited, etc.? Their response, “Isn’t this the way God works?”

    It is easy for us to talk about God answering prayers, even telling about how he has, and quite an other to believe and expect Him to respond to our needs. Maybe the reason we don’t see Him work in our lives more is we simply don’t expect Him to respond or “we want to do it ourself.” When up against the wall, without any answers or resources, it is quite a different story.

    Ken & Maggie

    Comment by millionmilejourney | Monday, February 8, 2010 | Reply

  3. Thanks so much for sharing that story. I appreciate it.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Monday, February 8, 2010 | Reply

  4. In 1977 I was working in the Anglican Diocese of Zululand, based in Utrecht, where most of our congregation had been removed by ethnic cleansing, and most of the remaining ones were very poor farm labourers. We had a bakkie to travel, but it broke down. We limped in to Vryheid and they said the exhaust valves had burnt out, and it would cost about R400.00 to fix it. At that time my stipend was R120 a month, so there was no way it could be done. I wrote to the office in Eshowe to say that I would not be able to make it to a course I was supposed to be teaching at Melmoth later in the month, because there was no transport.

    Then I got a phone call from Eshowe saying the Lord had provided. My letter had been misdelivered by the post office, and instead of delivering it to the Diocese of Zululand (Anglican) they had delivered it to the Diocese of Eshowe (Roman Catholic). Their secretary opened my letter and read it. The next letter he opened was from someone sending him a cheque for R500 to be used for a worthy cause at his discretion. So he passed it along with my letter to the office of the Diocese of Zululand.

    Comment by Steve | Monday, February 8, 2010 | Reply

  5. Steve, thanks for sharing that story. I sincerely hope that this link will be used to share more similar stories – small ways in which God provided, sometimes without even praying, but knowing that it could not have been any other than God that had come to the rescue.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Monday, February 8, 2010 | Reply

  6. I’ve been thinking about writing about this story on my blog. . .

    As I drive to work every day I look for a little red hawk that sits on a dead tree or street light. I spotted him on the way to work about 6 months ago, and after I spotted him I started looking for him every time I’m on that particular part of my drive to work. After seeing him a few times, I began to expect to see him. Because I expect to see him, I often do.

    Isn’t that how it works in seeing God’s miracles? If we look we see them. Once we see them, we expect them, and then see them more.


    Comment by Wendi | Tuesday, February 9, 2010 | Reply

  7. When I wrote the above comment it was 3:30 AM. Often I am awaken in the middle of the night to pray for someone in the world. I will know their need. In the still of the night I was communicating with one missionary in Uganda and another in N. Ireland who has a ministry in Africa. I came across your blog. I feel so ignorant of the people of the world. I knew where Swaziland is but nothing of the plight they are facing. I can not help but believe that Jesus Christ walks that land through the hands and feet of the faithful. The God I know will never turn his back on them. Tears of compassion and love run down my cheeks as I pray. It is not presumptuous to believe that as God’s heart breaks with the suffering he will respond with love. “Lord, hear the cries of your people.”

    Ken & Maggie
    “Going before God on behalf of others”

    Comment by millionmilejourney | Tuesday, February 9, 2010 | Reply

  8. God works in ways that we cannot see, he always makes a way for you and for me…….. Ephesians 3 v 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us” knowing He knows our thoughts, our words before we speak, our hearts as we reach out to others with His love……. believing in a God of mercy grace and love is how it should be, nothing is too difficult for Him, we just have to Believe. Touched and blessed by your article, let it reach others and encourage.

    Comment by mandy clarke | Tuesday, February 9, 2010 | Reply

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