Thursday, February 12, 2015

"Lord, give us souls!"

It's not like I hadn't prayed that prayer nearly every day for the last ten
years. There was a new note of desperation in my voice that morning,
though. I thought of all of you back home, supporting the work among the
Tawbuid through prayer, finances, and encouragement. It seemed like I had
so little to show you for all that you have faithfully and lovingly

"Lord, I know that my work here has not been a waste. Many lives have been
saved, people who would have died before they got to medical care. I've
relieved the suffering of multitudes more. The rubber tree livelihood
project that I helped to start has taken off, and hundreds of Tawbuid will
soon have a reliable income source. More importantly, the home church here
in Balangabong is much healthier than when I arrived. We even have a small
core group of believers who are on fire for You, and earnestly desire to
reach their people. But Lord, no matter what we do, we can't find souls
willing to listen and be saved! As one of my teachers used to say, it seems
like I'm just making healthy sinners."

I think the Lord answered that prayer with a, "Yes." I think so because the
next day the problems started. My health, which had been fairly good for a
change, suddenly broke again. Eddie, the shaman whom I have been treating,
and who was getting better, suddenly got worse again. I heard news that he
was trying to have an affair, and had relapsed into his old ways. We warned
him that his actions were the reason for his relapse, yet he started to
gossip about how we were powerless to heal his sickness.

Now my Dad taught me a lot of valuable lessons growing up. One that stuck
particularly deep, though, was that whenever we run into lots of problems we
should perk up and press forward. If Satan is fighting hard it means that
something good is about to happen and He is trying to stop it.

With that in mind, I went back to my knees and began praying even more.
"Lord, help us! Everything seems to be falling apart! Every time we get a
foot in the door somewhere Satan slams it shut in our faces. Lord, bind
Satan's power!"

The Lord answered that prayer too. Sure enough, we started getting pounded
with more problems. My health grew steadily worse. I couldn't sleep at
night anymore. My highland patient, Benson, started acting strange. He was
my pride and joy, a man whom I had worked and prayed since I first arrived
here. He was the first highlander to profess faith. One day, though, when
I mentioned that we were starting a baptismal class for those interested in
joining the church, he froze. No, he did more than freeze. He got
positively angry! He and I and one of our church elders sat up till nearly
midnight talking. It turns out that Eddie had been making secret visits to
Benson, planting seeds of resentment, and trying to get Benson to come back
to him. One of the children in the house overheard the conversation.

"How are you doing?" Eddie asked.

"I'm doing much better, though my back still hurts a bit," Benson replied.

"Oh, after all this time, your back still hurts?" Eddie said. "Yeah,
Brother John can't heal me either. Well, is he giving you everything that
you ask for?"

"Oh," Benson said. "He's bought me clothes, and a watch so that I would
know what time to take my medicines."

"That's all," Eddie replied. "He isn't buying you fish to eat and a cell
phone to play with and a radio to keep you entertained? If only you were
living with me again, I would take care of you."

We tried to help Benson see what Eddie was doing to him. We explained that
he would certainly die if he quit his medicines now and went to live with
Eddie. We reminded him that Eddie hadn't been able to heal him, or even
feed him for that matter. That was why he came to live with us. And he had
made a dramatic recovery in the five months that he had been under my

But Benson's mind was made up, he wouldn't reconsider. The only option that
we had left was to go talk to Eddie. The next day we met with Eddie and
Benson together. Eddie claimed that we were to blame for all of their
problems. He insisted that Benson come live with him to act as his servant
until Benson died. Benson sat loyally next to Eddie and agreed to
everything he said. I couldn't wrap my mind around what kind of power Eddie
had over a person that he would willingly go to his death just to fetch
water and cook for the man. I also couldn't fathom the selfishness of a man
who would command another man to lay down his life for such a simple reason.
I decided that there had to be other powers at work here.

After several hours of reasoning with Eddie and Benson, we concluded that it
was hopeless. As we made our final remarks, however, and prepared to leave,
a sudden change came over the whole group. Eddie suddenly sat up and said,
"Well wait a minute, if you will let Benson come and visit me every once in
a while, I don't mind if he stays in Balangabong and continues his

We were all shocked. One of my elders was more on the ball than I. He
realized that God had broken Satan's hold on Eddie and cleared his mind.
Jumping at the opportunity he asked permission to come hold church services
on Sabbath and build a church building. Eddie gladly agreed, only asking
that we wait a couple of months to build a church as he was about to move.

God had begun to break Satan's reign. We praised Him all the way home, and
asked that He would not let Satan take the ground back. We begged that He
would advance His kingdom even further, that He would give us more souls.

God answered our prayer. Within a couple of days we were inundated with
more problems. Our baptismal studies were going well. Besides hordes of
kids, we had two adults who were committed and faithful. One of them was
the young man you read about last month. They soaked up the teaching and
were nearly ready for baptism.

Then, Satan struck back. The sun was just setting on Sabbath afternoon when
Maribel, the other baptismal candidate, came asking for help. She was nine
months pregnant and feeling terrible. I found that her blood pressure was
through the roof. That began a two week marathon of emergency patients in
the middle of the night. Before it was through I had taken Maribel to the
ER twice, Benson once, Eddie once, and several other patients besides.
Almost every time the emergency happened in the middle of the night.

With all the lack of sleep my health got steadily worse. It got to where I
couldn't fall asleep at night because I couldn't stop coughing. Myriads of
other small problems piled up, too numerous and trivial to mention, but
contributing to my exhaustion nonetheless. My two baptismal candidates
pulled through the persecution, however, and I didn't lose a single patient.
God kept waking me up every morning, and He kept working through me.

It was right as the baptismal studies finished that the well drill arrived.
I have told many of you in person, or through writing, about how bad the
water situation is here. Last summer, the Carolina Conference Camp Meeting
raised sufficient funds for us to purchase a locally made well drill.
Praise God! In one day the machine drilled deeper than three months of
digging and pounding had reached last year. We hit an abundant supply of
water at one hundred twenty feet. And that's when we heard about Layaban.

Layaban is the next village over from ours. It is populated entirely by
members of a local variety of the church of Satan. We have been tried
repeatedly to enter the village, and even put it in our five year plan to
start church planting there this past January. We had not been able to make
any inroads, though. Then, just as we struck water, one of our members came
back from a visit to Layaban and reported excitedly that the local leader of
their cult had been thrown in jail, and the whole village was in turmoil.
Now was our chance.

Though I had been trying, unsuccessfully, for months to recruit people to
conduct Bible studies in Layaban, in just days three people committed. I
had also been trying since the end of 2014 to train people to conduct what
are called Discover Bible Studies, which are simple inductive and
chronological Bible studies. No one had been interested before, but now the
church was asking me how to do Bible studies. Within a week my three
teachers had turned into eight, and the people in Layaban were soaking it
up. We praised God and pushed forward, begging that He would keep Satan
from again closing the doors.

He answered our prayers. We were again deluged with problems. The well
drilling came to a standstill. First the hole collapsed. Then we found
that we needed another part that had to be ordered from Manila. Three days
later it arrived but the electricity was off in town so we couldn't weld the
part so that we could use it. Then the tire on the truck blew out. I hurt
my back so badly that I couldn't sit down, and had to spend most of the day
on my bed. Then my visa ran out and I had to pull an all-nighter to get it
renewed and pick up some more parts that we couldn't get on the island.
Then the engine wouldn't start. Then the water pump plugged up. All
through this time the people in the village have been sabotaging the water
hose we're using to lubricate the drill and wash out the cuttings.

And that brings us to today. No, nothing new and dramatic has happened.
Not yet at least. It has taken me six hours to write this because I keep
having to stop and fix the hose where yet another person has cut it open.
The well drill has only been able to run for about three hours as a result.
One of my patients had a nervous breakdown about nine o'clock, and her
mother came to me crying and asking for my help. My own chest hurts so bad
that I have to walk very, very slowly when I climb the hill to fix the hose.
I can't get away to rest, not yet. I have to push through this until God
rebukes Satan and gives us a reprieve.

But I'm happy! Oh, am I ever happy! I'm ecstatic because Jesus is giving
us souls! That's all I really want. And I'm reveling in the problems that
God is allowing to buffer us and polish us. They are signs that good things
are happing and Satan isn't happy. O Lord, let the problems role on, and
give us more souls!

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