Monday, March 8, 2010

Building a People of Faith

All eyes riveted to the speaker as she shared story after story of miracles that she had witnessed and intertwined them with people of faith in the Bible. How her words resonated in the sanctuary! She went by one name: "Faithful." This young, slender, very poised African woman knew the God she was speaking about personally. Faithful's God was not a character that lived within the pages of a book: someone good to have on your side. He wasn't a remote hero. No, Faithful's God was a responsive father who walked down a gut-wrenching dirt road with you, who breathed life out of death in hospital rooms that had seen too much sorrow, who provided food when it should have been gone long ago. This was a father who comforted at the deepest level, a father who wrapped you in his arms and shared your pain. This Father (notice the capital F?) was a lifeline. "Hold onto him. No matter what. Hold on. Doesn't matter what happens. Hold on. Hold on." She spoke with authority and we believed.

"I have seen miracles. Let me tell you a story. I'm going to make a very long story short here. There was a woman in her fifth month of pregnancy. The woman went to the doctor. The baby did not have a heart beat. It didn't move. He sadly advised her to terminate it. This mother refused to believe him and wouldn't let him take her baby. She went back home. She continued to pray and visited the doctor a few times. There was still no heart beat or movement but her body responded as if she were pregnant. The doctor said it was psychosomatic. At nine months she went back to the doctor. But the doctor had washed his hands of her. 'I will have to deliver this dead baby and take all of your womb out. You will not be able to have any more children. You should have let me do this when it happened.' So, the woman went to another doctor and he delivered her baby. This baby came out smiling. It had a heart beat. It was alive! This baby is me. I am a miracle. God knew that one day I would grow up and become a missionary in my country. "

She paused for the words to sink in, and then went on. "People tell me I don't have to share every example that I know, that it might upset people if it doesn't happen that way for them. But every miracle that happens should be shared because it happened for a purpose."

She talked about a camp they set up every year in December. (It was not clear who "they" were but it must have been members of her ministry). "There were about five hundred people this year. People worried there would not be nearly enough food." They were serving soup. "I told them, 'Just keep dipping the ladle in. As long as it comes out full, dip it in again. Just dip it. Dip it again.' And you know what, it only ran out after people had come for seconds. This is the God I know."

But Faithful did not come to simply share testimonies. She came to share a few words from God himself. "Do you have your Bibles with you? Let me see you open them." She waited, and spoke about herself in the third person, "Do you know what Faithful says when you don't have your Bible? You have come without clothes. Some of you have come naked today." She pressed her point amid the laughter. She spoke about the woman who touched the hem of Jesus's robe. "She had purposed in her heart to believe. No matter what. She had purposed."

Faithful also asked us something very real, "Do you have people who steal your hope away?" As she spoke of yet another example, I was amazed at how she could bring such words from the Bible to life, how she could contextualize them for us. Sometimes she was so eager to share a scripture, she tripped on the words, and laughed at herself. "You know what I mean. Look it up for yourself."She never lost her composure.

And so Faithful continued with her stories. Her humor carried us through some sad ones and in others her unshakable faith brought us to our knees in spirit. Faithful came to raise money but I do not believe she arrived with that singular objective. She purposed to uplift us; though her ministry may have been "in want," her soul was not. She seemed to be the "giver."I envisioned her as one tree in the midst of a growing forest. As she spoke, it seemed she was selecting some trees, both saplings and the more mature, carved with God's loving initials. She then offered them to us to build faith in our hearts.

In my next posting I will relay a story that Faithful shared, another that touched my heart so much. A heart that, at times, still mourns for three babies that I wasn't ready to give up. Believe me, it will be worth your time to read it! Please join me.

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