Reflections of Christ in the Amazon
By Abby Smith
This year has gotten off to a difficult start for many people I know. Some missionary friends had a kid from the ministry break into their home and steal valuable electronic items. My brother-in-law’s office was also burglarized and suffered significant losses. The same week, friends of his lost their two-year-old son in a tragic home accident. The director of the feeding program where I work was hospitalized with hemorrhagic dengue, though she fortunately has recovered. Others have faced surgery, unplanned pregnancy, difficult transitions, and general discouragement. At the same time, 2013 has begun on a joyful note for many. Two of my friends were married, my parents began anew in pastoral ministry, and I have seen the Lord work in wonderful ways in my life.
When times are good for me and I see others struggling, I find myself wondering how I got so lucky. At other times, though, I demand an explanation when life does not go my way. Apparently, what I want is an easy answer. Too many churches, especially here, have subscribed to this easy-answer faith. If we follow God, life will go well, but if we have troubles, we need to repent of our sin or our lack of faith. Though I vehemently reject such simplistic theology, I do sometimes get caught up in the paranoia that one little mistake can lead me forever down a path of no return. I believe strongly in seeking God’s will, but often when I fail to hear a booming voice from the sky, I live in perpetual fear that I may have accidentally stepped outside of it.
When problems arise, we wonder where we went wrong and fear that God can never bring us back. We must realize, however, that while God does let us experience the consequences of our sin, not all difficulties are punishment for rebellion. Sometimes they are the result of others’ sin, and sometimes we have no explanation. What we have to trust, though, is that God holds all things in his hand. Rain falls on the just and the unjust, but God is bigger than all of it. If we are willing to let go and trust him to guide us at each step, we can have peace knowing that come joy or come sorrow, he is there and he will never let us go.
In January I had the opportunity to spend a few days in the Amazon, traveling with a mission team from the seminary where I taught and a Korean church from the United States. We went to build on a work begun by Pastor Julio, a traveling evangelist who has worked to plant and encourage churches in many isolated jungle areas in Colombia, Brazil, and Peru. I worked with children who enthusiastically learned the stories of four Bible characters. We talked about how Jesus changed their lives and how he wants to change our lives too. One member of our group also built a good relationship with the owners of a small store that we frequented, and they asked him to come share the Word with their family. He took Pastor Julio and a couple others along, and the family agreed to start hosting a small group in their home. At night we had church services, and I had the opportunity to preach on the second evening. Afterward, a woman asked me to pray with her so that she could follow Jesus. The town was too far away for her to get to any currently established churches, but fortunately I was able to point her to the family that had just hours before agreed to host the small group.
We were all very pleased to see doors open there. The Lord definitely had his hand on us. Despite the confusion that sometimes comes from four spoken languages—Spanish, English, Korean, and Ticuna—we were united in one Spirit and one Lord. Through the good and the bad experiences of life, the Lord continues his marvelous work. Please pray that his work in the Amazon will continue to grow even stronger in years to come.
Abby Smith is you missionary serving in Colombia.