Nothing is Random

Nothing is Random

During my first trip with Amazon Outreach, I had a profound spiritual experience that left me confused and seeking confirmation that the change I was experiencing was genuine, and not an expression of some semi-conscious self improvement. My purpose for the second trip was still selfish, but as I’ve come to appreciate, God has a plan even when our goals and His are seemingly misaligned.

Shortly before noon at our first village, a farmer approached the medical table and handed me a prescription for eyeglasses—which was incredible given that we were more than 100 miles from the nearest town with an optical clinic.

The farmer explained how he saw our boat pass by his village the day before and he had rowed most of the night and all morning to find us, hoping we could help him. We didn’t have anyone specialized in this area and I knew we couldn’t help him. Gradually, his smile of hope faded. He simply nodded, placed the prescription on the table, thanked us, and left the clinic.

I was furious. I knew we had thousands of pairs of eyeglasses on the boat, but no one with the skill to find the right pair for this man. As I walked back to the boat, I read the prescription and realized the man had poorer vision than I did—and I couldn’t walk across the room safely without my glasses. How did this man navigate a river filled with dangerous fish and alligators?

When I got to the boat I found the mission leader and explained the odd situation. I asked him if I could go down into the hold of the boat and try to find a pair of glasses that could work for the farmer.

Moments later I was squatting in front of more than a dozen large boxes each containing dozens of smaller boxes. Inside each of the smaller boxes were 20 pairs of neatly packed and graded eyeglasses. I calculated there were more than 5,000 pairs of glasses on the shelves in front of me. I wiped the sweat from my forehead in frustration and decided to say a quick prayer. I closed my eyes and said out loud, “God, please help me find something that will help this man. He came all this way and I can’t send him home without something.”

I took the box in front of me down from the shelf, opened the top, reached in and took out one of the smaller boxes. I plunged my hand into the middle of the row of plastic bags and pulled out a pair of glasses. To my amazement the numbers not only matched the distance value (-4.50 & -4.25), but the axis and prism values that correct astigmatism matched perfectly too. Out of more than 5,000 eyeglasses, I had picked the right pair on the first try. My hands trembled as I removed the glasses from the plastic pouch and I laughed out loud in the steaming hold of the riverboat. Not only were the glasses a perfect match; I held in my hand a sturdy and an attractive pair of men’s glasses.

I climbed up the ladder and raced up the hill to the village. After searching for a few moments, panicked that the man had already departed for the long journey home, I found the farmer sitting on a stool in the shade of a tree.

As I approached he turned and saw me, that gentle smile once again on his lips. He remained seated and I removed his straw hat, pulled the glasses out of my pocket and placed them on his face. The farmer looked up at me with wide eyes, and then turned his head slowly scanning the row of huts on the waterfront. His shoulders began to heave as he repeated over and over, “Glória a Deus! Obrigado meu senhor!”, “Glory to God! Thank you my Lord!”

The man turned back to me, threw his arms around my waist and sobbed. We both remained there holding each other and crying until one of our interpreters came and asked what was wrong. I explained and she knelt down and took the man’s hand. Through his tears, he said, “I had forgotten how beautiful the world is.”

Seeing the World Clearly

More than a decade has passed since that day, but I count it as the most profound and important day of my life. It was the day God used my hands to provide for the needs of a man halfway across the world. When I consider all the events that happened to bring the boat, the glasses, the farmer, and me together at one moment, in one place—I cannot call it anything but a miracle.

The real miracle was not the farmer who received the exact pair of glasses to help him see more clearly. No, the real miracle was the man who had measured success by his title and paycheck, and took credit for everything that was good in his life—that blind man…well, he was given the gift of sight.

The Best Version of Me

I reflected on this particular scene from my life and I realized I am the best version of myself when I’m serving God on the river. I pray to be that same man at home and in my professional life.

I realized I clung too tightly to money, possessions, and comforts. My career is important, but not the most important. Recognition, money, prestige, and power are all fleeting and have no lasting value. None of it compares with a simple act of love in service to another human being.

The journey continues, and God shows me new aspects of His grace and mercy every day. He continues to refine me in ways I never thought possible and I thank him daily for sending a simple Brazilian farmer into my life to help this blind man see.

Submitted by Monty Fowler, a missionary disguised as a computer nerd and author, who has been on thirteen Amazon Outreach trips.

Something to Ponder

As my sweet granddaughter lies healing in her bed, a tidal wave of emotions come crashing into my soul. This past week little Reese celebrated her fourth birthday in between MRI’s and spinal taps while the doctors diagnosed the two abnormal spots on her brain. Tumors, strokes, MS and several other tests came back negative, but our hearts were like stone as we put on a brave front trying not to worry about the next round of test results.

About the third day Reese felt good enough to venture out into the hospital where she met Brylie, the five year old in the room next door. Instant buddies, they laughed at the silly clowns, colored pictures and made necklaces for each other. Brylie came into the hospital about the same time as Reese and was given the same tests. Both parents heard their daughter’s diagnosis on the same day. Reese would receive a few weeks of steroid treatments and would be totally cured while Brylie’s mom found out about the lemon size tumor just above her brain stem. She also has a mass on her spine and her intestines are backed up and rapidly deteriorating.

How was I supposed to process this? One of the first things I thought about was how “lucky” we were that we had doctors, hospitals, incredible technology and insurance. I thought about all my friends in the Amazon villages who don’t have any of those things. One time I heard about a man whose tooth hurt so badly that he took a pocket knife and cut it out. I’ve seen a couple of small village hospitals but there are no doctors or medicine. They say people go there to die.

The second thing I thought about was how should I feel when Reese is on the road to recovery, happily sleeping tonight in her own bed, while Brylie is still in the hospital facing the next painful treatment? I’ve asked God all the questions. Why did Reese go through this? Was it to bring us back to Him? Had we wandered away from Him or done something He disapproved of? Why did Reese have such a good outcome when Brylie had such a bad one? Why do we have access to great medical treatment while the Amazon children have none? Are we special? Are they not so special?

I will probably never know the answers to these questions this side of heaven. What I do know, is what I tell the ladies I meet on the Amazon. In Philippians 4 it says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” So I will rejoice in all things knowing that the God who loves me is with me in all situations. He is a God who brings me peace and watches over my heart and mind even when the world around me is crashing in. He loves me and is always at work drawing me closer to Him, to be supported by His loving arms and trust Him in all circumstances. Feeling blessed tonight!

Amaze Me

I came on this trip a little worried about what we could do. We were a small team. Would I be obedient enough or bold enough to share the Gospel with others? I was confident in my physical abilities, but I was more concerned about my spiritual ones. My heart wanted to believe that God would be glorified on this trip. I knew only God could make divine appointments, but I needed to recognize and respond to the opportunities. I wasn’t sure exactly how to pray but I had been reading to pray harder and bolder. My quiet time on the boat in the morning gave me a refreshing open time to speak to God. I needed child like faith, I needed to be bold and I needed God to amaze me. I had grown up not wanting to bother God with my small requests and it was time to change this mindset. So on this trip I simply asked God to amaze me. I knew His vision was far beyond what I could comprehend. As I watched the sun rise and set from the boat it was as if He was drawing pictures solely for us. With that child like faith, He did amaze me. It was a humbling experience to watch as the Holy Spirit worked through me and six villagers heard and accepted the Gospel. I was hoping for one! God’s dream is always bigger than mine. My heart now understands how God stretches our faith so we can dream bigger, building our character. My heart now knows my every breath and thought should be intentional. Intentional goals glorify God.

My thoughts are with the villagers we met: the women, children and young couples. I pray for them daily and hope as they watch the sun set each night they will speak to God and ask for mighty things. And I am in love with our team. Each of us shared a part in making the trip successful. Each member had their own special ability that God gave them. I believe God smiled on all of us and said well done.

Submitted by Carol Jenks, an RN, who just returned from her third trip to the Amazon River.

Stirrings

Has God ever stirred your heart? He’s been stirring mine for quite a few years. Sometimes it feels slow and steady, like when my grandma used to stir cookie batter with a wooden spoon. She absolutely refused to use beaters or do anything else she suspected might not turn out as good as the tried and true way. She even washed and rinsed all the dishes before putting them in our brand new dishwasher! Other times, God’s stirrings feel more like the dust storms we used to experience when we lived in the Arizona desert, where you can barely catch your breath, the wind swirling your hair into a cone.

My advice when being stirred is to sit up and take notice. Make a move and don’t stay put! The reason why God stirs hearts is to take us to places where we could never imagine and to do the impossible, only He could do. Who would have ever believed in their wildest dreams, that I, a devoted mom and kindergarten teacher, would end up leading thousands of people to serve as short-term missionaries on the Amazon River? What God had up His sleeve when He began stirring my heart resulted in the most remarkable journey of my life. My hope is to share some of the stories in my life and others as God stirred our hearts, moving our lives to a higher place where we could see Him more clearly. Please stay tuned to some incredible stories of how hearts were stirred, touched and moved through the ministry along the Amazon River.