A Life-long Testimony
Mission volunteers have beautiful feet! Why? That’s how Isaiah 52:7 describes the feet of those that bring good news. Mission volunteer teams often work whole days in different locations. The ‘work day’ concludes with a team meal and sharing time. This is how the various ministry teams learn what happend in other areas of work. It was in one of these sharing/reporting times most of us learned of a boy with severely clubbed feet.
It is amazing enough to see God at work doing that which only He can accomplish. Even more amazing is the fact that He uses just the right people at the right time for the task at hand. After all, He’s the One Who equips His children through the gifts of His Spirit for the work of His ministry. This describes “Lisa” (not her real name). She served as a medical mission volunteer. Lisa is a very competent and experienced nurse as well as a compassionate, Christian woman. Her presence on the mission team was a double blessing to me since she was also a member of the church I was serving at the time. In an evening sharing time, we learned from Lisa’s ministry team about a boy that visited the remote medical site she had been assigned to help staff.
Our approach is to structure ministry in and through the local church. Our teams meet needs in the local church’s community and also train the church to more effectively minister after we have departed. That is why we set up medical clinics in local churches. People come to have their physical needs met and we help address their spiritual needs as well.
The boy had been brought to that setting to find help. Lisa’s team was moved to tears as they described him. Anticipating another opportunity to minister to him, they took some pictures. His feet were both turned inward and under. The part of his body that actually touched the ground was what would normally be considered the outer sides of the ankles and the upper part of the feet behind the fourth and fifth toes. One could sense the pain of his walking just by looking at his feet. They were not beautiful!
The doctors in the group quickly agreed about a couple of things. First, had treatment been available to this boy at birth, he would not have this problem. Second, at twelve years of age his increasing weight would cause more frequent lacerations on his feet. Since few people had shoes, these lacerations would inevitably become infected. Lack of adequate treatment for those infections would very likely mean he had a fairly short life expectancy. Everyone wanted to help but we didn’t immediately know what to do. Lisa’s team prayed for him at the clinic that day and we all prayed for him that night as we learned of his situation. We all believed God could heal him on the spot. We had already seen miraculous healings. This one would not be that way.
The leadership team and the doctors looked into securing medical treatment for this boy’s feet. We eventually learned surgery and rehabilitation would cost about $3,000.00 (U. S.). Before we left east Africa to return to the United States , our team had contributed the funds necessary for the surgery and rehab. Arrangements were made through the local church and physicians to take care of all medical matters related to the surgery and recovery. Healing would come to this young man, but it would come through what we would consider a very “normal” means.
There are those of us who wonder about that sort of thing. Why did God not heal in the most awesome and dramatic way possible? No one knows. His ways and His thoughts are above ours as the heavens are above the earth. God is sovereign and can bring healing any way He chooses. As I thought about this on the long journey home, some thoughts came to mind that could well be part of the reason God chose to bring healing the way He did.
First, He moved in the hearts of our mission volunteers to show the compassion and generosity that ought to characterize those who are like Christ (Christian). Christians show the world what God is like when we act like Him. He demonstrated His love for us by dying on a cross for our sins even before we were born or had opportunity to ask for His forgiveness (Romans 5:8). That is a living witness to the boy, his family, and his community about what being like Christ really means.
Second, as this boy would now have opportunity to live a normal life of normal length, he would be a walking, talking, living, breathing, unmistakable reminder to all that knew him of what it means to be Christian. If he never came to faith in Christ on a personal level, his entire family and community would know he was made well because of the ministry and compassion of Christians. In a culture where the darkness of Muslim teaching is literally at war with the truth of God, this young boy’s very existence is a life-long witness to the reality of Almighty God. For his entire life, no one of any faith had done what was done for him. It’s a poor culture, but the provision of God transcends all cultural circumstances. It seems we had a modern-day example of the blind man Jesus healed.
In John 9, Jesus was asked about a man born blind. People wanted to know if that man’s sin or his parent’s sin caused his blindness. Jesus said, “Neither.” Jesus said the blindness was so God could be glorified. At that moment, Jesus healed the blind man. Everyone who had known him as a blind beggar knew he had been healed. It is easy to imagine that long after Jesus left the earth this man was a walking reminder of God’s love and power. If Jesus delays His coming long enough, this boy’s beautiful feet will still be walking around east Africa. Those feet will give testimony to the power of God and the compassion of His modern-day disciples. That is the real important thing. It won’t be important to remember who the mission volunteers were that year. What is important is God acted in the way He deemed best and He received the glory!
It’s wonderful to know our endeavors leave something lasting after we are gone. Who knows how many will come to faith in Christ because of his witness? Only God knows. One day it will be unfolded for us to see because the Word says when we stand before the Lord we will know as we are known. The only thing we can do now is to order our labors so others will see the Truth. A favorite song text says it this way, and may this be your prayer:
O may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way.
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe,
And the lives we live inspire them to obey.
O may all who come behind us find us faithful.
About the author: Keith is currently serving as a Mission leader for Rivers of the World.