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A Hard Day in South America

If I close my eyes tightly enough, I can still taste the salty tears rolling down my cheeks, feel the sobs heaving in my chest, and relive the raw emotions.

It was 2004. Steve and I lived in Cuenca, Ecuador in a second-floor apartment on Nogales Street. We had been in the country since December 2002. During 2003, all three of our children had managed to visit us -- Matt and Katie in May, Laura a few months later, then single-parent Julie with our only grandchild Allie in November just in time to celebrate Allie's 3rd birthday. We invited another missionary family with several small daughters, baked a cake with tons of pink frosting, and bought hats for the girls at a local market. They had such a sweet time.

We limped through our first Christmas apart (on opposite sides of the equator) and headed into 2004. We were looking forward to a visit to the States in the middle of the year.

I was in the study working on Spanish homework and corresponding with prayer partners when I suddenly heard children outside yelling, "Abuela! Abuela!" at the top of their lungs as they shook the gates and rang the bell to get the attention of their grandmother who lived across the street. I got up from my desk to watch the scene unfold out my front window. The Abuela ("ah-bway-la" Spanish word for grandmother) came out of her house, opened the gate, and enveloped the children in a huge hug.

I thought my heart would break. I was so happy for that grandmother and those children, but I missed my children and little Allie at that moment more than ever before.

That day came back to me a few days ago when I was in the grocery store. Who knew a Cheerios box could evoke so much emotion?? There it was with "Abuela" on one side and "Grandma" on the other with heart-shaped cereal inside. I had to have it.

I'm sharing this incident with you today, because it is a vivid reminder to me of God's faithfulness, His loving care toward me, and of the truth of several promises in His Word.

First, look at Matthew 19:29 -- "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life."

We have no doubt that God called us to go to Ecuador for those 4 years. We arrived in the country having left 1 grandchild behind. Two more were born before we left, and now our 16th grandchild is due in a few months. That sounds like "a hundredfold" to me.

Now look with me at 1 Peter 5:10 -- "After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."

Did you catch that? "After you have suffered for a little while"?

Here it is in The Living Bible paraphrase -- "After you have suffered a little while, our God, who is full of kindness through Christ, will give you His eternal glory. He personally will come and pick you up, and set you firmly in place, and make you stronger than ever."

I believe that God made our whole family stronger as a result of those four years when we were apart. God was and is kind. He did (and continues to) set us firmly in place.

The next time you pray for missionaries on the field remember that incidents such as this occur frequently. Your prayers are so important.

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