A MISSIONARY SIGHS IN AGONY
A missionary sighs in agony for one more soul snuffed out without a chance to hear the gospel. Could she be in for a surprise?
CARLY APOSTOL WAS CARRIED, thrashing and bellowing into the government hospital in Cauayan, Isabela, Philippines. She was swollen to twice her normal size in severe eclampsia, about to give birth. Convulsing, groaning, screeching, her tongue thrashing in and out of her mouth, her eyes rolling back desperately in her head… She was going to die before our eyes.
Patients, visitors, and nurses alike gawked at her. No one knew what to do. My two older children and I were there at the hospital visiting Josie, a friend from our village who had almost died hemorraghing after giving birth to a stillborn. I didn't know Carly. I'd never met her.
PRAY FOR HER?!
"Pray for her healing," the Lord said to me.
"What? Who said that?' Oh, no, I thought. I know I didn't come up with that thought. I didn't know the woman. And I didn't expect the devil would be interested in prodding me to pray for anyone. I grimaced. It was such a clear impression on my heart. It must have been God speaking. " But God, what's the use of praying for her healing?
I don't mind praying for her soul, but for her body's healing?? I don't think so. She's going right on out on us while we watch. What if she dies on me as I'm praying? It's not like I had been batting 100% on everyone I prayed for to get healed or anything. It'd be kinda embarrassing to have her clunk over dead right in the midst of my prayer for her healing, with all these people staring at us! As if I thought I had a special connection to heaven and then boom, she's gone!'
God didn't reply. He just waited. I've found that He often gets quiet when we start arguing with him.
TRAINING TO OBEY THE SPIRIT'S CALL
I had been working the past few years on obeying the Spirit's call to pray and leaving the actual healing in God's hands. So I said, 'Okay God, I'll do the praying and the healing is up to you!'
I took a deep breath, and walked over to her father who had brought her in and was standing watch over her in the hall. A nurse was taking her pulse. Her eyes widened. Her heart rate was going so fast that she couldn't get it to register on her stethoscope. She scurried off to look for a room to take her to.
"Sir,' I said to the father, 'Would you mind if I prayed for your daughter? It looks like only God can save her now." He was happy to have me pray for her.
As courageously as I could, I prayed for Carly's healing, and then, lacking faith for results, I told her to confess her sins and trust in Jesus to prepare her for her "future."
But she was hallucinating. She could neither see nor hear. She was hopeless. As she thrashed and groaned, I noticed how widely spaced her teeth were. How unusual for a Filipino, I thought absently.
SHE DIED, WHY DID YOU ASK ME TO PRAY FOR HER?
As the attendants came to wheel her out of the hallway, I inwardly groaned for one more soul snuffed out without a chance to hear the gospel. The next day I asked my friend Josie what had happened to Carly. 'Oh, the lady with eclampsia? She died,' Josie said. Well, what had I expected anyway? She had obviously been in the throes of death. I guess I could just be grateful that she hadn't died right in the middle of my prayer.
Okay, God, I thought, I wonder why you asked me to pray for her to be healed and then you didn't come through? You and I both know that I can't do the healing. That's your part. Oh well, I had been learning to see that God and I didn't always share the same timetable. I was also used to not getting all my questions answered. I had often exasperated my teachers with too many questions and so I supposed God might get weary of me from time to time, too.
So I 'wrapped up' Carly in my mind and put this experience on a large, personal shelf I have labeled, 'Things to ask God about once you get to heaven.' And there that package sat for nine months, neatly tucked away among countless others, and indeed, completely obliterated from my conscience mind after just a couple weeks. Like I said, I was used to not getting all my questions answered.
That morning, July 14, 1994, nine months later, my husband and I drove our truck to the town of Cauayan from our village, just passing through on our way to Minanteo Uno where our Training Center was located, a few kilometers out of town on the other side. But while we were in town, I remembered I had something I wanted to buy at the bookstore, so I got out and told my husband to go ahead on his way. I would just take public transportation to the Center when I was done with my purchases.
No sooner was the truck out of sight when I realized that it was too early in the day for the bookstore to be opened. I kicked myself. How dumb. I knew it was too early. Okay, calm down, I said to myself. You can just hail a motorcycle-side-car taxi here at the side of the road for 10 cents and it'll take you there. I answered myself, 'Yes, but if I walk just two blocks south, I can go to the waiting station and ride in one with other passengers and only pay 5 cents!' Of course I couldn't allow myself to pay the extra 5 cents for a mere two-block gain, so grumbling and moaning inside enough to give decent competition to the Israelites in the wilderness, I headed to the waiting station. I liked to think I was being nobly frugal, but really suspected I was being downright cheap.
Oh, good. There was someone already in the side-car. I'd not have to wait long before it left. I hopped it, and said in Ilokano, 'I'm heading for Minante Uno' and handed him my 5 cents.
The young lady inside turned to look at me sharply and said in Ilokano, 'Do you know Ilokano?' Yes, I said. I just had talked in it if she had been listening.
Her eyes lit up. 'Do you also go to hospitals and pray for sick people?'
What an oddball set of questions to query straight off the bat to a stranger, I thought. But I said, 'Well, yes, sometimes, if I know someone who is confined there. Why do you ask?'
'Well, 9 months ago, an American woman with two children came to the hospital and prayed for me. I never saw her because I was so sick with a heart condition, but my father said that though the medical staff had given up on me, and had sent me home to die, there was this Ilokano-speaking white lady who came and prayed for me when no one else dared come close, and he said it was because of her prayers that I am miracously alive today. So I told God that if he could do one miracle, would he please do another? Would he help me find this American woman with two children so that I could thank her in person for praying for me, a stranger? And so I have looked for an Ilokano-speaking white woman for 9 months in this town of 80,000 and today I have found one. Are you her?'
ALIVE, NOT DEAD!
Zero recognition. Lord, who is this woman? I've never seen her before. Besides, I don't have 2 children, I have three. I wonder who prayed for her? My co-worker, Alberta Knudtsen? She has 2 kids. But wait. Nine months ago would have put her back in the States on furlough. What other missionary around here has 2 kids? None. I asked Carly, 'You are so young to have a heart condition. What was wrong with your heart?'
'Oh,' she said, 'I had eclampsia.' And then she smiled. And then I instantly knew who she was. The teeth. They were a dead give-away. I'd not seen teeth like them for 9 months - so spaced out. But now, there was no tongue thrashing about, there was no screeching, there were no convulsions nor hallucinations. And there was no swelling from excess fluids. No wonder I couldn't recognize her at first. She was half the size now that she had been with all that fluid build-up from eclampsia. She was well. She was whole. And then I remembered, I'd only brought 2 children to the hospital that day. I'd left baby Rebecca home because I didn't want to expose so young a child to the diseases of the hospital but I had wanted my older children to come help me pray for Josie. No wonder her father said I had only 2 children.
'But, wait,' I stammered. 'My friend Josie told me the next day that you had died.'
'Wrong,' said Carly. 'The medical staff had said I would die, that there was nothing they could do to help me. But they didn't have the last word.'
WHERE ARE YOU GOING TODAY?
Yes! It was Carly! I had been misinformed. She was alive! God had used that hesitating prayer to restore her health. Now we had discovered each other again. What a precious time it was for both of us. God had done two miracles: He had raised her from death, and brought us together again.
Where are you going today? I asked."I'm going to Minante Uno to pack my things at the house where I've been a live-in maid. My father is sick and he needs me to return home to care for him."
Amazing! This was to be her last trip to Minante Uno. If I'd not 'happened' to ride the mini-taxi with her, I'd never have seen her again. She was returning home to her remote village.
We talked for nearly two hours and I prayed for her for the second time and gave her a Bible to read. Then we parted.
I hope that she will read the Bible and come to know the Lord. And I long that ... maybe someday ... we'll have people to open a church in her village. Will you pray that God will give us the workers?
FACE THE OBDIENCE ISSUE AGAIN!
And now I face the obedience issue again. I cannot call anything hopeless when God has told me to pray. When I obey… When you obey… God shows himself mighty!
Do you face an impossible situation? Has hope left you? Be assured that God has not left you. He rides above the heavens and above the most hopeless situations. And yet He is with you now to help you out of your deepest despair as you reach out to Him in obedience and faith.
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