A Ministry Born of Pain

I called him. I’d been meaning to do that all weekend. It was late. Almost too late to call, but he answered. We chatted, and he prayed for me. Over the phone waves, he prayed for my safety. That my worldview would be increased.

All I know of Grandpa is the preacher and the log truck driver. I remember Sundays spent in the pew listening to him speak. Willing him to end at a decent hour so we could go back to the house and eat the lunch I knew Grandma prepared. But there is a whole lifetime of stories that I’ve only scratched the surface of.

Stories about Grandpa’s childhood with polio. I’ve seen a photo of him in a wagon, the means by which he traveled around the farm. Stories about his journey to the city for surgeries thanks to Shriner’s Hospital. The pain of polio. The pain of surgery. The pain of learning to walk again. The pain of being different than the other kids. The pain of being bullied for those differences. I know it all built up in anger only because he told me so. 
Grandpa calls it his BC period. Before Christ. He says he used to be a brawler. He says he’d get liquored up and get in fights. Although I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen Grandpa drink a drop of alcohol in all my life. I only know him after. After the Lord took hold of his life. After he followed the call to be a missionary in Ecuador. 

His time in Ecuador is full of more stories I only know bits and pieces of. What I do know is that when he was ministering to the native tribe, teaching them the agricultural skills he knew from growing up on a farm in rural Oregon, there was a polio outbreak in the tribe. That was when God redeemed Grandpa’s past. When he worked with the patients with polio, Grandpa used the same exercises he had learned years ago from the doctors in the hospital. Grandpa taught them to pick up marbles with their toes. The treatments were modified to what they had available of course.  Bundles of bananas became weights for physical therapy treatments for the patients.  And finally, all the suffering he experienced as a child had a purpose. “It took someone like me, coming out of a small community in Oregon, to influence a whole tribe,” Grandpa told me.

Grandpa once quoted to me from a book he’d read, "If you don’t have struggles in your life, how would you recognize the love and sovereignty and power of God?" Sometimes in America, we have a tendency to get isolated. We start to think suffering is about not being able to afford the latest gadget. Or not liking the songs sung at church on Sunday morning.  We forget that there is true suffering in this world. Children who go to bed hungry. Whose parents can’t afford to send them to school, because there is no free public education. Children who walk the city streets trying to sell pencils or postcards for dollars. We forget that there are places in this world where over 50% of children suffer malnutrition. Or wonder where their next meal will come from.

Or like Grandpa BC, we get angry with God about the struggles we’re facing. We focus so much on the trials of life, that we don’t see where God is calling us to use that pain to minister to others. Thankfully Grandpa didn’t stay in that place. And in the end he was able to help heal others through his own painful experience.

Grandpa, the missionary, the preacher, prayed that my worldview would be expanded this week in Guatemala as I witness the work World Vision is accomplishing here. We arrived last night and the journey is just beginning. My prayer is that not only my worldview but yours will expand too through the stories you read here and from the other bloggers. And maybe each of us can find a way to minister through our own trials and pain.

Please continue to pray for us and for the people of Guatemala. If what you read and hear sparks in you a desire to support World Vision’s work in this community, click here to sponsor a child in Guatemala today.
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