The year was 1981 and I was about to embark on a truly amazing journey. I had managed to accumulate a nice little nest egg which should have seen me through 2 years of training with New Tribes Mission. However, God had other plans. Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man's heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” Sometimes God helps us reach our destinations using a different path than we'd naturally choose. In this case, God decided to take away the safety net of my little nest egg.
One of my favorite quotes was from the martyred missionary Jim Elliot. He once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” In my case, God was about to ask me to give up my precious little nest egg. In return He offered a priceless treasure trove – learning to trust His loving care.
A friend was heading off to Bible College and the Holy Spirit was prompting me to help out financially. My head was telling me that giving away my nest egg was sheer folly. Yet the Spirit of God was persuading me otherwise. I struggled greatly with that decision, but in the end the Holy Spirit won out. Looking back I can see God's wisdom in that decision. There were lessons of faith that God intended to teach me in those early days of training. We walk by faith and not by sight. I was relying on my nest egg to see me through. But God wanted to teach me reliance upon Him.
The first phase of my training with NTM was a year of “boot camp” at Baker Oregon. I had no idea how God would supply my needs, yet He faithfully did just that. Every month there was just enough money to pay my school bills, put gas in my car and food on the table.
During that year of training I learned a lot about missionary life from the staff at Baker. Even more importantly, God taught me about living a life of faith. But graduation from Baker did not mean my training was finished. There were many more lessons that needed to be learned. I packed my car and headed to Missouri for further training at New Tribes Language Institute. My instructors would teach me about phonetics and linguistics. God would teach me about trusting Him.
My old beater of a car had about 200,000 miles on it as I pulled out of the parking lot at Baker. I had enough money in my pocket for gas with a bit extra to pay for my first month's rent – or so I thought. About 200 miles from my destination, my car broke down. I used up all my extra cash to pay for the parts that I needed. When I arrived at language school I was once again flat broke. The next day I opened up my mail box and I found my school bill. My heart sunk. Rent at language school was going to be significantly more than what it was at the NTM training facilities in Baker.
The 37 th chapter of Isaiah paints a fascinating portrait of a king in deep trouble. Hezekiah received an ominous letter from Sennacherib threatening his destruction. In verse 14 we're told, “Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.” Then Hezekiah poured out his heart rehearsing the words of Sennacherib to the Lord.
Like Hezekiah of old, I spread out my school bill before the Lord and began to pour out my heart. I prayed, “God, just look at this bill. I just barely had enough get by at boot camp and this place you've brought me to is going to be even more expensive. How will I ever manage?!”
I opened up my Bible and began reading where I'd left off the previous day. All of a sudden Hebrews 13:5 leapt off of the pages of scripture. I could hardly believe my eyes as I read those amazing words of encouragement, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” Years ago I'd heard a sermon based on that verse. The preacher used the text “I will never leave you nor forsake you” to build a case for eternal security. But for the first time I understood the context of those words. God was saying, “be content with what you have!” Why? Because He promised: “I will never leave you nor forsake you!” I spread my bill out before God and said, “Just look at this mess!” Then God spread His Word out before me and said, “Just trust Me!”
It's been said that God is not as interested in the destinations themselves as the journeys we take to get there. This has been a truly amazing journey. Many precious lessons have been learned along the way. At times I've stumbled and fell. He's graciously picked me up and dusted me off. God has been true to His Word. He's never failed me though at times I've doubted Him. His wonderful faithfulness and tender mercies are new every morning.
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