One of the great things about the Children Desiring God curriculum - at least the 6th grade curriculum I'm using for my class - is that it uses a lot of stories to teach concepts. Quite frequently I will tell the kids a story about Charles Spurgeon or some other hero of the Christian faith. Stories are a great way to communicate concepts, ideas, and most importantly, truth.
When I read the story scheduled for this week's Sunday School lesson, I was so blown away that I wanted to share it here. It's often said that "God moves in mysterious ways." While this is no doubt true, I would amend the phrase to state: "God moves moves in unfathomably mysterious ways that your puny, little finite mind can't even begin to comprehend," and this story illustrates it. The purpose of this week's is to show the kids that God works in and through all kinds of circumstances - even things that seem to be totally unrelated, or even things that seem to be accidents. In reality, God is sovereign over everything, and in his providence, he uses all circumstances to accomplish his plan and for his glory.
The story is below. But first, a disclaimer: I'm not sure about the copyright status of this story. As printed in the material, it's a re-telling of a published story, so I don't know what limitations, if any, are imposed on my reproducing it here. You can purchase a copy of the book the story came from here. If someone knows if I am in violation, please contact me and I will remove this post. Now on to the story.
Richard McLellan, an Autralian missionary to Ethiopia, and three Ethiopian evangelists made a trip into the thick forests of Ethiopia to preach in an area where no missionary had ever been. Near the village of Gifara, their destination, an old crippled man sitting by the side of the trail saw them approaching and yelled to them, "Do you have theword of life? Do you have the word of life?
Richard McLellan waved his Bible and shouted back, "Yes, I have the word of life!"
The crippled man became excited and bounced up and down while calling to them, "Come! Come!" The village of Gifara welcomed them with open arms, the people running toward the evangelists and asking them to tell the good news.
In the five days of preaching in the area, not only the old crippled man, Gwobazi, was saved, but also 29 other people.
Twenty years earlier, Richard McLellan and his wife, Vida, were missionaries in a village called Bako, many miles south of Gifara. Vida, a nurse, ran a small clinic in Bako.
One day, a very sick young man came to the clinic. Although Vida cared for him diligently, his condition got worse until the only hope for him was to send him to a hospital in Soddo many days away over the mountains. He was carried on a stretcher over trails for 50 miles and then placed in the back of an old truck for a two-week trip over the mountains. The young man, Kebeda, was operated on in the hospital but his condition was so bad, that the doctors were unable to help him. Because no one spoke Kebeda's language, no one could communicate with him or notify his people many miles away.
But the providence of God was at work and a few weeks later, a trader who only passed through the town of Soddo once a year was on his way to Gifara in the interior to buy coffee beans. About 20 miles outside of Soddo, God in his providence gave the trader a toohtache - the word he had ever had. He was in such agony, he thought he was going to die. He didn't know what to do but God caused someone to suggest that he go to the hospital. he was treated at the hospital and - providentially placed next to Kebeda. The trader with the toothache was the only one in the hospital who could talk to Kebeda.
At the same time the two men were in the hospital, a woman from Gospel Recordings, Joy Ridderhoff, "happened" to stop in at the hospital as she was traveling throughout Ethiopia. Two months earlier, she felt the Lord telling her to go to Ethiopia to produce recordings of the gospel. She met the trader and persuaded him to act as interpreter to Kebeda. Through the trader interpreter, she convinced Kebeda to record a simple gospel message in his native language. A few days later, both the trader and Joy left the hospital. But Kebeda never left the hospital - he died there.
The recording was made into records, but since no one could understand them, they were shoved into a cupboard where they laid for years. Eventually, the records were put on cassette, and twenty years after the recording was made Richard McLellan took the cassette with him on his trip to Gifara. So it was that when Gwobazi yelled, "Do you have the word of life?" Richard McLellan was able to play the tape of Kebeda's gospel recording.
Gwobazi was excited upon seeing the evangelists because years earlier, he had a dream of a man running down the train shouting, "The word of life is coming! Believe the word of life and live forever! Ever since he had the dream, Gwobazi would regularly pull his crippled body down to the trail to look for the man with the word of life.
Gwobazi heard the cassette tape and put his trust in Jesus. The tape touched Gwobazi's heart because the voice ont he tape was that of Kebeda - his son who left home many years before.