Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Miraculous Answer to Prayer


I recently promised that I would start writing down here some of the stories that I share with Pulse, our church's young adults group, that revolve around my experiences with prayer and God's miraculous provision during the years.

Today I want to share what is one of my earliest and most dramatic answers to prayer that I have witnessed. I think in many ways it is a perfect example of how God loves to work in ways that "confound the wise."

A "maxi taxi" minibus in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
In the summer of 1978, I traveled with more than 90 other students of Biola University on a short-term missions trip to the island of Trinidad. Trinidad is the southernmost of the Caribbean Islands, lying a mere 10 miles off the northeastern coast of Venezuela. The project, the brainchild of my friend, missions pastor Dan Crane, was called "Operation Jabez" and has been written about in Bruce Wilkinson's popular book, "The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life."

Trinidad shares government with the isle just north of it, Tobago, which is (with the exception of Barbados) the easternmost of the Caribbean Islands. We spent one lovely week "debriefing" from our two-month visit to Trinidad, on Tobago.

In Trinidad, we broke into teams of about 4 students each in order to take on different assignments and minister in different parts of the island. We were there to help the church do evangelism and outreach. I had leadership of a team including three other students and we were stationed in Trinidad's capital and largest city, Port of Spain.

Halfway into our stay, we learned that some of the teams were assisting the churches to which they were assigned in organizing an evangelistic tent crusade, "somewhere up in the mountains." Due to insufficient means of communication (no cellphones in those days, and no landlines where we were staying) we had no more information than this exactly where the crusade was to be held. But we really wanted to attend, and upon spending some time praying about it on the Saturday morning when the meetings were to start, felt the Lord urging us to strike out in faith and to try to find the meeting place.

This was not as simple as it sounds. We were on foot, the island is large (with mountains covering a swatch of the northern portion about 10 miles deep and 40 miles wide), and our only possibility for finding the meeting was hailing one of the many privately-owned taxis that prowl the streets of Port of Spain. So we hailed the first taxi we saw (which didn't take long, since at least every other car is a taxi) and the 4 of us climbed in.

Trinidad is a mix of two predominant cultures: Muslims (primarily from northern Africa) and Hindus (primarily from India and thereabouts). Our taxi driver was Muslim and seemed glad for a fare that included four young Americans. "Where to this fine day?" he asked us happily. Everyone settled in, then they all looked at me expectantly.

"Well, that's a good question," I admitted. "Here's the thing. We're headed for a meeting being hosted by Christian churches, to worship God and to hear more about Jesus. But we have no idea exactly where it is, we were just told it was in a large tent somewhere up in the mountains. We were hoping you might have an idea."

He gave us the strange look we certainly deserved, and laughed. "I haven't heard of such a thing. And I have no idea where it might be. There are hundreds of square miles of mountains here, and many possible roads which cross them. We could drive several days and we still might not find it." He looked back at me and waited.

"Well," I told him with a shrug, "the four of us prayed about it this morning. We really felt like God wanted us to go, and we believe you are the one to take us there. We will leave it up to your best judgment where to drive, and we will pay whatever it is worth. And we won't keep you for several days. If we can't find it by this afternoon, we will have you return us here. But we do feel like God will help us to find it ... through you."

He laughed again, and shrugged. "If you're paying, I'm driving!" he intoned cheerfully. And with that, we pulled out into traffic, heading east.

Within 5 minutes, we came to our first opportunity to turn north, and into the mountains. "Turn here?" he asked. We merely shrugged. "It's completely up to you. We will agree to go whichever way you feel is right."

He shrugged, wrestled for a moment with the decision, then bypassed the turn and continued driving east. Another 10 minutes or so, and we came to another crossroads, with another road snaking north into the mountains. "Here?" he asked again. We shrugged. "Up to you!" He laughed and made a decision again, and continued east.

Despite the uncertainty, we were enjoying the journey, and enjoying getting to know our jovial driver. We sang together, and prayed, and remarked on the beauty of the countryside and its lovely people.

Another 15 or 20 minutes later, there came another opportunity to turn north. This time he took the initiative. "Okay," he said. "Into the mountains we go. I don't think this route will take us through to the other side, so if it's not here somewhere, we will need to turn back."

"Fine with us!" we told him. "We are trusting that God will work through you." He just laughed and shook his head. "Wait until I tell my wife about this one!" he said. We all agreed -- it would be interesting.

We continued north on the windy mountain road. There were a few opportunities for turns, and he randomly selected this direction or that, mostly just going straight ahead. The road wound and narrowed up the mountains.

Eventually the road neared to an end. "I think this is as far as it goes," he told us.

We turned a final corner ... and immediately ahead of us, in the center of the small town at the end of the road, was a large white tent. "This is it! We're here!" we all shouted excitedly, hugging one another. But our driver said nothing -- he just sat and stared at that large, white tent. His eyes went wide, and he had paled visibly.

The four of us laughed, and slapped him playfully on the back. "Wonderful!" we said. "We knew you could do it! Praise God, look how He worked through you to help us!

"We may be here for a few hours. Will you be able to take us back, or shall we call another taxi? We will pay for your time if you are willing to wait."

He shook his head no, and so I handed him a generous amount of cash and we began to climb out, thinking he was ready to leave. But suddenly he thrust the cash back at me, and spoke: "Excuse me! Excuse me!" he stammered. "What kind of meeting did you say this is?"

"Well," I told him, "it is a meeting about Jesus Christ, and how to become a child of God. There is a teacher here who will share from the Bible."

"I want to come find out about this Jesus," he told me, turning the key and shutting off the engine decisively. "May I come with you?"

We all surrounded him excitedly. "Of course! You are our guest." So he walked with us into the meeting, where they had already commenced worship. We enjoyed at least an hour of singing, and prayer, and an excellent message by a local evangelist. He sat silently and soaked it all in, but made no move when the evangelist invited people forward to receive Christ. After the meeting was dismissed, we all returned with him to his taxi.

After climbing in, our driver merely sat behind the wheel, keys in hand, thoughtful, making no move to start the engine again.

"So," I asked him, "what did you think about that?" For a few moments longer he sat in silence, as if wrestling with some inner struggle. Then a look of resolution came to his face, and he turned toward the four of us.

"I think I need this Jesus to forgive me of my sins," he told us. "How can I do that?"

So we prayed with him, right there in the taxi, and our newfound brother gladly accepted Christ into his heart. Then, all the way home, we shared together with him about the Christian life and about how God speaks to us through His word. We prayed and sang some more, and rejoiced with him. He invited us to come to his home in Port of Spain, every Saturday thence, for Bible study and prayer. And we continued, while we remained there, to seek to help him get to know Jesus better.

I know that he was sharing what he was learning with his local imam, who we frequently saw lurking about the bushes near his house while we were studying. After we left, each week, the imam would scurry in. I wish I had been privy to their conversation.

When we left the island, we committed our friend into the hands of the local Christian church we worked with there, a small group of believers who (literally) met in a chicken coop! (I preached there, our first Sunday, for an hour, amidst crowing roosters!) We continued to pray for him (and still do). I assume he has by now retired from his taxi business, and am hoping and praying that he and his family (and perhaps his grandchildren!) are all enjoying the abundant life in Christ.

This is just one of several firsthand experiences in my life of the miraculous power of prayer. I also have a great deal of secondhand testimony, from people I love and trust, of similar miracles wrought by the power of Christ. In my next blog post I will tell about meeting Ha Jimmy, who served as a commander among the Hmong mountain people in Vietnam's wild northern forests, fighting against the communists. Ha Jimmy told me of an incredible miracle that he had witnessed, firsthand, in the final days before Phnom Penh fell to the Viet Cong. So stay tuned!


Lyndel Moe said...

Great story, Larry, of God's simple ability to work in interesting and fun ways. I have a few stories myself of where I needed physical help or emotional encouragement, and the Lord met my needs. I wasn't on this trip, but was one of two who held down the home front that summer. I went the next summer on the next Project Jabez to the Philippines. We saw some miracles there.

Larry Short said...

Lindy, that's great! I knew you were around then (and involved in SMU), but I couldn't remember whether you actually went or not. Glad you got to go on the next one.

I guess there have been a lot of different "Project Jabezes" ever since that first adventure in Trinidad. At least it seems so by looking at the internet.