The first time we met John he walked up to us hobbling and grasping a tall wooden staff which he used to walk. He is an elderly man, not certain of his exact age—as is common in many hyper-rural third world situations. He heard through the village grape vine that some missionaries had come and that one of them was able to help people who had pain in their muscles and bones.
My dad, who came as my ministry partner on this trip, was a wrestling coach for 35 years. During his time as a coach he worked with a chiropractor to help the students on his team, and over the course of 35 years he picked up a few moves himself. All that to say my dad adjusted John and then we prayed over him. John walked in hobbling but walked out without his stick. Thats the power of God to heal. My dad later said that what he did should not have helped John as much as it did.
A few days later John came by and greeted us as we sat outside our hut reading. We would come to discover that John had a two fold mission on his mind as he walked up to us that day, stick-less (still no longer hobbling). First he came to thank my dad for the relief that he had brought to his aching bones. John did this by presenting us with a perfectly ripe pineapple. He said, “Its all I have to give, I wish I could give more, but I cannot.” As in many cases in the third world, it is so difficult to accept a gift like this. On one hand you know that the gift they are giving you is likely taking food out of their mouth and on the other hand you do not want to insult or shame them by not receiving their generous gift—So we took it, and thanked him profusely for his generosity.
As our conversation continued, part two of John’s mission became obvious. He took out his old tattered Bible, and began flipping through the pages. Soon, he arrived at a passage that spoke about the end of days. He read it to us and had our friend Simon translate it. He looked to us ominously and said, “I see these things happening here, are they happening in the USA?” Being totally isolated from the outside world in the rural bush, John did not know that the things described in the passage are happening at a far accelerated and greater rate in the USA. we told him, “Yes, these things are happening…”
In a moment of quiet solitude John looked at us, his face told the whole story. He was grieved and saddened by the state of the world. Then he said, “I’m glad I’ll die soon, to escape this madness.” Broken hearted we began to encourage him, reminding him that because he is still alive, God can still use him. We told him of mighty men in the Bible who in some cases did not even begin their ministries until they were 80. John seemed to receive our message in the same way that we attempted to receive his, openly.
Our conversation drew to an end after an hour or so of dialogue. As he was getting ready to leave, John reached inside his satchel (called a beeloom) and pulled out a 2 Kina note (worth about $0.67). He said, “ They don’t let me work anymore, so I don’t have much, but I want you to have this, please use this money for God’s kingdom.” Reminded of the woman who gave the pennies (Luke 21:1-4), we accepted his gift and promised that we would re-invest it.
In spite of feeling hopeless, John still chose to invest in God’s kingdom that day.
A couple days later John came to greet us again. While he was their he began to speak with an elderly woman who had become hysterical earlier that morning. He was the only one in the village who had the patience and wisdom to calm her down. God surly is not finished with him yet.
John is a great example of a man full of faith who chose to hope instead of fear—even though the world around is falling apart. He chose to be a part of the solution not the problem. John chose and chooses to follow Jesus actively every day. God is able and is working—He can do anything—even bring life and hope in an apparent hopeless situation.