Monday, August 10, 2015
On the job protection
Our first visit to Rio was a ten-day trip to get to know the church from where it all began. One Sunday we arrived at the new Leme church way too early for the morning service, so I decided to step out and buy some film for my camera. I had no idea how dangerous it was for a “gringo” to wander the streets and that Rio was rife with violent street gangs of little kids who looked cute and sweet but could easily slit your throat or rob you of everything you have.
It had happened to plenty of unsuspecting tourists and locals, but I just naïvely wandered out on my own. As I walked along, one little boy of about 9 began to speak to me, pointing to my shoe. I spoke no Portuguese at the time, and looked down to what looked like a big blob of toothpaste on the toe. He spoke enthusiastically as if he wanted to help me, and pointed towards an alleyway. He’s a little boy, I'm an adult—no problem, I thought. I followed him into a dead end lined with dozens and dozens of other ragged boys around his age, all shouting and gesturing when they saw him lead me in. As they crowded around me and partially cleaned off the goo, I got a queasy feeling that they might be up to no good. I had some cash in my pocket but couldn't remember the exchange rate or what anything was worth, so I whipped out a bill, handed it to the boy and a riot of shouting and arguing went up among them. I just turned and walked straight back to the church as fast as I could.
When I retell this story to my friends from Rio, they can’t believe I’d been so gullible, or that I actually got out of there alive, or with my camera and wallet! As I heard the gory stories of what others had gone through, I knew that God had sent an angel to surround me with protection and rush me out of there unscathed. Just like Jesus had walked straight through an angry crowd wanting to throw Him off a cliff, I was able to disappear in safety.
As I look back on the many mistakes I've made, the times when I didn't have a clue what to say or what to do, God always graciously led me if I was willing. The biggest mistakes I've made weren’t just because I was inexperienced, but because I wasn't listening and depending on His guidance. But even then, God always showed me how to get back on track, how to recoup my losses and still be blessed.
We can’t hang back in fear when God calls us to move forward, just because we're scared of making mistakes or feel inadequate for the job. Of course we're going to make mistakes, but in our desire to please Him, He makes us adequate. He has no problem teaching us as we go. If we stumble, He'll protect us. You're in the middle of a fight against demonic forces that want to destroy you and your dreams, to convince you that God doesn't care, or to lead you down dead end roads. You may feel overwhelmed and incapable of handling the struggle you're in. God doesn't expect you to have everything figured out, just to listen and obey Him and put the little faith you have into practice. He'll lead you safely through as long as you let Him.
The Lord guards the inexperienced; I was helpless, and He saved me. (Psalm 116:6 HCSB)