|Free Trinity Mission sits among the mesas of the high desert, its people reaching out to the Navajo Nation.|
God hears. And answers.
Sometimes I have experiences with God that make such an impression on me that for weeks or months afterward, I continue to think about the moment, the impression He left, and the lesson He gave me.
Today, it’s May 23. Two months ago, my three kids and I had just returned from Mission Navajo, where a team of adults, teenagers and children from Prairie Ridge Church, Ankeny, Iowa, served in the Window Rock, Ariz., Tse Bonito, N.M. and Tohlakai, N.M., areas. We painted, constructed stairs, cleaned carpets and hauled away junk at a Christian school. A team built handicap-accessible deck entries for the elderly. We distributed food donations.
Our team leader and friend, raised on the Rez, assigned one woman on the team the task of finding a bed for a nine-year-old boy without one. So, she and some others on the team assembled, painted, and delivered a bed that a church member back home made. Blankets, too. We (not meaning me) chopped wood, helping to provide for the main source of heat on the Rez. We made friends. We shared in worship with these people we came to love.
But one day, I was feeling a particular yearning to touch someone on an individual basis. To offer practical, basic help. I wanted to be the one to fill a need. To love on someone personally.
I stood in the basement of Free Trinity Mission, Tohlakai, N.M., (http://freetrinity.org/) a ministry partner church there, and our home base. I stood alone at the bottom of the wooden steps, ready to climb them, and head outside to help two of the men on the team supervise my son and another boy while they chopped wood. I sighed and said aloud, “I just want to help someone.”
I made my way outside, across the church parking lot cum basketball court, to the wood-chopping area, and shot photos of the boys taking turns chopping wood with a little hatchet, and the men, hard at work. I like to think both pairs were swinging axes for Jesus. I enjoyed taking some photos, and documenting a fun Chinese foreign exchange student’s help, as he stacked wood.
Walking back across the parking lot with one of the men a few minutes later, an old SUV pulled up, and a little, elderly Navajo woman approached us. She looked so sweet to me.
When we met up, we greeted her. She explained that she knows Rev. and Mother Gardner, who lead the church and mission. And she asked us if Rev. Gardner could dig an outdoor toilet for her. No kidding.
We quickly started asking questions about how deep it would need to be, how wide, where she lives and more. Budding sanitation engineers, are we? I was and am astonished at the need. At some point, we remembered that our host in Navajoland is well-equipped to help with this, using his backhoe. I think that’s what it’s called. No need to grab our spades and shovels quite yet.
But, I was privileged to help this woman in other ways.
We had trekked from Iowa with a trailer loaded with donations of winter coats and other items. As I talked with the lady, I learned about her new grand-baby. Her son. His girlfriend. She tells me she cooks on an outdoor stove. And that even inside their home – evidently walled only with a Tyvek-type of house wrap – the wind whips through where she sleeps in the living room.
Having strolled into the church with her, I learned her name is Elsie. We stood in the red-carpeted room with boxes of donated coats and other items from our church. She told me her coat size, and I pulled out a burgundy microfiber winter coat, about knee length. Perfect fit. And she liked it. The first coat she tried on was the one she wanted. She was completely satisfied with it. I saw God’s hand at work for her. What a blessing for her, and an honor for me.
Of course, I thought, ‘She needs one of the blankets we brought. How about two?’ I knew it must be bone-chillingly cold in that makeshift house, set along the base of a reddish brown mesa.
It comforts me to know that in the harsher months, this Navajo woman stays with relatives in Phoenix. Many of the elderly Dine` people find better places to stay through the sometimes threatening high desert mountain winters.
The sun streamed in through the windows of this former classroom. An old teacher’s desk sits as a reminder of a different kind of ministry our partners here used to provide. The smell of the cardboard boxes and clothes subtly hung in the air.
Elsie spoke to me about her hard life. Many details. But she felt gratefulness to God, and to her brothers and sisters in Christ.
I asked her what else she might need. Pots and pans to cook with outside, over the fire. In my home, I have a nice, bisque smooth top GE. It’s inside my kitchen. I agree to arrange for Elsie’s pots and pans.
I walked her into the shower rooms that are under construction, where we stored the royal blue reusable grocery bags full of food staples. We stuffed them full with flour, Spam, cooking oil and the like. It’s this green-era’s twist on the food basket. I gave her one. She appreciated the gift.
I walked her back to the vehicle, where her son waited. He expressed his thanks, as well. An ache in my heart told me that I didn’t want to part with this woman who God used to bless me.
I thought then, and consider now, about being the hands and feet of Jesus to the poor and oppressed, to Elsie. I think about how she was like Jesus to me. Because when we give to or love someone who belongs to Christ, we are truly giving to or loving Him. Either way, to God alone be the glory.
What a lesson I have learned about God’s listening ear through the experience He orchestrated with Elsie. When I said aloud, “I just want to help someone,” I truly wasn’t intentionally praying.
What a loving, generous Father I have that He would answer, even when I wasn’t really talking to Him. Praise Him for eavesdropping. Certainly, I wouldn’t say to Him, ‘I wasn’t talking to You.’ I love His ever-present help. I love that my God is all-knowing, all-hearing, all-seeing.
His loving answer to my non-prayer excites me. What does this potentially mean? More than I could ever ask or imagine, it seems to me.
What generosity, too, that God would mold my heart enough to His that two months later, my experience with Elsie remains with me, as a true gift, lesson and blessing from the Maker of the universe. The Maker of Elsie. The Maker of me.
©Helene Bergren 2011. All rights reserved.
©Helene Bergren 2011. All rights reserved.