Once again it’s time for a major change. For the last 13 years we have been living in the US and spending four months each year in SE Asia. It has been getting clearer and clearer that we are to switch that pattern. We will live in SE Asia and spend three to four months each year in the US.
This means our selling our house. The hardest part of this change for me was giving up this house. I have enjoyed it so much. It is a nice home, full of great memories. We have lived in it longer than anywhere we have ever lived.
For all the years overseas, we only lived in each house two years. When you move often, you don’t accumulate so much. At least every two years we thought about whether we really needed each thing we were going to have to move. Now, with twelve years in this house, we have so much more to sort through. Does it go with us, stay in storage, get thrown away, or donated?
That’s the background for this issue of PW. Belongings and our attitudes towards them are important to God. He works in us to teach us His ways and His priorities. In 1993, Marilyn wrote an article for Peter’s Wife. God was using a car to teach her valuable lessons about her attitude toward her belongings. This is a good time for me to read it again, and it might be just what you need, too.
I glanced at the clock. Nearly noon, just time to finish curling my hair and fix lunch. It was Saturday and family time after a busy week. We might explore the coral caves at the beach during low tide later in the day. Living in the capital of an African country did have advantages, when the sweltering heat didn’t wear us down.
The phone rang, and my day was ruined. “Mama Marilyn,” an excited male voice boomed through the earpiece. My wife is ready to go home with the new baby. We’ll wait for you at the front door of the hospital.” He added hesitantly, “You can take us home, can’t you?”
I was speechless. And irritated. And just beginning to feel imposed upon. The round trip for me would be one and a half hours.
“But Yohana, it’s time for lunch. My family is waiting for me to feed them. I can’t come to get you now! In fact I have other plans! You didn’t tell me you’d need my help today.”
Silence reigned on the other end of the line. Brightly I added, “Can’t you take the hospital van that takes patients home around town?”
Yohana sighed, “It’s already gone. Priska wasn’t ready in time.” He added despairingly, “And I don’t have much money.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t help you this time,” I said kindly (I hoped). “If I had known sooner, I could have arranged for this.”
I hung up the phone and headed for the dining room, seething all the way. “They’re taking advantage of me!” I complained to anyone who would listen. “I’m just a taxi driver, for free! Worse, a status symbol!”
I remembered how awed patients had been when I’d visited another African friend in the maternity hospital. “You have a Mzungu (white) friend come to see you?” they had asked her in astonishment. Was this getting to be a pattern in my life?
But Priska and Yohana would not leave my mind. Lunch was tasteless as Yohana’s dismay replayed in my ears. What if they really didn’t have bus fare? I knew their living conditions. I’d visited their home for a women’s meeting. Priska had only two chairs so we all sat on the dirt floor. The walls were disintegrating where chunks of mud had fallen out; for some reason no one had repaired them. The holes were perfect entries for snakes and rats. The little amount Yohana made went toward clothes and their simple diet. They were one of the poorest families in our group. Our home wasn’t elaborate, but we had so much compared to them. And I had turned them down. I was so ashamed.
Excusing myself from the table, I tied a scarf over my hair and headed for the door. “I’m going to find Priska!” I announced.
As I dodged wild drivers, hand carts, bicycles and pedestrians through the city’s steamy narrow streets, Luke 12:48 burned into my mind: “. . . to whom much is given, of him much shall be required.”
“But what have I been given?”
“Your car,” whispered the Holy Spirit, “among other things.”
I remembered when Rose asked me one day, “Do you know what people call your car?”
“Free taxi,” I muttered under my breath. “Tell me,” I said aloud.
“We call it God’s car!” she stated. “You see, you have brought so many of us to service and we became believers. Then we got out and walked or took a bus and let someone else ride. And after a while those people believed and they gave up their seats to others. Haven’t you noticed?”
It was true. Our car was often filled with power as new believers sang, praised the Lord, and were blessed on their way to and from services.
The car was also a source of blessing to our African neighbors. It had helped me save the lives of two old men across the road from our house, who were poisoned on bad food. If I hadn’t taken them to the hospital, they would have died. The car had transported other local mothers, as well, to the hospital to have their babies.
Our car met still other needs. During times of tragedy it became a hearse. My husband once carried the unembalmed body of a believer who had died, to his home country, close to 1,000 miles away, in our car. Again, it was a vehicle of happiness on wedding days as brides and grooms were transported in style.
Yes, it was God’s car. But one of God’s drivers was tired. And her attitude was all wrong. She surely wouldn’t get any stars in her crown for her actions that day. God blesses a cheerful giver, whether money, time, or oneself is given. He also has a way of removing scales from his drivers’ eyes.
I dashed into the hospital, looking for Priska. Everyone else was looking at my hair with the bumps under the scarf, they weren’t used to such strange European ways of hair dressing. Priska and Yohana were nowhere to be found.
I drove down every street I thought they might have taken, watching for them on the sidewalks and roadside, gazing into all the bus windows. I even went clear out to their house, but they hadn’t arrived yet. It took me two or three times as long looking for them as if I had gone after them in the first place. I never did find them that day, but oh, the lessons I learned through that day!
God reminded me of so many things: of our privilege in being PWs in a city like this, of the work we had been given among people we truly loved; of resources whereby we could share the good news with others so easily. He reminded me that it’s the caring things we do for others that hold the most impact. And He reminded me of our Lord who gave and gave. He didn’t keep office hours; He was available whenever there was a need. No doubt people often took advantage of Him too. His ministry wasn’t always glamorous either. Sometimes it was hot, sweaty, tiring, hidden, the kind that didn’t see rewards or acclaim. As a man he ministered among people whose culture was so different from His heavenly way of life. But His attitude never changed. He loved them, always. And it showed.
“Forgive me, Lord,” I prayed. “Please help me to be more like you.”
I knew God expected me to care for my family, that it was my first priority after Him. But I also knew that when my own heart was right, He would give me wisdom to balance my work with home life in such a way as to bless everyone. If I let Him, He would guide me in when to say “Yes” and how to say “No.” Either way, with His help, the love of Jesus would shine through, even into my car.
Distributing or using all that He has provided for us is our stewardship. How we want to be stewards with the right attitude!