Last year (2012) in Moldova I felt the Lord lead me to share some specifics from my personal testimony that are less then easy for me to recount. After doing this I felt foolish, questioning God’s leading and even questioning God. The next day I was a little encouraged to hear that my testimony had impacted a particular student at camp. I’ll call this student Joe. I came to find out that this student’s father had taken his own life just one week prior to camp, and what I shared apparently helped him in this time of grief. So I left Moldova still discouraged but hoping somehow that God might use the ministry I had done there in spite of my weaknesses.
After arriving at camp this year, I was pleased to find that Joe had been placed on my team! Joe follows Jesus, he is an older student, and he was a huge help to me throughout the week. However, on Wednesday morning I noticed that Joe was not himself. During the entire Bible study he had his head buried in his Bible, specifically the Psalms. So after our team Bible study was over, I pulled him aside and asked him what was wrong. It had been one year since his father’s death, and he was broken. Many in the camp grieved with him that day. We held our brother, and we cried together. We prayed, and we asked for comfort from the Lord. His grace was abundant, and Joe returned to his normal energetic self the next day.
The rest of the week was amazing. We saw the Holy Spirit draw many to salvation. God moved mightily among his people. Friday night came, and with it our last worship service. All week long we had been singing a song written by Martin Smith entitled, “God’s Great Dance Floor.” It’s a party song, and we were in a party kind of mood! Everyone was dancing and clapping and singing at the top of their lungs. It was a special moment that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.
But then Linda (on the American team) cried out, “Something’s wrong with Joe!” Several of us rushed over to check on him. His eyes were open, and he was sitting up, but he could barely communicate with us. Someone said that he had a heart problem, and we began to worry. Then he passed out.
I don’t know that I’ve felt the full weight of a mostly grown man who was seemingly lifeless before, but I do know that I never want to again. We laid him on the ground, and Linda checked for a pulse. Initially none was found, but we quickly realized that his heart was still beating and he was still breathing. But he was not conscious. One of the Moldovan leaders splashed some water on his face and tried to wake him. Another leader pulled his car up to the site, and six people picked Joe up and placed him in the vehicle. An ambulance had been called and would meet the car half way. Joe started regaining consciousness after being placed in the car, but as they drove off, we all worried about his condition. The whole camp was shocked. Many wept. How could this joyful night and life-changing week end in the darkness of such uncertainty?
And then, God’s people began to pray. We prayed through tears. We asked for healing. We exclaimed our trust in the only One who holds our lives in His hands. What else could we do? Then we began to think that perhaps the Enemy may have a part in this trouble. Who are we to know if he was or wasn’t the source, but a unified thought began to enter our minds. We must return to praising God. After weeping for a moment, praying for a while, and placing our trust in our Father, we were compelled to return to the same praise that we had been offering Him less than a half hour earlier. Only this time the mood was obviously quite different. Instead of dancing with our feet, we raised our hands as a child longing to picked up. “How great is our God, sing with me, how great is our God.” Instead of shouts of praise, there was, at first, a humble yet focused determination in our voices. “Blessed be Your Name, on the road marked with suffering, though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your Name.” We got word that the ambulance had met the car Joe was in and that he seemed to be doing better. He was awake and talking but would still be taken to the hospital for testing. “Lord I need you, every hour I need you. My one defense, my righteousness, oh God, how I need You.” At this point the Moldovan worship team came up and did a couple of songs. The mood was changing. What was moments ago an intentional yet difficult decision to praise God in spite of our circumstances gradually returned to a free and joyful expression. Even the clapping started up again. Voices became louder and louder. And though the language was Romanian, there was a heart-felt adoration that transcended human dialect.
Then they asked me to sing another song in English:
You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger.
Your name is great, and Your hear is kind.
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing.
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul.
Worship His Holy Name.
Sing like never before, O my soul.
I’ll worship Your Holy Name.
One more Romanian song was sung, and we dismissed. As I walked back to my cabin, I had the overwhelming thought that perhaps I had just been a part of the most significant worship service I would ever experience this side of Heaven. Whether or not this is true or even if such a comparison is possible doesn’t really matter. Heaven had touched earth in the midst of suffering. God’s Spirit had led God’s people to praise Him in the middle of a storm that could have very easily diminished the impact of a week beautifully orchestrated by God. Darkness had fallen. But the light of Christ shone in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it. The enemy had struck his blow, but Christ had won.
The next morning the students and leaders loaded into buses and headed into town. Camp was over, and it was time to return home. As the buses pulled up to the church, there was Joe, standing outside waiting for everyone to arrive. The hospital could find nothing wrong with him, and so they released him. He had stayed the night at church, and now he was reunited with his spiritual family, the ones who had worried about him and the ones who had prayed diligently for him.
I wish I could have been there to see that scene. I wish I could have hugged Joe one more time and thanked God together with him for the happy ending to this story, but I was on another bus headed toward home. As I peered out the window that morning and looked across the rolling hills of Moldova, I realized that my faith had grown. Without even knowing it, God had carefully painted another sanctifying stroke on the canvas of my life. Our verses for the week were Ephesians 2:8-10. Verse 10 reads: “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus,” and oh how masterful an artist He is!