A Tail of Forgiveness

In Scripture, we see proof that those who suffer are blessed. James reiterates some of those blessings in scriptures. “We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (1). Job suffered the loss of children, possessions, and physical illness. He lost everything! His story is intense and sorrowful but by contrast there is also great relief at the end of his life, when he was showered with many blessings. Come see his reward that was given for his perseverance. “…The Lord restored the fortunes of Job…the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginnings” (2). Those were some of the earthly blessings. Notwithstanding, the spiritual blessings of God’s kindheartedness; compassion and mercy which extends above and beyond all Job had endured.

I can identify with Job’s losses and also remember the Lord’s gracious dealing with me. I can say, surely with absolute confidence; God satisfies our desires with good things. I’ve known both sides; the agony of pain and the blessings beyond what I deserve. I’ve seen God’s lovingkindness extended to my family through Michael’s tragic death, who was murdered. Although, I must confess life isn’t easy, I can also proclaim a testimony of grace and compassion as my Lord gave me many sweet consolations to sooth my broken heart. Months later, I also experienced many countless blessings flowing from a Father’s loving hand. Time has continued to tick-on in spite of the pain. Even today, I still recognize God’s goodness in spite of tremendous sorrow. One of those countless blessings came in the form of an answer to prayer.

I’d been praying God would send a godly woman into my son, Daniel’s life. Now look, at the outcome of how God answered my prayer. He blessed us all, but Daniel, more so, in sending this godly woman. How great God is! Daniel’s wife’s name is Lisl. She is from South Africa, and her native language is Afrikaans. I rejoice that Lisl knows Jesus as Savior and Lord. I feel a swell of gratitude filling my heart as I remember God’s blessing over their marriage. Yet our joys are indescribable upon holding our precious grandson born two years later. Daniel and Lisl name him after Michael, A wonderful tribute to our son, whom we lost.

This is only one of many numerous blessings God’s given…and many more are coming in the near future.

Of our numerous blessings one we count exceptional is our trip to South Africa. Who would have known three years ago we would be flying halfway across the world? God’s surprises are amazing! I rejoice in His all-wise providence, for it is only by His hand this trip was possible. I was thinking of this when we meet Daniel and Lisl in New York. Then we all boarded the plane which flew fifteen hours to the other side of the world. Who would have thought we’d receive blessings upon blessings that were found along the way?

Our primary agenda for going to South Africa was to meet our new family…Lisl’s extended family. To our joy we meshed so comfortably with them and shared our bond of love for Jesus. We took lots of pictures and carried home many memories. Our time spent in this continent of the world was filled with activity, as Lisl had made big plans for us. One of the experiences we enjoyed was our encounter with a cheetah!

The Farm Inn was an animal preserve in a nearby resort. It was beautifully landscaped, and covered with beautiful flowers. Acres of green grass with shade trees gave a sense of peaceful serenity. The four of us, Daniel, Lisl, Roger and I, walked into the resort to check-in for an appointment. We scheduled a planned time to spend with a cheetah. What would it be like to pet a cheetah? We were led into a broad open grassy area and told to wait.  Not too far off we noticed a truck drive up. A man opened the back, and out jumped the cheetah. They walked towards us. The young trainer introduced the cheetah as Anthony, and then commanded him to lie down in which he obeyed. As we crouched to pet him he began to purr as loud as a diesel engine. The instructor told us Anthony was very sensitive in the areas of his chest, feet and tail, advising us not to touch these overly sensitive areas. Holding our cameras steady for a clear shot, we began taking pictures of each one of us with Anthony. The grass I was kneeling on was very wet so after a few minutes I decided to re-position myself and sit on my bum, so to speak. I fell back into a sitting position. The cheetah jumped which caused a sense of alarm in me…I jumped too! In fact, we all jumped…all four of us! The trainer said, “You sat on Anthony’s tail!” Oops!  All of a sudden fear ran through me…would he eat me up? I felt terrified as I quickly drew back my hand.  The trainer, seeing my apprehension said, “Its okay! You can pet him again – he forgives quickly”. With that guidance I walked around Anthony and sat down on his back side. He began to lie on his side as I began stroking him again, thinking, “Nice little kitty”. He was told to sit up. Baited by some raw chicken pieces in the trainer’s hand and then a picture was taken. Before we left, I gave him one last hug of thanks that he did not devour me.

What an experience!

Several days after the experience with the cheetah Roger and I had an opportunity to serve for a day at an orphanage/school. We came to Vastfontein humbly with a servant’s heart to encourage children and students or anyone else God brought to us. Africa has one million orphans per year due to aids, poverty, and prostitution. We were told we would be working with young children, house moms and students. After meeting with the coordinator and going on a tour of the school, we were taken to where the house mom’s lived. We were introduced to one of the house moms, named Patience. She has two children of her own and an additional six orphan children. She talked with us about how they manage their program. Somehow in my mind’s eye I didn’t expect to see the home so clean, orderly and completely functional. Across from the kitchen area was an L-shape couch where a child sat reading. Over to the left side of the room was a rack of books, and to the right was a bulletin board with pictures of the children. Patience explained how each child was given a new name when they came to Vastfontein (the name was a biblical name). In addition, each bedroom was given a territorial name, such as Jerusalem. As we looked into the neatly made bunk beds and immaculate clean room, I noticed a piece of paper taped on the door. It was one of the student’s writings who copied verses of scriptures from the bible. If it was meant for meditations or memorizing I’m not sure but I saw no sloppy work with smudges or errors only neatly handwritten work.

A decision was made that I would work with the younger children and Roger would move into another room and work with the older. I brought a game called the Hungry Little Caterpillar. I worked with the children by facilitating identification of numbers, counting, and days of the week plus what kinds of various fruits and veggies this hungry little caterpillar ate. Afterwards, I was able to talk to them about how the caterpillar morphs into a butterfly…and then flies away. Later, the children sang songs to me. Some of the songs I knew and I joined them in the singing with joyful merriment.

These children were happy, joyful children. Amazing! Probably all of them never knew their biological mother or father. Their joy was astonishing!

Next we walked to the Chapel where college students were daily taught through the scriptures. Roger had prepared to teach the male students how to work with their hands and I was planning to talk about my daily routine in America with a plan to let the women students tell me what it was like to live in South Africa. My plan was to pick up on some cues and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit I could turn to my bible and find a little tidbit of spiritual truth to leave with them. But God had different plans. It was decided Roger and I would work together with the whole group of male and female adult students. So all previous preparations were thrown out and we had to depend on an immediate filling of the Holy Spirit to speak through us. Roger opened with heartfelt thanks for the opportunity to speak with them. Then he continued to talk about how we (he and I) have endured many trials and tribulations over the years, but how God’s sovereignty worked behind the scenes for our best through them. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purposes” (3). Then it was my turn to speak. Since cheetahs and the like are part of their environment, I was lead to use my experience with Anthony, as an example. I told them about Anthony and the instructions about not touching his sensitive areas of his chest, feet and tail. I explained why I switched positions and how I sat on Anthony’s tail. I talked about my shocking fear, how I drew back and was afraid to touch him again – until the owner reassured me that Anthony forgives quickly. Then I related my story to sin and forgiveness. Sin ought to cause us to draw back. It should terrify us because it causes so much pain and suffering which results in guilt and shame. Its destructive nature invades our lives and robs us of peaceful tranquilly. In fact, sin ought to make our face blush as Ezra says, “…O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens”(4). The enormity of sin next to God’s holiness shows our need for God’s saving grace to forgive. But I praise God I had good news for those students. I told them God does forgives. He forgives quickly. His mercies are new every morning. If we confess our sins to God He pardons our transgressions. They are forgotten as far as the east is from the west and remembered no more. Great is Thy faithfulness! Our Lord’s love is so great He lifts the heavy laden burden of sin from a saint who humbly comes with a repentant heart. What a wonderful gift of forgiveness from a gracious God we have. With that good news, we bid our good byes, and covered them with blessings

Roger and I left “The Hungry Caterpillar Game”, fifteen small bibles of meditations of Psalms and Proverbs, colorful bookmarks, and lots of candy. They seemed grateful for our gifts and the time spent with them, welcoming us back again one day.

Most of all we walked away so full and enriched by God’s goodness.

What a God we serve!

Our adventures also included a wild safari that lasted almost four hours. We were able to go on an elephant hunt through the brush, and slush through deep waters in the rolling terrain of South Africa. We were within twenty feet of seven elephants, where we watched them watching us as we watched them. We also saw many other animals: zebras, ostriches, warthogs, water buffalo and different species of antelope. We were able to see the size of a huge elephant, to the laborious work of a small dung beetle, which was up on his hind legs pushing against a ball his size. Things we realize we will never see again. The wonder of creation stunned us!
We are home now and seem a bit changed. Yes! There is no place like home. We have a different view of our country, where we appreciate our freedom on a new level. We treasure our expanding family, and our minds have broadened with views about the world at large around us. Our hearts are blessed and are filled with the benefits of God’s goodness. We thank God by embracing His mercy as we are held in His faithfulness!
How blessed among all people are we!

How blessed among all people are we!

Footnotes:
1. James 5: 11
2. Job 43: 10; 12
3. Romans 8: 28
4. Ezra 9: 6-7
All Scripture taken from the New American Standard

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