“Dona Menina, Dona Menina!”
Who are they calling “Miss Girl”? I pondered as I wiped the sleep out of my eyes. It was my first morning in the jungle town on the Amazon River in 1983 after having been dropped off by the missionary pilot the previous afternoon.
I leapt out of bed as I realized the voice was calling me! The nationals did not know my name, but someone had come for conjunctivitis medicine. The nurse I was replacing had advised me that only three tubes of medicine were available for the town of 6,000 people and that I was to put it in the eyes of the patients as they came to the door. My first patient was here!
Opening the front door revealed Senhor Pedro, a wizened grandfather leaning on a gnarled walking stick. He sat on the bench in the living room and held his eye open with a calloused finger. After I applied the healing salve, he gratefully struggled to his feet and grinned. “Now you are my American girlfriend!”
I laughed at the picture created in my mind of dating an eighty-year-old gentleman in this Brazilian jungle town. What an intriguing first encounter with the residents of Santo Antonio!
As much as I thought I was prepared to serve in the Amazon jungle, I soon learned that I was not as prepared as I had assumed. II Timothy 4:2 says, Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction… (NASB). In Bible school I had heard that we must be ready to “preach, pray, or die at a moment’s notice.”1 In response, I learned to keep a short Sunday-School lesson for a range of ages in the front of my Bible, but those were in English and not appropriate for baby Christians in Santo Antonio. Those lessons simply were not enough.
About a week later I found this out for a fact. “Dona Susana!” accompanied by clapping at the front door greeted me one evening. I had taken several walks around town, tried to start conversations in the stores, and attended the small, wooden church, attempting to understand the jungle dialect of Portuguese. I felt totally lost! I had thought the cultural adjustment was overwhelming when I started language school, but this was even more so.
I opened the door and saw a nearly toothless woman I had met at the church on Sunday. “Dona Susana, we need to have a Christmas program. The missionary who was here last year did a Christmas program with us. Will you help?” inquired Dagmar.
My mind raced as I wondered where the nurse and the doctor’s family had stored materials such as this. Where would I find a program? Did they have a program stored in their barrels? Did I even feel comfortable rummaging around in them? How could I get a program together in three weeks? Why did the other missionaries go on vacation this week? I felt helpless.
I settled with putting Dagmar off for three days. “Tell the young people that I will meet with them on Thursday evening at the church.” I prayed I could come up with something in that amount of time.
“Lord, help me!” I breathed.
God gave me the thought of turning directly to His Word for the script. I sat down, read Luke 2, and began to write. I was sure we could find a Mary, a Joseph, some shepherds, and an angel among the young people, but what about costumes? God continued to lead as a couple of the ladies from the church found some rags to sew together.
On Christmas Eve, the church was packed. Unsaved neighbors and friends came to see the pageantry at the tiny Baptist church. Jesus’ birth was announced anew with a running leap to the wooden platform by the Angel Gabriel. “BOOM!” reverberated throughout the church. “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” João announced in an off- white toga.
In season and out of season. Who else was there to turn to but God and His Word? I also discovered that another verse was true: Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass (I Thessalonians 5:24). God can be trusted to accomplish what HE calls us to do.
1 As quoted in http://www.theworkingpastor.com/missions-quotations, attributed to Overseas Missionary Fellowship.
© 2013 Thrive.
Question to consider: How do keep yourself prepared in season and out?