to relax and rely
Recently Eric and I were “Whatsapp’ing” back and forth, he up in the Himalayas and I down in the Andes.
Having just arrived in Leh, a very different culture on the world’s other major Israeli backpacker Hummus Trail, and after a busy summer with us down here in Huaraz, he mentioned: “When we first got here, it was hard. I was depressed and overwhelmed with what we had to do here alone.” Then, he followed up with something simple but profound: “But I’ve discovered that by relaxing and relying upon the Holy Spirit to lead, while staying strong in the Word, the opportunities suddenly present themselves.”
You see, I had been fretting about the season winding down and about whether or not I was “doing enough” here at the end. I, too, was depressed and a bit overwhelmed. Coming out of the dentist the other morning and after days of meeting no one, I ran into three Israeli backpackers who had just arrived in Huaraz. I invited them over for dinner and shared with them how the God of Israel is the only true God and how the Messiah of Israel has changed my life. They all took Trekker Tracts. I really thought these guys would message me about coming over, but I never heard from the again. Then, I remembered Eric’s words, and in that moment, a glorious thing transpired: the student became the teacher.
Sometimes, we try too hard to make things happen in the work of evangelism. We need to just relax, stay strong in the Word, and rely upon the Holy Spirit. The opportunities will come, and we need to be READY, not distracted by our own outreach programs. Praise God for street preachers who faithfully handle and proclaim the Scriptures. Over the years, however, I have seen even amongst these a task-oriented obsession that won’t get off the box for two seconds to engage someone with an honest question and a genuine openness to Gospel truth. It becomes about drawing a crowd, or how many tracts I can get out, or how many doors I can knock, or how many this, or how many that; and good opportunities are often skirted or missed.
In my frustration, I decided to take my martial arts student’s (also my co-laborer in the Gospel) advice. I decided to relax and rely. When those three Israelis didn’t message me, I opted to take my daughter up an Andean Nevado to practice some mountaineering skills on the ice. Fernando, our driver, had been out of town, so this also yielded a last opportunity to spend some time with him before leaving on Saturday morning. He still refers to the Spanish Bible that I gave him last summer as one of his most prized possessions. I asked him on Monday in Spanish: “Are you up for one more adventure before we leave?” And he responded: “I would love it.” So, instead of hosting Israeli backpackers yesterday, an unexpected opportunity arose whereby I could further disciple a local Gentile during a long and bumpy ride to the Huarapasca Pass in Huascaran National Park. He asked genuine questions about the Scriptures, and I was able to answer them with the Scriptures. And, when I bade a final farewell to Fernando last night, I realized that I wouldn’t have traded that time with him, that opportunity that just presented itself, for 100 encounters on the street. Please pray for this man. Like the scribe who answered Jesus discreetly in Mark 12, he is not far from the Kingdom of God.
Back to Eric: he took his own advice. Several days after the above exchange, he shared that he had wandered, and wandered, and WANDERED aimlessly on the streets looking for some Israeli backpackers to engage and beating himself up about what he perceived as a lack of boldness. "Then I suddenly ran into Omer, and he wanted to sit down at a coffee shop and talk. So I took him to one nearby, and we talked for hours about the things of God, political issues, and everything in between. In the end, he couldn’t find the words to say when I gave him a Hebrew-English New Testament." This young man may have struggled with finding words, but the huge smile on his face speaks volumes. Such is the fruit of RELAXING and RELYING.
I was literally thinking about all this today when I made a run to the ATM. I had settled within myself that we may have had our last encounters with Israeli backpackers for the season down here in Peru, and I consciously decided along that walk across town to relax and trust the Holy Spirit. Even without another encounter, the season has been fruitful, and many copies of God's Word have gone into the hands of weary travelers. As I stood in a ridiculously long line at the bank where half of the ATMs were malfunctioning, I suddenly heard Hebrew off to my left. Before I left with a fresh stash of Peruvian soles, I got to share with two Israelis who had just arrived in town and gave them Gospel tracts. Then, another came inside; I got to him as well. As I walked home, I got stuck on a corner waiting for a ridiculous amount of traffic to pass. Unlike India and Nepal, drivers WILL NOT STOP for pedestrians in Peru. As I waited impatiently, I again heard Hebrew, this time off to my right. Four copies of the Hebrew Scriptures went out, and one girl in the group had already received a New Testament from us way down in Argentina months ago. She was so excited to see me again.
After all that, I got a text from my wife who had run down to the grocery store: "I just met two girls from Israel and gave them Trekker Tracts."
As Eric had said, when you relax and rely upon the Holy Spirit to lead, while staying strong in the Word, the opportunities will just present themselves.
Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts (Zechariah 4:6)
Tomorrow is our last day in Huaraz. We'll see what happens. Please keep praying for us and the Trents. And, as always, the financial support of God's people helps keep the work afloat.
- Jesse Boyd, Colporter