Thursday, March 31, 2011

Goodness and mercy follow

About 7 years ago, Anne and I were part of a church mission team to several Anglican Churches in and around Salta in Northern Argentina. After flying about 18 hours, first to Buenos Aires, and then back up to Salta, we settled in that evening, met a few people who were hosting us, and then geared up for what looked like a busy schedule.

After two busy days, we discovered the third morning that there was a last minute change of schedule. We were shuttled off to a church that wanted us to participate in a regional gathering of leaders.We quickly revamped what we had prepared for a very different mission, and launched in at the leaders gathering. 

We had couple of intense morning sessions and then a break before the afternoon meal. During the break, a car pulled up and an older couple got out. Several older people glanced at them, and then recognized them and hurried up to greet them with hugs and kisses. They were an English couple who had been missionaries in the area, but had been called back to the UK almost 30 years ago. This was their first visit since they had left.

When the meal arrived, the conference coordinator decided to put all the English speaking guests at the same table. The older gentleman and I traded names, and as we were both clergy, a bit of clerical chit chat. Then of course we sorted through places and names to see if we had any in common.

Surprisingly to both of us, we had several connections to places and people in common. And one church in particular had been a very painful one for this couple. Anne and I looked at each other, because we too had been injured in an almost identical church setting and knew that this meeting was not a coincidence. In fact we knew of the church, the situation, and actually knew some of the people involved. We sensed that this meeting was not accidental.

At that moment, our host came up and said due to a slight change in plans we were not going to start the next part of the sessions for about 2 hours. He hoped we understood. We looked at this older couple and said, "Do you have some time to talk and would you like to?"  Their eyes teared up and they both said "Yes" in unison.

Over the next two hours we talked and prayed and sensed that many of the deep wounds in this couple's life were being healed. Then, almost as quickly as they had arrived, they had to head back so they would not miss their flight and we had to resume the conference.

Many months later, we received a letter from wife.

A twenty year old wound in both our souls was healed that afternoon. Who would believe that two people from England, and two Americans from Texas, would be brought together in Argentina, and that such healing and grace could occur? Why God waited until this moment to do this work, we will never know. Over the years we knew that those hurts made us more caring, sensitive ministers. But they also left deep scars that often hurt. We were willing to accept those wounds, in fact resigned to taking them to the grave with us. What a great gift to have them healed so suddenly and unexpectedly. God is so good."

Goodness and mercy do follow us all the days of our life. They do not always precede us.

May God grant us the serenity to accept those things we cannot change, until such a time as he changes them, in this life or the next. Amen

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