When I was four years old, my parents thought they may not be able to continue living in Pakistan.
They were tired. They were discouraged. They felt they had seen so little, for so much work. Mom and Dad were getting ready to go on a furlough and wisely decided not to make a decision until they had reached the United States and had a chance to process and rest.
It was while at a summer linguistics course that my dad had a renewed sense of purpose, a reawakening of his ‘call.’ While reading the book of Acts, he was struck by this work that began so long ago: The work of reaching out with the message of the gospel.
I learn this as I begin to reread my mom’s book. It is a book about the mission work that was started in the Sindh area of Pakistan by my parents mission, soon after Pakistan’s birth and independence. It is a fascinating history full of names and people who I know. Not only does it read as a historical account, it also gives me insight into my parents as a young couple, beginning with a journey by ship to this new country.
I read about my dad building a septic system with one page of simple instructions; about how three couples with five kids between them lived in two rooms; about a Hindu friend bringing them keys one night to a new house, urging them to “Quick, come put the lock on so Muslim neighbors don’t take it!”
I read about death and discouragement, about times of miscommunication and trial, about raising a family in a country far different from the one they left.
I read, and I remember.
There were times when my parents were deeply discouraged, and I see that through the book. Sometimes discouragement was soul deep; so deep that they felt they could no longer live overseas. But then they would remember – remember what brought them there, remember what had transpired, remember the day-to-day strength as well as the extraordinary miracles that happened. There was strength in remembering.
In the Old Testament book of Joshua, the Lord tells Joshua to choose 12 men, one from each tribe. They are to go and pick up a stone from the middle of the Jordan River, at the spot where the priests were carrying the Ark of the Covenant. They were to carry the stones to the place where the people would spend the night. There they would put them down to serve as a sign. These were stones of remembrance. They served as a sign to the people present and to future generations.
“In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever….Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.” Joshua 4:6,7,9
I don’t know where you are today or what is going on in your life. I know that it is the end of the school year and many of you are packing up and saying goodbye. Others are staying, you are the ones left behind. Some of you may be wondering why you’ve wasted your life in the hard places, others may be weeping that you have to leave those same places. Some of you may be facing a difficult decision, a decision that demands head and heart: “Should we stay? Should we go?” Others may have no choice in the matter, a crisis demands that you leave what you love.
No matter where you find yourself today, I urge you to remember.
What are the stones of remembrance in your life? What rocks can you point to, stones of surety that declare “God was here.” What can you list that point to a life of faith, built on a stone foundation? Was it a visa that came at the last-minute? A job that fit your gifts and skill set that you know laid the foundation for you to be able to go? Was it that sense of dread, and then peace, knowing something wasn’t quite right and finally finding out what it was – and you knew God had prepared you? Was it a time of meditation, where you knew beyond doubt that you were in the right place, making the right decision – whether staying or leaving? What are your stones of remembrance?
Gather those stones, put them down in writing, so that you too can tell future generations “This is why we are here.” Because it’s good to remember.
“But first, remember,remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain. the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the sign which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay not attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.” CS Lewis in The Silver Chair from the Chronicles of Narnia Series