Deliverance Ministry on the Bus by Karen
Last week, after telling a friend about something that happened during our travels back to the States, she said, "You should write a blog about this!" So, here I am. Since these extraordinary moments happened inside the context of totally ordinary activities, it didn't occur to me to snap any photos. To be honest, I was exhausted and the day just kept taking me by surprise. I found a few pictures of our family, but the majority of the images I used in this blog are generic photos I found on the Internet. I'm hoping they can help you imagine what happened.
We made it to our gate in plenty of time and boarded the plane uneventfully. I secretly hoped that the empty seat next to me would remain unoccupied, not because I needed to stretch out, but because I didn't have the energy to talk with anyone... or so I thought. Moments later a cheerful young woman arrived in the aisle next to our row motioning toward the empty space by the window. Jack and I got up and let her in. I quickly learned that she's a truck driver who hadn't taken a vacation since the onset of the covid-19 pandemic back in 2020. She was traveling to Costa Rica with a coworker and some friends. I was hoping to talk about her work or perhaps her travel plans because that would have been be easy, but no. She wanted to hear all about the work we do as missionaries. She wanted to learn about how we help people to grow in their faith. She was curious about why we feel so compelled to seek out the marginalized and seemed amazed to hear me say that God's love is a gift, not something that has to be earned. She didn't appear interested in sharing much about her own story, and when asked she just said that she had never stepped foot in a "real" church. Almost four hours later, as we bid each other farewell, I silently thanked the Lord for giving me the grace to be amiable and also for anything that He'd do in this young woman's heart in the days, months, and years to come.
As we were waiting for the bags our kids began talking with a young woman from Ethiopia, who I'll call Ayana, that has been living in the United States for the last 15 years or so. She was just in Washington D.C. meeting with various politicians and foreign diplomats to discuss ways that the U.S. government might be able to help end the genocide in Ethiopia which continues to claim the lives of her family members and fellow tribesmen. She came to Costa Rica to meet up with some friends for a handful of days, but the friends had already gotten settled into the hotel several hours away, and she wasn't quite sure what to do. Ayana inquired about taxis and rental cars, but it was obvious that she was going to get grossly taken advantage of because she doesn't speak Spanish and appears to be financially comfortable. As we talked we realized that she was headed to a town close to our own. If she wanted to have lunch with us, she could then go with us to the bus station and we'd be able to accompany her most of the way. All this was a huge relief to her. After lunch, we walked to the bus terminal. As our bus was pulling in I realized that I needed to go to the bathroom because there is no bathroom on the bus, nor is there the opportunity to get off the bus to use any sort of restroom along the way. When I was done I ran to the bus and made my way to the back where the rest of my family was sitting. I had hoped to snuggle with one of my family members and go to sleep, but that wouldn't be possible because the seat that had been saved for me was right next to our new Ethiopian friend. It's not that I wouldn't want to talk with Ayana on any other occasion. She was really, really sweet; it's just that I was so exhausted that I felt like I had absolutely nothing left to give. As I slid into my seat it took everything I had not to show my disappointment. I explained that we'd be traveling through the mountains and that the road is so windy in certain parts that it's nauseating. Because of this, my family and I always take motion sickness pills. I dug through my bag, got the pills, and started passing them out to my family members. Then, I popped two in my mouth and apologized in advance for not being very good company because I'd surely be asleep within 15 minutes. Ayana confessed to getting motion sick and asked if she too could take the pills. I was delighted for all the wrong reasons. I wish that I could say that I prayed and asked the Lord for the grace I'd need to make the most of the time that we had together and such, but that is definitely not the case. I was really struggling. Our small talk somehow took a turn and before we even made it out of San Jose we were discussing very personal issues related to the challenges of living in a culture that is not our own. Ayana and her family moved from Ethiopia to the United States when she was an adolescent, which makes her a Third Culture Kid. Everything that my family and I have learned to help our own kids cope with the difficulties of living cross-continentally applied directly to her experience. In fact, at one point, Ayana said, "I feel like everything you're saying describes my life experiences exactly. It's been so hard!" Both of our eyelids began to get droopy from the medicine we had taken, but it seemed like there was something bigger at work here. Ayana's father is Muslim, and her mother is Christian, which adds a whole other layer of complexity to her situation. Ayana told me that her father left a couple years ago to return to Ethiopia for a vacation, or so he said. After a couple of months, he called her mom to say that he had married another (younger) woman and would be staying in Ethiopia to start a family with her. He was unapologetic and assured her that he'd send sufficient funds for them to live comfortably. He ended the call by saying that there was no reason for any of them to contact him unless of course, the mom decided to convert to Islam and she wished to return to Ethiopia with the kids. Ayana has called her dad several times since then, but he's never answered. Ayana continued by telling me about the failed relationships that she's had which she believes to be directly related to her cross-cultural upbringing as well as her father's oppressive nature.
As she continued sharing she began experiencing some really intense emotions which seemed to segue into physical discomfort: pain in her head, nausea, a stomach ache. I assumed that this was nothing more than motion sickness and suggested that she open the window a bit further in case she had to vomit. She got a bag and started wrenching, although nothing came out. She was mumbling and crying, but I couldn't tell what she was saying because of the wind coming from the wide-open window. I asked her if I could pray over her. She agreed. I asked if I could lay my hands on her. She agreed. My intention was to humbly ask the Lord to take her motion sickness away. I began by praying to the Holy Spirit, that He would come in power to heal this woman of whatever it was that was causing her so much pain and agony. Little did I know that this prayer would propel us into what some would call deliverance ministry; prayers that help to cleanse people of the evil spirits which oppress them and cause problems in their lives. I prayed and she trembled. I prayed and she wretched. I prayed and she cried and yelled. I prayed and she clenched her fists and hit her legs. I prayed and she pulled her hair so hard that I thought she was going to pull it out. I prayed and she collapsed in her seat. (Do you remember that we were on the bus this whole time?) I wasn't quite sure what had just happened, but it seemed to be over. I offered some last prayers of thanksgiving and hugged Ayana as she wept. About ten minutes later she straightened up a bit, opened her eyes, which were glistening with tears, and said in a completely calm voice, "I'm free. I'm free to love. I'm free to be a Christian." At that, she relaxed back into my embrace. A short while later she began talking about how excited she is to learn about Christianity and to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We talked about the importance of reading the bible each day, attending religious services, and joining a community of faith-filled believers. She said that she believes she's supposed to take a break from all romantic relationships and just focus on becoming the woman that God created her to be. As the bus pulled into the terminal, she said that she's confident that Jesus will guide her to a wonderful, Christian man when the time is right. I was in awe of all that had happened during our ride and really didn't know what to say. I gave Ayana a big hug and promised to pray for her.
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Little did we know that hundreds of people were already in line waiting to check their bags for flights that left around the same time as ours. We followed the line through the corridor, around the corner, down a hallway of sorts, and around another corner before we finally found the end. In all the traveling I've done, I've never seen lines that long. Anyhow, I got in line while Chris headed out in search of a place closer to the front where we might be able to leave our bags (which collectively weighed hundreds of pounds) so we didn't have to inch through the line with all of them.
|This is not the woman who was sitting|
next to me on the plane, but she looks
similar enough that you can imagine.
Now, it was time to move mountains, or at least one mountain - Mt. Luggage.
|This is not Ayana. It's a random|
photo of an Ethiopian woman.
However, it looks similar enough that
you can imagine what she looks like.
|Driving through the mountains in a bus|
can be really nauseating.
Over the years I've been warned against praying certain prayers unless I felt that I was spiritually strong enough to handle whatever may come about as a result. When I stood in line at the Orlando airport a couple of weeks ago I was exhausted and certainly not looking for any challenges. I asked the Lord for docility, wisdom, and courage because it truly is my desire to do His will inside of each moment. After I met Bernique I was sure that she was the person I was supposed to encounter during our travels. After chatting with the truck driver in the airplane I felt confident that the Lord was at work in ways that I'm incapable of understanding. My time with Ayana confirmed that the Lord desires to use each one of us to help build His glorious kingdom and that He'll always give us what we need to do that which He's called us to - we simply need to make ourselves available. We arrived home in time for our kids to attend school the following day and Anna did fantastic on her Chemistry exam. I pray that the other folks in line at the airport had equally successful journeys.
I encourage you to pray inside of each moment. When you're not sure what to say or how to pray, just be honest and tell Jesus what's on your mind. I'm positive that He delights in our desire, and I imagine that He enjoys transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.
God bless you, Karen
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