A Divine Encounter
Our close friends, Linda and Harold Wickman, served as missionaries in Kenya for nine years. During that time, they saw God at work in many different ways. Several of their stories are in this book. One of the most inspiring is the story of a mistake that produced amazing fruit. Linda likes to call it her Lydia story because it reminds her of Paul's encounter with a woman in the city of Thyatira found in Acts 16:13-15.
The story begins near the end of the Wickman's time in Kenya. Linda is a nurse. She provided medical services to the residents of a small village in the bush. At times, Harold drove her to nearby villages where they would care for the sick and share the Gospel. However, many areas were simply inaccessible by car. Linda would look out from the doorway of her modest home at the hills and valleys in the distance wishing she had access to a helicopter that would take her further into the remote areas of the bush.
Eventually, God answered the desire of her heart. A helicopter pilot volunteered occasionally to take a small team out into the bush. He dropped them off in the morning and picked them up later in the afternoon. While this was a real answer to prayer, it is not the whole substance of this story.
This story is actually about one of those trips into the brush. Because they were traveling into areas that are very sparsely populated, they sent a runner ahead to gather people to the helicopter drop off site. One morning, a team of three, Linda, a local pastor, and a church elder, were headed to an area called Soucea. As usual, the runner had gone ahead the day before to announce their arrival. The helicopter pilot, however, made a mistake and dropped them off in South Soucea. They did not realize his mistake until after the helicopter had left. There is a lot of dense jungle between Soucea and South Soucea. They were going to have to sit by a tree in the bush with nothing to do until the helicopter returned six hours later.
None of the three were happy about their plight. The pastor and the elder argued about what to do. Linda just sat near the tree, getting more upset by the minute. All she could think about were the people in the Soucea area who were waiting for their help, while they were stranded in another part of the bush. How could God allow this to happen when they were needed somewhere else? She felt helpless and stuck.
In a small way, she must have felt like Joseph. He had received great promises from God but ended up in an Egyptian jail. He must have looked around that cold jail cell and wondered, "What am I doing here?" Like Joseph, Linda felt like she was in the wrong place.
Eventually, a woman walked nearby. The pastor and the elder talked to her and discovered that the men of the area were out on a hunting expedition.
That was quite a blow to the pastor since, in this culture, the gospel is shared with the men who then pass it onto the women . . . or not. With no men in the area, there was nothing that the pastor or elder would do. It was unthinkable for them to minister directly to any woman including the woman walking towards them.
Nevertheless, the woman stopped. After learning of their plight, she pointed up a nearby hill and invited them to her hut, which she shared with two other younger wives of her husband. Linda looked up, saw a rocky steep path and sighed. It is 90 degrees outside, she was not in very good shape, and she was carrying water along with her medical supplies. She did not want to walk up that hill. Yet, with nothing else to do, all three decided to follow the woman. It was better than sitting by a tree alone in the jungle for six hours.
When they got to her hut, they sat down on a rock, while the woman went inside and made them some Chi. The other two wives were there, along with several children. Linda was exhausted from the hike up the hill and despondent from what appeared to be a total waste of her day. A thought suddenly came to her mind. Linda turned to the pastor and said, "You know, God does not make mistakes. He knew that we would end here. So how do you know that this woman is not like Lydia? Let's make the most of this."
The pastor was skeptical, so Linda decided to take the lead. When the woman came out, Linda shared her testimony with her. Since Linda did not speak Pokot, the pastor translated. She also read some Scripture and explained how Jesus Christ came to save us.
When Linda finished, the second wife remarked "Oh, I heard that story ten years ago down at Aross in Art Davis's church." The woman that Linda had shared with turned to the younger wife and said something that almost knocked Linda over. Her single sentence revealed to Linda God's powerful hand at work. It was a simple statement that changed the entire meaning of the day.
She told the younger wife "You mean that you heard this story ten years ago and you never told me, so God had to send a white woman from America to give me the message?" Then she turned to Linda, the pastor, and the elder and said, "Now that I believe, who is going to teach me?"
As Linda described it, they had not prayed, they had not asked her if she wanted to receive Christ, they had not done anything that we might expect should be done to lead someone to Christ. This woman was saved on the spot, entirely by the work of the Holy Spirit. Just like Lydia in verse 14 of Acts 16, the Lord opened her heart to respond to the Gospel. It was a vivid reminder to Linda about Who is really in charge of bringing the lost to Christ.
Three months later, after Linda and Harold had returned to the US, they heard that the pastor had returned to the area to find this woman still walking with the Lord. This time the pastor was able to follow up with the whole tribe. A major breakthrough for Christ had occurred in South Soucea. It had come through a woman, which violated all the cultural traditions of the country. Isn’t that the way God always seems to work? He is no respecter of culture or of the normal ways of doing things. He will pass an inheritance along to the youngest rather than the oldest, if it suits His purpose. And he will bring salvation through a woman in a male dominated culture if it is His will.
What appeared to be a mistake, was no mistake at all. If they had gone into this same area in the normal way, the men would have been there to greet them. The pastor would have spoken only with the men, and this woman would not have heard the message from Linda. After it was all over, like Joseph who discovered that everything that he went through was part of God's grand plan, Linda now understood that God had orchestrated everything from the pilot's error to the woman walking up the path. Just as God had used Joseph to preserve His people; He used Linda that day to build His kingdom in South Soucea.