I began my part of the necessary clean-up before mowing the grass around the old chicken house by tossing scrap metal into the “recycle” pile. Then I placed long, glass shards into a five gallon bucket–gingerly, even though I wore leather gloves. Window panes, leaning against a rusty, fifty-five gallon drum, had been knocked over. The glass had shattered and was now half hidden in last year’s brown grass.
I could imagine the possibility of my grandchildren someday running barefoot through a sprinkler in the grass or lying on their backs watching the cumulus clouds bloom and sail away, and I would want the lawn to be safe for them. It hadn’t been for me.
“No bare feet!” my parents cautioned me fifty-some years ago, soon after we had moved to this acreage. The summer-lush grass hid dangerous bits of metal and broken glass because cars had been junked behind the many sheds, and no one had picked up the debris. Pieces continued to work out of the dirt years later.
I futilely wished I could have gone back all those decades ago and prevented the previous owners from leaving the vehicles to rot and rust. I also wished I could have gone back a few months and moved the glass to a better location, but I don’t have a time machine. I can’t change the past or its consequences. It is what it is, and it was what it was.
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The following story is an edited version of a true tale of a trip to Cambodia told by Walt (a retired farmer and nurse) one Sunday morning in church.
. . . and I promise to connect junked cars and Cambodia.
Against the advice in the guide book, I decided to travel to an area in northern Cambodia for a couple of days to visit a small mission medical station and orphanage that I had been told about by a medical social worker in Poipet. Normally I would not choose to travel to this area because northern Cambodia is the second most heavily land-mined area in the world.
Because of my nursing background, I worked side by side with the missionary nurse and a doctor from Korea to help a mother in labor, who was a victim of a land mine. In spite of all we did, she died, leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. It was obvious that we would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, since we had no incubator (or electricity to run one). Although we were near the equator, nights were often chilly. The nurse used cotton wool to carefully wrap the baby. My driver, who had been stoking up the fire, was asked to fill a hot water bottle to provide gentle heat for the baby. He soon came back, distressed that it had burst. (Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates). It was the last hot water bottle.
“All right,” the nurse said, “I will keep the baby close to me. We will sleep as close to the fire as we safely can. I will keep the baby free from drafts. ”
The following day I joined the doctor and my translator for a time of prayer with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with us. We gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained the problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.
During prayer time, a ten-year-old girl, Ruthy, prayed with blunt conciseness. “Please, God, send us a hot water bottle today. It will be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead. So, please, send it this afternoon.” While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, “And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl, so she will know You really love her.”
As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say “Amen?” I just did not believe that God would do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything; the Bible says so. But there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending a parcel from America. If anyone did send a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle for a mission station near the equator?
That afternoon, while I was working with the nurse, removing metal fragments from the leg of a six-year-old that had been too close to an exploding land-mine, we received a message that there was a delivery motorcycle at the front gate. By the time we reached the compound gate, the delivery cycle had gone, but there on the porch was a large twenty-eight pound parcel. I am kind of an emotional guy, and I felt tears pricking my eyes. We decided not to open the parcel alone, so we sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it. Some thirty or forty pairs of little eyes were focused on the large cardboard box.
From the top of the box, I lifted out brightly-colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as we gave them out. Then there were the folded bandages for the patients. The children looked a little bored. Next came a box of mixed raisins and nuts. Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the . . . could it really be? I grasped and pulled out a brand new, rubber, hot water bottle. I cried.
A little girl had asked God to send it, but I had not truly believed that He would.
Ruthy was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, “If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!”
Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully-dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted! Looking up, she shouted, “Let us go over to give this dolly to that little girl, so she will know that Jesus really loves her!”
That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by the nurse’s former Sunday school class in the state of Colorado, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle to a mission station near the equator. And one of the girls in the Sunday school class had put in a dolly, for an Asian child–five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it “that afternoon.”
Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24 NIV
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Before Ruthy prayed, God had answered her prayer–in the past. He used a Sunday School class in the United States to answer a prayer not thought of until five months later by a child in Cambodia. God is not limited by space or time when answering prayers.
Jesus . . . said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26 NIV
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the BBC TV show, “Dr. Who,” it is a tale of the the Doctor’s (and companions’) heroic adventures in a space ship capable of time travel. The Doctor is one of a human-looking race called the Time Lords, who are not bound by space or time.
Although we might wish we had a time machine like the Doctor’s TARDIS to right past wrongs, even those as small as the rubble of abandoned cars, we don’t have that kind of power.
But God does. The great “I AM” is not bound by space or time. He is the Creator of both, the original Time Lord.
Having trouble grasping how time works, how God can put in motion the answer to a prayer before the need and the prayer have happened? Even Time Lords have a little trouble making it clear. Here the Doctor tries to explain time: it’s “wibbly wobbly, timey wimey . . . stuff.”
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photos by Barb Briggs
linking with Michelle DeRusha
linking with Laura Boggess