A missionary’s life – like mine – is well-documented. For over thirty years we sent out three or four newsletters annually.
This week I have been perusing some of those letters, writing a history of camping ministry in Bolivia for the 50th anniversary celebration coming up in July.
And at the same time I started gleaning through the brown paper bag of old cards and letters that I wrote to my parents, a bag I picked up in Dallas some years ago. My mom had kept all my letters since I left for college. That was a lot of stuff!
It was interesting to compare the letters, the public ones with the private ones.
The details in the letters to my mom must have bored her at times. I was wordy and repetitive and petty. But I did enjoy reading about my growing children and remembering the minutiae of the small and mostly-happy life that was mine.
* * *
This morning I read Psalm 78:11: “They [the Israelites] forgot what he [God] had done.”
I might think How could they have forgotten God’s rescuing them out of slavery? Parting the Red Sea? Feeding them miraculously in the desert? How could they forget how he guided them so clearly with fire and cloud?
But then, of course, this week I’ve been reminded of how forgetful I am.
Our public newsletters report what God did. Buildings completed. Programs fulfilled. Lives changed. Stories we have forgotten.
And my private letters remind me he also did amazing things for little ol’ me.
* * *
One of those letters told the story of my struggle to readjust to life in Bolivia after a vacation at the Florida beach. I compared the two places, and everything about Bolivia felt like a wilderness.
That week, I wrote that while deep in the crater of complaining, I had read Deuteronomy 8:2: “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”
Those words – ‘God led you’ . . . ‘in the wilderness’ . . . ‘to humble and test you’ – changed me. I saw there was a God-led purpose for me in Bolivia: to test me to see if I would obey him.
I saw the sin in my heart and repented of the ingratitude, the rebellion against his will, and for demanding what I craved. (See Ps. 78:18)
I also saw the faith and hope in there.
“This is a test,” I had written to my mom, “With God’s help, I hope to pass.”
I remember: I did pass that test. God helped me get out of that crater of complaining.
And he’s helped me many times since.
* * *
Psalm 78:38 says, even though the Israelites forgot what God had done for them, “Yet he was merciful; he forgave them . . . time after time . . .”
Truly.: God is merciful and forgiving.
Time after time.
I’ve got lots of letters to prove it.