Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Mexico & A Brownie Search

I'm home!
For those of you who may not know, some of my siblings, two friends and I went to NM on a missions trip to minister to the Navajo people, and to visit some close friends.
The trip was amazing! God touched my life in many ways and once again I left feeling as if I'd gained more than I'd given! The Spitlers and staff at CFAN (Christ For All Nations), as well as the Navajo believers, welcomed us like family and it was such a blessing and honor to be given the opportunity to come alongside them and minister to the Navajo people through various ways.

One story in particular I'd like to share with you, as it made a big impact on my life and greatly encouraged me.
 It began before our trip and didn't end till some days after we got there, but for the sake of keeping the story as much as possible as I experienced it, I'd like to begin on last Friday afternoon when some of our group went on a long ATV (or four-wheeler, as we call them) ride. At one point when we were far back on the reservation we saw one of the Spitler's dogs chasing some wild horses. As it is fairly common for the dogs to follow us on our rides we didn't think anything of it and continued on our ride. When we got back, however, we realized the dog, Brownie, hadn't followed us home.
Thus began the search for Brownie. Several people went out on the Rez looking for her, mainly on the four-wheelers.
Finally, as the sun began to set, my friend Lindsay, and I decided at the last minute to ride out on our own on the four-wheelers) and look for her.
Our first mistake was not bringing a flashlight. Our second mistake was not bringing a cel phone. And our third mistake was not checking the gas tank. These three things resulted in the two of us at the bottom of a small canyon (in comparison to other places it was small, but in reality to two teenage girls at night, it was HUGE), in the dark, with no flashlights or cel phones, and running nerve-rackingly low on gas. Scared, but determined, we pressed on, shouting for Brownie and hoping with everything within us that she'd bark and come running. At one point Lindsay was (and still is) sure she heard her bark, just once, and we listened and looked, but neither of us heard her from that point on.
To our dismay we finally had to end our search as it was by this time completely dark and in the middle of a canyon with wild animals (and gangs in the near vicinity I might add) is not the safest place to be. Not to mention we knew we were really low on gas. I'll be honest, we were scared. Yet in the middle of it all, I was at peace. I'm so grateful I knew and could rely on Christ! We were talking and I remember Lindsay asking if I was scared and me saying that though I was to some extent, I knew it would all work out for our good and God's glory.

So, we began the ride back home, still listening out for Brownie, hoping to hear her bark and see her familiar form take shape out of the darkness (though as I pointed out, even had we seen her come running I'd have jumped out of my skin before I realized it was her). Then, suddenly we came around a curve and for a few seconds we were positively terrified, and my heart felt as if it'd stopped in mid-beat.
There was a man on a four-wheeler ahead, just sitting there, not moving.
But sudden terror turned to sudden relief as we got closer and realized it was Lindsay's dad, and boy were we relieved! We decided to resume our search for Brownie again, feeling much more confident, yet to our dismay still could not find her and so were forced to return home.
Just as their house and the mission base came in sight, we ran out of gas. Thank God for reserved tanks! We made it home with a little gas to spare and though we were still worried about Brownie, we were grateful to be back safe and sound!
That night nobody slept well, as the dog still could not be found and we knew that if she were out all alone on the Rez at night, the odds were stacked high against her. To make matters worse, we were scheduled to leave early the next morning, Saturday, for a trip to Mesa Verde in Colorado. 
The next morning we awoke and Brownie still had not been found nor had she shown up at the house, and we began to lose hope of ever seeing her again. With little excitement and much sadness we got up early the next morning, packed our picnic lunch and prepared to leave.
Finally, behind schedule and with everyone very much not in the mood for a sight-seeing trip, we loaded up and got in the vans, only to hear, "okay now everybody get out we're going to pray before we leave" and everyone got out and joined hands in a circle. Lindsay's dad, Daniel, led the prayer and just before he said amen, Tracy -Lidnsay's mom- said, "and bring Brownie home safe," and with that we said "amen." Then, as everyone turned to leave, someone (I still don't know who) shouted, "BROWNIE!!!!" and we all turned to look, hardly daring to hope. But sure enough and to our amazement, standing there behind us like she'd been there all along, was Brownie. In a matter of a few seconds she was smothered in hugs, kisses and tears of joy.  

After a few minutes spent with the dog and with much gratitude we loaded up in the vans and set off, now excited and looking forward to our trip.
That night as I was writing in my journal and thinking of the day's events I came across some bible verses in my journal that out of my inborn curiousity I decided to look up in my bible, which then led me to some verses in Luke 17. In this particular chapter I came across a verse where the disciples asked Jesus to show them how to increase their faith. I couldn't understand why Jesus didn't just give them an answer and the directions for growing faith, and marveled at what He DID say. He gave them a short lecture on what faith could do and then went on to talk about serving God with humility as an unworthy servant doing his/her duty.
I felt as if He hadn't given them a direct answer and for some reason it really bugged me that I couldn't understand why.
But I continued on looking for maybe some clue as to how to find the answer to their query about faith, and I discovered that right after His statements about faith and serving God He continued on His way toward Jerusalem, then as I read on, I became increasingly amazed. Jesus came across the ten lepers and healed them, and only the one man came and praised God. Jesus last words to the man sank deep in my heart, "Stand up and go, your faith has healed you."
How awesome is that? I mean, it may be assuming too much, but though I don't find it mentioned in the bible it seems fairly obvious to me that the disciples were with Him, and I find it awesome that though he didn't directly answer their question, He provided an opportunity for them to grow in that area.
I realized that sometimes, rather than answer our prayers/questions verbally or with a direct and to-the-point answer, God provides opportunities for growth in that specific area of our lives.

As I continued on with this train of thought, something began nagging me... what had I prayed for (that'll teach you to be careful what ya pray for, huh?!?!)?

I began searching in my journal through recent entries and in the middle of my prayers for our trip, and written just three days before we left, I found this prayer: "Take my fears and doubts and replace them with trust, faith, hope, and love through you. Cause my faith to grow, & show me how to take a stand."

I was amazed as it all sank in... just like what Jesus did with the disciples on their "trip" to Jerusalem, through an experience on the very trip I'd been praying about, He provided an opportunity for me to grow in answer to my prayer. The funny thing is, He also used my love for animals to spur me along in the process! I was very upset about the dog and Lindsay and I both cried (and she wasn't even my dog!), and so I went with Lindsay to look for her. On the search I had to trust that it would all work out for our good and His glory. I had to have faith in God, that He would remain faithful to His promises to protect and guide us. I had to be hopeful in that Brownie would come back even gainst all odds, and my love for my friends and even for animals spurred me on to keep searching, and to be there as much as possible for my friends.

So, all that being said... be careful what you pray for! :D
I hope you enjoyed reading this and that maybe it strengthened or encouraged you in some way.
I believe that when God teaches a person something, or when God really "grows" them through an experience like that, when they share the experience with others, the blessing of the experience is not only on the person who experienced it, but those that the person took the time to share it with! So I hope you go away from reading this marveling at God's goodness, and blessed through reading/hearing of my experience!

To God be glory, how wonderful and good He is to us His children!

~Victoria C. Bullock