Bob and Kristi Rice
Kristi and I have been back in the States for five months. As you may know, we returned in August due to medical reasons. Feeling healthy and ready to go back to Congo, we leave on the 17th of January. Praise God for his healing power at work in our lives these last few months! Praise God for the support of family and friends! Praise God for his goodness and mercy to his children!
Yet, Congo remains Congo. Despite some positive developments and good experiences in Congo this last year, many times Kristi and I felt like we were “just treading water.” We often felt like we were just barely surviving, living in a culture so different from our own. Surrounded by poverty, feeling hopeless, feeling tired and worn-out, coming down with different sicknesses, always being asked for help, not having many safe places of “escape,” struggling with a foreign tongue, standing out due to our skin, our spirits and bodies would slowly ebb into a state of frustration, disappointment and even despair. Congo often feels like an impossible, hopeless case. How can we possibly survive, and even thrive, in such a place?
In the book of Acts chapter twelve, King Herod has imprisoned the Apostle Peter. Herod has just put Peter’s friend, the Apostle James, to death by sword. Peter’s fate does not look too great. Yet, the church gathered in one place, interceding on behalf of their brother Peter. Praying for Peter’s release was praying that the impossible would become possible. As you may remember, during the night an angel of the Lord woke Peter and led him past two guards to a large iron gate opening to the city. Oddly, miraculously, supernaturally, the large iron gate opened by itself (12: 6 – 10). Peter was free! He thought he was dreaming and marveled at his miraculous deliverance.
L.B. Cowman, writing about this passage in her classic devotional Streams in the Desert, asks if there is an “iron gate” in our lives, blocking our way. She wonders if we feel like a caged bird, beating against the bars helplessly as our situation deteriorates, leaving us more exhausted and tired, feeling more heartache. For Kristi and me, our “iron gate” is our struggle to find a way to survive and thrive in Congo. Too often, living and serving in Congo feels like an impossible task. Our situation feels hopeless. Congo, too often, feels hopeless!!
Yet, Cowman says to us that there is a secret to be learned. The secret is “believing prayer.” As members of God’s chosen household, we can believe for the impossible. The church that gathered and prayed, as recorded in Acts, believed that Peter’s fate wasn’t sealed. They believed that God could intervene. They believed that the seemingly impossible could be made possible. To their great joy and surprise, their prayers were answered. The large iron gate opened by itself. Peter was set free.
For 2012, we believe that living and serving in Congo can be joyful. We believe that our situation can improve. We believe that we can be people of hope, and that Congo can feel like a place of hope. We believe that God can change any situation for good. We believe that God can protect us from sickness. We believe that God can give us ears to hear and mouths to speak a new language. We believe that God can give us the physical energy and the emotional strength we need to live and serve in a place that too often feels oppressive. We believe that God has an ultimate plan of good for his children. We believe.
In this new year, what do you need to “believe” God for? What “iron gate” do you face? Let us believe together that God can do all things unto those who believe and trust in him. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul gives a doxology of praise as he prays for the believers in that city:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! (Ephesians 3: 20 – 21).
And the Psalmist writes:
Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 42: 11).
Let us put our hope in God and believe for good things this new year…
Grace and peace,
Bob and Kristi Rice