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Field Story North America

When God Breaks His Silence

"Practically a lifetime of working with the K’anjobal people, and now…a young K’anjobal missionary doing what we can no longer do. When God breaks His silence, it’s joy unspeakable!"

Our Blazer labored up the winding, gravel road, dodging mud holes, as we made our way back to Barillas. The music of Chuck Girard played softly, “Lay your burdens down,” Lay them down? We were facing a major change in our life, and my heart was heavy. For three hours, we traveled in silence, then gradually started the descent into the San Juan valley. Suddenly, rounding a curve, Jim slammed on the brakes. A group of soldiers blocked the road.

“Stop!” they shouted, “Get out of the car!”

Immediately panic stuck me; these were not soldiers—soldiers don’t wear rubber boots!

“We are the Guerilla Army of the Poor,” they said as they pointed their weapons at us.

“You gringos are exploiting our people. Go back to Washington, where you came from!”

As Jim and I got out, they entered the car and confiscated all our valuables. Chuck Girard and all our music went with them. I looked up to see Jim encircled by the men on the edge of the road, their guns raised to fire. Denny was crying. I gathered my three boys to my side: “Pray, just pray! God will take care of us!” Suddenly they lowered their weapons and ordered Jim into the car, two of them pushing their way in with us. One of them motioned to Sam,

“Give me your watch!” “No!” “Give it to me!” he said, pressing the weapon to Sam’s head. Sam complied. “Hurry,” they said. “Drive into town!”.

Then, as quickly as it all started, it ended. The army was on its way, and the guerillas fled. Our missionary colleagues, who had also picked up their children from boarding school that day, arrived ahead of us, barely escaping with their lives. “What do we do now?” Jim asked Bill.

“Turn around and go back to the school; they’ll kill us if we go on to Barillas”

Our hearts filled with praise to God for protecting us that day. But as we made our way back down the mountain through drizzle and fog, my thoughts were on something beyond God’s protection. What about God’s silence? Barillas was home to us and our boys. Why was God asking us to leave this place we love? The answer did not come for a long while—two years and seven months later. We felt like the trapeze artist that has just let go of the bar and is waiting to catch the other bar. We were in midair, and we were not hearing God speak to us.

But God was at work all the time. He sent my dad and mom ahead of us to Los Angeles to plant a church for LA’s extensive Hispanic community. Among those who attended the church was a handful of K’anjobal men who had fled the Guerilla warfare in Guatemala. One of those young men was David Francisco. Seven months after we arrived in LA in 1981, we met David in an apartment near downtown LA. That was the night God let go of the trapeze bar so we could catch it, because we discovered a community of close to 5,000 K’anjobal Indians in L.A. that were like sheep without a shepherd. Little did we know God was raising up a shepherd to lead this growing flock. He was raising up David.  

Last month David came to visit us here in Hemet, and David’s young nephew, Jimmy, surprised us with the news that he would be going as a missionary to the slum people of Mexico City. As a civil engineer, he could work in the social and physical infrastructure of the community, and with his Bible preparation he would serve preparing spiritual leaders for emerging churches. Try to imagine what we were feeling at that moment. Practically a lifetime of working with the K’anjobal people, and now…a young K’anjobal missionary doing what we can no longer do.

When God breaks His silence, it’s joy unspeakable!

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