If These Plans Fail...
Years ago, Don and I got to go on a mission trip to Bangkok, Thailand, with a group from our church. It was an amazing trip! We worked with college students at Thammasat University, along with some missionaries who were forming relationships with students and were having Bible studies and doing fun activities with young people who were looking for answers and caring relationships in a Buddhist culture.
We had trained and prepared for the trip together. We did exercises in team building and tried to anticipate the challenges that we might face, along with how we would face them with our different personalities. We did some personality testing to better understand each other and reviewed our strengths, along with our weaknesses, and discussed how the challenges of a new culture, new language, new food, new expectations, etc. would impact our ability to build relationships and share our faith.
We had an amazing time building relationships with the students and we were able to share God’s love with many. A few of those relationships still continue 10 years later due to the help of social media. One of the students even came to visit us several years ago.
Our good friend Seth, who is a pilot and well-seasoned world traveler, had helped us make our travel plans, which included going through Hong Kong on the way home. We got to spend a night in the city and Seth even met us there to show us some of the sights. But first, we had to find our way into Hong Kong! Seth had very detailed plans written for us to follow. We had to fly into Macau, and then take an express train from the airport to a dock where we would catch an airboat across the water and into the city.
Unfortunately, our flight was late getting into Macau and the last express train had left the station! Seth had laid out further plans in his notes, knowing that things don’t always go as planned when traveling. We desperately pulled out his notes for further instructions. What we read next changed the course of what was about to happen. We trained for how we would handle challenges and knew who in our group would likely be able to lead and who would likely fall apart. It was time to pull together and avoid panic. In Seth’s wisdom he wrote, “If these plans fail, consider things now an adventure!”
What great advice! Don and I have never forgotten those words. They were not only what we needed to hear at the time, but have been useful in many life situations since that time. I have remembered these words many times when things didn’t go as planned or when changes - good and bad - have come. I have given this advice to people and even patients who are facing change or challenges.
At that moment in the Macau airport, we started to focus on the challenge as an adventure to face, enjoy, and remember, instead of a crisis. We had to use a small city bus, already filled with people. Somehow we crowded all 7 of us, along with our luggage, into the back of that little crowded bus. The bus driver was not happy, and we couldn’t communicate as we did not know the language, but we saw an angry face and he was yelling at us. What unfolded next was a miracle! A man from the back of the bus spoke to us in English and started helping us get our luggage across people’s heads and stacked in the back. He told us what we needed to pay the bus driver. We had some Hong Kong money, but no Macau money. The man yelled back at the bus driver in our support, then started to ask people on the bus for money to help us! When he had enough, he paid the price of our fare, and we rode the bus to the dock, got our boat and made it to Hong Kong! God provided one man who could not only speak our language, but was willing to intervene on our behalf. I believed God had sent him as our angel. It was truly an adventure we will never forget!!
I’ll have to admit that this cancer has brought crisis. The word “cancer” itself strikes fear into our hearts. The cancer diagnosis I have received has not come with any percentage for cure rate. I have been told that there is no cure. With pancreatic cancer at stage IV, surgery is not an option as it has spread so far already through my pancreas, liver and lymph nodes. I have been told that pancreatic cancer is aggressive and does not respond well to chemotherapy. It mutates quickly to deflect the drugs even if they are at first effective. It has not been responding to the new treatments being developed, such as immunotherapy. The first combination of chemotherapy drugs I received as recommended for treating pancreatic cancer already failed. New tumors have developed and the largest ones have doubled in size in only several weeks. I am feeling some crisis!
I remember a sermon Don preached years ago about the word “crisis”. The word “crisis” originates from the Greek word “krisis”, which means “decisive moment”. Hippocrates and Galen used the word “crisis” to describe the turning point of a disease. I remember Don talking about the fact that “crisis presents opportunity”. That’s also what Seth was telling us with the wise statement of, “If these plans fail, consider it now an adventure”.
My family and I are trying to see this crisis as opportunity, and this change of my life plans as an adventure of trusting in God. I’ll have to admit that it is not as fun as finding our way through Macau and watching God show up with an English speaking angel on the back of a bus, but God is showing up.
In my last blog, I wrote that God seems to be silent in this crisis, yet we sense His presence. One morning last week during my devotions, God reassured me that I am still in His favor. I was reading in Luke 2 – the Christmas story of Jesus birth and the angels proclaiming God’s glory to the shepherds. In verse 14 it says, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” I have read this Scripture countless times. I focused on the “glory to God” and “on earth peace to men” part, but today, the words, “to men on whom his favor rests” jumped off the page to me. I felt God impressing on me that I am still in His favor! I have had the great privilege of knowing Jesus from a very young age and have always felt His presence with me, His favor on me. Through this crisis, it has sometimes felt that He has removed His favor from me, but last week he reminded me that He is still with me and I am still in His favor.
God has been using this illness to deepen relationships, renew past relationships, challenge many who are engaging in our story to go deeper in their relationship with God and even look to God for the first time! God has been reaching out to us through the many people who are showering us with love and support. Growing in our relationship with God and our walk in faith and trust in a God who IS in control and loves us is truly an adventure and opportunity!
As the man in the bus intervened and paid the price for us to reach our goal, so has Jesus intervened and paid the price for our ride through this life and for eternal life in the next. This is not heaven yet. There will be troubles in this life because of the accumulation of sin and decay over many generations. The evil one is still active in this world, but Jesus has overcome! We can let crisis overwhelm us, or we can call on our Savior to help us turn it into opportunity and an adventure. Some adventures are fun, some are dangerous, some present fear, but they keep us moving forward and tackling challenges. Adventures do not involve sitting still and being overwhelmed by the crisis.
We could have become paralyzed and overwhelmed in the Macau airport. We could have refused to move forward and wait for the next flight that would just take us closer to home and forget our night of exploration in Hong Kong. We would have missed the “angel” on the bus and great adventure we had for the next 24 hours in Hong Kong.
I don’t want to be paralyzed by this disease. I want to trust God to use this crisis to help others and build my own faith. My time with God has new intensity. My time with family is even more precious. My time with friends is more enjoyable. I am appreciating the moments of life. I am not focusing on the little worries of the day. There is a bigger picture, a bigger priority. I am even more grateful for a God who holds me in his arms and in his favor. I don’t know what all is ahead, but I can trust Him. I am still asking for a miracle of healing. I am grateful for all of you are extending your love and support! I am grateful for your many prayers for me, and my family, and for a miracle!