Control is an illusion, although we usually live as though it is a certainty. We meticulously plan and execute our plans and as long as everything goes off without a glitch, the myth that we are in control is perpetuated. I wonder if this is why we fail to see or believe in miracles. Our propensity to explain away events blinds us from seeing the Holy Spirit work in ways beyond rational explanation.
If we are lucky or blessed, we get to be swept up into the mystery of God’s miraculous power. Our mission team experienced such an encounter with God’s miraculous and mysterious ways, for we saw the work of the Spirit in a way that defies rational thinking.
On Thursday morning of our week in El Salvador, we were on our way to the village where our team was drilling a well and teaching hygiene lessons. Rain the night before had made the dirt road we travelled daily more rutted and bumpy than usual, and our driver, Angel, drove slowly. As we passed a sugarcane field not far from our destination, I felt the van suddenly lurch to a stop. Out of the sugarcane three hooded men appeared and blocked our van. Two were armed with machetes and the third had a short barreled shotgun.
Angel told us to stay put as he got out of the van to talk to the men. None of us moved or said a word to each other as Angel and one of the men had an intense dialogue that none of us could understand. In what seemed simultaneously like an instant and an eternity, Angel was back in the van and we were on our way, charged to say nothing in the village. A former gang member himself, Angel told us these men were gang members who had intended to rob us. When Angel explained to them that we were Christians, there to drill a water well in the village, they let us pass without incident on the condition that we divulge nothing of the encounter to the villagers. We obliged, saying nothing to each other until we were well on our way to the mission house that evening.
With work to do in the village, I did not think much more about the incident until that evening, when we were finally able to process as a group the day’s events. In our team’s conversations with each other and as we’ve shared the story with others since returning home, the miracle has become increasingly apparent to us all.
There is power in the name of Jesus. Angel stressed to the men that we were Christians, there to serve the village, and they let us go without taking anything from any of us. Angel’s past life as a gang member was more than coincidental in that encounter. And Angel’s name – well, that is amazingly obvious!
Our team had feared that this incident could kill future well drilling trips from our church, yet when the story was first shared upon our return, people were caught up in the fact that we were let go without anything being taken from us. The Spirit has been at work by taking what could have been a negative result and turning it into an awe-inspiring demonstration of God’s power and presence.
Our team has been praying for these three men. Our lives are forever bound up with theirs, and we wonder how God is at work in their lives because of their decision to let us pass without taking anything from us. What prompted such action on their part? Surely it is the unfathomable mystery of God, a miracle beyond rational explanation and we had the privilege not only to experience it but to be able to share it with others!