This article was originally published in the June 2021 edition of ITMI Monthly.
It was a voice I knew very well. The tone and accent were familiar sounds that I had spent a lot of time with. Almost immediately, I was concerned.
I knew it was Paul, our partner in India, from the caller I.D. on my phone. It sounded like Paul’s voice, and yet there was something different and even ominous about this voice from other side of the world. Paul was not only physically ill, probably due to a second bout with COVID-19, but his voice carried a tone that was noticeably weary.
Unable to get out into town to get tested once again for COVID, Paul was trying to deal with his sickness the way most do in third world situations – tough it out.
Paul’s weariness was not just physical, it was more than that. Paul has been standing in the gap, against a medical and emotional tsunami for over a year and a half. India is really hard, on its very best of days. Add a pandemic and everything about life just ratcheted up a hundred fold.
In his attempt to answer my questions about what he and Molly, their family and their church are experiencing in the latest and even more intense wave of lockdowns and virus contamination, Paul very calmly said, “…I felt like a failure…”
Anyone that knows Paul knows that, in so many ways, he is an overachiever, on so many levels. Who of us could parent 23 children - 19 of them teenage girls who have experienced more of life’s underside at a very early age than anyone should.
Parenting is just one of Paul’s many hourly responsibilities. He is also a pastor and church planter in a third world country that is bent on making life miserable for anyone who doesn’t subscribe to Hinduism.
This feeling descended over Paul in the midst of his earlier-in-the-month episode of calling every medical person he and his brother knew, just to find a single hospital bed where his COVID-stricken mother could get help. Dressed in a hazmat suit, he drove his deathly-ill mother from hospital to hospital, only to be unable to even get in the front door.
Yet, after Paul had opened up his heart and shared the enormous burden that he carried, he quietly yet quickly began to share that the horrid conditions in the hospital they were finally able to get his mother into, Paul and Molly made a decision to bring his mom and dad to their village compound that houses Paul, Molly and their 23 children, in order to protect and care for these simple yet faithful servants of God.
Paul was not seeking any recognition from me for this sacrificial act of honor and care, he just wanted me to know that in all the trauma and all the deaths, and all the sickness and all the loss, he, Paul, has seen something that he deeply wants more, much more than he wants to escape the current onslaught, and that is he wants to be… sweeter.
Paul, Molly and some of their 23 children on their village property.
In the midst of personally losing 40 family members, friends and ministry associates to COVID this last year, Paul has seen where people really are in life and their faith in our God.
The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon once said, “The Christian need not dread sickness, for he has nothing to lose, but everything to gain by death.”
Paul has seen some lose their Christian facade when sickness or trouble became overwhelming. He has also seen some starving, suffering great loss and from their death bed just get… sweeter.
Paul’s mom is one of the sweeter ones. This godly, dear saint was on the verge of death, yet she was and is sweeter in her response to everyone. She is using this situation to glorify God every chance she gets.
Paul believes that those who get sweeter are “decreasing” (Jn 3:30), so that the flow of the fruits of Christ’s Spirit increase, flowing more freely from them. Paul, though weary from the pressure of the tsunami, didn’t want out of the storm, but he did want to be sweeter in all his interactions.
The great thing we learn when we mature in the Lord, is that we cannot truly create the fruits of the Spirit, they must be generated from the Spirit who lives within us. Paul knows and trusts the Lord. Paul knows the truth as shared in Lamentations 3:22-23,
“It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”
Shall we all commit to being “sweeter”, no matter what is before us? Shall we increase our prayers for our brothers and sisters who, on the frontline, carry loads that we cannot begin to understand?
Shall we consider how God wants us to help the multitudes of needy pastors, believers and even the unsaved during this time of need?
Thank you for loving us and the sweetness of your demonstration of love for God’s people…yet may you be by God’s grace, even sweeter.
In His Service,
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About the Author
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.
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