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Lessons from a Crying Village Woman

Written by Philippa Brooks on . Posted in The Gospel Coalition Blog

Article by: Philippa Brooks

It was Monday morning and I was neck deep in an ocean of to-do-lists. I was on my second cup of coffee when I heard a familiar call from the bottom of my steps: “Tao po.” In this little remote jungle village where we live—far away from the world of electric devices, answering machines, doorbells, and fully committed schedules—people still drop by front doors, literally call out “person here,” and everything stops.

That cultural call of arrival has often served as a needed check to my heart to not see the interruption, but to see the person and simply invite them in. On Monday morning, the call was from a lady in the church holding a bunch of bananas at the bottom of our stairs. I knew she needed to talk.

So I made another pot of coffee, sliced up some cake, and she quietly poured out what was on her heart. She talked over the circumstances of her life, difficulties and hardships I couldn’t imagine enduring. Her eldest son died many years ago, and then her one beloved daughter had died as a child, too. My heart broke with her as she told me how lonely she’d felt during those years. How she was sure she’d drown in her sorrow from the overwhelming waves of grief that pounded her day and night. I had no words, only tears of my own, as I held my coffee in one hand and reached out to her with the other.

As we sat in silence, my mind started racing down a tunnel of regrets on her behalf. If only.

If only missionaries had arrived sooner to this little village, maybe they could have helped her.

If only she had access, back then, to doctors and nurses, maybe they could have saved her kids.

If only she had money to make the trip to town, maybe somebody there would have reached out to her in her time of need.

If only.

My heart felt heavy and my words seemed empty.

It was then, as if reading my thoughts, that she wiped her eyes and raised her head. She nodded, strength returning to her voice: “But Jesus was the only one who could heal my heart, not just from sadness, but from sin. He has been so good to me.”

In that moment I realized there’s only so much we can do for the people around us. We cannot feed them all, treat their diseases, or take away all their burdens, but we can tell them of Jesus.

As Jared Wilson says, “The gospel is the antidote to everything.”

Go and Tell Them

No amount of my effort, busyness, creativity, or productivity can save even one soul. I cannot be anybody’s savior. But by resting in the finished work of the cross, relying on the power of the Spirit, and being willing to simply be a messenger, we can participate in the divine calling of watching Jesus transform lives for eternity. We, as the body of Christ, have a holy privilege to be his hands and feet.

My dear friend came to bring me bananas that day, but she brought me so much more—clarity, simplicity, an eternal perspective, and a renewed burden to share the gospel again and again and again. I can get so overwhelmed, so concerned, so busy—so fulfilled even, by helping to meet needs around me—that I fail to keep the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus at the center of my day.

When I invited her in, I knew she needed to talk, but I didn’t realize it was also I who needed to listen. Even on the mission field, the Lord used a brokenhearted sister who praises Jesus, even in hard times, to remind me to “go and tell them.”

Even if you’re thousands of miles from a jungle, or feel far from being a missionary, you are in a place to share the message of salvation with needy souls who cross your path—hurting neighbors, downhearted friends, the coworker who sits by your desk, or someone you communicate with via social media. Listen, love, and help them as you feel the Lord leads, but don’t leave the gospel as a last resort. While we may long to make people better, God has already made a way through his Son to make them new. And he deploys us to go and tell them. 

I recently attended our weekly women’s Bible study and it was this dear sister’s birthday. She’s 55 and so grateful for all God has done for her. There were no gifts or special food to mark her birthday, but she simply requested for us to sing together number 99 in our song books. I flipped to the page, and seeing the song brought tears to my eyes. I nodded to her and we sang it out together: “To God Be the Glory.”

Philippa Brooks is a wife, mother of two little loves, and a missionary in the Philippines. She writes to encourage others by sharing biblical truth in a way that practically connects with our everyday lives. You can read her blog and follow glimpses of her life in the jungle on Instagram.

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