The following story is from a short-term trip participant who served for a week in the heights of South Asia.
I can still see her, squatting down by a stone, soaping, rinsing and drying her laundry. She had a big smile with wrinkles in the corners of her eyes. She smiled often.
My national partner Sunny* began to ask the woman if we could share some good news. She stood and stared us before shaking her head and pointing to her ears.
She was deaf.
I know a little sign language and tried to communicate with her. But she didn’t understand. Her mother yelled that she didn’t know sign language. In a last-ditch effort, I signed “I love you” and a smile crossed her face. She signed “I love you” back to me.
My mind raced with ways to visually show the gospel, but nothing came to me. Every visual aid I know of requires speaking. Then my mind recalled a picture I’d taken just a few home visits before. I opened my phone to show her a picture of a painting of Jesus and signed to her “Jesus loves you”.
She responded by pointing to her village’s Buddhist temple. All I could do was sign again that Jesus loves her.
Because of our vast language barrier, I couldn’t share how He died for her. I couldn’t share how He came to heal the sick and the weak. I couldn’t share how He conquered our sin and shame by rising from the grave.
I gave her one more smile, hugged her and waved goodbye.
As Sunny and I made our way up a hill to a local church I asked him, “how can we reach those who cannot hear? Who cannot speak? Who are illiterate or cannot sign? What about those with no language?”
Sunny’s response will stay with me forever. He simply said, “All you can do is pray. The Holy Spirit can do all things.” With renewed confidence, I prayed for Holy Spirit to do just that.
We continue on and set up camp for dinner. As I made my way to bed, I heard someone yelling to me, “Pray! Pray!” I asked the national partner to explain what was going on. In broken English he tried to explain and pointed to the church.
I opened the cracked church door and there she was—the deaf woman had come to visit. Her head was bowed and eyes were closed in prayer. I began to pray for her. She opened her eyes and smiled at me. I gave her a Bible verse card with Micah 6:8 that I’d packed as a small gift. We hugged again and she left for her home.
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” -Micah 6:8
As I gave this card away, I was reminded of my national partner’s wise words. I do not reach anyone with the gospel. God does not need me. He is almighty and powerful enough to do it without me. All I can do is pray.
I don’t know why she came up the hill to the church that night. I don’t know why God allowed me to see that she came. I don’t know why she was bowed in prayer. All I know is that God can work in someone’s life in ways I cannot comprehend.
His Holy Spirit can do all things. He can draw this deaf woman to the church. He can open her ears and heart to hear and believe the gospel. Somehow, He can reach her.
I habitually struggle with pride and performance. In His grace, God showed me just how unnecessary I am. His simply asks me is to serve as a vessel of justice and kindness as I humbly walk with Him. This truth puts my pride and performance in check.
The work is all His and we are blessed to come alongside Him in it.