News from the Woodrows – August 31, 1992
The past month has seen a lot of changes here in Nampula. One Friday night three weeks ago I mentioned to Julie how different life was this year compared to last. We marveled how the availability of electricity and running water could produce such a change in lifestyle. Ironically, it was that very night that Renamo attacked the power lines supplying electricity to northern Mozambique. When we woke up the next morning we were back in the 19th century again. This time, besides blowing up the power stanchions near the hydroelectric plant hundreds of miles from here, Renamo sent a separate band of guerrillas to cut off the flow of emergency power that trickles in from the port city of Nacala during such crises. Thus in one night the city was completely cut off from external power. Without electricity, not a drop of water was pumped for days. Clearly the guerrillas are perfecting their ability to strangle Nampula and northern Mozambique.
So we braced ourselves for another long siege without regular electricity or running water. At first we were depressed. Under the best of circumstances we strain to keep up with all our commitments. It did not seem possible to carry on with this difficulty added in too. We tried to buoy our spirits by remembering how God had used these same obstacles to reveal His presence to us so often last year. However, any optimism this created evaporated after my first attempt to find kerosene for our lamps and refrigerator. It was the same old story – no kerosene anywhere in town, no electricity to pump it anyway, even if there were I couldn’t buy it without the manager’s approval, and he wasn’t in and no one knew when he would return.
However, once again God has brought such spiritual blessing from the present hardship we can identify with Paul’s words in II Cor. 12:10, “I take pleasure in distresses for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then am I strong.” It is when our own resources run out that we begin to see the mighty arm of the Lord taking over.
We did receive three months supply of kerosene within the next week. However, the greater excitement this time is what Kent, our three-year-old, has been learning as current difficulties have “driven” him to his little knees.
At his birth a retired couple enrolled Kent in the Bible Memory Association program. It has been a wonderful gift. For over a year we have been reading the first book to him, an acrostic of 26 short Bible verses, each beginning with a different letter in the alphabet. As little children do, Kent has practically memorized the book from hearing it read so often. Recently we happened to focus on the “L” and “I” verses. “Look unto Me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is none else. Isaiah 45:22.” The picture that went with it was a little girl looking upwards. Kent said she was looking at God. I told him we couldn’t see God with our eyes but we knew He was there by the way He heard and answered our prayers. Then we read the “I” verse, “If ye shall ask anything in my name I will do it. John 14:14.” Even a little three-year-old is keenly aware of the difference electricity makes in life. As we read the verse, something must have clicked in Kent’s head because he suddenly burst forth with his first spontaneous prayer request. “I want to ask God for electricity so Mommy can cook tomorrow.”
At that point we were already nine days into the outage and there hadn’t been even one flicker of electricity. For a moment I thought we ought to back away from the developing showdown. After all, though Julie doesn’t bake when there isn’t electricity, she can still cook on the gas stove since God has granted that we enter this shortage with four full tanks of gas. I thought about cautioning against frivolous requests or explaining the nuances of the expression “in My name.” However, I knew none of that would be understood by a three-year-old and decided we would just have to let Kent pray for electricity and then leave it to God to back His promise in a way a three-year-old would understand. So Kent prayed then and there that God would give Mommy electricity so she could cook the next day. As you can imagine, Mommy and Daddy did some praying as well.
And God was faithful. The next day, at 6:00 in the evening, pitch dark for us, the building suddenly lit up. For the first time since the outage began, we had power. Everyone was shouting and chanting, “Energia, energia, energia!” Kent was out on the verandah with the rest of them dancing and singing. We called him inside and reminded him how he had prayed for electricity and how God had been present and heard, even though Kent could not see Him. The effect was dramatic. The thought that all this excitement and celebration was the result of his prayer was overwhelming. What awesome power he had discovered! It was as if he personally had produced all the electricity we were now enjoying.
After that, there was no stopping Kent from praying. When a problem arose his first suggestion was to pray. A short time later he lost Mommy’s measuring tape. After searching for it to no avail, he decided, “We need to ask God for another measuring tape.” He was appropriately impressed as God gave the same one back again when Julie found it a few moments later.
Later the same week we gave Kent a broken flashlight. Mommy and Daddy each have their own flashlight which they use in order to maneuver around the darkened house. It made Kent feel very important to have his own flashlight too. However, he promptly lost it. It seems we are always searching for things he misplaces. Often he leaves items on the common verandah where they are promptly carried off and never seen again by us. This does not make us happy.
This was another occasion where Kent had been playing with his toy on the verandah. When the flashlight didn’t turn up anywhere, Julie was sure it too had disappeared in the black hole outside our front door. After a while, Kent suggested they ask God to help them find it. Julie grumbled that God wasn’t going to help him this time. Kent came to me and I said he could pray if he wanted to but God probably wouldn’t answer his prayer because He wanted Kent to learn to be responsible. Kent bowed his head and prayed out loud, but Julie and I were through looking. Not getting any support from us, Kent headed dejectedly to the sofa and flopped himself down. When lying on the sofa he likes to slip his hand down between the cushions, and doing so this time, what should he hit upon but his flashlight! He leaped up, waving the flashlight overhead, but the glow on his face would have rendered any flashlight superfluous. His excitement was far beyond what is normal when he finds some lost object. What lit his face was the thrill that never ceases to excite us, the joy and amazement of realizing God is there and has heard our prayers!
Like many a Christian parent before us, Julie and I were moved that God would manifest Himself to our child in so personal a way. It is hard to believe the Creator of heaven and earth would concern Himself with the prayers of a three-year-old. But then, why should God hear the prayers of any man? The greatest ruler to walk this planet with all his pomp and show still falls infinitely short of the glory of God. He is like the grass which sprouts today and withers tomorrow. At his zenith, the difference between him and a helpless baby becomes insignificant when compared to the gulf that separates them both from the majesty of God. In his conceit Pharaoh said, “Who is God that I should listen to Him?” As is so often true of the natural man, he had it turned completely around. The real question is, who is man that God should listen to us? Yet He hears the voice of His children. It is a reality we can never get over. And when we behold Him stooping even lower, hearkening to the artless prayers of His children’s children, our wonder and gratitude grows ever greater.
How wonderful it is to serve such a God here in Mozambique. And how blessed we are to have many occasions to see His faithfulness in response to prayer. Thank you for your part in keeping us here through your own prayers in our behalf.
By His Grace:
Charles and Julie