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To Go or Not and When
by Mary MacKinnon
11/16/05
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To Go—or Not—and When?
My husband, Gordon, and I were at odds. Our daughter in Minnesota was getting married in June, but here we were, on the southwestern jungle frontier of Brazil, far away from her. I desperately wanted to go. Gordon didn’t. Managing this mission fazenda (ranch), he felt more contented and better equipped than in anything he had ever done. Should we go or not? Several somewhat heated discussions ensued. Finally we decided to settle the issue by following the apostle James’ advice and ask the Lord for wisdom as to what to do

Gideon in the book of Judges in the Bible had put out a fleece when he needed guidance. That system had worked for us before. We bought our house in California that way. We had come to Brazil after putting out several fleeces. Lots of things had happened that confirmed each answer had been from the Lord.

Our fleece was to have several conditions. We would tell no one about it or the details of it to prevent anyone manipulating our stipulations. We would choose items that ordinarily wouldn’t occur in the natural chain of events. We would abide by the answer—“Yes” or “No”.

We asked these things: (1) Someone to take Gordy’s place on the fazenda, someone aware of our mission standards and work, who knew Portuguese, and the customs of the people. No one was in sight. (2) On Sunday afternoons we had a meeting for the Brazilian children. No one in sight to take care of that either. (3) We asked for a gift of $1,000 (which wouldn’t cover all our expenses but if we got that much we could trust the Lord to give us whatever else we needed.) The biggest gift we had ever gotten was $100—and that was only once.

Without an answer to all three things, God’s answer would be “NO”.

If all three things were answered, God’s answer would be “YES”.

We anxiously watched the mail and waited until about one week before the wedding—and not one of the three things had been given. As Gordy and I walked through the jungle one day, we realized that with the wedding only a week away, any answer now would be too late. So God’s answer for guidance was a definite “NO”, a painful answer to me, a source of relief for Gordon.

God eases our sorrows in many ways. Ironically, in my case, on the day of Joan’s wedding, when I might have been drowned in sorrow not to be there, we were asked to host a neighbor’s wedding dinner for 70 guests in our small house. That kept me too busy to dwell on my own heartache.

Some months later our other daughter, Karen, announced that she was getting married in August. Joan and Tom were expecting their first baby in August.. Gordy and I decided we would put the same fleece before God again—we hadn’t told anyone about the fleece or the items we asked for before, so now no one would be able to confuse God’s answer for us this time either.

A few weeks afterward, our good friend, Neil, from the other mission fazenda, unexpectedly asked Gordy if he could come and work with us. He fulfilled our first condition of the fleece. He knew the language, had been with the mission for several years, and knew the ropes of running the fazenda.

Neil’s wife had worked with children for years—she would be happy to fulfill our second condition.

The leader of our neighboring mission, here on a visit from the States, came over to see us one day. He said, “I have a check for you from your uncle.”

“I can’t believe it!” I said. My uncle was an agnostic who had vehemently opposed our coming to Brazil as missionaries and had never given us anything before.

He held out the check. I gasped when I looked down--$1,000.00!

God’s answer was a resounding “YES”.

We packed up and left for Săo Paulo to buy our tickets. At the travel agency, when the transaction was over we found that we had purchased round trip tickets, Săo Paulo to Minneapolis and back, for us and our son, Bobby, for $1,090 total! It was such a good buy we couldn’t believe it. Later we found why. There had been an attempted coup in the government that very day. With the threat of that, the ratio of exchange of Brazilian money to the dollar had zoomed up. But the airlines still had the old price. We were wonderfully caught right in the middle of the change.

Gordy hadn’t wanted to leave Brazil but when we flew over the Statue of Liberty, I noticed he had to wipe away tears. As much as we liked the work in Brazil, it was wonderful to be back in the U.S.

“Mom, why did Uncle Harry send us that money?” was almost the first question I asked when we landed.

“I told him you had written about the pains and lump you had. I was worried that it might be malignant. I asked him if he was willing to let you stay there and maybe die,” she explained. I was his favorite niece so that really put him on the spot. She knew he had enough money that it wouldn’t be a problem for him. What she didn’t know was that it was part of our prayer for guidance as to whether to come or not. She was amazed now when we told her about the fleece. So was Uncle Harry. As we told him the story I could almost feel his agnosticism begin to crack.

A visit to the doctor was our first priority. After a close examination he said, “You don’t have a problem. Whatever the trouble was, it’s gone now.”

In Minneapolis we were there in time to help with preparations for Karen’s wedding. She was marrying Angus Plummer who had lived next to us in Brazil and we were happy about the match. She was a beautiful bride and it was a lovely wedding. We had a happy reunion with many friends and relatives at the reception.

Two days later we headed for California. Our daughter, Joan, was due to have her first baby any day. Always before we had enjoyed traveling and sightseeing, but on this trip we were anxious to reach our destination. Instead of stopping in Yellowstone that so intrigued us in other years, watching Old Faithful spout and walking beside the bubbling blue pools, we drove in one entrance and right through the park to an exit.

Our grandson, David, beat us to California. He had been born two days before and Joan came home just before we got there. Holding our first grandchild was a thrill we’ll never forget. In the next few days we got to bathe him, change him and watch Joan and Tom’s happiness with their baby. I was thankful to be there to help with the housework and meals. In between Joan and I had many long talks to catch up on all the years we had been separated since she left Brazil to go to Bible School.

In one of our many heart-to-heart talks, Joan confessed, “Mom, it’s so much better that you came this year instead of last year for our wedding.” That was balm to my heart that had been so troubled to have missed the occasion.

She went on, “The time before the wedding was totally confusing. Both Grandmas had their houses so squished with the wedding party visitors that you and I wouldn’t have had time, like now, to visit at all. Besides, right after the wedding Tom and I took off for California for our honeymoon, so I wouldn’t have been with you. Having you here this year is much, much better.” She beamed as she hugged her tiny baby and said, “This way you got to meet your first grandchild.”

So the disappointment of the Lord’s first “NO” was followed by a resounding “YES” at just the right time. He knew best. His timing was perfect.

Copyright – Mary D. MacKinnon
November ’05 – All rights reserved


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