When God says “Say Cheese!”
By: Donna Haug
January 8, 2004
“Yes, I know God CAN do anything, but will He do it for me??”
I don’t know if you’ve ever asked that question, but I have many times. I have never doubted God’s ABILITY to heal, to work miracles or to answer my prayers, but how often have I doubted God’s WILLINGNESS to do so, especially for me! Let me tell you, I will never be able to put God in a box where I can fully understand Him, but I am a testimony today that God still does work WONDERS in answer to prayer.
Over three months ago on a Wednesday night, Mark was busily involved in his ministry as usual. In this particular instance he had been asked to do a seminar on “God’s Response to HIV/AIDS” at a Teen Challenge center across the Maputo Bay in the town of Catembe. Mark loaded up his double cab pick-up truck with all his power point and video equipment, his digital camera (to get the pictures to post on our website for which I am always pestering him), and of course the most important things – his Bible and seminar notes. As he arrived at the meeting place in Maputo to pick up the pastor who was to accompany him, he was asked if he would mind taking along two young men. They had applied to enter the Teen Challenge program and were on the waiting list. Soon, with the truck full of people and equipment, they headed off to Catembe. The seminar went well and Mark was pleased with the turn out and response. There was only one minor hiccup – he forgot to take any pictures – again!
On the return trip, they loaded the canopy of the truck once more with all the equipment. One of the young men hopped in the back and they filled the double cab with the others. The two young fellows requested to be dropped off at a certain place and then Mark proceeded to take the others home, finally arriving home himself after 11 p.m. As he wearily unloaded the equipment, he grabbed a hold of the camera bag and realized it was empty! With a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach he searched all around the truck and even asked me if by any chance he had left the camera at home and had taken only the case. Finally, he had to accept the fact that his beautiful digital camera was gone! This camera, an Olympus with features like 10x optical zoom and a 258 mg card, was much more then a great ‘toy’. It was extremely beneficial to our ministry. It was excellent for taking pictures in the low lighting inside of churches and the features on the dark faces would come out very clearly when posted on our website on a weekly basis. Shaking his head in unbelief, he telephoned the pastor who had traveled with him in spite of the lateness of the hour. They concluded that the young man who had hopped in the back of the truck must have rummaged through the equipment, found the camera, removed it from the bag and hidden it somehow under his shirt. Pastor Leonardo was sick to hear of the robbery and said he knew where the thief lived. The very next morning they would go together to chase it down.
On Friday morning after finding the house, Mark and some church friends went to the house and confronted the young man. He fully admitted to taking the camera – but he had sold it already … for 350,000 MTS (equivalent to US $14). He told them to whom he had sold the camera, but begged them not to make him take them to the guy because he would kill him. It turns out that the man to whom he had sold the camera was a much feared drug dealer. Finally convinced that he had no other option, the young thief took them all, along with his own brother, to meet with the buyer, but told Mark it was not a safe place for him to go. Mark waited out on the main street hoping that it wasn’t already too late. They came sauntering out to the street to meet Mark. “Oh yes”, he said, “The kid sold me the camera, but he told me that he had gotten it from a white man as payment for some work he had done. Unfortunately, I’ve already sold it to someone else!”
Well, the story continues in the same manner with Mark trailing the camera which passed from hand to hand but was always just a step ahead of him. The trail finally died out at the Swasiland border. At this point we had almost given up on ever getting it back. We still clung to the last strands of hope but it was looking pretty bleak. We held firm to the belief that God was fully able to return that camera to us, or provide for us in some other way, but that in some way God’s name would be glorified. In my heart I was convinced the latter would probably be God’s answer. But there were people praying both here in Mozambique as well as in Canada and our prayer partners around the world. Often people would say, “God told me you would get the camera back.” We would nod our heads and say, “Yes, with God ALL things are possible!” and then we would look at the circumstances and whisper under our breaths, “and in this case, it can ONLY be God!!” (which being interpreted means, “probably not”.) As the months passed, we finally came to accept that it didn’t look like we would ever see that camera again. Fellow missionaries reassured us, saying, “If God told you that you will get it back, He is certainly able to do it. But in the natural, you can say good-bye to that one.” Later on we were told again, “If you ever do get that back, you can write it down and I’ll sign my name to it. It’ll be a miracle!”
Meanwhile, a ministry team from various churches was working in this area, a place which is notorious for its drugs and crime. As one walks down the alley, an eerie feeling permeates the air as it seems that, regardless of age or size, everyone lounging around the area seemed to be totally spaced out on drugs. There is such a feeling of hopelessness. One of the members of the team was from the Assemblies of God. When she introduced herself to the local residents, they said to her, “Oh! Are you with the same church as that ‘mulungu’ (white man) who was here? We’ve never seen so much mercy and patience as these guys have experienced from him.” Upon hearing these comments, our hearts were encouraged that somehow out of this experience God’s name would be lifted up after all.
As the months passed and the faintest signs of expectancy dimmed, we finally received from two different sources a glimmer of hope that we may at least get a replacement camera. A good friend wrote and said he felt that the Lord was impressing on him that he should send us HIS digital camera. That same day we received an email from our home church saying they were considering purchasing a digital camera for us and wondered how to get it to us. We were overjoyed with the prospects. We told our friend how much we appreciated his willingness to sacrifice something which was not easy for him to give up for the sake of God’s work, but that maybe God was testing his faith, rather like Abraham. We assured him that God had provided himself a ram. We began attempting to arrange with our home church the transport of a camera from Canada to Africa with a pastor who would be speaking at our Missionary Retreat in Zimbabwe. In spite of all our efforts, this plan fell through. We then tried to make alternate arrangements with yet another pastor who would be traveling the following week to Mozambique, but our internet connection was out for three days in a row. Phone calls only got the answering machine and nothing seemed to be working out.
Finally, Mark got a phone call and was astounded to see that it was from one of the men in the long line-up of “purchasers’ of the camera. He said, “Pastor Mark, I have good news for you. I have your camera here in my hands. Can you come and pick it up?” Praise the Lord!
There was one little hitch - we were visiting with my parents in northern Mozambique and would not be home for another week! “Could you hold on to the camera for us until we return?”
He said, “Sure that will not be a problem. I’ll see you next week!”
Well, the idea of leaving the camera in his hands for another week just didn’t sit well with us. Most of our missionaries had been out of town for the Annual Retreat in Harare, Zimbabwe, so we had to hunt around to find someone who was in town in Maputo and would be willing to make the hour long drive to that particular town to pick up the camera for us. We were finally able to make contact with a fellow missionary who made the trip the next morning. He called us at around 9 a.m. to say, “I have your camera in hand! I’ve been taking pictures with it. It still works. The card is still in it and it looks great!” Well, Hallelujah! After three months of being passed around from hand to hand to hand and traveling in and out of the country, God saw fit to return our camera to us! This was nothing short of a miracle!
Once again we were reminded that our lives are in God’s hands. While we were getting frustrated with our plans not working out, God was saying, “Just hold your horses! I’ve got one coming for you! YOURS!!” God was certainly able to answer our prayer, and what a thrill it was to discover that God was also willing to answer in such a miraculous way!
* Mark and Donna Haug are missionaries with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada working in Maputo, Mozambique. They have a website which is updated on a weekly basis with an ‘epistle’, stories or devotionals in the Creative Corner and now once again with fresh new pictures each week of life and work of a missionary in Mozambique. Check it out at: http://www.thehaugs.com
Donna - This was a fascinating article to read and a real testimony to faith. We can work and work and work, yet some times we just have to sit back and let God take over. (I wonder about the pictures you found on the camera. Everyone who touched it must have tried using it. That could be a fascinating pictorial.)
Donna, What fascinating story and testimony of faith. We work and work and work and yet, we sometimes have to just sit back and let God handle things. (I wonder about the pictures you found in the camera. Everyone who touched it must have tried using it. That could be a fascinating pictorial essay.) Thank you for sharing and God Bless.
OOOH Boy! What a testimony. As one who grew up in South Africa I know first hand that when something goes missin like that, you can kiss it g'bye. God's name is certainly to be praised for this.
How do you like Mozambique? I was there many years ago and loved it. I also went to school with one of Swaziland's royal family members, and spent some time there - it is lovely.
Wow, Donna, this is just so encouraging... especially the part where God put up roadblocks to you getting a replacement camera. I'm convinced that I would be less concerned about apparent obstacles to my plans if I really believed that God was working in the background. Someday it will all make sense!
Donna, that's an amazing story and one which I will keep in mind. Too often, I doubt that God will answer my prayers-not that he can, as you said, but that he will-especially when the prayers are specific. It's good to be reminded that God hears us when we call to Him.