Just the Beginning

People's kindness and God's graciousness: a missionary recalls these blessings (from Issue #500)

People’s kindness and God’s graciousness: a missionary recalls these blessings

by Naomi Epp

“The chimney is on fire! Get the kids outside!” Carl yells. Not only are the flames leaping out the top, but also around the stove pipe in the basement. By the time I have jackets on our four children and get them out the door, four or five men have appeared out of nowhere. One of them is up on the roof, pouring water down the chimney. How did they find out so quickly?

We were new in this village. That incident turned out to be just the beginning of many memories of people’s kindness and God’s graciousness.

Just four days after we arrive 15 kids come out for Sunday school. The next Sunday 28 kids come. They don’t seem to know the Bible stories. What a privilege to teach them! A six year-old girl recites the memory verse every week. I’m amazed she is learning the verses so faithfully. Finally I ask her, “Who’s helping you memorize the Bible verses?” She replies, “No one.”

Someone’s at the door. He hands us a gift: a zip-lock bag of fresh moose meat. Another time someone brings a gift of fish, just caught that afternoon. What generous hearts!

Someone rounds up enough ski-doos and sleighs for our whole family to go on a loooong ski-doo ride with them — zigzagging along trails and zipping across frozen lakes until we reach our hosts’ cabin. There we are served a meal of duck soup. Our family will always treasure this experience.

Another day that winter we open the mail. A Christmas card from …….., a local family we hardly know. How sweet of them!

The Sunday school children are practicing a play for the Christmas Community Supper. The day of our final practice arrives. Our (adult) narrator says, “I had planned to go (away) shopping this weekend, but I didn’t so that I could be here for the play practice.” Thank God for her commitment!

A young woman gets up during a service with her guitar and sings a song she has written. She has had a difficult childhood. Her parents have both passed away. What a thrill to hear her honor God with her music!

We have to move out of the house we’re renting. Someone graciously lends us a house to stay in, and a trailer for hauling our things. We arrive at our new house and find several women scrubbing out the kitchen cupboards and washing walls. How kind!

One day we overhear some boys as they are playing. One boy says to the other, “Words can’t hurt you.” “Yes, they can,” replies the younger one, who is being raised by his grandmother. “They won’t hurt me! Try it. Say the meanest thing you can think of!” says the older. Instead of replying with cruel, cutting words, the younger boy replies with words of kindness! Thank God for Christian grandparents who teach their grandchildren what is right.

A single mother gives her heart to the Lord and comes to church and Bible study every week. She continues faithfully following God year after year, never going back to the world. What a testimony to God’s grace and power.

It’s June. We’ve been very busy. A couple invites us to go canoeing down the river with them one Sunday afternoon. It’s a sunny day and turns out to be sooo relaxing, enjoying the beauty of God’s creation and visiting as we paddle downstream. Thank you, Lord, for friends and for a beautiful afternoon!

Carl comes home for dinner. He says how much he enjoys building a house with the men, talking and laughing as they work. It’s great that they can have fun together as they work.

Several boys are over at our house. One, who sometimes helps me with teaching Sunday school, says, “Do you know what I do when I get angry? I go down to the lake and pray.” I can learn a lesson from one of my former Sunday school students!

The church ladies put on a Ladies’ Night to reach out to the community. I sit there watching and listening to the plays, the songs, the testimonies, and the pleas for women to turn to God. I am deeply moved.

A good number of women are gathered in a home one evening. Shortly before I leave, one of them hands me an envelope. I open it and find a card with money and handwritten messages all over the inside of the card. Why did they do this? I feel so unworthy!

Carl comes home all smiles. “Quick, get the camera! Come outside and take a picture.” It’s our neighbor and Carl with “the fish” — the biggest pickerel he’s ever caught. How kind of our neighbor to take Carl fishing.

Memories of people’s kindness … acts of love … God’s graciousness … and His transforming power.

Carl & Naomi Epp were stationed in northern Manitoba before moving to northern Saskatchewan several years ago, where they find continued opportunities encouraging believers and reaching out to unsaved people. The Epps now serve as associate members.

Adapted from our Northern Lights magazine (Issue #500). Note: some of the locations and involvements of our missionaries may have changed since the original publishing of this article.