Today I am eighty-five years old. I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then. So give me the hill country that the LORD promised me. Joshua 14:10-12
At the airport we piled our suitcases into a "bus" that had worn out about 10 years ago and began chugging through the mountain pass. Top speed -- 35 mph -- down hill -- no kidding.
Let me introduce you to Paul. To whom would I compare Paul? Let's see . . . I can't. He's an original. I can also tell you that the streets of the second most dangerous city in the world for Americans are safe compared to his driving. After the old bus got us to the church Paul loaded us into the cap-less back of his pick-up truck to deliver us to different homes. Listen to me -- I thrive on risk, danger, adventure, and pursuing the unknown. I am hardly a shrinking violet, but I have never taken such a perilous ride in a moving vehicle of any kind (have I told you that I have hit 57 mph on my bicycle, shot class 4 rapids in my kayak, and been in a head on collision?).
On the ride to our resting places I began to envision people dressed in black, daubing tears from their cheeks, and quietly thinking "My O my, the undertaker did a good job. If it weren't for their missing limbs they would look like they were sleeping," and then we were skidded into the long black station wagon for the short ride from the funeral home to Boot Hill -- our final resting place.
Paul ran 12 red lights and never once yielded to oncoming traffic and made sudden herky-jerky stops and turns without warning. Caracas streets are filled with potholes and debris, and clogged with traffic and people all hours of the day -- it mattered not. Every so often Paul would crane his neck -- looking backward -- as the vehicle headed forward, and ask "How are youns' doing?"
I would have thought our ashen faces and the puddles around our feet would have given him a clue. After a while I decided it was better to just put my head down and breath the prayer, "Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit!"
Here is the rest of the story . . .
For the last 17 years Paul and Sue have organized mission teams to advance Christ's kingdom in South America. Fifty-one initiatives have been directly overseen by this couple. They helped plant and construct the largest protestant church in Venezuela. That church has started 12 others, and Paul and Sue have been directly involved in planting and constructing those 12 churches. One of the churches is in the jungle (I will be taking a team there next year -- want to join us?)
They raise no support. Instead, Paul returns to the U.S. for several months each year to do construction in order to provide the finances he and his wife will need. Paul and Sue recently purchased a home for $3,500. in the most dangerous section of Maturin. Each night they lay their head on the pillow with the most dangerous of the dangerous just outside their steel barred windows. On numerous occasions they have been held-up at gunpoint, mugged, and had everything stolen.
They laugh when they tell the stories.
Paul and Sue come from extremely difficult backgrounds. At thirteen Paul was accidentally shot in the face with a 12 gauge shotgun and lost one eye. Later in life God saved him in the midst of an alcoholic stupor. Once sober his life took an immediate -- 180 degree about face. Sue's younger days were filled with abuse and heartbreak. Their lives are worthy of a memoir.
Paul and Sue -- a couple in their golden years -- represent the standard I want to pursue . . . Give me the hill country that the LORD promised me.