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On the far side of the sea

By interserve

As we stopped over in Singapore on our way to live in a land we’d never seen before, I wrote in my journal a verse God had given me: “You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you … Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” 2 Chronicles 20:17.

Heading to the Middle East with four kids under seven, including a baby on my hip and a toddler at my knee, there was not a lot of fighting I could do. I did, however, need to do a lot of trusting.

I remember when our six-month-old baby had a temperature of 39 degrees. We had only been there a few weeks and I had no idea who to call if the Panadol didn’t start working soon. I could barely say ‘hospital’ in Arabic. The next morning he was okay.

Three years later, however, when he needed emergency surgery to remove the coin lodged in his oesophagus, he was less than okay (and I wasn’t too crash hot either!). Thankfully, by then I knew exactly who to call. I had also become quite good at pronouncing ‘hospital’.

Another afternoon our children were playing in our friends’ yard when a protest passed the front gate. We ignored the usual shouting and drumming … until the shooting began. I bolted down the stairs roaring at our kids, “GET INSIDE NOW!” They ran inside, probably more frightened of me yelling than any gun.

Like any mother, my biggest fears always circle around my children. And I am certainly no spiritual champion when it comes to worrying! But God taught me lesson upon lesson about trusting him on that far side of the sea.

When the Arab Spring turned the Middle East upside down, God sent our family through a learning-to-trust-him intensive. Day by day we prayed and waited on Him. During that time of protests, curfews and army tanks, the peace He gave us truly did pass understanding.

There was the day a bomb went off in front of the building next door to my children’s school. But God, in his perfect timing, had kept all of our kids far away from that building on a planned pupil-free holiday. This non-coincidence was a clear reminder to me of how very in control God was.

There were many more non-coincidences like these. The first time the funding for our ministry drew very close to zero, we were anxious. We relied on donations alone; how would we get thousands of dollars to keep the refugee school going by next week? Then, suddenly, a $10,000 cheque came in. A year later when the bank balance was again near zero, we prayed and received another miracle of even greater proportions. The third time, we prayed in expectant faith. And, like God promised, we saw his deliverance; the funding came in, ensuring hundreds of underprivileged children could still go to school.

This did not mean bad things never happened in our six years in the Middle East: there were health problems, accidents, broken nights, our kids’ grief at every goodbye, and everyday stresses of life in a foreign land. But through each of these we could face the future knowing the Lord was with us, standing in his strength.

Fear not and see the deliverance of the Lord?

That day in Singapore when God gave me this verse, I didn’t know what to expect. I did not dream of a future with revolutions or bombs or emergency surgery. But looking back over the challenges and the blessings of our time in the Middle East, I know that my Lord has kept his promises in more ways than I could ever imagine.

Chelsea served with her family in the Middle East for six years.

Names have been changed.

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