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A Backslider's Encounter
by Louise Lee
5/23/2009 / Short Stories
"This morning a BMW ran into a shop by accident. The driver was badly injured. " Sitting in front of the computer, Randy mechanically typed in his report on the road accident.
As usual after finishing a day's work, Randy drank the last mouthful of coffee from his cup. It was about time to call his wife, Beth. Every day about this time, he would give her a call. He rang her up and told her how much he loved her. Putting down the phone, Randy stared at the computer. All these were mechanical enough for Randy to feel that something was missing in his life.
Randy has been a reporter for already five years; he has earned a name of bullet-reporter. Most of the time he was the first one from media to reach the spot, so that he could take many valuable photos before anyone else. Some photos he took even earned him "Best News Photo of the Year".
Randy married Beth when they were twenty-four. He was thirty now, at the height of his career, having one boy and one girl - an ideal family. But somehow, a deep sense of dissatisfaction caused him to be restless in this good life.
Randy was born to missionary parents. He dreamed of being a missionary since he was young. When he was fourteen, he aspired to do something great for the Lord like Billy Graham, Smith Wigglesworth, Lester Sumrall or Katherine Kulman. He was on fire for God and was actively involved in all kinds ministries in the Church.
At the age of nineteen, Randy became a youth leader, waiting on God's call to become full- time minister. Sponsored by the Church, he studied in the Bible College. It was the second year into his studies.
One year before he graduated, he led two troubled youths to Christ. One was a drug addict and the other was a prostitute. They were both miraculously saved but they were heavily in debt. They were being controlled because of the debts that they owed. Randy felt moved to help them to pay off the debt. He felt that their repentance was sincere; they deserved a chance to turn into a new leaf.
He did not approach anyone for counsel because he felt that the pastor has some prejudice against him, and he felt that it was his chance to depend on God for help not on men. He then decided to act secretly: gathered money to help two new converts. He thought the Church members would like to help, too. So, he secretly talked to the members of the Church. Many of them responded, however, this was soon uncovered. Without given a chance to defend or explain himself, Randy was accused of cheating the Church members. He was asked to return all the money and confessed his sin openly before the Church. Moreover, he was asked to step down from his leadership role. He has to accept the Church's discipline until he truly repented.
Randy wasn't feeling very justifiable to have such a treatment from the Church. He sincerely wanted to help the new converts. He regretted that he didn't seek counsel from his pastor and acted hastily. The more he defended himself, the more the Pastor felt that he was not submissive to the Church discipline. After three months' of discipline, Randy was ex-communicated because of showing no repentance. His membership was being removed from the Church and he was not allowed to stay in the fellowship.
Randy was devastated, deeply hurt, humiliated and crushed inside. He felt deeply rejected, not just by the Church, and also by God. He felt that God was so far from him; all his prayers were unanswered; the heaven was closed and as hard as iron.
Randy couldn't understand why these had to happen to him. Was he doing His will? Was it wrong to help people who were in need? Randy had many unanswered questions and a broken heart. He did not want to leave the house of God, so he went to another Church as a nominal Christian; he simply went to Church every Sunday. And at there, he met Beth, his wife.
He tried very hard to keep everything in control as if nothing had happened. He did not reveal anything to his wife either. All he did was immersed himself into work, hoping to forget the pain and hurt he felt deeply. He wasn't sure if he was running away from pain or from God. He avoided talking about God.
"Randy, take a look at this!" His boss passed him the newspaper. There was a big headline stated, 'blind babies were found along the shore of River Phrates'. It was suspected to be the abandoned babies from the tribe in the upper stream of the River Phrates" " It is a good idea of writing a story for the Life column. Can you write something about it?" Randy was promoted as columnist in the newspaper after receiving his awards. It was really a great opportunity for him. Without hesitation, he answered, " Sure, let me do it!"
As Randy looked closely at the news, his heart was pumping heavily. It was unexplainable that he had an unusual feeling for the tribe. He was no longer just interested in writing the story; he wanted to get to the tribe itself and got an interview with the Chief. The tribe was called Zumbak.
"Zumbak" wasn't a new word for Randy. Strange enough he actually dreamt of this word many times when he was 20. He always felt that that was a word from God to him. He was very excited about the fact that God gave him a word though he did not understand its meaning. Without dwelling on it too much, he just simply recorded it and remembered it. It was still fresh in his mind, like it was in his dream the day before. The next few weeks, he was busy doing his research on the tribe "Zumbak".
Zumbkians are actually people who believe that unity and leadership came from God. For them, eyesight was a symbol of blessings while blindness was a curse. Anyone who was born blind or became blind would be driven away from the tribe. Though unwilling, many mothers would have to let go of their babies to the River, believing that would send away curse and the Phrates River god would take care of the babies.
Randy thought that he couldn't depend on research alone to write his story; he decided to play a visit to the tribe. Perhaps he could interview the Chief and he could even take some good pictures. The very night, he had a dream. In his dream, he saw himself laying his hand on an old man. He could hardly remember the old man's face but he could recognize a red mark on his forehead.
The following day, he set out to the upper stream of the River of Phrates. To reach upper stream of Phrates, he had to take a canoe. The canoeing took him two hours to reach the Upper Stream. "What an awesome place it is!" Randy couldn't help but exclaimed. Willow trees were planted along the riverbank, and layers and layers of different floras and trees were spread across in front of Randy's eyes. He saw a peacock flying beautifully across. After leaving the guide, Randy was on his own to the tribe.
As soon as he stepped on the land, he felt a peace that he could not explain. He decided to take this journey alone. His plan was for a week until he found the tribe. According to the map, he had to go through a forest and then past a river. He estimated that it might take him about three days. Before he set off, he committed his journey to God and asked for his protection.
After the prayer, Randy went towards a thick and deep forest. After a short walk, he was deep in the jungle where trees were forty feet tall; leaves were dense on top where the sky was almost covered. The air was still and humid. After a day's journey, Randy was exhausted and he needed to find a place of rest. He set up his own tent and he estimated that he could get going the next morning, so as to reach the tribe in the afternoon.
As soon as he set up the tent, he fell into a deep sleep without realizing the change in the environment. The same dream recurred again here in the forest. Randy woke up disturbed by the image, but his zeal remained fresh. It would be just another few hours' journey, he would reach his destination.
Randy couldn't help but felt excited. As he journeyed on, the trees got shorter and they were very different. Even he began to see bushes along the path. It was like an entrance to a garden. Out of curiosity, he detoured to step in and see what it led to. The next thing he knew was that he was in the midair, being caught in a trap.
"Help! Is there anyone here? " There was no answer. The only answer he got was his own echoes. With much struggle, he was too exhausted to shout anymore. Soon, he fell asleep. He had the dream again and this recurring dream woke him up, as soon as he opened his eyes, he saw an old man pointing his arrow at him. He was about to kill the prey he got in his trap.
"Help!" Randy shouted. The old man was stunned when he heard the scream. Randy was equally stunned when he saw the mark at the old man's forehead. He met the man in his dream. Lost for words, Randy was too shocked to utter a word.
" Hi there, my name is Randy Henson, I have come here to visit the tribe Zumbak. I meant no harm. I just wanted to visit the people and interviewed their Chief and took some pictures of them. That's all why I am here." Randy explained.
Without a word, the old man released Randy.
"Why do you want to speak to Zumbak Chief?" asked the old man.
"I am a journalist from a newspaper. I am writing a column in Life section about the people in Zumbak. I am particularly interested in their belief in blindness and God perhaps you can help me." Randy replied with enthusiasm, hoping that the old man could at least gave him some directions.
"I'm sorry that you stepped into my trap. It was not meant for man, but for wild boars. Sometimes, tigers, lions and maybe bears would appear. This is more for my own protection because I couldn't see!" The old man explained.
"I am sorry to hear that. You meant you stay in this forest alone? Aren't you with your own people?" Randy was concerned.
" It is a long story. Come with me to my hut and perhaps you should spend a night here before you move on. Zumbak village is not too far from here. Tomorrow morning when there is light, it would be easier for you to continue your journey."
"I don't mind! That would be great! " Randy gladly accepted.
"By the way, how can I address you?"
"People called me Tao."
"Tao, may I know what the mark on your head is?" Randy asked out of curiosity.
" It is the mark of the Chief." The old man answer calmly.
"Oh" Randy exclaimed.
" I am someone whom you are looking for."
"That's unimaginable! May I have the honor to have an interview with you?" Randy was excited.
"Most welcome! Chief Tao nodded with consent and there was a warm smile on his face.
"You said you were blind. I understand that your tribe regards blindness as curse, and..." Randy wasn't sure what question to ask.
"I wasn't born blind. One year ago. while I was celebrating my 40 years' reign as Zumbak Chief. My people erected a statue of me. They intended to worship me. At the height of the celebration, I saw a stream of bright light and as a result of that, I became blind. I was shocked and very much humbled by this experience. My people loved me, but they had to send me away. I had become a curse to them." Chief Tao was in deep thoughts as he shared.
While Chief Tao shared his story, Randy recalled his dream.
"May I lay hand on you and pray for you? I believed in the God who heals," Randy asked.
"Sure, to God be the glory!" Chief Tao raised his hands and gladly accepted Randy's offer of prayer. After the prayer, Chief Tao regained his sight.Subsequently, he led Randy to his own people and they had a great celebration.
Sunday- Last Day at Zumbak, Rainy day, Aug 3
It's been five years since I was away from God. I've learnt a lot of valuable lessons. In God's eyes, nothing is greater than what Jesus had accomplished on the cross. The only thing God wants from me is to be fruitful. Jesus looked beyond suffering and accomplished His task. Why can't I follow Jesus and overlook the hurts? I should rise up again. I will return to the tribe and continue the work there.
Randy wrote this on his diary.
(My first illustrated book Psalm 23 for Kids is now available at amazon.com)
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