There he was, a skeleton in a diaper with only moments to live. His eyes had sunk too deeply into his skull and his mouth gaped wide as his chest heaved for breath. It is an understatement to say it was unnerving. Adding to the tension were over a dozen non-Christian friends and family members watching to see what we, the missionaries, would do.
This was northern Colombia. We had gone on our exploratory trip to start the Bible translation among the Wiwa people, and on what was supposed to be a simple layover between transportation turned into an opportunity to pray and preach the Gospel. Our host family had told us there was a man dying of AIDs and asked if we would come pray for him within a couple of hours of our arrival at the small town of San Diego.
This is one of those situations where you hear in stories about the glory of God falling and the man in the diaper suddenly jumping up and declaring he is healed and everybody gets saved. This is not that story though. This story is more subtle and hard.
Our team of four stood there and stared at the man. AIDs is demonic if anything is and what it does in its final stages is one of those images so horrible you can’t sleep at night.
And yet Jesus is with us in the midst of it all. You see, it was a hard place for our team to be, a hard place for me to be, but the truth of the matter is, if you are serving Jesus and putting yourself on the cross like He invites us all to do, He will take you into dark and hard places. The Israelites didn’t take the Promised Land without bloodshed, Jesus didn’t save us all without bloodshed, the apostles didn’t preach the Gospel without bloodshed, how could we ever expect to walk through the valley of the shadow of death without shedding some of our own.
“If a thousand fall at your side or ten thousand at your right hand, it will not overcome you.” Psalm 91:7
The scene here is a brutal battle full of loss. Every day we walk on this earth we are in that battle, and the deeper we get into it the more hurt we see. That is also where we find Jesus. He isn’t on the outskirts or watching from a hilltop safe from the terrible sights. He is right in the thick of it, helping and healing the wounded. Weeping over the lost, holding up the wounded. You can’t be close to Jesus and be far from the battle, and Jesus is where victory is.
That night with the man in the diaper, we told his friends and family about Jesus. None of them knew Him, the dying man never met him, it was a powerful scene. We had flown from Panama, spent days in Cartagena, been on a bus for nine hours that day, and at exactly that time this group of people had gathered around their dying friend, and we just happened to be in the home of a woman who knew him, and they needed someone to pray.
I don’t believe in coincidences.
The man had been comatose all day, hadn’t moved at all. Just that rapid pre-death breaths. After we preached the Gospel and told the people about the goodness of God even in the midst of tragedy, we prayed for the man. While we were praying, one of our team members, Carlos, heard from the Holy Spirit to go through the sinners prayer with the dying man. As he did, the skeleton man shifted his weight and moved his head back and forth for the first time all day. The reaction, the shock from the people was awesome. The man didn’t get healed, but he responded to the prayer and they all watched it happen before their very eyes, as did we all.
The man died an hour and a half later. There was a peace about it. Everyone, including our team, believed he had heard the prayer, and even though he was locked up in a dying body and couldn’t speak, we believe that in his spirit he made Jesus his king in those final moments. We won’t know for sure until we get to heaven ourselves. But you could never convince me God didn’t orchestrate all of that.
Thus is life walking in the Kingdom.