The following is an excerpt from “And the Word Came With Power,” a book written by Wycliffe missionary Joanne Shetler about her experience serving in the Philippines. Here she tells a story about Andrea, the woman who helped her with the translation. Unable to conceive, Andrea and her husband often sacrificed to the spirits in hopes that this would bring them a baby.
The Gospel of Mark was the first full book I attempted to translate. Andrea and I were working on chapter five of Mark, where Jesus was casting out demons from a man, when Andrea interrupted me. “You translated that part wrong … people can’t cast out demons. They come when they want, and they leave when they want. The demons are in control, not people.”
Her eyes widened when I told her that Jesus wasn’t an ordinary man. He was God and he was stronger than the spirits. She looked puzzled and confused, but continued helping me translate the Scriptures. Periodically, she sacrificed to persuade the spirits to give her a baby.
Months later, Andrea casually mentioned that she now believed in this Jesus we’d been learning about in Mark. I made some noncommittal remark and thought, You’re just saying that because you know it’s what I want to hear. I thought it was her kind of Balangao way of telling me she accepted me, strange beliefs and all. I simply didn’t believe her.
Not many days later, Andrea, eyes glowing, made another announcement: “I’m going to have a baby.”
“You’re what?” I said. “H-h-how? What happened?”
She looked straight at me, “I told you I believe now. I decided to ask God for a baby and he’s giving me one.” I was floored. So she really did believe. We were both learning about God.
As Andrea’s due date approached, so did the date for me to return to the United States to visit my family and friends who were supporting me. Andrea pleaded with me to delay my plans and deliver her baby before I left. I stroked her arm and reasoned with her, “But you know God now, dear sister. Just pray and ask the Lord for help and he will indeed help you.”
With that, I flew out of Balangao to Bagabag. … Saturday, an urgent request came over the radio to Bagabag. The United States ambassador wanted to visit a translation project. Psychologically, I was already halfway to California. How can I go back to the village? I thought. … I worked out a deal with our pilot: Bob Griffin never flew on Sundays, but he’d make an exception and fly me to Balangao on Sunday. He’d bring the ambassador on Monday morning and we’d all fly back to Bagabag on Monday afternoon.
That’s settled, I thought.
… That night Andrea went into labor. She had a long, hard labor before I was able to deliver her beautiful baby Melisa. As I sat cross-legged on the floor rocking little Melisa and murmuring to her in Balangao, Andrea got a funny grin on her face. Nodding her head almost imperceptibly, she quietly told me, “I asked God to send you back to deliver my baby.”
The next day … the ambassador changed his plans and canceled his trip. The plane came in to get me.
As I flew back to Bagabag in the little plane, I thought of what King Solomon said in Proverbs 21:1: “The king’s heart (and the ambassador’s) is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” God used an ambassador to answer the prayer of Andrea, his new child. That’s just how he is.
It’s amazing how God uses faithful prayers to change our lives and the lives of those around us. Consider how you can partner in the work God is doing throughout the world, whether through becoming a part of the Wycliffe prayer team or serving in the field like Joanne did!