I like surprises—good surprises, like an unexpected gift of flowers, fruit or a book. I have a daughter who loves to surprise me. Her favorite surprise was to show up on my porch in Kemantian, all the way from America, where I thought she was working. I loved that surprise! Another time, she drove with her two children from Colorado to Virginia to surprise us when we were at another daughter’s place.
I also enjoy surprising people. Though I try, I am not as gifted in choosing a fantastic surprise gift. But I do enjoy making a special meal for birthdays and creating holidays for my family. And I like to make surprise visits, too.
Soon after arriving from an extended visit to the U.S.A. due to health concerns, Kent and I decided to make the trek to our most northern church family to see how they were doing. The lay leader either did not have a telephone signal, his phone was bad, or had some other issue, so we could not reach him. Still, we thought, a surprise visit would give us the best idea of how they were really doing, for there would be no premeditated plans for how to impress us.
As it turned out, we met a church member on our hike into the area. Somehow, word had reached the church a few minutes before our arrival, so we were not a total surprise, but at least they were happy to see us.
The small, family group-based church is reaching out into the community, and there have been some baptisms. This church has also grown by adding their children’s spouses as they marry.
It was interesting to listen to the service and see how much they have grown in our absence. There were unwelcome surprises, though. The lay leader, Mando, told us of a relative of his who had come to visit and was discouraging him from following Christ in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, stating that there had been denominational leaders who had sinned. The relative also instructed the church members that if they ate any flesh meats, there was no way they could get into heaven. His leaven continued on one subject after another. As Mando spoke, I asked him his response to his relative. He said that the man was compelling, and as he had stayed in their home for several days, Mando was starting to believe that the Adventist church might not be the right church for them.
“Mando, where in the Bible does it say that a true leader never makes a mistake, never sins?” I asked.
“I guess it does not say that, ‘for all fall short of the glory of God,’” Mando replied.
“And Mando, what scripture do you find that prohibits the eating of all flesh meats?” I continued.
“I do not know, Minan Landi. But it made so much sense as we were talking together. The thing is, we do not know what we would eat if we did not eat fish.”
As our conversation continued, I inwardly prayed for wisdom and for the Holy Spirit to open his eyes to the truth of God’s word.
The devil is so cleverly seeking who he can discourage and deceive. His deceptions are so close to the truth and sound so plausible, yet the falsehoods are discernible if one is grounded in scripture.
It angered me that I could not protect my people, the Palawano, from such folks. Yet I pray that they will be more careful not to listen to false teachers in the future. It reminds me that I, too, must stay so close to Jesus that truth is discernible and falsehood is made plain. I am also reminded that my people’s protection does not lie in my motherly heart but the heart of Jesus.