When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—because I am God, your personal God, the Holy of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:2-3a
He was coming after me. Over the years, my wife Judy and I have made many trips to Africa. We have spent time in Niger, Mali, and Uganda. All were unique in their own way and all were very special. Our time in Mali was especially so. We were working with one of our favorite missionaries. She is the real deal kind—the kind that if you were to stick her finger…she would bleed Jesus. Those trips were also highlighted because we worked with a group of One-Story girls. These college age young ladies gave up the comforts of home to spend a couple of years living in the African bush telling people about Jesus. They were incredible.
So, on one of these trips the team had one of those especially good days. We were able to minister and share with a lot of folks. We would start early and go the entire day. We would do mostly medical missions and story-telling and encouraging. When we got back to wherever we were staying we would have supper together. Then, when the African sun had finally called it a day, we would gather under a large open air bamboo….uh, thing. We would sing, share stories and have a brief devotion before joining the sun and calling it a day too.
These team times were very special moments. As the days passed, we as a team became closer and closer together. There were about twelve or fourteen of us…so not too large. Of course, that didn’t include other guests. Sometimes Africans from where we were staying would join us, and of course some or all of the interpreters. And then there were the other guests. Their names would make you think they were members of the team…but they weren’t. Praying may have been part of their name but, it wasn’t on their agenda. They were…praying mantis.
These large insects—about the size of a small eagle—would be drawn to the light as we sang and shared. Slowly they would start circling, choosing their targets. Now, I don’t know if they intended to bite someone—I don’t think so, or if they intended to carry someone off to their secret lair. Regardless, it was just a little spooky. Finally, and who knows why, I was picked by one of them. Repeatedly, this fellow would dive and try to land on me—particularly my face. Ok…it was weird. I was grateful when the prayer time was over. I confess I cheated and kept one eye open looking out for my new found friend.
Judy and I headed back to our hut and prepared for bed. We had a mosquito net over our bed to keep out those pesky insects and their friends. Soon it was lights out and off to sleep. Sometime later, we were awakened by the sound of something larger than a mosquito. Lion? No. Tiger? No? Elephant? No. It was the…praying mantis. Apparently, he followed me home and waited for the lights to go out before once again taunting me. It turns out there was a small hole in the top of our mosquito net and he found his way in and then…it happened.
As Judy and I lay in the African night, from out of the darkness (no electricity) the praying mantis landed square on my face. Now what happened next can’t be written because it goes beyond the 26 letters in the English alphabet. I jumped up and started clawing in the darkness trying to find my stalking insect. I finally grabbed him (gross), wrestled him to the bed (remember they are the size of eagles…smile), raised the net and chucked him outside somewhere, anywhere but where he was. And then I did some praying of my own. “Lord, please don’t let him find the hole again.” Thankfully, he didn’t, and thankfully that was the last I saw of him.
Well, the next night I had a testimony to share at story time. We all had a good laugh (and by the way…they really aren’t as big as …eagles but it sure seemed that way.) I remember telling my teammates how grateful I was for answered prayer…and honestly I was. Until you’ve had something like that land on your face, in the dark, in Africa—well you just can’t appreciate a God who answers unusual prayers. But you know, that’s the kind of God that He is. Nothing is too big…and nothing is too small for this Dearest Daddy who calls us His own.
One time God was talking to Israel through the prophet Isaiah and He said no matter what we face…when we are over our head in trouble, or maybe between a rock and a hard place or even the occasional fiery furnace—He will be with us. Why? Because He is our Savior, our Lord, our God. Wow…what a great scripture and I can add to that list “face eating praying mantis.” God is always there with us and for us and no matter what, He’s got this. Take that, Mr. Mantis.