“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
Isaiah 43: 1,2
Often in my life, these verses have been a source of comfort and strength when I was trudging through a trial, or suffering through a loss. I love that Jesus tells us not to be afraid. He reminds us that we are SET FREE. REDEEMED. He KNOWS our name. He has not forgotten us.
What would it be like to walk through literal flames and come out alive, knowing God was your REDEEMER? What would it be like to be one appointed to suffer here on this earth…but still be somehow able to look ahead to a greater glory.
I know a young girl who has been refined by a fire and is immerging as pure gold. Her name is Bezenech.
I met her 5 years ago when the Lord brought me on my pioneer journey to Ethiopia. She was a frightened, hurting, traumatized 9 year old who had been in the hospital for over a year. The tragic story involved an evil man in her life, an assumed stolen 50 cents, and the horrific even that followed. This evil man in his anger, tied Bezenech and her younger brother to their home and set it on fire. She was in the fire. And she was burned, but not consumed. Her brother however lost his young life. She spent the next year fighting for movement, enduring the pain of skin grafts, surgeries and physical therapy. After a year she walked out of the hospital able to use her hands.
She came to my front door just 6 months ago, afraid and in need. She needed some kind of job to help her through school. I knew she could do small jobs around the house and her tear-filled eyes drew my heart and moved me with compassion. She began coming twice a week. She began looking me in the eyes, smiling…my kids greeted her with hugs and joy. I asked her questions, told her I appreciated her, encouraged her. Her spirit began to increase. She walked in with confidence and eagerness, day after day. She has struggled through infection after infection with her legs and feet, but never complains. She only says, “It is no problem, Thanks be to the Lord.” She knows what it means to be redeemed. She passed through a fire and knows the depth of God’s desire and love for her even more. She knows her Father. He didn’t let her go. He comforts her in her fears…He has a plan and a purpose for her beautiful life and heart.
Two weeks ago, she missed worked and came a couple days later. I asked her if she was well. I asked how her family was. Her eyes filled with tears. “Everyone is ok, except for my little brother,” she quietly said. She told me over 2 weeks his jaw had become so swollen and he was moaning and crying in pain, barely able to eat. I felt urgency and told her to get her brother there as soon as possible. They live far in the country, but with some creativity we were able to have him brought to SCH. I was shocked by how bad he was…the doctors quickly did all of the tests possible and a couple days later he was having his jaw biopsied. The doctors all felt that from his scan and his symptoms that he has a rare form of cancer in the bone of his jaw.
As according to the culture here, the doctors told him they wouldn’t be sure of his diagnosis until the biopsy results came back in 6 weeks. But Dave and I looked at this family who we know has walked through so much suffering together and knew we needed to tell them what they were facing. Dave had to look into the faces of a father who had already lost one son and tell him that his little boy of 8, most likely has cancer, and we’re not sure if we can do anything to help him. In those moments, we step into those flames and the intensity of the waves and we can only look to Jesus. He whispers, “Be still.” Nothing else makes sense. The dad was so gracious and full of faith as he answered, “I have no means to care for my boy, so I must leave him in the Lord’s hands. God will decide.” This faith blows us away. This faith that is immovable. This faith that is grounded because they KNOW ONLY that GOD IS SOVEREIGN and that HE IS LOVE.
The family is grieving and this little boy, Abebeyu, is suffering. I remember watching this suffering last year with Dave’s mom…watching her struggle to eat, watching her body in such pain…so, I send eggs, avacados…I pray, I let Bezenech cry. But really we can only walk alongside and keep our eyes up. We are praying for a miracle. And we are praying for a way to find him treatment.
I see this family, specially appointed by God to suffer. They are warriors. They are POOR, so poor in the eyes of this world, but RICH in faith. They are RICH in eternity. They are RICH in the things that really matter. They have suffered and I think will have to walk through more, but they will not be consumed and they will know a depth of their precious Redeemer’s love for them. Heaven’s not far. He is WITH us.