(scan of stamp on letter from 1991)
It's the 4th day of July all over the world.....but only here in the United States of America is the "Fourth of July" a celebration of our freedom and liberty as a nation. As I was thinking about our nation and the freedoms we hold so dear, a nagging thought came to my mind. Maybe one that crosses your mind sometimes too! What does the future hold? Jobs are scarce, gas is sky high, crime is increasing, our rights as Christians are being slowly but surely taken away. Sometimes, let's face it, the future looks bleak.
If we are Christians, our ultimate future will be to spend eternity in Heaven with our Lord. But what worries most of us is the period of time between now and when we get to Heaven! None of us want to see our loved ones suffer or die. None of us want to be diagnosed with cancer. None of us want to see world wide chaos from another World War. None of us want a tornado or flood to destroy homes and lives. Yet when these things sometimes do come our way, God is there to help us through the trial so that we can be a witness to others of His grace and mercy.
I think back to something that happened many years ago now. My husband, B., is a Vietnam veteran and while serving there became very close friends with a man in the South Vietnamese army who was an interpreter for my hubby's platoon. For privacy and security reasons I will call this man "Nam"....short for Vietnam. For several years after B. came home from Vietnam, he and Nam exchanged letters. Then the letters stopped coming. When Saigon fell to the Communists in 1975, B. was sure that Nam had been killed. That is until a warm day in May of 1991. I'll never forget it. We were leaving to go to town and stopped to pick up the mail at the box on the way out. I saw an unusual envelope with a return address of the Philippine National Red Cross and Nam's name underneath that. I remember my heart pounding so hard I could hardly breathe. B. asked what was wrong and I just handed him the letter. He opened it and started to read it but started shaking so bad that he handed it back to me to read. It was through much joy and many tears that we read that Nam, his wife, their daughter and several of his in-laws had escaped from Vietnam! They had traveled the rough seas all the way to the Philippines in a small boat that Nam had built with his own hands!
It had been almost twenty years since B. had heard from his friend and this seemed almost surreal to be reading this letter now. In fact, it was truly a miracle that it had ever gotten all the way from the Philippines to our house anyway. After we had time to calm down a bit I started examining the front of the envelope. Nam had only remembered B.s first and last name...which was spelled wrong.....and the tiny little town B. had lived in when he was in the military.....and that was spelled wrong! Thankfully the post office there forwarded it on to the right people....us! As I continued to look at the envelope, the postage meter stamp in the top right hand corner caught my eye. There just as plain as day was the word FAITH.
Of course we immediately wrote Nam back and offered any assistance we could to help him and his family get on their feet since they had left Vietnam with only the clothes on their back. As we began to correspond on a regular basis Nam's wife sent a letter that told of their experience of escaping a brutal land where there was no freedom as we know it. I want to give you a part of her letter here.....in her own words......so that you can see just how far the hand of God can reach. No matter what the future holds for each of us, it will not take God by surprise.
Here is what she wrote in July of 1991: "Nam had lived in hiding from 1979 because of communist. He lived without freedom, therefore he always afraid. When we married, we have to live over ceiling of my parent house. Nam had recognize Jesus since we get married. Our boat have 14 people. We met robber, storm, and we were thirsty for 2 days. But God always protect us. Final we came to the Philippine Islands. I had not ate 7 days. When we see the land we were so happy and thank God we came to freedom at last."
Wow! I still get goose bumps reading that after all these years have passed! Isn't this a wonderful testimony of how the Lord can bring someone through unimaginable horror and into peace and thankfulness? Here is a promise from the Lord that will help us through that unknown thing we call the FUTURE: "The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee." Psalm 9: 9-10
So, if you're like me and sometimes look around at all the tough times we are facing nowadays and wonder what the future holds......just hold on to God and He will carry you through. The song writer Ira Stanphill knew this when he penned these lyrics, "Many things about tomorrow, I don't seem to understand, But I know Who hold tomorrow, And I know Who holds my hand."
Join me in thanking God for freedom...both physical and spiritual.... today!
May God bless you!