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  • Writer's pictureDavid and Marilynn Chadwick

My Ebenezer Box: Just Go!

by Marilynn Chadwick

A small, worn bookmark in my box is another “Ebenezer Stone.” It tells the story of my very first mission trip to Africa. Yet another reminder of how we find joy when we step out in faith to answer God’s call. 

David and I had close friends who had been missionaries in Ethiopia, an African nation with a turbulent history. They approached us about coming to speak at a large conference they were planning through SIM, a well-known missions organization. This was the early 1990s and Ethiopia had just gone through a long and bloody civil war in which their revolutionary freedom fighters had finally overthrown the Communist government. Christians had been cruelly persecuted by the Russian-backed Communists during their seventeen-year regime. At long last, Ethiopia was finally free! This conference would be the first Christian gathering since the initial Communist takeover in 1974. Many of the missionaries vividly remembered the last such gathering where Christian leaders were arrested by the Soviet-backed forces, imprisoned, and tortured for their faith. 

SIM leaders anticipated this conference would be peaceful, but no one could be sure. Things were still chaotic after the war. Kidnappings and robberies were frequent. Poverty and hunger widespread. I had reluctantly agreed to go—how could I miss such an opportunity? I tried not to think of the dangers we might face. At that time, our children Bethany and DB, seven and four, were still quite young. We would be away from them for three weeks. Travel advisories discouraged travel to Ethiopia, but the missions organization assured us we’d be safe. 

Yet, I was apprehensive. I even had nightmares about being so far away, separated from my children by the wide expanse of ocean. I awakened one morning, very troubled after a disturbing dream in which I was swimming in the ocean. During my quiet time, I came across these words: “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:9,10 NIV). It was as if God was reminding me that even if I am on the other side of the sea, he would take care of me—and our children. I believe God primarily communicates his will to us through his Word. However, his will is often confirmed by a sense of inner peace. Still, I felt no peace. God, you are going to have to be way more clear if you’re truly calling me to go on such a risky journey!

As I left my house later that morning, I noticed a bookmark lying face down on our garage floor. Hmm. I don’t remember seeing that when I came home last night. I leaned over to pick up the small card. I had never seen it before. There was a picture of the ocean on the front. I turned it over and caught my breath. Carefully scripted on the back were the same words from my earlier Bible reading that morning: If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast (Psalm 139:9,10).

An inner peace swept over me. Suddenly, I knew that God was calling us to go to Ethiopia. And that his hand would guide and protect us. I was sure he could be trusted. 

What I could not have imagined were the incredible adventures David and I would share during that trip. We flew by helicopter into remote Ethiopian villages. We worshiped with lively congregations who had only recently learned about the love of Jesus. We experienced celebratory foot-washing ceremonies accompanied by vibrant music and the characteristic Ethiopian joy-yells. We also made many life-long friends. That trip, next to marrying David and having our children, remains one of the greatest blessings of my entire life!

I’ve come to realize that God’s strength shows itself best when I am weak or afraid. If I will just trust him and step out in faith to where he is calling me, I am likely to discover a new dimension of God’s goodness. My Ebenezer Box reminds me of God’s love for me. The “Ebenezer Stones” I have collected encourage me to stand firm when I am tempted to give up. To take risks. To be intentional to share the good news of Jesus with others. 

Don’t forget to be on the lookout for signs of God’s work in your life. I hope you will collect your own “Ebenezer Stones” along the way to put in your Ebenezer Box. Just remember, “There is no safer or better place to be than in the will of God!” Just go!

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