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  • Writer's pictureDavid and Marilynn Chadwick

My Ebenezer Box: The Man in the Tattered Jeans (Part 3 of 3)

by Marilynn Chadwick

Continued from yesterday...

…The day of our mission trip finally arrived. We boarded the plane to the Himalayas and I settled in for what would be a forty-hour journey, including layovers. We then flew by helicopter to the remote village to visit the new school our church helped build. Eager parents had assembled around the courtyard where the opening ceremony was to be held. There was an air of anticipation for the very first school ever in this tiny mountain village!

We met with our missionary friends, who confided some of the daunting challenges they’d recently faced in bringing the school here. This area was home to several Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and in recent years, a handful of the local villagers—the very first ones to accept Christ—had been killed. One by one, they had their throats slit in the dark of night, their bodies tossed into the river below. Some suspected that the Buddhist Lamas were behind the violence. Lama is a term of honor for the spiritual leader of a monastery. Lamas were the most powerful and influential leaders in this region. So far, no westerners had been martyred here, but the risk was real. 

No one knew why, but hostilities in the village had heated up again. Our friends wryly referred to it as “Lama drama,” but I could tell they were concerned. The conversation suddenly grew quiet as we looked up to see a lone figure walking down the steep hill toward us. A hush fell as the Lama from a monastery approached. The burgundy-robed figure carried a staff and wore the familiar shaved head worn by teachers of Buddhism—just like I’d seen in movies. 

“That’s the head Lama of this region,” our host whispered. Turns out he had walked for hours—a full day in fact—to attend the festivities. There was no reason to think this was a friendly visit. The Lama turned to offer greetings to our team. Inwardly, I sensed the Lord whispering to me, “You are not here by accident.” And suddenly I thought back to my encounter with the construction worker on our airport shuttle a couple weeks earlier. “Your greatest fear will turn into your greatest joy.” Why would I suddenly remember his words just now? 

The Lama took the seat right next to me to watch the school dedication ceremony. I remarked that one of the little girls running around the courtyard reminded me of my youngest granddaughter—a rather active three-year-old. He chuckled as if he understood. This particular Lama may not have been the one behind the recent trouble in the village. But even if he was not the instigator of the earlier murders, a missionary told us, he at least was aware of them. It all felt surreal. How did I end up next to a Tibetan Buddhist Lama, surrounded by the highest mountains in the world? 

After the ceremony, the Lama invited our small team to have tea with him. The mission director leaned over and whispered that for the Lama to embrace this school would be a valuable endorsement for their work here. It would also provide greater freedom, not to mention security, for their team. Five of us sat down on wooden benches around a table in a tiny guest house next to the school. The Lama went around to each person, bowed, and draped a white silk scarf around our necks as a sign of honor. He served us himself, pouring the aromatic jasmine tea from an ornate brass teapot into our cups. The Lama shared how a school for these village children would be most welcome. He continued to talk with us over tea—for nearly an hour! At one point, the mission director glanced our way, his eyes raised in amazement. 

After tea-time, our new missionary friends invited us to go for a hike. The air was crisp and thin. I noticed a little difficulty in breathing. There were a few minor drops here and there in the terrain, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Then we came to a tall bridge. I was nervous as I stepped upon the metal grate that was the bridge floor—I could see the river raged far below. “Keep walking and don’t look down,” David kept telling me! I got to the other side just fine, still drinking in the quiet—no roads, no cars, no sounds of civilization. My heart felt full as I suddenly realized there was no fear! I knew at that moment I was right where I was supposed to be.

The white silk scarf in my Ebenezer Box will always remind me of a magical tea-time with a Tibetan Buddhist Lama. And of my great joy in hiking along a beautiful mountain range—looking up at the highest peaks on earth. With no fear. 

As for the man in the tattered jeans on the airport shuttle van? Looking back, I believe God sent encouragement just when I needed it. Whether this mysterious man was an earthly messenger or an angel, I’ll never know—until heaven. But one thing proved true. Just like the man had promised, “Your greatest fear will become your greatest joy.”

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