We were serving a village deep in the jungle. It was our fourth mission to Guyana and Bruce and I were thrilled to back. However, this was our first time in the jungle. We came by ourselves from America, representing this ministry, and partnered with three of the ministry’s Guyanese team for this mission.
We were guests in a small, wooden, hand-built church where we worked and slept. It was nestled between the dirt road before us, the river they call “black water” behind us, and the warm spring sun above us.
It had been a couple of hours since we climbed out from under the mosquito net and began another day in the “interior” (locally known as the jungle).
Our team lead, Jai, was cooking lunch while we fitted folks for reading glasses as part of our ministry when a man with a long, desperate face walked into the church through the back doors propped open for ventilation. His eyes were swollen and glassy. His clothes disheveled. His countenance down and body utterly depleted.
We will call him Tyrique for privacy. He came for prayer.
The service we planned to hold did not start for several hours, but his body raged with malaria and spiked a high fever, nausea and joints screaming in pain.
Bruce, Wayne and I gathered around his body slumped on the wooden bench, one arm slung over the back holding him up. I stood next to him, and for a moment we caught eyes. His eyes were bloodshot and tired. As he wearily looked up at me, they pierced my soul and told me he wasn’t only struggling with malaria.
Bruce gently placed his hand on Tyrique’s back. Wayne clasped his hands together in reverence, and I rested my hand on Bruce’s back, agreeing in prayer.
The prayer was simple and to the point. We asked God to heal his body and for relief from the symptoms of the illness.
Tyrique softly muttered, thank you, and slowed peeled himself off the bench. A young guy, he walked hunched over in pain and weakness like an old man. Slowly, he shuffled through the doors and down the steps of the little church built on stilts.
He disappeared into the bright sunlight, and I left him in the Lord’s hands and went back to the people waiting for reading glasses.
Hours later, our evening service began. Music played and I could feel the thin boards beneath me rumble with vibrations of enthusiastic kids and adults singing to the worship.
I was alone at the back of the church photographing the service because one of my primary assignments of going on this mission was to photograph and videography the jungle part of this ministry.
Behind me in the dark night air, I heard a horrific screeching howl and chills ran down my spine. I thought it was a child. I quickly turned around to see one of the feral dogs who had been sitting on the steps of the church being attacked by a much larger feral dog. It was awful. Bruce ran past me and chased them off. My heart raced as they reminded me, I was in their element; a guest of the jungle.
Focusing back on the task at hand, photography, I caught a glimpse of someone on the back row through my lens. I lowered the camera and took a closer look.
It was Tyrique!
He wore the same dirty white undershirt and black jeans. His dreads were wrapped in black cloth. Something about him was different, but I couldn’t figure it out. He was standing for one thing. He clapped his hands to the beat of the worship music as his body swayed back and forth.
I thought to myself, “Wow! He looks totally different from this afternoon.”
His body had strength again. He participated in the worship. His face was no longer drawn and depressed.
And just like that, my job as photographer turned to speaker as Jai opened in prayer and I stepped up to the mic to give my testimony. I’ve had the privilege of sharing my story all over the world. Each time, God gives me the pieces of it to share for that particular audience. This night was no different.
Before speaking, I always pray that God will put his words in my mouth for that moment. Indeed, He did. God pulled out parts of my story that were right for these folks. As I spoke, I gazed into the faces looking back at me. No one even blinked. They sat silent, captured in the moment. I knew God was doing something.
I caught eyes with Tyrique more than once. His body leaned to the left, so he had an unobstructed view from the person sitting in front of him. He stared at me the entire time I spoke. This time his eyes gave a different message. They looked like my dry plants at home in that, when I remember to water them, their dehydrated soil soaks up the water faster than I can pour it.
His eyes absorbed every word. I knew for a fact God was doing something in Tyrique’s heart.
The service continued and then we concluded and said warm goodnights to everyone and the little church on stilts was once again quiet.
Bruce and I pulled out our air mattress and mosquito net while the Guyanese team hung their hammocks for another day’s job done.
The next morning, while packing up to leave for another village, Tyrique came back. He told the team that the day before, when he came for prayer, he was completely healed! He said that on his way home after praying with us his fever broke and malaria symptoms simply vanished.
He. Was. Healed.
God’s healing he experienced was why he came back for the service that evening. And what happened at the service was why he came back the next day.
Turns out, Tyrique is a drug dealer, and at the end of the service he prayed to accept Christ.
He came back the next day for counseling and sat with Jai, Bruce and Wayne for a while.
He has amazing potential for change and we are thrilled to know a local pastor will follow up with him for discipleship.
God surely had his hand on Tyrique’s heart. He was calling Tyrique and he answered the call.
Just think, if Tyrique had never caught malaria, he would have never wandered into this church for prayer which led to him accepting Christ as his Savior. It’s all about perspective.
This was the first time this ministry has witnessed a healing in its 12 years.
His miracle was water to my thirsty soul. In the excitement of it all, I’m glad I didn’t know what was coming next…
Stay tuned for more posts about our Guyana mission.
If you’d like to know more about the ministry, check out InternationalCelebration.org.