December 27, 2006

I Believe God

2006 1536 page22 cap CAN’T REMEMBER WHEN I DIDN’T BELIEVE IN God. My parents joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church about 15 years before I was born. My mother had immigrated from Germany and my father from Denmark. They met as adults in the Lutheran church in Colman, South Dakota. They both spoke German and Danish fluently.
I was the youngest of eight children born into this loving Christian family. After breakfast each morning Papa (Dad to us younger kids) gathered the family in the parlor for worship. He introduced us to the God in whom he believed. He stressed the importance of believing in God and His Word in many ways.
Mom did her share to instill in us a love and trust in God as well. Every evening she made Bible stories come alive for us as she studied the Sabbath school lesson with us younger children and encouraged us to learn our memory verses.
Later I applied those memory verses on my walk through life. When I was 11 years old my appendix ruptured. Five days later, with a temperature of 103 degrees (Fahrenheit), and a horribly swollen body the doctors operated on me. They discovered that gangrene had destroyed much of my digestive tract. The small amounts of water I drank simply bloated my belly more. My kidneys shut down, I was unconscious, and the doctor believed I was breathing my last.
2006 1536 page22While he told my mother how the undertaker should care for someone in my condition I interrupted, “I’m not going to die, not if Jesus doesn’t want me to.” I quoted Psalm 118:17: “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” Then I added, “I’m going to be a missionary.”
All the medical personnel, including my sister-in-law who helped with the surgery, were completely amazed at my miraculous recovery. But it didn’t surprise me at all; I knew God still worked miracles.
Living by Faith
When I was young my family and I experienced a marvelous fulfillment of answered prayer that reinforced my faith. I don’t remember how old I was, but I do remember Dad’s inexplicable faith.
Over the battery-operated radio we heard that swarms of locusts were coming across South Dakota from the west. My sister called from Lemon, a town in the western part of the state, describing in detail how the locusts had completely devoured their fields of wheat. She said they even nibbled on the wooden fence posts.
I didn’t remember ever seeing a locust. Nobody bothered to explain to me that they were sort of like grasshoppers. In my innocence I imagined that locusts were huge, ugly, creepy creatures that could knock a child down.
I asked Dad if they ate kids, too. He assured me they did not, but that we needed to ask God to spare our crops. He reminded me that God had always poured out His blessings on the Thompson family. He believed God would continue to do so, according to His will.
“But what is His will?” I demanded, still fearful of the locusts.
“I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see,” Dad answered.
That answer never assuaged my fears, and I wasn’t good at waiting. The next few days I lived in constant anxiety. The morning came when the radio announcer warned farmers that the locusts would be in the fields by about 10:00 if they continued to move at the present pace.
Challenged by Scripture
During morning worship Dad had us kneel and repeat Psalm 91. Dad was a full-fledged King James Version Bible man. My little tongue always had trouble with the “thees” and “thous,” and I didn’t know this psalm as well as my four older siblings who still lived at home. I struggled to chime in with snatches of the passage.

Questions for Reflection

1. What faith-strengthening experiences can you remember from your formative years? Recall them briefly.

2. How does age or "sophistication" minimize the effect of miracles in our daily lives?  How can that be prevented?

3. How does one explain situations when God doesn't answer our prayers according to our hopes and needs?  How does the great controversy theme help us understand God's activity or inactivity?

For what situations are we most likely to ask for a miracle?  Why don't we consistently seek God for all our needs?

I understood the part about dwelling “in the secret place of the Most High” and being “under the shadow of the Almighty” (verse 1), but the fortress part (verse 2) escaped me. My mind wandered. Was it like a snow fort? Well, not in summer, anyway. And what was a “refuge”?

The family didn’t stop to explain the words to me. They hurried on through the passage, mentioning the “noisome pestilence” (verse 3); that I got! God promised to deliver us from the noisy pests! Relief swept over me.
The respite was only momentary, however. The phrase, “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand,” staggered me. Wow! That would be a heapin’ pile of pests, I thought. I didn’t want thousands of them by either side. I hoped the locusts would pick on my older siblings, fall by their sides, and leave me alone.
Before my mind had time to flip that thought over, I heard them say, “There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling” (verse 10). Sweet relief again; even with the “thees” and “thys” thrown in, I knew it meant that no plague would come near our farm.
The next verse gave me complete comfort. “He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee” (verse 11). Mom had told us lots of Bible stories about angels. I believed them, and I believed God. I imagined angels hovering over us at that very moment, forming a barrier against the noisy pests.
I curled up on the floor, emotionally drained. I peeked to see if I would see an angel. “Midge,” my sister Gladys said, “Dad said, ‘Amen.’ You can get up now.”
Somewhat chagrined, I got up and went about the farm singing happy songs that day. I didn’t have a care or worry in the world because I believed God.
Covered and Protected
About 10:00 a whirring, buzzing, black cloud passed over us. In about 15 minutes it was gone. I ran into the house. “Mom, why was that black cloud so noisy?”
Mother had tears in her eyes. “It, it vas da locusts going ofer,” she said in her best English. “Gott did it.”
We soon learned that God had indeed performed a miracle. The locusts had stopped a few miles west of us and flew several miles east of our farm before they settled down again. Even there, they seemed to have done little damage.
Some adults said that the locusts had possibly spent their lives and died off before they got into Minnesota or Wisconsin; maybe so. I don’t recall any more about the locust plague that hit South Dakota that summer. I do remember how the experience firmed up the faith of a little girl. I believed God. My family believed God, and our faith was rewarded.
Lasting Impressions
When I became a missionary, we endured four years of intense persecution. We were shot at, stoned, and had pipe bombs thrown into our meeting place, not to mention dynamite and wayside holdups. I didn’t know if we would be delivered, but I believed God wanted us there to pioneer His work. If God chose to save us, He could. If not, I was willing to accept the alternative.
Just when there seemed no way out, He opened a way of escape. There was never a time in my life when I believed God so consistently, so deliberately, as I did during those perilous times. Thanks to believing parents, I had learned to believe God for good reasons.
Life with God was and is wonderful!
Mildred Thompson Olson is a retired teacher and missionary who lives in Tillamook, Oregon.