While Kristin and I were camping last weekend, I had another great encounter orchestrated by God. Shortly after we had arrived, I told Kristin that I felt that we were to pray over the campgrounds – that God's purposes would be accomplished and if He wanted to use us in anyway to bring them about, that we were willing. After we had set up our campsite right next to the beautiful mountain river, we walked down to the end of the campground to fish for a while. Having to pass several other sites along the way, we casually exchanged "hello's" to a man by himself at the end of the grounds. We proceeded to fish for an hour or so and began to head back to our site (empty–handed, I might add). As we passed the man on the way back, he stopped me and asked if I would be willing to help him set up a new tent because his grandson, who was to arrive and camp with him that night, had not showed up yet. I said, "yes", of course and proceeded to set up his new tent, still sealed in its box. As Kristin walked off nearby to fish some more, he told me his name (Dan) and began to unfold his life story to me within a matter of minutes. Much was shared and discussed, but to sum it all up to fit a blog post, he was a Vietnam veteran, suffering from somewhat severe repercussions from inhaling Agent Orange years ago. He had a significant amount of fluid build–up in his abdomen, that was quite obviously noticeable, and was very emotionally wounded and alone.
Fast forward 30 minutes or so to after I had shared with him about my friend Kenneth, who is a seriously physically wounded Vietnam vet, (see "Of Grace and War" blog in the April archives) and how after several times of praying with him, I saw him become healed, emotionally and physically. Dan was amazed at even the thought of this being true. I asked to pray with him and he half–heartedly said that I could. I spoke life over him as God began to use my mouth to tell him that He knew him, that He loved him and that He could heal all of those broken areas of his life if he would simply allow Him to do so. As Dan wept, I was again overwhelmed at how God chooses to use a nobody like me, this time, in the middle of the woods. Afterwards, he thanked me graciously and I returned to our campsite. After shedding several tears of my own over the whole situation, I began to feel a call to war in the spirit over Dan and ultimately, over the entire campground. It was a powerful time as several supernatural things took place over the next 30 minutes or so of my praying and pacing.
Fast forward again to the next morning. As the sun was beginning to come up over the trees and breakfast was on the campfire, Dan drove up to the end of our site and called me over. With tears running down his face, he held his hand out towards me and told me that he wanted to give me something for what I had done the night before. As I grabbed the item in his hand, he took off, crying and obviously emotionally touched. As I looked down into my hand, I saw the most incredible, hand–crafted knife that I had ever seen. It had an ivory handle, bore the initials of its craftsman and rested in a custom leather sheath. I stood there in awe, for this gift of gratitude was quite obviously something of great value to Dan. Hours later, as I sat and journaled about all of the days events, I had the knife beside me, sitting next to my Bible. The Lord spoke clearly, "Joel, I've given you weapons. Spiritual weapons and now, even physically weapons to wage war for "the Kenneths' and Dan's" that will cross your path. As I sat there with tear–filled eyes I again was reminded that God is simply looking for us to be His voice, His hands, His presence in our everyday circumstances. I don't care if I ever step foot in a church building ever again. I simply want to take "The Church" to those who are out there in the middle of nowhere, looking for a reason to live.
I didn’t see Dan again after that morning. He had told me he was planning to camp for two or three weeks, but was packed up and gone when we had come back to the campground after an afternoon away. One thing that I know is that God used this unschooled, unlearned man that is just beginning to know how to love others as God Himself loves them. And for now, that's all I need to know.