Trials on the trail

An outreach hike is packed with dangers ... and with God’s mercies.

Last Saturday, Gary Smith and his son, Caleb, set out on a great adventure. They were headed up the trail for an outreach visit to a new church in a neighbouring village.

And Gary says the 3.5 hour “extreme hike” provided plenty of trials along the trail.

As they hiked, the trail led them to cross many places that had been washed away by landslides. And since a bridge had also been washed away, the hikers came frighteningly close to being swept away while crossing a higher-than-normal river. Soon after, there were the bee stings for Gary and Caleb.

It was a wonderful arrival at the village. They were welcomed with a great tribal meal of sweet potatoes, spinach and beans and then stayed up late discussing Scripture and what God has to say about discipling. They slept a few hours on a mattress shared with one of the Dinangat Bible teachers who had come along from their home village.

At 5 a.m., Gary and Caleb awoke to the sweet sound of “our host worshipping the Lord in prayer” and joined the believers of the village in a worship time.

Next on the agenda was a hike to another village. (Gary says the demands of mountain hiking were taking their toll by this time. He was sure he could feel himself steadily losing pounds as he hiked.)

In this second village, the Dinangat teachers taught evangelistic Bible lessons from materials that present God’s Word chronologically from Creation to the coming of Christ. It was a joy to observe the Bible teachers in action and Gary comments, “If I was grading them, I’d give them an A.”

Following the teaching, it was time to head for home on the long, hard trail. But as they prepared to leave, God sent a deluge of rain, and the villagers begged them to stay for fear of more landslides and even higher water levels in the river.

“I’m so glad God orchestrated for us to stay another night,” Gary shares. “We got to visit more with the second village and we heard amazing testimonies from believers there.”

The next day, Gary and Caleb and their Dinangat companions hiked back down to the first village. After another good meal, they enjoyed a time of worship songs with a man who played along on his guitar.

“That night, we fell asleep listening to him continue to sing and pray,” Gary says.

At 5 a.m. the following day, they enjoyed yet another worship song concert before heading down the trail.

This time, when they arrived at the swollen river, Gary and Caleb and their Dinangat friends decided to build a make-shift bridge. “A bridge over troubled waters,” Gary quips. “I just about crawled over it.”

“We came to a really bad place on the trail that had washed away. We watched the ground moving underneath as our guide trampled across it. Caleb crossed fine,” Gary relates, “but I found myself giving in to fear. I felt frozen. Thankfully, God helped and I went across as fast as I could.”

Once across, Gary turned around to look at the unstable ground they had just walked across—just in time to see another landslide start down the steep mountain. He turned his heart to the God Who had faithfully accompanied them every step of this dangerous journey and fervently thanked Him for His amazing protection.

Then Gary thought back to an unforgettable scene from their visit to the second village. “In the middle of the Creation to Christ teaching … this man started sobbing. The lesson was about Jonah and the people of Nineveh repenting. … After the lesson, sitting in his house, I asked him why he cried. He answered, ‘I was overwhelmed, thinking that now as an old man I am able to hear this wonderful truth after believing lies for so many years. I cried because if you missionaries had not come, I still would not have heard. I am so thankful you have come.’”

Gary shares, “Tears welled up in my own eyes at the weight of his words. May God stir the hearts of others to become part of this kingdom work. It is truth. It changes lives! We have seen it with our own eyes and hearts!”

Is it worth all the trials on the trail? Is this task worth the years of sacrifices, the dangers and hardships, the risks and disappointments to bring the Good News about Jesus to unreached people?

Gary’s heart answers a resounding “Yes!”