“Oh Lord, I really need You to help me understand all of this. How am I to serve You? What do You want me to do?” The morning was misty and cool as it typically is during the early rains. So beautiful and pleasant, but I also knew it would be blistering hot in just a couple of hours and I would completely wilt. Enjoying the cool morning, I was sitting on some old and crumbling cement blocks, the remainder of the foundation for our old chicken shed. I like this for my private prayer place. Shady, secluded, and removed from the busyness of the house, it was my special retreat when I needed to be undisturbed and alone with the Lord. Stephen knew where to find me, but no one else would think to look here.
Very early in our work in Sierra Leone, we had learned the incredible power of pictures in this highly illiterate country. I then began to focus on illustrating Bible stories and principles for Stephen to use in adult Sunday school. We were impressed by how much more they remembered from his illustrated lessons. That ignited the idea of taking some of those illustrations outside the walls of the church for open air evangelistic preaching. Thus, Illustrated Evangelism was born. This was my first love and ministry passion, and my biggest duty in support of Stephen’s work.
Slowly, however, I began to leave my first love by adding other things that I really wanted to do too. Children’s church was so much fun; I just loved my gingerbread babies! I began to pour myself into being well prepared for that weekly class, learning to teach in the Krio pidgin English, even making many of my own felt figures to augment the huge, pre-painted set I had shipped from the States. Then, my weekly ladies’ study was growing into a real blessing as I watched these dear women faithfully come so they could learn the Bible, ask questions, laugh a lot, and grow in the Lord. At times I found it difficult to block out what other missionary wives do and quietly listen to the Lord for His direction for me. There were so many wonderful opportunities, but it was all piling up and I began to feel overwhelmed.
So here I sat, under the acacia trees, thoughts swirling in my head, and tears trickling down my cheeks, as I poured all these questions out to my Lord. He was not remiss to speedily answer, as through the swirling thoughts, a scripture verse quietly came to my mind, nudging me toward my solution.
And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. (Exodus 4:2)
What Lord? Why would that verse randomly pop into my head? As I considered the verse, it came a second time, but sounding a little different: “Laura, What is that in thine hand?”
Slowly, as I thought about the meaning of the question, I brightened as I answered, “Oh! A pencil, Lord!” In other words, just do what He has given me close at hand, using the ordinary item in my hand, for His work. Stick to Illustrated Evangelism; don’t worry about all of the other things I think I should be doing, or what might be expected by others, or even what I’d like to add on. These extras, though not wrong, had become a weight, as they consumed too much of my time and energy, leaving none to do the illustrated stories, the one thing which Stephen most needed from me.
At the close of the day, during our quiet veranda time together, as I told Stephen about my time with the Lord and the solution we two achieved together, I’m certain I saw a knowing twinkle in his eyes. You see, even at that point in our missionary work in Sierra Leone, Stephen knew I wasn’t doing well with my health. Adding too many things, as much as I wanted to do them, was really draining me, but Stephen wanted me to arrive at that understanding myself. He had simply been praying for the Lord to direct me in a way that I would hear plainly, leaving no room for doubt. That is exactly how it went! I heard the clear answer to my cry for help as the Lord directed me to use the item most commonly in my hand, the lowly pencil.
Now, back in the States, where I have access to the necessary medical facilities, I am still vitally connected to the mission work in Sierra Leone. In my comfortable (and air conditioned) art studio in Florida, I continue to do what Stephen most needs from me — produce illustrated Bible stories. It can be disheartening for me at times to be so distant from the labor of love to which we were called together. Yet, the Lord sends along a sweet reminders that I’m not as far removed as it may feel. Photos from the Dry Season Circuit of training and evangelism just thrill my heart as I see my artwork being put to use among people for whom the printed word is inaccessible. Yes, my work in Sierra Leone is far from over!
Mine eye affecteth mine heart (Lamentations 3:51)