Island Ministry

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“Teacher, teacher, can you join us to visit a village on an island?” Mariya’s enthusiasm bubbled over. “There are three people there who can’t walk well. They have asked us to come and give them hydrotherapy and massage.”

“Sure. When? How do we get there?” I replied. Soon we were making plans, but I had little idea of what I was getting myself into.

On Tuesday morning, two local workers, Mariya and our family piled into our car to start our journey. We dodged potholes and avoided the edge of the road where recent flooding had washed away parts of the road bed. Thirty minutes later we stopped at a community across from the island only to learn they no longer have a ferry large enough for cars. We parked our car and walked to the ferry. Arriving on the island, we rode the rest of the way in a cart pulled by a walking tractor.

As we motored slowly into the village, children watched us shyly. We stopped in front of a house on stilts. Under the house, women sitting on a platform were preparing food. A steep ladder-like stairway led us to a large room divided into three sections by cloth curtains. Fifteen people sat on the floor while more kids and onlookers crowded the ladder and entryway.

After offering a prayer, Mariya explained to our patients, “We cannot heal you, but God can. We will do what we can to help. We will do massage and hot and cold treatments to help with the healing.”

Mariya turned to us volunteers. “Pray with each person before you start the massage and then pray again as you end.”

I’m no expert massage therapist. But I prayed for my first patient and began working on her. My heart went out to her. Daem was in her mid-60s and couldn’t stand even with help. Her legs wouldn’t straighten. Slowly I worked on her legs, trying to loosen muscles that hadn’t been properly exercised in years.

“My lower back hurts, too,” she told me. As I worked to loosen those stiff muscles, my hands felt something hard. It was a protection charm—a black chord with wooden beads. I pushed it aside and continued the massage. We ended with prayer.

The next lady I massaged also had a protection charm tied around her waist.

As we finished for the day, Mariya led the group in closing prayer.

When we returned to the island a week later, the group had almost doubled in size. Again we shared a message about health and had prayer before giving massages and hot/cold compresses. As we closed this visit, Mariya told the people, “You know, our hands can only do a little. We aren’t doctors. Healing can’t come from us, only from prayer. It is God who has helped relieve your hurting backs and legs. You don’t need to wait for us to come next week to ask for His help. He will answer your prayers, too. Just say, ‘Dear Jesus,’ then ask for healing and end by saying, ‘In Jesus’ name, amen.’ Now don’t forget, you are asking Jesus. Pray in Jesus’ name.”

Two more weeks passed. Each week, I massaged Daem’s legs, and each week she would report small improvements. She could now sit up without help, she could straighten her legs a little farther, and they hurt a little less. She also told me about the others we had treated. “Do you remember my cousin? She isn’t here today because her legs are fine now. Her back doesn’t hurt anymore. She wants to come and see you all again to thank you for what you have done.”

It has been almost two months now since our first visit to the island. Some weeks, we treat nearly 20 people, and other weeks there are only a handful. But each week, Daem faithfully reports on how her health and others’ is improving.

As I talk with Daem, I long to share more. I long for these people to have a deeper understanding of God’s love for them. I want them to realize the uselessness of their cords of wooden beads. Please pray for us that we will able to share even deeper understanding of God’s love with these people.

We are setting up a business so we can have better access to work on this island and others like it. Would you consider investing in the Bassac people whose lives are filled with hard work, physical pain and spiritual oppression? Your support will allow us to start a small agriculture technology business that will help them better provide healthy food for their families—food not contaminated with the illegal pesticides so many use. This business will not only help the people have healthy options for growing food but also provide us legitimate access to village communities that are otherwise hard to reach.