Thanking God for Parasites

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After months of work fundraising and participating in leadership trainings, I am finally sitting in my seat on a British airways flight, just outside of Sierra Leone in West Africa. My nerves are beginning to set in. The reality presses upon me that I am entering a place I’ve only ever read about in books and in a few news articles about an Ebola virus that had started spreading inside of its borders. At that moment I look out the window to see glimpses of lush green forests through streaks of rain cloud. Then I notice a rainbow boldly breaking above the rain clouds. The symbol of God’s covenant faithfulness. In that moment, God gives me a deep-
seated peace. A deep assurance that just as God faithfully delivered his children then, he will see me faithfully through this experience.

But, the second week after my arrival, my nerves are setting in again, this time seated in the hard wooden pew of the CRC church in the city of Kabala. I am preparing to preach to a group of people I hardly know who cannot understand this strange American man’s accent. As we start singing praises to God, a young woman in the back of the church suddenly hits the floor, shaking viciously, shrieking, and slithering like a serpent. At the sight of the possession, the pastors move to pray over her in the power of the Holy Spirit. Every time the pastors pronounce the name of Jesus Christ, the girl flinches as if tongues of flame are burning her. Every time the pastors try to look her in the eye, she whips her head away as if she is unable to look the image of Christ in the face. And eventually, after laying hands on her and praying in Christ’s name, she is delivered from her demon. And in the aftermath, God equips me to preach a message of new life from the pulpit.

But those first two bouts of nerves were only a warm-up for yet a third. I am in the back seat of the church’s jeep, driving through the dark night back to Freetown airport two and a half weeks earlier than planned. Christian Reformed World Missions called to tell me that Liberia had begun to close its borders due to the Ebola scare. They thought it was time for me to come home. So at approximately 7:30 PM, while teaching church elders on pastoral care, I had my ticket confirmed for 7:30 AM the next morning. I had only a couple-hour window to pack up, say goodbyes, and be on the road. Arriving at the airport, we sleep in the Jeep for a few brief hours. After five weeks in Sierra Leone, I am back on a seat of a British Airways flight, just as I had started, a bundle of sadness, nerves, and uncertainty, hoping for God’s faithful deliverance.

And praise God I return home safely and at peace! The next day, three news channels interview me about the experience, and it seems I’ve made it. But that evening, things turn around quite quickly. I wake in my bed to a harsh sweat with symptoms of Ebola. In disbelief, I creep into my mom’s room and utter the news. While driving to the Emergency Room, I yet again am on a seat of nerves. Well, perhaps more accurate is that I am on a bed of true fear. I am isolated from everyone for the next three days, waiting and praying for God’s deliverance. On the fourth day, I receive phenomenal news: I do not have Ebola; I have parasites!! I am quite certain this will be the one and only time I praise God for parasites.

And now that God has brought me to full health, I look back and I recognize that during my time in Africa and even in my time of pain and fear, God was incredibly faithful. His timing was perfect.

Back in Sierra Leone, an incredible number are still in a seat of nervous fear and chaos due to the Ebola crisis. Yet there continue to be small glimpses of the rainbow of God’s faithful deliverance breaking through the dark clouds. I received an update from my mentor, Reverend Bahago, that though Ebola is tearing families apart, a new church family has formed in the city of Malaforia through a church plant; he says that, though Ebola is taking peoples’ lives daily, the CRC Sierra Leone continues to see new life in Christ each Sunday through newly converted members. Truly, God is still active in deliverance within the most chaotic of circumstance. Thanks to you for supporting God’s work in and through Calvin Theological Seminary and most of all thanks to God for His faithful deliverance and empowering love.

Written by Grant Hofman