(guest post by Patsy Gibson)
We can remember quite well the flood of 1976, the year Karen was born.
Rainy season in Colombia had been incessant and the jungle rivers overflowed. Gene Dolash and his son Danny came to rescue our family. We were ‘holed-up’ in our coworkers’ vacated house, after our own was swimming with water from the black water creek that ran behind the village and with little creatures searching for a dry pole or splinter.
The Dolash boys arrived in a long dugout canoe, room enough to hold a few of our belongings and supplies, and our family of six and one on the way. Jeff, 7, perched up front with Danny, of the same age, and Wayne, while the three girls, Angie 5, Lina 3½, and Susie 1½, sat around or on my lap. A string of our Piapoco friends lined the bank to bid us good-bye. The waters were very high as we wound our way that afternoon, avoiding floating logs and debris. There were no dry banks or sandbars for taking pit-stops. By nightfall both Lina and Susie were sleeping on my already full lap, Angie keeping vigil with me at my feet. Wayne and the boys manned the bow light, as Gene slowly maneuvered the long canoe through the narrow arm of the great Guaviare River. The jungle vines and branches dripped overhead, and we cautioned the boys to keep their arms inside the boat, not knowing what water creatures lay in our path.
Weary, pregnant and hungry, I mused over fast foods and soft drinks, none of which I had had in 10 months of jungle living. The trip seemed endless, and even when Gene motioned that we were getting close, our eyes spanned the darkness in vain for lights. Finally around that last bend we spotted the lights of Dolashes’ stilted home, like a distant lighthouse hung over a sea of dark waters held up by an unseen hand.
Our spirits were renewed as we inched closer to those lights, and the sleeping beauties began to arouse. “Ah we deh yet?” The inevitable words sleepily whispered from Lina’s lips, but the lights were all she needed for her answer. As the outboard motor died down and Gene swung the canoe toward the lights, to our amazement there was no visible river bank, but only a carefully laid wooden ramp, like a dock, jutting out from the house on poles.
Shadows of little figures in the windows and squeals of, “They’re here!” floated out our way, over the water. Once the rope was secure, Wayne, in the bow, helped the boys onto the ramp, then I gingerly passed the girls to him, one by one, over the cargo, then up into Judy’s waiting hands. I felt the most weighted down, tired and stiff, but Wayne’s strong arms reached for me and the little one yet unborn and carefully helped plant my feet onto the dry boards. Hugs from Judy, as I grabbed little hands to walk up the ramp toward the waiting lights.
A room was lovingly prepared for us, as well as a curtained off ‘potty’ corner. While the men unloaded the dugout and hefted in the motor, I tended to the girls, changed baby’s diaper and pulled myself together. Jeff was busy checking out Danny’s quarters and all the neat jungle stuff he’d collected.
The wonderful aromas coming from Judy’s kitchen reminded me again of my hunger. I offered to help, but she’d hear none of it, just wanted me to relax, understanding what kind of trip we’d just had. As she formed the carefully kneaded bread dough into rolls, she offered me a drink. Incredibly, it was Root Beer, home-brewed. I couldn’t believe my ears, and that she was fixing us hamburgers and French fries.
What an oasis in this desert of flooded waters!
I quietly thanked the Lord for this answer to the desire of my heart, a request I hadn’t felt justified for which to pray. Yet, He knew what this tired, weary mother needed to encourage her heart and remind her of His love in the midst of a discouraging situation.
*Lina's note: My parents, Wayne and Patsy Gibson, have been missionaries in Colombia since 1972. They lived in small villages among the Piapoco tribe, sharing life with them and learning their language and culture in order to tell them about God. And over the years, many of these lifelong friends have also become brothers and sisters in Christ.
It's a joy to listen to my parents talk about their life, because what speaks the loudest is not their acts of service but their confidence in the love and faithfulness of God.