I met a precious young couple at the winter retreat. Steve and Miriam (not their real names) grew up in a village on the Yukon and have recently committed their lives to Christ.
As I sat with them at breakfast yesterday, they shared their story with me. Steve grew up with religious parents--they followed the teachings of the Episcopal church in the village--but he fell into the trap of drinking and drugs in his teen years. He never understood the concept of a personal walk with Jesus until he began to spend time with the missionaries who'd just moved to the village. An older couple, not too far removed from alcoholism themselves, they modeled such an attractive combination of grace and truth to Steve that he felt compelled to know more. His marriage was disintegrating and his wife, Miriam, wanted nothing to do with the church.
But the love of Christ relentlessly drew Steve back to the missionaries house . . .
Miriam grew up in the same village, but her parents were both heavy drinkers. Her father went to prison when she was very young. She and her four younger sisters were eventually taken away from their alcoholic mother and placed in a foster home in a neighboring village. Miriam's first exposure to Christianity came when her grandmother came and took her to church on Sundays.
Miriam never cared much for the sermons, but the songs soothed her heart. She would sit quietly and listen as the hymns were sung, drawing comfort from the ancient lyrics. "I've got a mansion just over the hilltop" quickly became one of her favorites.
Miriam eventually moved back to her village and began drinking. She started seeing Steve, and at 17 she gave birth to his child. They were married a year later and another daughter followed. But their marriage was rocky from the start, and bad choice made by both Steve and Miriam threatened to destroy their family.
One fight in particular nearly ended the marriage--and Miriam's life. In desperation after his wife's suicide attempt, Steve reached out to his missionary friends for help.
In her broken state, Miriam agreed to attend the small church the missionary couple pastored. It wasn't the sermon that grabbed her attention, it was the music. "I've got a mansion just over the hilltop" was the first hymn the small congregation sang that day. The familiar lyrics flooded Miriam's soul with God's comfort and peace. She surrendered.
Together, Steve and Miriam decided to commit their lives to serving Jesus. They quit drinking, drugs and smoking cold turkey. These substances no longer have any appeal to them. They have been working faithfully alongside the missionaries, serving and ministering in any way they can.
While many Native believers feel that it is too difficult to stay and minister in their villages--their is a great pull from old friends and family to succumb to the old ways--Steve and Miriam feel that the Lord has called them to stay where they are--where they have grown up and have connections.
"I want the kids here to know that drinking and doing drug are not normal activities," Steve told me. "I want to give them hope and help them go against the flow."
Please pray for Steve and Miriam! Pray that the Lord would heal the wounds of their past, give them strength and wisdom for the future and the grace to follow Him each day. Pray that they will be a beacon of hope for the youth of that village and that their witness will cause many to turn to the Lord.