When Your Faith Doesn't Move Mountains
The gypsy had a layer of skin where eyes normally should go. He also had stringy hair with yellow flakes falling out, and a dirty unbuttoned white shirt. His home was made of cardboard, and his kitchen was a fire pit. The least we could do was heal his eyes.
This was my second Teen Mania missions trip to Romania. We had pulled up in a charter bus to the gypsy encampment that morning to perform our evangelistic drama and see what else Jesus might do through us. We were nearing the end of our month-long trip, and we hadn’t yet seen the miracles our leaders talked about.
We were taught that if we had the faith the size of a mustard seed, we could move mountains. Jesus said so in the Gospels. I believed it with my whole heart, or at least I sincerely tried. We circled around the man, who gladly accepted our prayers, although I don’t think he spoke enough English to understand us.
“Jesus, by your blood, just heal this man right now, realign his cells so that he can see,” our leader James prayed.
I peeked to see if his face had grown eyes.
“God, you say in your Word that if we ask anything in your name, you will grant it. So we just ask that you give this man a pair of eyes that he may be healed, in your name,” another kid from our group cried out.
I peeked again. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.
“Lord, just use this miracle as a testimony to your name, that the other gypsies in this encampment would see your mighty work and be saved,” I piped in.
He still had skin over his eye sockets. We continued to earnestly pray. Jesus, just heal this man. Lord, we have the faith of a mustard seed. God, you said that we would do greater things in your name than your own son. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
James interrupted to tell us something important.
“Maybe there is someone among us who doubts. One person’s doubt could thwart the whole thing. If we want to see healings, we have to truly believe God can do it,” he said.
We went back into our prayers, upping the level of fervency. Lord, help my unbelief.
I am the doubter, I thought. I was the reason the gypsy man would not be healed. Lord, help my unbelief.
After we prayed for forty-five minutes, James stopped us. He warned us that we shouldn’t beg God.
My fellow missionaries and I were crushed. The man with no eyes went on his way.
“We don’t know what will happen later. He could still get healed,” James said, perhaps to console us.
We nodded, each of us interpreting what just happened in a way that made sense to us, in a way that still allowed us to believe.
In front of one of the scrap wood and cardboard shacks, a group of women listened to music on a battery-powered radio as they washed clothes in a plastic kiddie swimming pool. They waggled their hips and laughed, motioning for my friend and me to join them. We made our way over and danced with the gypsy women to static-fuzz Romanian pop songs. We swirled our butts around and thrust our arms in the air just like them.
Then James blew his whistle. It was time to load our tour bus and perform our drama somewhere else. Our gypsy dance partners hugged us goodbye.
We never talked about the man with no eyes again.
On the ride to our next ministry stop, I wondered what it meant to have a faith that moves mountains. I wondered what it meant when your faith doesn’t seem to move any mountains at all.
I’m still wondering.
Photo by Gregory Wrona via Flickr Creative Commons