Walking the Plank
Amazon Vision Ministries takes the gospel of Jesus Christ to villages along the West Amazon River. Their ministry partners also do children’s activities, provide medical and dental help and bring other important supplies. Our part in this ministry is to help fund moving their newly purchased boat from the East end of the river in Manaus to the West end of the river in Tabatinga. There is definitely a story to be told about the kidney stone that almost sidelined this trip. There is also a lesson from the middle of the night bus ride on the one way dirt road shortcut that seemed very similar to a long game of chicken. However, those may come at a later time.
Heading to the airport at 3:45 a.m. Three airplanes and a 2 1/2 hour bus ride and we are ready to board the boat, The Amazon Vision. This is not a part of town that I would choose to drive through at 2:00 in the morning. I think the word “sketchy” would not even quite get the point across but that’s the best I’ve got. As we pull up I notice that the boat is not in sight. I’m not exactly sure where we are going or how we are going to get there, but I know that any distance, in this part of town, in the wee hours of the morning, with all of our luggage, is going to be an adventure. We just have to stick together.
I finally notice the boat. In the d i s t a n c e. If you look really close you can find it in the picture. In the darkness, as my eyes begin to adjust, I see the walkway….the plank; surrounded by buildings, debris, darkness, and water. It looked to be made of pallets and other pieces of discarded wood. Not only could you see the water on each side, but I could also see the water through the wide cracks between each board. After the first few steps there is a long stretch that angled down. It had just rained, of course, so the boards were slippery. The plank was only about two feet wide at the most. We were instructed to step carefully and use the cross brace boards to keep from falling into the mucky brown water. After each section the boards would take a slight angle turn to head between the buildings and toward the boat. The boat seemed to be miles away but was probably only about 50 yards…enough for sure.
So, I took a deep breath and stepped out. I focused my eyes on the boards and my thoughts on my balance and the boat. I was very thankful that one of the crew helped with my suitcase. I wish now that I had taken just a moment to stop and look around every few steps; to see and experience the surroundings that seemed so frightening. The boat was an attainable target and as I stepped onto the deck I felt triumphant. I am not athletic, I do not have great balance, and I am terrified of dark water. So it was a victory for me. Not all of us were as victorious. We did have one mishap and an accidental baptism in the murky water, but that is a story for tomorrow.
The following morning, I am wondering what God would like to teach me from that experience. We all have gang planks in our lives that we are asked to navigate. Sometimes we approach with fear and trembling. But God tells us in Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (ESV) Sometimes we boldly stride into the darkness with courage and bravery. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (ESV) A few walkways I have refused to walk because I was too afraid or I felt incapable of moving forward. For those, I will never know if I could have been victorious because I never made the attempt. Some take us by surprise and we forge ahead out of necessity with seemingly no preparation at all.
As I ponder this thought, it begins to make sense. There has been preparation….possibly not mine….but preparation none the less. Someone built that walkway. I am not the first to walk this plank and I will not be the last. The same goes for the gang planks in our lives. Hundreds have gone before and hundreds more will follow. The dangers of falling or failing are real. Others have fallen in the past and many will fall in the future. But I am not alone. There are others coming alongside me to help and guide the way. Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (ESV)
If this is my path and God says to go then I will not turn back. I will take a deep breath and step out. I will cautiously place my feet and I will consciously pay attention to my balance which is in Christ. I will trust in the knowledge that the final destination is attainable and I will triumphantly succeed if I keep my eyes focused on Jesus, the One who has paved the way for me. “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11 (ESV)