A Conversation in Prison

A Prison Conversation

Village Gate Locked Against Missionaries

Village Gate Locked Against Doctors, Teachers, and Translators

In the late 1970s, the Brazilian government reversed its policies towards mission work among indigenous people.

Jo and I had just started our third tour of service (of five) when our medical, educational, and translation work was hindered for months, and finally stopped dead for years. My colleagues and I often hashed over the possible reasons for all this opposition.

That’s when I wrote the following:

Transcript of a Prison Conversation

Silas – Paul, tell me again about that dream you had in Troas. Do you still think that was from the Lord?

Paul – I was just thinking about that myself. We tried and tried going up into Bithynia, but had no peace about that. Eventually we got to Troas on the coast. Where else could we go? That dream just seemed to clinch it. (Acts 16:9-10)

Silas – It did to me to. Besides, Greece influences the whole world. Surely God intends the Good News to go there. It is logical.

Paul – I suppose we may have run ahead of God.

Silas – I wonder, could the Lord be trying to teach us something through this experience? Look how many times He afflicted our forefathers when they disobeyed Him.

Paul – Yeah, I argued with Barnabas about JohnMark at the start of this trip. I shouldn’t have gotten so angry. Probably I should have showed some forgiveness, a little more love, maybe another chance? (Acts 15:37-40)

Silas – Probably. But what about us going down to the river to meet with all those women. I mean, four single men traipsing down there regularly, then going off to live with Lydia in her house. It really doesn’t look good when you think of it. I wonder if that is what God is displeased with us about. (Acts 16:13-15)

Paul – Well maybe. I’m wondering now whether I did right in circumcising Timothy when he joined us. I didn’t want to offend the Jews in the area, but eventually they’ll need to learn that the trimming some body part doesn’t count with God. It’s the state of their hearts He is interested in. (Acts 16:3)

Silas – Hmm, yes, the elders wrote freeing the non-Jews from all the laws of Moses, and only urged them to keep certain food restrictions and abstain from sexual immorality.

Paul – Yeah, they wrote nothing about circumcision. And then I give into the public pressure and circumcise Timothy. Who knows how much confusion that has caused in the Galatia area? No wonder the Lord no longer protects us. We deserved that whipping. We need to repent and ask his forgiveness. (Acts 15:24-29)

Silas – Well I suppose so. It’s always safe to examine our lives. However, I am wondering if our trouble isn’t caused more by the general discrimination against Jews. You heard what they said to the magistrate before flogging us half to death. (Acts 16:20-21)

Paul – You’re probably right there, we need to get more Greeks and Romans converted and have them travel around. Our work should be to train nationals to work in their own countries. Really, in a sense, we’re cheating nationals from the blessings of reaching out to different cities by doing it all ourselves.

Silas – No doubt. We Jews have kept to ourselves so much for so long. It’s been twenty years since our Lord commanded us to go into all the world. We should have gone out immediately instead of huddling in Palestine.

Paul – Well, all this talk isn’t doing much good, let’s try to sleep a bit. It’s going to be a long night.

This conversation did NOT take place.

Instead Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God, who sent an earthquake to free them and bring the jailer and his household to faith. (Acts 16:25-34)

Yet I remember us missionaries beating ourselves up over things we may possibly have done wrong. Eventually we relaxed and trusted God to work it all out in His own time. We learned that God is not in a hurry, and He is not poor.

He has a plan to turn “have-nots” into “haves”, and in this context He said, “I am the Lord; in its time I will do this swiftly.” Isaiah 60:20 (NIV)

And He did. Dozens of people groups in Brazil now have the Word of God in their own language and are meeting in growing churches.

In what situations have you seen yourself, or your church, unnecessarily beating yourself up instead of praying, singing hymns, and trusting God to work it out in His time?