Bible studies for writers

Bible studies for writers | Joshua 21

In my wee brain, I always pictured the Israelite clans living separately in their own little towns and villages, but I’m starting to get a different picture. In Joshua 20, remember God appointed six towns as cities of refuge. These towns already belonged to certain tribes, and no doubt those tribes already had people living in those towns. God didn’t say, “Kick everyone out so the accused can have a place to stay!” No, he said, “These cities will take in the accused … and hold fair trials for them.” In order for the city to hold fair trials independent of the accused who fled there, then the city would have to have had people in it already, right? Maybe some of you are going, duh, but this seriously is just dawning on me … after my fifth read-through of the Bible! Today’s chapter further exemplifies my point, and it does so in such a beautiful God way. First, the Israelites must decide (well, God decides through sacred lots cast by the Israelites) which plots of land they want to share with the Levites. Strangely enough, six tribes of Levi – the priests, mind you – are assigned to the six cities of refuge. Coincidence? I think not.

Writing prompt: divine intervention

Six tribes of the Levites were not assigned to all six cities of refuge by accident. Some people might call it fate, but I call it divine intervention, and I truly believe it is a thing. How about you? Do you have an experience in which you KNOW God intervened. Write about that today. If you don’t have an experience like that, first pray for one, and write your thoughts on how today’s allotments confirm that God works in wondrous ways.

The card

I was kneeling beside the bottom bunk of the bed when Naron walked in. She’d been gone for two weeks and was supposed to have returned two days earlier. We all had been wondering where she’d been, but her appearance wasn’t at all on my mind at that moment.

She rounded the corner to see me wiping tears from my eyes, wrapping up the hardest prayer I’d ever prayed over my 8-year-old daughter’s weak and failing body. For two weeks, she’d been running a temperature between 101.5 and 104. She couldn’t eat. We’d taken her to the “best” clinic in town twice, and both times they tested her for denge fever … because that’s the only thing they were equipped to test for. Both tests were negative, and the suggestion to prescribe her an antibiotic was turned down. “Cannot,” the doctor said. “Because we don’t know what is making her sick.”

My baby girl, who was tiny already, had lost 13 pounds in two weeks. Dark circles were forming under her eyes, and as she lay there sleeping that morning, I had no other choice but to give her to God. I knelt and surrendered right then and there on that tiled floor in our Cambodian home over a bed filled with sawdust and ants, hot air from four fans blowing all around us.

“If you need her, God, you can have her,” I whispered. “But I am begging you not to take another child from me. Please.”

The snot and tears were a bit embarrassing as Naron walked in. She was excited to be back, and I put a real downer on her return. She greeted me warmly, though, as always.

“What’s wrong?” She asked.

I got up, gave her a hug, and said, “She’s sick. For two weeks now. Since you’ve been gone.”

Naron looked over at Justine, reached in her back pocket and pulled out a rectangular piece of paper.

“You go see him. He’s American in Phnom Penh. He’s good doctor,” she said and handed me a white business card with thick green letters I couldn’t even read.

“It’s in Khmer,” I said. The lump in my throat grew painful again. “Can you help me read it?”

She smiled and turned the card over in my hand.

“English, too,” she said and hugged me again. “You go there. Today. We get you bus.”

And by 3 p.m., my baby girl, me and a good friend who had experience getting around Cambodia’s capitol were on a bus from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh. The trip took more than four hours, so when we arrived, it was dark, and the clinic from the business card was closed. Out of desperation, my friend Jocelyn asked her friend to take us to a hospital to see if maybe they could determine what was making Justine sick. The friend obliged and dropped us off at a government hospital. The chain link fence around the hospital was capped with razor wire, which is common in Cambodia, and the one entryway to the hospital was guarded by armed policemen. Jocelyn’s friend explained to them in Khmer that we needed to see a doctor, and they let us through.

The clinic in Sihanoukville had been partially outside. Patients held there own IVs, and babies sat on their daddy’s knees while receiving fluids. We expected to see better in the capital city. The hospital was several stories tall and appeared to be worth trying, so we made our way to the front door and found the reception area, which was flooded not only with people but also with about four inches of water. A mother cat nursed her five kittens in complete peace in one of the only dry spaces on the floor, and as she lay there in the middle of the hospital waiting room, patients laid beside her on tables and chairs waiting for their IV bags to empty. The only difference between this hospital and the small clinic in Sihanoukville was that there was a roof and more rooms.

We got in line to check in. Justine was weak and could barely stand, but they made her stand with me because she was the patient. When we got to the front of the line, they told her to take her shirt off so that they could take her vitals. That was a no for her, and they let her leave her shirt on but did pull it up enough to embarrass her in front of the 75 to 100 people in the waiting room. They gave us a slip of paper and pointed to the lab on the second floor, where we met the “jabber lady,” who literally stabbed a needle in my baby girl’s arm without ever smiling or saying a single word. It was weird, and rude, to say the least, because her attitude did not represent that of most Cambodians. We went back downstairs and handed another nurse a slip of paper the jabber lady had given us and eventually were called into a little room with the doctor, who spoke enough English to tell us we could stay in the hospital overnight, but we’d have to share a room, or he could call us with the results tomorrow … or possible the day after that. We said see ya and checked into the YWAM house and kept praying.

The YWAM house felt like our home away from home. Even though we’d only spent a few days there, it was the first place we stayed after arriving in Cambodia, and when we showed up at almost 11 p.m. that night, the staff there welcomed us with open arms, found three beds for us and even prayed over Justine and found a small dose of liquid antibiotic for her before we went to sleep. The next morning we got a ride to the clinic. I didn’t even bother making an appointment. I didn’t even think to make an appointment actually. I just walked in. The nurse at the front desk listened to me explain Justine’s symptoms and then asked politely, “Can you come back this afternoon?” I lost it. I had not yet cried that morning, but I did not feel like my soul could wait another few hours to get my baby help.

“Please,” I whispered, trying desperately to talk louder than the lump in my throat was letting me. “She’s very sick. I don’t think she can wait until this afternoon. Is there any way the doctor can see her now?”

The nurse looked at me with the most loving eyes and said without hesitation, “Just one moment,” and she disappeared through a door. She returned with a warm smile. “The doctor said he has time in 15 minutes if that is ok with you.” I nodded and took a deep breath of relief. I prayed that this doctor was more equipped than the others.

And he was. Not only was he wise and professional, but he was kind and sweet and understanding. He apologized for having to poke Justine’s arm for a blood test. It was her fourth since she’d gotten ill, so she just shrugged it off anyway. And while he also did not have the technology to get blood test results back quickly, he did have access to a few more facilities than it seems the clinic or hospital did. He also recognized from experience that Justine more than likely needed a strong antibiotic, so that’s what he gave her, along with an injection to get the good feels going. She was eating and feeling better by the end of the third day after we saw him.

The test results, however, did not come back until she’d almost finished her first round of antibiotics. Turns out, she’d picked up e-coli, most likely from the water we’d been drinking in Sihanoukville. It was filtered through clay pots, which made it clean, but sometimes our water bottles did not get cleaned efficiently. We can’t say for sure, but we think that’s where she picked it up. What we can say for sure, though, is that God was there through it all, but I can only call Noran’s timing of walking through that door with that card in her pocket … divine intervention, and I hope I never forget how I KNOW God showed up that day.


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