sparrow mom and chick

I was in Asia a couple of months ago, and it seems like it’s been a lifetime since then.  While I was there leading a mission trip, our hosts put together a cultural presentation with some of the traditions of their tribe. The story of the tribe, which used to be headhunters, and how they came to transform the entire region through a seminary and a hospital is a powerful one.  They shared tribal dances and songs, some of which we knew well and others we had not heard before.  There were speeches and chia tea with cookies.  It was a cold evening, but we were warm with emotion.

I was wrapped in a blanket taking it all in.  One of the seminary students came up to sing, and I was stunned at the powerful voice that came from this small man. It filled up the night and echoed off the mountain.  As he was singing I found myself with tears in my eyes.  My heart was pumping fast and I was a bit shocked at my emotional reaction.  Then I realized why.

He was singing His Eye is on the Sparrow, and that particular song has special meaning to me.

When I had cancer, years ago, I had a friend named Frank who made me CDs to listen to while I was going through chemo.  He put songs on them which had encouraged him in hard times.  You see, he had ALS, which is a terrible disease that gradually steals all bodily function.  Frank was a worshiper before his diagnosis and that fact did not change after.

When he moved to his wheelchair and he could no longer use his hands to play guitar, he listened to worship music.  He wanted to encourage others, so he began making CDs by using his mouth to control a computer.  He personally chose music for specific people depending on their circumstances and then used his mouth to point and click until he had the entire playlist burned onto the CD.

Just receiving one of these CDs was a monumental gift of encouragement.  To me, every time I was in that chemo chair listening, I was swept up in worship.  Partly because the songs were powerful, but just as much so because I knew the process it took for Frank to get them to me. He was nearer to going to heaven than I was, so every song took on new meaning from the perspective of terminal illness.  I put them on repeat and for much of my 6 hours in the chair each treatment I was soaking in these songs.

His Eye is on the Sparrow (Selah version) was one of the songs on one of my CDs.  When you have cancer, the lyrics speak in a different way than you have heard before.

His Eye is on the Sparrow

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

When I was sitting in my chemo chair, not knowing if I would live or die, I could not have imagined being in Asia leading a mission trip. Or any of the other places I have been in the last 5 years.  Yet God’s eye was on me, watching me, knowing he was going to send me out. Listening to this man in Asia sing this song, I saw so clearly the lyrics at work in my life, I was moved. Overcome with emotion.  It was a reminder of all God had done for me and it was powerful. My tears were those of gratefulness.  Little did I know what was coming next.

I arrived back home so full.  It had been another great trip where God had moved in miraculous ways.  I was aware of the Corona Virus, as it had made the jump to Italy, but I wasn’t overly concerned about it, because I didn’t fully understand the danger of it yet.  I had just travelled to the other side of the world, and things were as usual.  No questions, no one even took my temperature in any airport. But things started moving quickly after that and it became clear this was a major event.

Working with the parents of young missionaries around the world has been my dream job.  I love to walk parents through what it looks like to let their kids go in healthy ways.  I love to take them to foreign places so they can see for themselves why their kids are so drawn to go.  I love to celebrate with them as they see their kids flourish and to help ease their fears when things don’t go as planned.  Covid-19 was not part of the plan when their kids took off around the world and it wasn’t part of our plan either.

In the weeks following my return from my trip, the virus spread like wildfire throughout the world.  We had over 550 missionaries on the field, on several continents, in many countries.  After consulting all our sources of information, our risk management team made the difficult decision to bring them all home.  We had hoped to be able to keep them out to help in combating the virus in the communities we serve; however, it became obvious this was a global crisis beyond anything we had seen before.

We didn’t even know if they stayed out, when or if they would be able to return to the States.  We didn’t want to put them at risk of being in a place with no medical care.  We didn’t want to risk somehow spreading it to the poor populations we serve. It was all hands-on deck as we navigated finding flights for 23 squads.  Borders were closing by the hour and rerouting large groups of people to try to get them home became a 24/7 job for an entire team of people.  I am happy to say they all made it home and all are healthy, which is a miracle in and of itself.

However, once they were home, my job of walking with parents no longer existed, at least not in the same form.  Guiding them as they help their kids adjust to having their year long trips end prematurely is something, but not as involved as what I typically do.  Not to mention, the job of our organization in the home office is to support hundreds of missionaries…who are no longer on the field.  Cuts were inevitable.  I was one of the many who lost my job.  Thank goodness we will get paid until July as we transition out and hand off our workloads to those staying on.  But once again, I find myself in times of trouble.  Once again, I have been reminded by a song, His Eye is on the Sparrow.  Once again, the lyrics take on new meaning.

We are all sparrows.  No matter where we are or what we are going through, he is watching over us. I am confident he will take care of us.  He has a plan for me.  He has one for you. As we wait, none of us know what tomorrow holds.  We never have. We have to trust his eye is on us and he has it all well in hand.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So, do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.   Matthew 10: 29-31

sparrows on fence


6 thoughts on “Sparrows

  1. Michelle thank you for writing your heart thoughts. It was sweet to hear how Frank’s CD helped you. He was inspiring. God does speak to us in so many ways

    • Beth Anne, I would never have had that CD if it wasn’t for you bringing it to me. Frank was such a character…a special guy. You were so instrumental to his quality of life those last years. You were never intimidated by his chair or his needs…just a really great friend.

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