'God, if you brought me here to look after him - you've got the wrong guy'
Bruce’s story | The Amazon Jungle and helping one person
“In 2005, I was working as a freelance sound engineer, but I didn’t have a lot of work, so I was wondering what to do. A mate, Rick, in the US had been doing short-term mission trips to South America, helping the local communities, and he asked me to come. He said they needed someone to play guitar. I thought there were a million musicians in the US. Why would they need one from Australia?
“But within 48 hours, my flights and bookings were more or less organised. We raised the money over the next couple of months and I was on the plane to Ecuador, thinking, ‘What am I doing?’
“The first night we were in [Ecuador capital] Quito, and 30 of us on the team were getting to know each other, sharing stories. For whatever reason, Rick asked me to start. I was feeling overwhelmed by everything – being in a foreign country with people I didn’t know, unsure of why I was there. I started … and of course, I started crying, struggling to explain my emotions and reasons for being there. That set up a chain reaction. Lots of people opened up. To my left, it was Chad’s turn to share, but he was a complete mess. He broke down and couldn’t get anything out. I thought, ‘If I’d just held it together!’
“Later that night, I hung out with him. I found out he wasn’t a Christian. He’d only come on the mission trip because of his girlfriend. And he had bipolar. I thought ‘Oh, no!’ I told God that if he’d brought me here to look after this guy, then he’d brought the wrong guy! I couldn’t do it.
“But over the next few weeks, I spent a lot of time with him. We took the bus up to the village of Oyacachi, where we were doing the building work. It was really heavy work, and half way through I injured my knee … so I spent more time playing my guitar, singing with the local kids, watching the others work. And Chad kept coming by and we’d spend time together, our friendship was deepening.
“Right at the end of the mission, he got worse. He was in a really dark place. He went into his room and he wouldn’t come out. It was serious, his meds for bipolar weren’t working. If he didn’t get better, we wouldn’t be able to get the bus back to Quito. I was told he wanted to talk with me, but when I went into his room he told me to leave. I was confused, but I wasn’t going to leave. I just sat with him. The team prayed and within a few days he got better enough to travel. But I still felt completely unqualified and useless to help him.
“After the mission, I spent another week in Colorado, hanging out. By then, Chad had questions about God. Some of them were pretty hard. His girlfriend was a Christian, but he wasn’t… and what is God really like? And what about forgiveness? I’d been reading Romans, so I tried to talk to him about how none of us are good enough. That’s the point of it. God is good, and we aren’t. We need Jesus. That’s kind of how we left it. But a few months after arriving home in Australia, I got an email from Chad. He’d become a Christian. And we’re still in touch, 15 years later, Skyping a couple of times a week. He’s one of my best mates.
“It showed me that when we sign up to a life following Jesus, our agenda, more or less, becomes second place. Regardless of what we think we might be doing, God works in a different sphere. I thought I was going to help a tribe near the Amazon Jungle. But it just came down to one person understanding God better. I think God used me, in spite of myself. And that’s what I have to remember, now. My work has again dried up, because of COVID, and I still have no idea what I’m doing on this planet. But I have to put one small foot in front of the other and trust God, because he knows a whole lot more than I do!”
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)