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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: PICNIC - deadline 7-12-12 @ 9:59 AM NY Time (07/05/12)

TITLE: Your Inner Picnic
By Hiram Claudio


It could’ve been a really bad situation.

I was on a missions trip to a country in the southern part of Africa. Many different teams were also there working with the same organization. Some were teaching in a local bible college. Some also taught in pastoral seminars for local church leaders. Others were working in a nearby orphanage. We had different responsibilities but one goal, to be a light to God’s people.

We also had something else in common. All eleven of us were staying in the same house. It was a home built to house multiple ministry teams and eleven was its capacity. I enjoyed the feeling of teamwork and gathering with everyone at the end of each day for supper, to unwind, and discuss what the Lord had done that day. It really had a very informal, easy, close feel to it.

Then the power went out. I was told that happens a lot. In fact, the first few days I was there, it went out twice. However, each time for only about three hours. So when the power went out, during the second week, a few days after we had reached full capacity … I just figured it would be back on shortly.

The power went out just after breakfast. We all left to attend to our responsibilities and figured that when we returned, it would be back. We figured wrong. That night we had supper by candlelight. I was truly impressed by the spirit present. It was starting to become annoying, and inconvenient. But everyone was determined to stay focused on our mission, to be a blessing! Our house leader would state often, “The power being on or off is outside of our control. Our attitude about it is completely within our control.”

As we sat down for supper the next day, ending day two without power, the level of inconvenience grew. You see, not only did this affect the electricity but since all the running water worked off pumps, there was not water for anything. No sinks. No showers. Nothing! And with eleven of us reaching the end of day two without any of these things, well … it started to get interesting.

But the spirit of the group stood firm. We weren’t there to enjoy the many conveniences we often take for granted back home. We were there to encourage God’s leaders, bless His people, and to let them know they are not alone. The lack of running water made our close quartered surroundings feel even … closer. Yet, each night we still gathered for supper, still rejoiced over what the Lord had done that day, and still enjoyed the fellowship of being together. That second night, we even threw a few logs into a wood burning stove and toasted marshmallows!

Just before the end of day three, the power returned. So that night, we had supper as we had done before, very little changed. With the power out, some concerns had become heightened. And by day third, those concerns turned to the freezers that contained the food which had been purchased for our stay. And clearly, everyone was VERY glad to take a shower again!

Things changed, then, they changed back. Life is like that. So many things in the course of any given day move from “the way you want them to be” to “the way you don’t.” But, our Lord has promised us a power that isn’t dependent on those changes. He gives His presence, providing a true constant within us. Things on the outside may rise one day and fall the next. And when they fall, they may stay fallen for some time. Yet, Jesus remains a true anchor, a steadying and stable influence.

The experience was certainly no picnic. It went from almost ideal, to potentially unmanageable very quickly. Thankfully, we were able to remain steady because our focus was on our Savior. Jesus said, “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” – Matthew 15:11 (NKJV). Our joy doesn’t have to be tied to the many outside influences we experience. We can have a peace deep within that can rise up and flow out, changing the perception of any situation we encounter.

It was a living example of “…He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” – 1 John 4:4b (NKJV).

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Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/12/12
The opening line really pulled me in. I could sense the tension of the conflict immediately. I love reading about mission trips into worlds I can barely imagine. We are so blessed, even as missionaries - the group was blessed as I would guess not every local would have electricity. We need to remember to appreciate the little things.

Just a couple of tiny bits of red ink. First, I think you might be surprised if you go back and count how many times you used phrases with the word power in it. I know there aren't a lot of substitutes but electricity, lights, generator come to mind. Also perhaps restructuring some sentences might help with overusing it. For example We ate in candlelight and used water from the creek to replace the water from the electrical pumps. (Not a great sentence but wanted to give you an idea of what I was saying.)

The other thing is I worry that it might be a tad weak on topic. Though you used a familiar phrase, it wasn't about a picnic. This quarter the winners will be published in an anthology instead of the magazine so I think you may need to try and stick more to the actual topic than the more general interpretations we were allowed last quarter. (But that may just be my interpretation and I could be totally off base)

You did a great job of making me feel like I was in Africa with you. I even had a whiff of body odor as I read (perhaps I need to shower :) I think this story will be a great inspiration to families to reach out and experience mission trips. It really can change one's entire outlook. I can picture if the power was out here people wouldn't have been so patient. It would be on the national news. (in fact last week it was) I think it was terrific how you showed the different way another part of the world reacts to a convenience that so many of us take for granted. Nice job.
Genia Gilbert07/12/12
I enjoyed this. I get what you are saying. Our joy doesn't hinge on outward circumstances because our Joygiver is always with us and in us. I'm glad, because life is so hard sometimes, especially in some of those poorer countries.

I did see a phrase "by day third" that I'm sure was something you were re-wording and missed it.

It is a great and inspirational story and worth sharing. My hat goes off to you for enduring so patiently.
C D Swanson 07/13/12
I found this to be a sheer delight to read and a testimony to the individuals who go to ALL NATIONSmof the world to preach the Word.

It gave the reader a microcosm peek into what goes on across the oceans...while providing a prolific message.

The simple amenities we take for granted as we go through life are startling in comparison to what some people would find a blessing.

I loved this entire piece. It touched my heart. Beautifully written. Thanks for sharing.

God Bless you~
C D Swanson 07/13/12
Correction: Oops~

I found this to be a sheer delight to read and a testimony to the individuals who go to ALL NATIONS of the world to preach the Word.
Noel Mitaxa 07/13/12
having been on mission trips to tropical areas where the humidity was so overpwering that it took at least three showers a day just to stay awake, this is so true to life. Yet it's no travelogue, as you have kept emphasising the reason for your trip.
Leola Ogle 07/16/12
I love mission stories. My son-in-law just returned from taking 30 kids in his youth group to Puerto Rico. Last year mt pastor son-in-law went with a group to El Salvador. Next year my husband is going with some men to Trinidad to help build a church. Our family has been involved in mission work for years. Thanks for sharing this well written entry. God bless!

Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/23/12
Congratulations for ranking 9th in level 3!
Linda Greene07/23/12
I will try to remember to feel the blessing bestowed upon me each time I flick on the light switch and the bulb lights up. Your essay reminded me of my many other blessings. Thank you.