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A Fire: An Update from Rivers in the Middle East

Rivers* is one of three men who traveled to the Middle East this past January on a six-month internship with RMM, teaching English among a minority people group. Read more about the Middle East internship here.
...It was truly amazing to witness firsthand, and it has given me a renewed sense of purpose in being here. It reminded me a lot of the story in 1 Kings 18:20-40. Who knows, maybe it was even on the same mountain!

My third weekly Adventure Day was coming up, and I wanted to do something a little more ambitious than just hiking. I wanted to cook a meal on the mountain. There's usually some wood laying around. So I packed my bag on Friday night and set a chicken breast out to thaw. When I woke up Saturday morning, the first thing I did was look out the window to see if it was as nice a day as the day before. Nope. It was rainy, foggy, and cold. Miserable. I was disappointed. But we had fellowship in the morning anyway. By the afternoon, it wasn't raining anymore, thank goodness. But it still looked dreadful. Whatever, that wasn't going to stop me.

I got back to the apartment, threw the chicken breast and two eggs into my bag (carefully wrapped, of course). Since the wood on the mountain was wet from the rain, I had to go with a back-up option: a little grill kit, which includes a bag of charcoal, some oil-soaked kindling, and a wick. Sure, it was a little less robust than I wanted, but it would get the job done. I also bought a fresh loaf of bread and then walked to the mountain and climbed straight up it.

When I got to the top, there was a little blackened spot where people had made fires before. Nice! The wind was blowing pretty ferociously, but as long as I blocked it with my body, it would be fine. I got my little kit all arranged and lit the wick. The oil-soaked wood lit quickly and burned for a while, but the charcoal didn't ignite. As much as I tried to block the wind, it kept changing directions and almost putting out the flame. When the wood had totally burned up, I was left with some hot – but unlit – charcoal. The kit had utterly failed me. I was a little desperate at that point. Like I said, it was a cold day. I was freezing and starving, and most of my food was raw. In my desperation, I went around gathering all of the sticks and dead grass that I could find. It was a last-ditch effort. I piled them up nicely, prayed quickly, and lit the grass. This is when I made the mistake that ruined all my chances. When I lit the grass, I kept the lighter too close to the flame. The tip of it melted, “...let this fire be like your kingdom in this place, and build it up against all odds, against the unfavorable conditions like the damp wood and whipping wind.”and it was totally ruined. I watched helplessly as the grass all burned up and the damp sticks remained unaffected. I tried to shield the tiny fire from the wind, knowing that this tiny little flame was my last chance. I prayed at this point. I pulled a pretty cheap card on God and said, let this fire be like your kingdom in this place, and build it up against all odds, against the unfavorable conditions like the damp wood and whipping wind. It was cheap, it was desperate. I looked at the single smoldering twig, and when the grass was all gone I knew there was no hope.

But at the moment I prayed, three distinct things happened. One, the wind started blowing stronger than ever—chilling me to the bone and almost knocking me over; two, all the mosques in the city started sounding the call to prayer; and three, God told me with crystal clarity: I'll take care of the fire. You pray for the city.

It was impulsive, and almost beyond myself. It seemed so ridiculous and foolish to walk away from the fire right then. I needed to keep shielding it from the wind, and to do what I could to nurture that little ember. But I got up and walked over to the edge of the mountain and started singing the first song that came to my mind, "Awesome God.” I sang it for several minutes, trying to drown out the mosques and their call to prayer. I prayed for the city and I prayed for the Kurds for as long as the call to prayer was going on (maybe five minutes). Then I walked back to the fire pit and saw that the entire thing was on fire. The little sticks, the big sticks, all of them wet, but all of them burning. The fire was big enough that the wind couldn't possibly hurt it now. God had literally started that fire. In conditions where I couldn't start a fire with a fire-making kit. With oil-soaked kindling, I had failed. I can't fully explain how impossible the thing was that happened. When I hear other people tell stories like this, I always doubt it at least a little. But right then, I knew there could be no other explanation. He started that fire. I cooked my food, and reflected on the fact that God himself had provided this meal for me. He continued to talk to me and encourage me. He let me know without a doubt that a fire is starting in this place. And that all of the unfavorable conditions in the world won't be able to stop it. That I'm not here for no reason.

Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”

*Name changed for security reasons.