Help! Dad's Out of Town

Don't let Satan undermine your mission.

Cheryl Smith is a ministry wife at Westgate Chapel in Sylvania, Ohio, where she is involved in women's ministry. Additionally, Cheryl has authored two books.

Dad left on a Friday for a long anticipated missions trip to Africa. I and our two teens, Sierra and Michael, remained at home. Monday evening Grandma and Grandpa called to see how we were getting along.

"Everything is going fine," I gushed, "Usually things fall apart when Scott is away. But so far we've had no problems. Even the weather is unseasonably warm for January!" Little did I know the household disasters soon to be unleashed.

The following morning, I got up and the house was cold. Our furnace, which had been temperamental lately, had decided overnight to stop completely.

"No problem," I assured the kids. "I'll call our friend, Rich." He was glad to help but couldn't arrive until after work.

Sierra and Michael went off to school, so I settled down in a room with our two cats and a space heater to wait for Rich to arrive. With a little poking and prodding, he soon had the furnace blasting.

"You fixed it!" I cried. "What did you do?"

"I'm not sure," he confessed. "I really didn't do anything special; I just jiggled these wires."

I went to sleep that night confident that I could jiggle wires all week if necessary until Scott returned. My confidence was short lived. By noon the next day the furnace was down again and no amount of jiggling seemed to help. I called the heating repair service Rich had suggested. Around 2:30 p.m., "Shorty" arrived. Shorty reset the furnace and it burst to life like it was brand new.

By 5:00 p.m., I was back on the phone. "Shorty, my furnace is down again," I told him. He agreed to send someone over first thing in the morning.

Meanwhile the unseasonably warm weather I'd bragged about to my parents earlier in the week had vanished. The temperature was plummeting and the weatherman warned that an ice storm was on its way.

I was grateful when Craig (serviceman #3) was able to find the root of the problem: a faulty control box. Soon the furnace burst to life with warm authority. I was ever so thankful for the heat pouring into the house. The predicted ice storm had arrived overnight, and outdoors everything was coated in a quarter inch of it.

Craig left. I went upstairs to send an email to Scott in Africa. It never reached him. By 8:00 a.m. the power was out. "Don't worry," I told the kids. "We have the gas fireplace. We'll simply camp out in the living room with the fireplace on." Outside, the wind picked up. We collected candles and flashlights and stayed indoors with our coats on, listening to the ice-burdened branches crashing down all around us. Whump! A branch hit the roof and bounced onto the ground. I ventured out into the yard past the tangle of branches to survey the roof. There was some debris up there, but it seemed we had escaped any major damage.

Friday dawned sunnier and warmer --barely. I began by checking out the basement. The sump pump indeed was overflowing. However, the floor sloped not toward the drain, but towards another part of the base­ment, which I had failed to clear! We now faced a filled sump pit and an equally saturated drain field. I lit some more candles and assigned the kids to start carrying buckets of water upstairs to the kitchen sink.

About that time, Sierra discovered a second leak. The branch that fell yesterday had indeed damaged the roof. Water had run along the inside wall until it oozed out the baseboard, soaking the carpet. With wind advisories still in effect, I realized I was going to have to patch the roof. The situation seemed to be spiraling out of control.

A phone call to my dad gave me the practical steps of how to fix a leaky roof. We bundled into the car, and drove slowly to Home Depot to gather supplies for what I assumed would be a minor leak. Clearing the roof of debris, however, we unearthed a neat four-inch circle and the two-foot branch that had speared our roof. Another slow trip to Home Depot was needed.

Finally by mid-afternoon, I managed a satisfactory patch job. The kids joked that I used so much tar that the entire roof could fall down and my patch would still he there. I really didn't care as long as it kept the water out.

The basement was a different story. Sierra and Michael had brought gallons of water up the basement stairs seemingly with little effect. They were tired. I was tired. But there could be no stopping if we wanted to prevent further flooding.

The phone rang. It was a friend calling to check on us. Within the hour she and another helper arrived with a fresh supply of towels, buckets, and flashlights. We managed to string an extension cord to a neighbor with power and by 6 p.m. the power finally came back on.

Perhaps you've been through similar experiences. Why is it that things always go awry when husbands go out of town? In sleepless moments, I pondered these and similar questions and I think God gave me some answers.

Get An Outside Perspective

In the midst of the crisis, my perspective on the situation became clouded. Common sense solutions my friends later suggested hadn't even occurred to me. And I would never have known what to purchase for roof repairs if I hadn't talked to my dad. Without the valuable advice of others, things would have turned out far worse.

Turn Hardship Into A Memory

The hardships notwithstanding, the entire experience will be a memory the kids and I will treasure forever. One night, we went to a cheap movie and out to dinner to get warm. Later we played games by candlelight. We pulled together and got the job done.

Don't Let Satan Undermine Your Mission

God wasn't unleashing hellish demons on us. It was simply life's events mixing with my inexperience. What Satan wanted to do, however, was embitter me against my husband and the work God has called him to. Instead, I needed to thank God for His provisions and remind Michael and Sierra that we still had food, shelter, blankets, etc., far more than many people in the world. And I needed to tell them that this wasn't only their dad's mission, it was our mission as well.

In 1 Samuel 30, we read about David's pursuit of a raiding party of Amalekites. Some of his men were simply too exhausted from previous conflicts to continue on. Leaving them with the supplies, David marched on with 400 soldiers. They quickly effected a decisive victory against the Amalekites. Later those who fought complained about sharing the spoil with those who stayed behind.

"David replied, 'No my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and handed over to us the forces that came against us. The share of the men who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle" (1 Samuel 30:23, 24).

The week my husband was in Africa. 96 Ghanaian men and women prayed to receive Christ, and 27 African pastors were trained to share their faith more effectively. A team of five Americans was used by God to change lives and have their own lives changed forever by what they experienced. A missionary couple was encouraged. Needed literature was supplied to a seminary. A young doctor returning from study abroad became a believer. And nearly $1,500 was freed up to aid in the translation and distribution of evangelistic materials. Sierra, Michael and I had a part in all that. In willingly letting Scott go—in staying by "the stuff" (as some translations call it) we've been privileged to share in an incredible harvest. Do I regret Scott's absence? Not at all.

But just wait until Mom goes out of town!

Cheryl Smith is a ministry wife at Westgate Chapel in Sylvania, Ohio, where she is involved in women's ministry. Additionally, Cheryl has authored two books.