There Might Be Snakes!

Today we bring you a special blog post written by Marilee Pierce Dunker. Marilee is the daughter of World Vision founder Bob Pierce and a dedicated advocate for women and children around the world. She has spoken at several Women of Vision chapter events and regularly leads Women of Vision conference calls focused on prayer.

Marilee with Pastor Joseph, the senor pastor at the conference. Photo: World Vision

I don’t do snakes. As a small child I can remember opening a picture book and there was a picture of a snake. The very sight of it sent a chill of horror through my body and I slammed the book shut. The book was never touched again!

In His wisdom God gave me daughters who picked flowers and collected stickers, rather than sons who might be tempted to hide jars of slimy, slithering creatures under their beds. And while I have lived nearly my entire life in the snake friendly hills of Southern California, I can honestly say that I have only happened upon one living garden snake whom, I am sure, was as startled as I was. I must have jumped 6 feet in the air and broken the 60 sec mile in my sprint for home!

I accepted long ago that this aversion is just one of the many things God included when He wove me together in my mother’s womb. Blond hair. Green eyes. Loves chocolate. Hates snakes.

So you can understand my concern when Bob and I were invited to come to the snake-infested jungles of Southern Sudan for a World Vision pastors’ conference in 2007. We were meeting with thirty Dinka pastors who were struggling without formal education or training to bring the Gospel to thousands of refugees returning to rebuild their villages after twenty-eight years of ethnic cleansing and civil war. I had no doubt that we were to go. But a niggling little thought kept rattling in the back of my head: there might be snakes!

I had been to Africa and Asia many times with World Vision and never been afraid. But this time we were going to be living in a mud hut with a straw roof in the middle of the jungle. Snakes love straw!

When we arrived at the World Vision compound in Thiet, Bob and I were taken to our hut. I was relieved to see that every opening had been carefully covered with fine screening and the thatched roof had been lined with thick plastic sheeting. Unless snakes ate plastic or used wire cutters, we were safe!

As the daylight began to wane, our hostess showed us around the rest of the compound. “You should have been here this morning,” she innocently shared as we approached the food tent. “We found a twelve-foot snake thicker than my arm curled on the table!” She laughed as though she had shared something humorous. Bob took one look at my face and quickly changed the subject.

“So is that the latrine?” he asked, pointing to a couple of outhouses off to the side. After our long trip, we were both in desperate need of a bathroom.

“No. We had to move the latrines out of camp after they got too full,” she said with a wrinkle of her nose. “It is much better now that they are set off on the other side of that field.”

She walked us over to an opening in the fence and pointed to a sea of thick, thigh-high grass that seemed to go on forever! A narrow trail had been trampled out, ending at two woodsheds marked “man” and “woman.”

In all of my life, I do not remember experiencing paralyzing fear but I did that day. My feet came to the edge of the field, stopped and took root. My head said “move.” My feet said “no.” My need for the bathroom was urgent! But my fear was greater.

Then I heard Bob’s voice in my ear. “It’s all right. I’ll go first. Step where I step and we’ll get there together.” I watched him step onto the trail and fixed my eyes on his feet. When he moved, I moved.

In Deuteronomy 31 the children of Israel were finally preparing to cross the Jordon into the Promise Land. Their snakes were literal giants and their fear had paralyzed them for 40 years! But God said through Moses in verse 6, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

God used Bob that day to help me understand that courage comes when I look to Jesus and hear Him say, “It’s all right.  I’ll go first. Step where I step and we’ll get there together.”

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