Written by Patty Spykstra
Over the last few months a puzzle was set up at Oceans Retreat Centre. This wasn’t just any 500-piece puzzle; it was a prayer-filled and purpose-filled puzzle.
People seem to have differing opinions of puzzles. I have fond memories of puzzles at my parent’s house. Sharing life and snacks around the table with with them, our kids or other family members and finding a piece to add here and there. My husband however associates puzzles with losing recess as a kid. The principal’s objective was forthright: once the puzzle was completed with whomever you had a disagreement with on the playground, recess resumed.
Since we wouldn’t be with family over the holidays I figured a puzzle was a great idea for the evenings. Reluctantly Tim agreed to “work the puzzle” or maybe more like join me in the dining room while I put the border together and he read. When friends from church offered to bring a South African Christmas meal to us we felt so blessed to have their family here on campus. The food and fellowship memorable and the puzzle a gathering spot. Antoinette and Jachin worked on the puzzle and soon Africa and Australia were completed.
Since South Africa continues to have load shedding (lately up to 8 hours a day) the absence of electricity provided time to complete the United States and Canada, places I was most familiar with. As I held the various pieces and deciphered what piece to put where I found myself praying over the cities I had lived in or visited. I thought this puzzle definitely has a purpose.
Preparations for a group of 20 from Hope Africa Collective for their annual staff retreat made for busy times with meal planning, shopping, and room arrangements. It was an eventful few days with people arriving at different times, and juggling load shedding for use of the conference room. The group sang, shared, had a braai, went to the beach, rested and enjoyed their time together as plans for 2023 were made.
Walking through the dining room I noticed several individuals standing around the puzzle. Europe, Russia and South America were completed. I couldn’t help but tell the story of just how much Tim ”loves puzzles” and that he married the principal’s daughter! (Yes, we love to tell that story.) I also added that I found this puzzle provided an opportunity to pray for people living all over the world. Each time I passed through the Ocean’s Lodge someone was working either alone or with others on the puzzle.
Then all the landmasses were completed, what remained was ALL that blue for the oceans! I happily skipped that part! Then on the last day for Hope Africa I realized the puzzle was finished! I was very excited and happy to see that none of the pieces were missing! It was done! Mission accomplished!
I placed my hand on the puzzle! The world. It is such a beautiful and broken place with so many people with varying gifts and passions and ideas. I touched South Africa and where our family lives in the United States. The places seemed so small and insignificant. Sometimes the issues and problems in life seem overwhelming and the hurt and pain too much.
Many people came together to work on this puzzle over an extended period of time. Some spent a lot of time finding 1 piece; others sat down to sort pieces, and some stood by and gave moral support. Actually I have no idea who worked on the puzzle or how it got finished.
I may have started the puzzle, but many others joined in along the way and did their part. We do not need to “do life” on our own, share the gospel or solve all the problems and pain in and of ourselves. The puzzle reminded me of how God uses each of us in different ways to accomplish His Plan and ultimately bring Him Glory!
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. “ Isaiah 55:8-9.
“The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk. 2:14
May it be in 2023!