Oppressive heat filled the post-midnight hours as a new missionary, Rebekah Naylor, stepped off a plane in India. Instantly, beggars accosted the young American, who had missed her connecting flight to Bangalore. As thunder rumbled in the distance, she was directed to a bus which would take her toward her destination.
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Naylor entered a hotel, where lights lay dim due to energy rations. She wanted to call people waiting for her in Bangalore to let them know of her delay, but in 1974 India, a person could not simply pick up a phone and make a call. After about four hours, she finally reached her contacts. She was sent to an office where she received a ticket to take her to Bangalore two days later.
"Welcome to India," Naylor told OBU students during a weekly chapel service Wednesday, Sept. 26. Naylor was on Bison Hill to offer a personal perspective of Psalm 139, following OBU's current chapel theme, "The Psalms."
Psalm 139 reveals the character of God, Naylor told OBU students, and she experienced those characteristics firsthand as she served as the administrator, chief surgeon and physician of Bangalore Hospital. Naylor filled the roles for more than 30 years as a missionary with the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention.
In India, Naylor founded the adjoining nursing school, named after her in 1995, and she became a consultant on special assignment with the IMB in 1999. During her tenure at the hospital, she started a choir, taught Bible studies, led chapel services, supervised building projects and created a strategy to reach the people of India through the hospital's ministry.
Through her work on the mission field, Naylor said she learned the attributes of God described in Psalm 139. The psalm talks about the depth of God's knowledge of each person, both inward and outward. She said she has seen evidence in her life that God's knowledge is perfect and complete.
"God knows us," she said. "He knows where we are, and he knows what we are doing when we go to class, when we rest, when we work -- everything, God knows. He knows and understands our thoughts and our reactions to things. Our thoughts are really like words to God, and wherever we are, his hands are upon us."
Naylor said God's hands were on her as she felt him leading her to be a medical missionary. She grew up as the daughter of a pastor -- her father, Dr. Robert E. Naylor, served as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for 20 years -- and she learned about missions and prayed for missionaries. But one day, as a teenager, she felt God personally invite her to be involved in medical missions.
"I could not imagine that God could use me," she said. "I thought that I was so insignificant - how could he possibly use me? … But God had a very definite plan for my life. His hand was upon me."
Naylor said the psalm also tells that God is omnipresent - he is present everywhere. Even in the most distant places on earth, she said, people are not beyond God's reach. She told of many times during her work in India when she knew God was present with her. A friend gave her a picture print which shows a surgeon in action, with Jesus standing right behind the surgeon. Naylor said that image reflects her experience.
"In times when my own finite knowledge was limited, Jesus was there," Naylor said. "He was present when I would be in a tiny village mud hut, sitting on a dirt floor, telling stories about Jesus. He was present when I was lonely and far from my family. … He was present as I worshipped week after week with brothers and sisters in Christ in India."
Naylor said Jesus was present with her as she stood before hostile government officials, pleading to be granted a license to practice medicine, despite the humiliation of the circumstances. He was present with her as she talked with patients about having faith in Christ.
"You can go forward on life's journey with confidence because God is present, and he goes with you," she said.
Drawing on the passages in the psalm which tell about God's creation of each person, Naylor pointed out that God is also all powerful and able to do all things. She said God created humans for a relationship and fellowship with him, and his creation speaks to his power.
"He created me as the person I am - physically, emotionally, my personality -- and he did that for you," Naylor said. "Each of us is an individual, and God made us that way. … Each of us is custom-designed for an eternal purpose."
The psalm concludes with a prayer, and Naylor said she encouraged each student to prayerfully consider whether or not he or she has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If so, she asked students to consider whether or not Jesus is the Lord of every area of the student's life.
"I can assure you this morning that as you submit to his direction in your life -- as you obey, wherever that may take you: right here, or to the other side of the world -- he will be with you at all times, for he loves you."