Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June 12 - David of Gareji, Missionary, Monastic, Worker of Wonders


David was Syrian by birth but he found himself far away from home in a cave atop a mountain near Tbilisi in Georgia. It hadn't been his idea to go to Georgia but, rather, it was the idea of his teacher and spiritual father John of Zedazeni.David trusted John completely and when John received a vision in which he was told the story of Nino and called to become a missionary to the people who dwelt in that foreign land of Georgia, David was willing to follow. After many years, he found himself living with his only disciple in a cave above Tbilisi. There were some of the worshipers of Ahura Mazda (what we might call Zoroastrians) in Tbilisi and David had been treated roughly and contemptuously by them each week when he had gone into the city to preach as was his practice. But the other six days of the week he spent in his cave praying for the inhabitants of the city--that they might be converted to the Love and Lordship of God as demonstrated in Jesus. He prayed for those who persecuted him and fasted every Wednesday and Friday so that he might teach his body to submit to God's will. Every night, he would rise weeping from his prayers to go to the precipice near his cave that overlooked Tbilisi and raise his hands in blessing over the city that hated his presence but desperately needed to be loved. For many years, his prayers seemed to go unanswered as the crowds he preached to seemed utterly uninterested in what he had to say with only a very few exceptions.

One day when he went into Tbilisi to preach there was a crowd of people waiting for him. Among them were some of the Zoroastrian leaders and priests who were evidently shielding some person from his eyes. When he began to preach, they interrupted him and the crowd turned to see what they had resolved to do. From among them came a prostitute who was clearly pregnant. David knew her because he had preached to her before about the love and forgiveness of God and the high calling of the same. She insisted that the baby was David's because she had been paid by the priests to lie and slander David. David was hurt and surprised but he had faith that God would not allow him to beslandered in such a way if it didn't serve God's purpose in some mysterious way--not after all the seemingly unanswered prayers uttered upon that cold mountain he called home at God's calling. David reached out his staff and touched the abdomen of the woman and commanded her unborn child to speak the name of its father. He didn't know if it would work but he trusted that God would work a wonder if this was God's will. The crowd was awestruck when they heard a small voice name the name of another man and their awe turned to rage as they realized the sham they had just witnessed. The crowd picked up stones and stoned the woman as David screamed his horror at the thought and begged them desperately to stop. After the crowd had dispersed, David and his disciple left Tbilisi never to return and moved into the Gareji forest.

They took up their monastic lives in the forest and God provided for their every need. They were fed by the herbs and produce of the land and by the milk and meat of deer that God sent to provide for them. In their huts, they prayed for Georgia and for the people with whom they came into regular contact. Though they had moved away from Tbilisi, people began to come to David seeking a miracle or a wonder. The blind regained their sight and the sick were made whole when they came to David and soon his reputation as a worker of wonders and preacher of truth spread throughout the countryside. In what seemed like no time at all, David was the teacher of many disciples whom he cared for and taught the way of life more abundant and free. He taught them the power of prayer in sure confidence that his prayers upon the mountain near Tbilisi had been answered on God's time instead of his own. He built a monastery in the forest and called those who had been converted to take up monastic lives of service and prayer. God had done great things through David because David had been willing to trust when everything seemed questionable.David had wondered and questioned but he had persevered in his trust even in the darkest times. Even after David had passed on, the work God had started through David continued.

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