Improvise, Improvise, Improvise

In 2006, I was part of a medical mission team comprised of 22 people who traveled up the Amazon River to remote villages near Iquitos, Peru. Lodging on an 800 square foot house boat, we realized there were only 21 beds, so a girl I’d only met a few times before and I volunteered to sleep on opposite ends of a mattress the size of a sleeping bag. 

As the trip progressed, we “showered” in the river and converted our bedroom into a dining room at the start of each day. During clinic days, we hiked from the boat up into the mountains through torrential downpours on muddy paths. We arrived each day to lines of people waiting to be seen. Our team was equipped to handle basic healthcare—treating minor wounds and rashes, prescribing antibiotics for infections, and checking people for worms.

One day, a group of people trudged up the hill dragging someone in a wooden wagon. As they came closer, we realized quickly that the man was in serious need of medical attention beyond the services we could provide. He had been trimming a tree to collect firewood and fell. Upon inspection, we believed a branch was lodged in his eye socket. The theme of the trip so far had been “improvise, improvise, improvise.” So, we paid $20US to have him taken by boat to a hospital in the city. When he returned, he was bandaged and grateful. The branch had left a nasty gash but had missed his eye.

Faith is common sense and improvisation. Whether on the foreign mission field, in a church service, at our places of work, or in navigating the joys and struggles of parenthood, God leads us places and calls us to do things we never expected. Sometimes we are stretched when our resources are tight, and we may be called to work that is difficult and dirty, but there is a world of people—our family and friends and a host of strangers—waiting for us to show up. Often, when we are faced with decisions about how to proceed in caring for our hurting world, faith looks a lot like common sense. 

I am constantly inspired by the examples of faith by common sense and improvisation we read about in Bible stories. Dorcas was mourned when she passed because of the great work she had done in her community as a seamstress. Mary, in one of the most important moments of her life, had to improvise. I am sure she looked around at her surroundings, wondering just how she ended up giving birth where the animals lived. But in that moment, her faith was made holy, blessed, perfect—because she did the best she could with what she had to give. Even Jesus himself recognized that a restless crowd could be calmed with a few loaves and fishes. 

How often do we talk of faith in terms of “stepping out” for grand gestures? Why is it that we spend so much time obsessing about calling and spiritual maturity as though God requires us to pass a test to be servants? When we identify ourselves as followers of Christ, we are fully equipped to serve if we just pay attention to the world around us. God gives us intelligence and intuition to know how to best love people, and as mothers, we are masters of improvising when life doesn’t look the way we thought it would. Today, focus on the ways you can love people in tangible, logical ways. We aren’t called to anything more or less.

About Leia Johnson   

Leia Johnson grew up in Edmond, OK but currently lives in Belleville, IL with her Air Force pilot husband, Scott, their two handsome boys, Will and Ben, and their aging pup, Bokonon. She is the president and co-founder of Somebody’s Mama, a non-profit that exists to bring awareness to issues affecting women across the globe. When she’s not gallivanting in the two-thirds world, Leia is trying her best to publish middle grade fiction and non-fiction for adults. You can find her writing at and