A different post this Saturday morning.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of talking about progress and success in life and ministry. Yes, good intentions do not matter nearly so much as concrete results. If I hear the phrase “strategic planning” one more time, I will scream. Yet focusing on the positive end-results can easily gloss over the weakness and foolishness, the error and difficulty that more often than not is our human experience, that more often than not God uses to glorify himself.
As I write, Roger, a second year Word of Life Bible Institute student, in sharing a bunk bed with son David. David loves Roger, and enjoyed playing FIFA XBOX till all hours of the night last night. I think Roger is just glad to have somewhere to go over the holidays, because he doesn’t have the finances to spend Christmas with his family in Panama. He’s just happy to eat tacos, play basketball, and be part of a family. We are glad that our kids can be around young people who love Jesus.
Ismael (a.k.a. Jackie Chan), along with his wife Marta, pastor the second church in Jesús María. About a month ago, his little green 2001 Chevy was stolen in another part of Mexico City. Really? A theft like that, to me, would be back-breaking, removing the minimal luxury of having reliable transportation. Marta recently lost her job as an insurance salesperson, and is in transition. They faithfully serve, but sometimes I wonder how they regularly eat. I know God is in that, keenly aware of the details of their lives, watching and keeping. But this sort of power is not something that gets much press in our success-driving ministry lives.
Eduardo is a new member of the church in Palmas 1, and attends every other Sunday because of his crazy shift work, often doing 24 hour stints at a mall about 45 minutes from here via public transportation. He really desires to act with integrity in an ambient of extortion, drug traffic and abusive authority figures. The clever, yet truthful way he interacts with those around him impresses me, and I wonder if I would be able to endure what he does. Probably not. Sometimes, when he comes to church, he’s been awake all night. He goes to church because he recognizes that he desperately needs to be there, for the sake of his soul.
Being a pastor in most churches in Mexico, and in most churches in any two-thirds country, is a spiritual calling, and a difficult one. The health and growth of a church, humanly speaking, often comes down to the faithfulness of its leadership. Here, a pastor does not aspire to the ministry for any economic benefit, because there are none. On the contrary, often church leadership invest far more financially then the receive in return, and this is most certainly the case of Martin, and his wife Laura, pastor of the first church. Over the past several years, Martin has trained 5-7 men to minister alongside him in preaching, teaching and discipleship. He as built up and remodeled a small house into a suitable place of worship. But Martin does not receive anything by way of offering (at least I strongly suspect that he doesn’t), because during the week he drives and flies all over Mexico, installing security cameras and programming security systems for large factories. On occasions too many to count, he has arrived in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday to preach a few hours later on Sunday morning.
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2. Not creative, handsome, charismatic, clever, visionary or eloquent. Faithful. Faithful in weakness, difficulty, routine, poverty, abundance, sorrow and success.
The picture at the top of this post is from a non-profit board meeting we had recently, talking about the ins and outs of Tiempo de Vivir. What a privilege to serve alongside these men who encourage and challenge me regularly to keep on keeping on!