Helping in Moments of Crisis
The last week, the third week of October, has been a week of disasters such as hurricanes in the Dominican Republic, earthquakes in Mexico and a crisis in one family life. In Canada, we hear stories and watch the news and are concerned but perhaps not touched personally. My husband and I have been impacted by these events and have made several pastoral visits to migrant workers from Mexico who are in our area of South Western Ontario. Prayer has been very much a part of this week.
Concerning the hurricanes in the Dominican, we have sent many message of encouragement and have just learned of damage to the bathroom and lighting in a small church in Damajagua where we helped build at covered worship area just 6 months ago. The evening of the earthquake we drove out to visit 4 groups of workers at their work sites to ask about their families and to pray for families in Mexico and for Mexico in general. One man’s family experienced loss of material things but his family is safe. Three days late we were able to talk with others whose families had lost things or had property damaged. Prayer and words of scripture reminded who to turn to for comfort.
One evening as we enjoyed coffee, we got a phone call from a worker’s wife to ask us to help contact her husband and let him of a crisis concerning his father’s help. More phone calls led to a visit and then another visit the next day to encourage and to learn that the medical crisis was now under control.
We were following instructions from I Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are doing.”
Jesus, on two separate occasions, made possible the feeding of more than four or five thousand people. They came to listen to him tells stories and talks about his father and at the end of the day they were hungry. Jesus took five loaves and two fishes that a young boy had and after praying, the disciples distributed the food to thousands and had leftovers. On another occasion he said we would always have the poor among us and Jesus cared about them.
In Sarnia, at the end of a day (or at four thirty in the afternoon) people came to the Inn of the Good Shepherd looking for food. Many of them are unable to provide sufficiently to eat healthy and tasty food on a regular basis. This week about 90 people came on Saturday afternoons to eat a meal prepared by members of Lakeshore Community church. The meal consisted of potatoes, vegetables, chicken, gravy and bread accompanied by juice and a dessert. About a dozen people served the meal and a couple more mixed with those who came smiling saying a word of encouragement. One of them had the opportunity to pray with a woman whose mother was in the hospital; the other spent some time with a group of a four or five younger women. One of the guests who came for the meal spoke Spanish and wanted to say hello to a kitchen worker (visiting from Mexico) who helped serve the meal.
Several of the guests commented on the excellence of the meal. But it was a delight to know that spiritual needs were also met.
Plans change sometimes rapidly and often. We planned to be in the Dominican Republic yesterday for three weeks of ministry mentoring and counselling. On Sunday evening our son-in-law said we should be on the alert because there was a hurricane coming through the Caribbean. We were watching the news and went on planning, packing suitcases and choosing clothing for a cooler than usual Dominican after the storm. We emptied out the fridge and did all the usual things that are part of our preparation for a mission trip. Robbie Burns an 18th century Scottish poet wrote about the uncertainty that can be part of human plans in his poem, “To a Mouse”, saying “the best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley.”
We can make plans but they are made in vain if not made in accordance with God’s plan. Hurricane Irma came through with full force. We saw video of the flooded airport in Puerto Plata, our arrival point. The airline cancelled our flight then requested we contact them to make other arrangements. We will travel later this month.
Jeremiah 29: 11 states, “‘For I know the plans I have for you’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ “ Many people have memorized this verse and know that God has plans for their life. We are waiting for the future and the plan he has for us in the Dominican Republic later this month. We are confident that his plan is not to harm us but to prosper us.
Most pastors and leaders are concerned when their people are doing nothing by way of ministering to others. The truth is that in most cases doing nothing is exactly that doing nothing: no ministry happens. During the past week, my husband and I have watched ministry happen while we did nothing.
One evening, our guest Rosario from Mexico, sat in the back seat of the car and listened and counselled and encouraged Jorge, a migrant worker while we drove to a supper and teaching times for migrant workers. She urged Jorge to bring words of encouragement and love and forgiveness to his daughter. The next day he assured us she had been right and he had spoken with his daughter about his faith. In two short visits to homes where migrants workers live, Rosario listened and asked questioned and advised another Mexican to leave the past behind and concentrate on building and restoring relationships with his family. What did we do so that this ministry happened? We sat and listened.
Later in the week, Jorge and his co-worker enjoyed several meals of Mexican food that Rosario prepared. While eating burritos, asking questions about where to find chilis rojos or Valentina hot sauce, Rosario also talked about caring for families, education and questions of faith.
Doing nothing is not a guarantee of ministry but being available to listen, being willing to let others use their gifts is very important to ministry.
This has been a week of reconnecting with people. While at a London church for a Sunday morning Spanish service, we met a couple we have not seen in several years. We began talking about how things have changed and remembering previously shared experiences and answering the question of how we both were at the West Park Church. My husband and I drove to West Park Church in London that day to bring two Mexican migrant workers to attend Pastor Mario’s church service. Our friend had been attending English language services at West Park for more than a year and had just recently had a conversation with Pastor Mario.
A few days later we drove to Toronto airport to pick up another friend from Mexico whom we had not seen in several years. Chayito visited us with her family several years before. We first connected again when she phoned. Reconnecting led to an invitation for her to visit us and more phone calls to make the visit a reality. We learned that an eTA is not an estimated time of arrival but an electronic Travel authorization and necessary for a Mexican visiting Canada.
Since her arrival we have been shopping for groceries, remembering and enjoying as she cooks for us, and as we pray together. We look forward to a great time of ministry and to working together on the mission field in the Dominican Republic. The ministry already began when we drove to a Spanish supper and service and Chayito chatted with Jorge mentoring him encouraging him spiritually.
Collected short stories, reflections and devotions written by Barbara Peterson are bound together in a newly published book, The Pensive Heart. Each story touched on an individual or experience from my time as a missionary: some of the experiences take place in Haiti or Mexico but the majority are based in the Dominican Republic. There are stories to make you laugh such as the story of Joel and a mouthful of cinnamon hearts or a two year old and a grandmother chasing each other up and down the street. Other stories are about my husband Lloyd and a Zacchaeus flying over the fence and ending up who know where. All the stories are based on actual experience and are about families and a father’s love or about God’s love manifested through the innocence of a child or the tragedy of stray dog running away with a family’s main meal for the day.
Along with the stories are poems about God exemplified in a tree or of people bent in submission before God. The Pensive Heart describes a heart which seeks to understand God’s grace and delights in the glory of God’s creation. AS you read the stories and poems you will sense a different culture and ask what mission God has called you to.
Last week I wrote about being still and knowing God, knowing how and when he calls us to serve. After a period of relative inactivity and ministry, God called us to action and business. First, we picked up some of the migrant workers and drove them to a social and barbecue. We chatted, ate, and listened to a message about a good God, a great God and the God of Gods. (I was asked to translate.)
Later in the week we enjoyed meeting Marta and her husband Cleo and showing Marta some of the character of our home town; Marta was in Canada for two weeks visiting her husband who is one of the migrant workers in the area. Ministry meant picking and eating peaches in an orchard, driving by farms where Mexicans work, and getting one’s feet wet in Lake Huron. That was followed by sitting on the rocks under the Bluewater Bridge eating french fries from the truck under the bridge followed by ice cream at Ice Cream Galore store both very traditional things to do in Sarnia in the summer.
Then we became the channel of communication informing 3 other migrant workers of a Saturday evening service and the details of the trip to Niagara Falls. Marta and Aaron who are first timers to Canada looked forward eagerly to seeing the falls. Then we became chauffeurs again getting people to the service in Thedford – our second visit there in a week.