I listened to someone on the television who was saying that he had given up on prayer because there were so many unanswered prayers. But Philippians 4: 6 states” in every situation … present your requests to God.” God hears and answers prayer. Some situation and requests seem unusual and even a bit silly perhaps. I was reminded today of packing and moving day with a family that many reasons to ask for prayer. Their daughters were moving to a place further north joining their parents. It was the end of November and snow was predicted for the travel on a difficult road; there was a reasonable request for prayer for safety and travelling mercies. There was serious illness in the family, a child about to be born, concern for the safety of those who helped pack the rented moving truck: all of these were pretty normal reasons for prayer. Yet we also stood and prayed the plumbing and septic tank would hold out for another day so that there was not another stress on the family. This request was a bit more unusual and God answered. The truck arrived safely.
This week two men came to our apartment to talk about their interest in a struggling church and its pastor in a small community in El Salvador. Of course, we prayed for Pastor Isobel even though we had never met him. However prayer was lifted up by these two gentlemen who spoke no Spanish and their heart-felt prayer was extended to the pastor who does not speak English. The prayer was translated and spoken over the phone to Pastor Isobel. We prayed for him and his family, his congregation for the plantain that had been planted on the church land and for rain and sufficient workers to bring water to the plants if rain did not come. In spite of language differences and a distance of thousands of miles, prayer praised God, touched people and encouraged both Canadians and Pastor Isobel.
Is there anything too small or too unusual to be brought to God through prayer? God’s word tells us in every situation we should bring our requests to him. He answers.
A little can become a lot. When Lloyd and I we were in Navas in the Dominican Republic, he was asked to teach on a topic that many pastors find difficult to preach about – tithing and offering. At the end of his presentation, he gave an example of how a little could become a lot. He challenged people in the Navas congregation to set aside 5 pesos a day for the construction of their new temple. (Five pesos a day is about twelve cents Canadian.) Five pesos a day would be about 1, 700 pesos in a year.
In the past, banks shaped like a loaf have been used for setting aside missions funds. We are re-using the banks and challenging people in Canada to put a loonie or toonie in the bank each day. If several people accept this challenge, there would be a considerable support for the Navas construction project, of a new and much larger sanctuary. Our support will enable the Navas church to complete the construction more rapidly.
Money given through the loaf banks will be directed to Navas church through Open Arms church in Tillsonburg, Ontario. If you want to be a part of the challenge and would like a bank, contact us at email@example.com.
Navas F M church in the Dominican Republic is a church with several key people who are very passionate about their faith and ministry. Norma is a perfect example. Norma is very concerned about social justice for people inside and outside of the church. When she went with team members from Canada to deliver a food package to an older couple, she was appalled by their living conditions. Their house was falling down and they were attempting to build a house with no floor and sitting on the ground without a foundation. The house was about 15 feet from a cliff and a house without foundation could easily be destroyed or swept away in a windstorm. That same day Norma started talking to people, to the local government and people from the church. They began almost immediately building in faith and blocks were donated, cement donated and both the government, individuals and the Canadian team donated to get the foundation laid.
Georgina is equally passionate and her area of ministry is working with children. Georgina’s passion comes from her thankfulness that someone introduced her to Christ when she was a child. On one Saturday afternoon in April, she organized a 4th anniversary of the children cell group ministry. Over a hundred children paraded down the main street to the church. A band from the next town played Christian music, children carried banners especially made for the event and everyone wore a t-shirt with the slogan Soy de Jesus. (I am from Jesus). As they marched, children held up in the air bible they had been given at their cell. The event involved a slide show, choruses, dynamic presentation by children and certificate for mothers who allow their children to be in the cell group program.
Pastor assistant Dignorah’s passion is for teaching and preparing leaders: Danny and Jony are passionate about worship and prayer. Pastor Gabriel is passionate about his studies and about the spiritual growth of the church. A church with passionate people is a church on fire.
One day in Navas, my husband, Lloyd, and I went visiting with Pastor Gabriel. Our first stop was at the home of Pastor Carlos (now in his 80s) and his wife, Juanin. (Pastor Carlos still pastors a church in a small community called RuiSeñor.) Prayer for healing is central in his services. We prayed for Juanin’s mother and sang one of her favourite hymns. Juanin’s mother, who is referred to the community as Mamita, was one of the first Christians in the community of Navas. As she lay in her bed, Mamita sang along with us.
Our next stop was half way up the hill at the home of Pastor Bono. Pastor Bono and his wife live on a large piece of property with a big house. Pastor Bono walks slowly and his wife uses a cane to walk. Both Bono and his wife love to recall experiences from the past and to sing the old hymns and pray together with visitors. Each time we come, they pull up chairs and we form a circle and laugh and chat then pray. Although we came to visit and bless, it was such a blessing to be with him.
Later that day in the evening, we went to see Pastor Juan Perez. Pastor Juan suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and his activity is pretty restricted. Sometimes visiting Juan’s home involves bringing a package of food items for Juan and his wife. As we sang hymns and talked about God’s comfort, tears came to his eyes and then ran down his cheek.
In Hebrews 6: 10, we read, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help him .” May all retired pastors be remembered for their ministry and their preciousness to the heavenly Father.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” was the question Cain asked God when he was confronted by God after killing his brother Abel. The fact that God asked Cain about his brother indicates God’s concern for our care of each other.
I ask the question today whether I am my brother’s keeper and if I am, who is my brother? Should I be my brother’s keeper? Should the church concern itself about the welfare of people inside and outside of the church? In the years after the Great Depression, governments became increasingly involved in providing social assistance. The church relaxed and let government and social agencies care and provide for others. We are in a period now when government is withdrawing some of the benefits and assistance it provides. Will Christians and churches step up to a growing need?
What causes me to reflect on the question of being someone’s keeper? I just returned from the Dominican Republic and our small team went out to visit families and bring benevolent food packages to people in the community of Navas. At one site, we found a family living in a home constructed of poles cut from trees, then covered by banana or palm leaves. Three houses were located on a small compound at the edge of a cliff; the homes belong to members of an extended family. An older couple in poor health lives in one of the houses. The house would be blown over by a strong winds and the house had no sanitation. They use a bucket and then dump the contents in a hole behind the house.
Norma, a member of the benevolent committee, was appalled by what she saw and began to gather supplies, cement blocks donated by the syndicate, used wood from neighbors who are demolishing a house and more blocks donated by neighbors and cement purchased as a result of a gift of the mission team. A few days later the mission team returned to the site and saw the foundation canals dug, a foundation of blocks laid and re-enforcing bar placed ready for the 3 or 4 rows of blocks at the base of the house. The gentleman for whom the house is being built sat on a chair on a heap of dirt and sobbed as Dominicans and Canadians prayed for him and the continuation of the work. The local church was providing support and labour even though it is in a construction project for a new much larger sanctuary.
Should we be concerned about our brothers and the less fortunate? Yes. In the church community of Maizal we encountered a family in desperate situations. A couple and their two year old and two month old children had nothing to eat and the father was at the point of considering suicide. As a brother’s keeper, we purchased pampers, baby formula and food. Jesus said when speaking about feeding the hungry. “Whatever you have done for one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40. We must be our brothers’ keeper.
Navas is a community which stretches out along the main street and is home for about 9000 people. The road slopes steadily from the East and is a comfortable walk going west but more of a challenge climbing east. From the eastern tip there are houses along both sides and just before approaching bridge there are two small corner stores. In these stores you cannot go in between the aisles and pick out what you want. The store is very small – there will be a cooler which holds pop etc. and perhaps another for cheese and salami. To purchase something you go up to a window and ask for what you want. The owner can reach everything in the store with no more than four or five steps.
As you continue west, on your right you pass homes and stores, a government building with a guard sitting outside a lane leading to a school and another to a clinic, a hairdressing salon and finally a church. On the left on a corner you will set a lot of motorcycles and several men sitting on a bench or leaning against a tree. They are the motorcycles taxi drivers who are busiest at the hour of opening and closing of classes in the school. Next to this area is a restaurant now no longer open and then you come to the corner to turn off left and to the property of the church construction site. There are no gas stations, no hardware store, no bake shop, no bank, nowhere to make photo copies etc. You can’t buy a diet coke, a birthday cake, some of your prescriptions. Unlike a town back in Canada, there are men on donkeys or groups of cattle moving down the street.
Yet Navas is a community I like to visit. There is a great church, wonderful friends, lots of green grass and flowers and slightly cooler temperatures than many parts of the Dominican Republic. We are enjoying wonderful hospitality, great meals, fresh pineapple and mandarins and good but strong Dominican coffee.
In the last couple of years when we went to the Dominican Republic as missionaries, Pastora Gladys opened her door early in the morning signaling that coffee was ready. She had already made a quick trip to the local store for fresh bread. Along with this breakfast, Gladys shared smiles and great stories about the ministry in her church in Hatico Mao. We have known Gladys for several years and she has always been gracious. She is willing to store things for us when we are home in Canada and to do laundry and prepare food and to pray for us both when we are there and at home. As she leaves her home, she always looks across the street and up to the roof to wave to us. It was from the same roof that we could check and see if coffee was ready.
Gladys has been pastor in Hatico Mao for 10 years. We have watched the church grow and mature during those ten years. The congregation has changed from being mostly children to now having more adults than children. For several years, we have visited Hatico for services, for craft classes, street evangelism and children’s ministry. The physical structure is small and has few rows of block for walls and then wood on the walls up to the roof line. The roof is of tin and the wiring is visible as it is strung between bulbs and fans. A dream for Gladys and her congregation has been to enlarge the building and make it more secure with concrete walls, a new entrance set back from the sidewalk and more space inside. A gallon jug sits by the pulpit and has the name galon de fe – a gallon of faith – and people dropped coins and bills in the jar as one initiative to raise funds for construction.
Pastor Gladys has prayed for construction and the new structure will be a reality soon. We are spending five days with Gladys and the congregation this month, teaching, visiting a neighbourhood school and participating in services. Gladys’s prayer for Hatico is that the congregation becomes a totally committed congregation. Please join her in her prayer.