Last night more than twenty people including Mexican workers, a pastoral family originally from El Salvador and Canadians came together in time of fellowship in a church in Thedford, Ontario. This is the first of a weekly ministry which will continue until the workers go back to Mexico in the fall. One of the workers […]
Last night more than twenty people including Mexican workers, a pastoral family originally from El Salvador and Canadians came together in time of fellowship in a church in Thedford, Ontario. This is the first of a weekly ministry which will continue until the workers go back to Mexico in the fall. One of the workers was born in Kenya, studied in University in Costa Rico where he learned excellent Spanish and is now in S.W. Ontario on a two year work contract. Jorge and Cleo had hugs for Luis and Steve who had been in Mexico a couple of months earlier to start a church plant. Each week’s meeting will include a meal, some teaching of English and bible study.
Everyone enjoyed a good meal of chicken rice and salad and then sat around the table for conversation, sharing of experience and hearing about a special gift. This gift like all gifts can be accepted or rejected. The special gift is the salvation we are offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. One worker, Aaron, accepted that gift for the first times as Pastor Mario led him and others in prayer. Aaron is the worker in blue seated at the top of the picture beside pastor Mario in yellow shirt.
Mexicans enjoyed the opportunity to talk with others from Mexico, to eat candy from Mexico and to take home new shirts and also a Bible. Cleo, one of the Mexicans, brought gifts – onion and potatoes – which both Canadians and workers could take home.
A cousin I had not seen for a couple of years came to visit; we chatted and shared memories and went out for lunch. Before she left, she gave me a gift – a gift a ring with five pearls. The ring was an engagement ring which belonged to my grandmother and since I was the first grandchild, I was being given the ring. After trying it on to see if it fit, we talked about the rings we wore. Both my engagement ring and my first family ring have been replaced. I lost the diamond in my engagement ring after wearing it for forty years. My family ring got pulled from my finger in a tussle with the conveyor belt which moves luggage through security at the airport. I did not realize I had lost until I was on the plane.
My husband bought me a new ring and a couple of years later I was given a new family ring which included a stone for my son-in-law whom I love like a son. I also wear with pleasure my mother-in-law’s ring. My cousin also had rings from her family and in-laws.
Why do people give or receive rings? When the prodigal son returned home, his father placed a ring on his finger as recognition of his son and his acceptance into the family that he left behind. Rings are given as a special favor several times in the Bibles. A ring was placed in Rebekah’s nose by the servant Abraham sent to find a wife for Isaac. Joseph was given Pharaoh’s ring as a sign of authority. Engagement rings are given and received as a sign of favor and commitment. Family rings are given as a sign of favor and belonging.
I was blessed and favored by the gift of a ring. I have also been blesses and favored by a much greater gift, the gift of salvation and eternal life.
Marleny I have known since she was 9 months old and she has always been a delight to be with. When she was young, she travelled with her mother on several mission teams with us. One of her favourite questions was “Can I help?” She loves the Lord and loves to be leading a children’s ministry. She is a bundle of energy and she uses that energy to teach dance as worship, to decorate the church for weddings (the church is not a completed building and therefore harder to decorate) and to lead in worship for service. Even when she was pregnant, she came to help us with craft class in the church a couple of blocks from her home.
Marleny is also a young mother with three children under the age of six. She teaches her children to pray and sing worship songs and Adriany, the oldest, participates in both dance and singing during services. Marleny also puts on clown makeup and costume and sings out the good news of Jesus to children. Marleny would love to finish college and be involved in active ministry. Learning to speak and read English is another goal. She was absolutely delighted to receive a bilingual bible in February.
Marleny cares about people and remembers what they like. She always finds bananas for Tío Lloyd and buys some cheese for me. With all of the caring for her children, she still has time to prepare breakfast, put on a pot of coffee or prepare a meal for others. She even prepared a pot of soup and with her husband on their motorcycle delivered to our place. What she has she shares with others. Marleny’s talents are not hidden and she clearly deserves to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Through the windshield of the truck, we watch Pastor Gabriel as he leads the way to a house up the hill where we are going to deliver a benevolent food package an older couple in the community. Ten minutes later we follow him back to the store to pick up another delivery. Then he tells us he will be gone just a minute and when he returns on the motorcycle he brings with him a bag of mandarins or pineapple that he picked up in another town. Then he is off to get the church ready for a conversation style meeting with the youth and after service he gives someone a ride home and meets us back at his home. Are you getting the picture of a busy man? You should.
Pastor Gabriel, who is not yet thirty years old, is a husband, father of two, a university student and on occasion a teacher at the Free Methodist seminary as well as the pastor of a large church, supervisor of two church plants and four cell groups in Navas. His young family has experienced frequents health concerns and limited financial resources. He also welcomes missionary teams in his community and connects with the community, praying weekly at the medical clinic down the street. Above all Gabriel is an upright man with a servant’s heart who is concerned that people know the Lord.
He teaches by example: when there is a program to reach out and visit house by house, he takes with him four or five people and demonstrates then involves those with him in the process. At the first home, he will speak but at the second he will ask someone with him to bring the greeting and another to read a short scripture or to invite the residents of the home to a special event in the church. Then at the next house, he will ask one of the visitation team to pray or lead a chorus. Gabriel is like the angel Gabriel, a messenger of God.
At the end of this year my husband Lloyd and I will celebrate 50 years of matrimony. It is a cause for great celebration – not enough marriages last that long for reasons of sickness, accident, death or separation and divorce. Churches should be one of the first to celebrate such marriages reinforcing the idea that marriage is designed for “until death do us part.” After all, Jesus in Mark 10: 7-9 speaking of marriage, stated, “What God has joined together, let no one separate.”
In some countries marriage does not happen because it is an expensive process and because people do not believe it to be important. Lloyd and I had the privilege of attending the wedding in Mexico of a couple that had lived together for almost twenty years. Jorge chose marriage because he felt it was necessary to what was right before God. His decision was also a testimony to his sons and daughters who challenged him saying why should they marry if he had not married. We also attended and became padrinos at several weddings in the Dominican Republic. (A padrino commits to care for children coming from the marriage if anything happens to the parents.) Members of the church marry legally before the law but do not consummate the marriage until they marry in the church.
Some churches in the Dominican are encouraging couples who have lived together for some time to get married. Marriage is expensive as the paper work can cost more than a simple wedding reception. (In the wedding in Mexico, the paperwork cost more than a reception for about 35 people.) A couple in Canada could work with a Dominican church to sponsor a wedding and covering some or all of the costs. In April, a couple in Maizal, Dominican Republic will be the first of several from the congregation to marry with the help of the church and a sponsor. This couple has been together for 13 years and are now seeking God’s blessing as He makes them one.
“Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.” King David when confronted with his sin by Nathan cried out for mercy with these words to God. How wonderful it is that we have a God who can restore relationships and bring rejoicing out of pain.
This week I was given a date for a total knee replacement operation; I have waited a long time for that decision. While there has been and will be pain yet for a while, I look forward to restoration and renewed mobility to do God’s work. While I wait, I minister through social media and wait till I can return to the Dominican and walk pain free. Many years ago I broke an ankle that kept me off my left foot for three months. However God enabled me to go to the Dominican that summer and minister. (Only limitation no more motorcycle rides). The following poem written at that time expresses my hope and delight in God’s power to renew and heal.
intricately designed, wonderfully made
broken, splintered, shattered
A spirit once singing its joy
now dejected, deflated
defeated, Utterly crushed
A whispering refrain
wells up, “Rejoice.”
First feebly –
growing to a crescendo
“Let the bones you have crushed rejoice!”