Many people look forward to Thanksgiving thinking of turkey. But thanksgiving is not a one-day event or a special meal with all the trimmings. Thanksgiving should be as Psalm 100:4 states a process. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” Such thanksgiving is an ongoing event.
I’d like to highlight three things in the past several months for which I give thanks this year. I underwent knee replacement surgery in May after six weeks of exercise and preparation. My mind was at peace because I knew God had answered prayer concerning the pain I experienced and the surgery came at his timing and as his way of healing. I experienced peace because I had surrendered the operation to God and knew he was in control. Things went extremely well and recovery was rapid.
Recovery went so well that I was able to attend two weddings in July at some distance from home. In the first wedding, God’s presence was very real through all of the service and activity. The second was special in that I was able to visit family members that I had not seen in four or five years. Both wedding services were outside in locations which revealed God’s beautiful creation.
A delightful surprise was the visit of Rosario from Mexico. While Rosario and Lloyd and I planned to spend time in the Dominican Republic, two hurricanes caused our flights to be cancelled twice. God opened doors for ministry to Mexican migrant workers in several communities and we were able to pray with many workers for their families back home in Mexico who were impacted by the earthquakes in Mexico. A special blessing for the three of us (Rosario Lloyd and I) was our hour of praise choruses, scripture and prayer every evening.
The praise, thanks and glory belong to our God who made all of the blessings possible.
In one week, we have seen the temperature soar into the thirties and then drop to single digits. The winds have whipped the tree tops outside our apartment balcony. Rain has been sudden and then almost immediately followed by sunshine. Brightly coloured maple leaves are beginning to fall. The glory and majesty of God’s creation surrounds us. God’s word reminds us that all things were made by and through him.
In Niagara Falls, we sat during dinner looking out over the river at both the American and Canadian Falls. The majesty and beauty of creation are evident in what is referred to as one of the seven wonders of the world. The mist rises; crowds gather. Some visit the store at Table Rock and others walk along the gardens. Many wait for evening when the sky turns dark to see colours projected in the cascading water. The colours are a human effort to embellish the natural beauty but they would have no power to touch us if the falls did not exist. We are reminded that all things are created by God and nothing was created without him. Our ingenuity and our efforts to enhance the beauty are only possible because God has given us the capacity to be design the lighting system.
We drove by the tourist shops, had a lunch by lock 7 on the Welland Canal, saw the massive boats man has built passing through, shopped at an outlet mall and enjoyed it all. However the majesty of creation remains with us long after malls, or a good buffet. Praise God for showing himself through his creation.
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.