The last few months… this whole new year, has been a series of challenges followed by blessings. I had intended to share more about all of that previously, but in the last week the Lord has made His message very clear.
We’ve just finished a spell from the end of June through the end of July with back to back groups. We do have more coming, but with gaps in between. The Rivera family was on vacation during that time, so needless to say, it was a very busy, but fruitful time. Lots of great fellowship, blessed kids, and completed projects. Not the least of which is that our pool finally got cleaned out, our staff got educated on its care, and now the kids are enjoying it on these particularly hot days.
At various times certain groups helped with the chapel. This last week I was particularly trying to free myself up so I could accomplish some steps before our family goes on vacation, so that others can continue while I’m gone. It was seeming like everything had been working against me; the electrician couldn’t come, spontaneous urgent needs arising, etc., etc.. Finally, I managed to get out there one afternoon. A thunderstorm was building (my absolute favorite weather). We were thanking God for the cover from the sun. The rain started to fall. No problem, it was still warm, and as a wiser older block layer once said, “Well, we ain’t made of sugar.” Then lightning and thunder started getting closer and closer… and we all happened to be working right next to a lot of vertical rebar (as good as lightning rods). Still being stubborn, it wasn’t until a bolt exploded right over our heads that wisdom finally entered me, and we all decided that we, or I, were resisting something that the Lord was progressively asserting more clarity on.
It was going to be a few days before I would have another chance to work with the group that was visiting. In that meantime a brother from the ejido (eheedo – small agricultural town) got beat up by a friend on drugs. For the following two days I was gone, and that too, was by our Lord’s design. The first day I was gone the brother who got beat up (Fausto) came, needing encouragement. He’d been getting hit hard by the enemy in other ways recently. A pastor, who had come with the group, “happened” to be the one that met him as he came into the Mission, and they spoke and prayed for two hours for the friend (Julian) who had injured him badly. He felt no animosity toward him, and couldn’t understand why the Lord was allowing all these bad things to happen. When I returned that night I was updated on what had happened, and could see the Lord’s design for having pastor Brad here that day.
The next day our family was gone again. When we got back Brad updated me again on what had occurred that day, “Guess who came today.”
“Fausto?” I guessed.
“Julian. And he gave his life to the Lord!”
I told Brad that when things happen like this, it’s clear that the Lord brought him here for such a specific time and purpose as this. (Esther 4:14)
The next day… Okay, I am going to make this happen. Again, against distractions, I forged my way out to the chapel site to work… and in walked Julian. He was so grateful to be saved, and that he had found people that would receive him. He wanted to help in any way that he could. I told him that would be great, but first we had to go and be reconciled to Fausto. He agreed. Pastor Brad went into town with us, and when we came to Fausto’s house there were immediate apologies, followed by hugging and tears and clear evidence of a new direction and encouragement for Fausto. We later went to the next town to share the great news with Julian’s brother, including “The Great News” of the gospel.
Later when Brad and I were talking about everything that had transpired, I told him that first of all that day I finally recognized that our Father was trying to get my attention. Next, I could hear Him speaking very forcefully that I had to change the Sunday message that I had planned for the next day (again, God changing my plans), but to what I didn’t know. Again, later, I was thinking about the beauty that God had just wrought from the ugly, and was thinking about I Peter 2:5 –
…you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Then our Father made it clear to me; while He was using us to build up a physical chapel, at the same time, more importantly, He is building His church. The message was so clear that it only took an hour of study the next morning to put the 12 or so passages together. The Lord had shown me a message for churches in II Chronicles 4 a few years ago, that I always love to share whenever I get the chance, and it was clearly ordained for that day.
Our church services could be a bit disconcerting for new people. All of our kids are there with us, sometimes making all of their loud noises. We have people join us from town, some of which don’t speak English, so we have a translator on stage, sharing only one or two lines at a time. But in light of all of this, the church in Carmen Serdan is slowly growing with people from the ejido. Some by mishap, others purely by tasting and seeing that God is good. (I Peter 2:3)
For me, last week was a clear reminder of Proverbs 16:9 –
A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.
May I never get in the Lord’s way of building His church because I am trying to build His chapel.