As I shared in my previous post, I am surprised by how long it has taken me to write these recaps as well as how long the recaps themselves are! While I suspect that the main benefit of writing down my remembrances belongs solely to me, I’ve decided that no matter how long it takes, time wise and word wise, I am glad for the exercise. Reflecting and remembering are powerful; my faith is built as I meditate on the Lord’s faithfulness then and now. Struggling to find words to adequately convey the experience will be, I hope, an Ebenezer stone of sorts, a testimony to the great things the Lord has done. Great is His faithfulness!
I awoke early that Tuesday morning, our first morning in Nuevo Guinea, and headed down to the lobby for some caffeine and some WiFi. Scoring on both counts, I emailed my husband:
I miss you!
Sitting in lobby drinking a glass pepsi. Headache since Monday.
Meeting with some pastor’s wives this morning then door to door this
afternoon. Conference again tonight. Went ok last night. Very hard to
speak with translator! Counseled with a woman after. All women sweet
and eager to learn.
Miss home. No hot water after all
miss you and boys love you so much
After drinking the Pepsi, I discovered the aforementioned coffee that was almost but not quite (i.e. instant). I drank it anyway.
That morning the two men on our team, Eric and David, had arranged to meet with area pastors in a mini-pastor’s conference of sorts. Amy and I, along with Julie, the photographer extraordinaire on our team, were to meet with their wives and other women’s ministry leaders. “Just pour into them and encourage them,” we were told, “from 9 to 12.” You have to know: Amy and I are cut from similar cloth. Small talk, in translated Spanish or English, doesn’t come easily to us. To say we were intimidated and nervous would probably be an understatement. I know I was. Three hours? What could we talk about for three hours?
Well, it turns out I needn’t have worried. Of course the Lord was faithful and Amy, a pastor’s wife herself, was amazing. And the women themselves were so open and honest that it was refreshingly easy to chat and converse. Amy asked them first to tell us their names and how long they and their husbands had been in ministry. There were maybe ten or twelve women with ministry experience ranging from one or two years to twenty or more. We asked them to share about the struggles and difficulties they were facing. We talked about raising kids, wayward children, and the expectations and criticisms that accompany leadership. Some wept; some boasted in the Lord; all were genuine. There was no pretense. Just us women. I was struck by the similarities we share. Certainly language was a barrier; our love for Jesus and our desire to serve Him was not.
Amy encouraged the women to meet together on a regular basis, to pray together, to talk together as we were doing, to study God’s Word together. I’ve often wondered if they are, if our meetings on that Tuesday and Wednesday planted in them a seed, a desire for accountability and community. Maybe so.
We met in the front of the hotel with a direct view of the street. One of the young wives had her baby with her and it was my pleasure and privilege to give her a break and hold him myself. I bounced him around the lobby, sometimes looking out down the street, watching the school children in their blue and white uniforms walking to and from school. We would see chickens grazing in the street, a large tour bus rambling past, motorcycles and the occasional car whizzing by. Just as common would be a man on horseback leading a pack mule. We even watched a rider gallop by holding a lasso. In town!
I don’t know how much we actually saw of Nuevo Guinea the town. It didn’t seem very large to me. Cars, trucks, and motorcycles were common but it was my impression that most people walked. There was one paved road that I saw, one cobblestone, most were dirt and gravel with deep ruts that forced us to hold on tight as our van bounced and careened its way across. Horses, chickens and other livestock were also common. I woke up to a rooster crowing every morning! I liked seeing the school children; the girls in white shirts and blue skirts, hair carefully slicked back into braids or ponytails, the boys in blue pants, white shirts carefully tucked in unless they were headed home, in which case the shirt was often unbuttoned, shirttail flying. I saw one boy, maybe ten or twelve years old, walking home from school dribbling a basketball. A basketball was such an anomaly, or so it seemed to me in my limited experience in the country, that I tried to take his picture. Sadly, I couldn’t get the shot.
Our meeting with the pastor’s wives went well. Really well. Afterwards, we went to eat at the restaurant and this time I ordered grilled chicken with a jalapeno and onion sauce along with the ever present rice and beans and french fries. And a coke. It was delicious, again. After lunch instead of going door to door, we visited a potential site for a Bible institute and then returned to the hotel to rest before the conference that night.
That night I taught on the call of Christ to surrender all in order to follow Him. I have no words to describe the evening. It was powerful. It was amazing. It was profound. It was Spirit-filled and Spirit-led and so far beyond me that, well, words fail…
When we began teaching, my translator and I, there were maybe twenty women there. More came. We filled all available seats. More came. We stopped teaching while the pastor of the church and a couple of other men brought in some chairs. More came. We stopped again while the men maneuvered in a bench from the sanctuary space. More came. Stopped again for another bench to be brought in. And another. Amy and Julie sat outside. Inside it was literally shoulder to shoulder and HOT. Amy told me later she counted close to sixty women.
Each night, I told the ladies that it was my desire that they become women who know and love God’s Word. That night, Tuesday night, was no different as I pleaded with them to find in Christ the joy and Treasure of their lives. Sweat rolled down our backs as the fiery passion of the Lord beat in our hearts. We read of the pearl of great price and with boldness and a heart breaking with love for my Savior, I begged them to see the surpassing worth of Christ. He is worth it! Whatever sacrifice He asks, we can count the cost and lay down our lives with JOY because we love Him, because He is the great reward. His call to die to self, to take up our cross, to follow Him–there is nothing easy about it. It is hard and the price is steep. He asks for everything! But when we see His mercies to us despite our sin, we gladly, joyfully, unreservedly lay ourselves down as living sacrifices for His glory…
Afterwards, one of the women thanked me for “that preaching.” Yeah, I guess you could say it was intense. I can’t explain it. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the sheer number of women. I tend to think it was the fiery sword of the Spirit, the living Word of God piercing, dividing, accomplishing His purposes, and bringing glory to the Son through the proclamation of His saving grace! I can’t understand it. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand His ways. I don’t understand why He would allow me and Maricela, my translator, the privilege of being His ambassadors of reconciliation. That Tuesday night was one of the most intense and profound and humbling teaching opportunities I’ve ever experienced. To God be the glory; great things He has done.
I was drained. Give out. Exhausted. Nearly a zombie. Yet so full, filled to overflow with the confident joy that follows seeing the Lord’s goodness in such intensity. Our high remained undaunted even when a careless comment threatened to steal our joy. Once back at the hotel, we laughed, we rejoiced, we ate trail mix, we discovered we could get a fairly consistent WiFi connection on the rail outside our hotel room. We sent emails, we wondered why my husband was asking about Clare being Jack’s sister (LOST), we were thankful for it all.
It was good.