Thursday, November 11, 2010

Just Another Day on "The Island"

Sometimes I think that our ministry would make for an interesting TV show, with no shortage of comedy and unexpected twists and turns. On the otherhand, some days are so out there that they couldn't fit into just one episode. The other Sunday out at the island where our family works with the community development project and church plant was a great example.

Cam wasn't feeling well, and the boys had been up late at a sleepover, so I went to the island by myself. I arrived to find chaos - kids were everywhere, and there was the usual confusion of what needed to be done and how it was going to get done. "S" who is over the project, wanted to talk to me. We went into the room where we hold services on Sunday mornings, and she began to tell me about the spiritual warfare that has knocked out numerous people who have initially wanted to help on the island. People having panic attacks and almost driving cars off the bridge across the river, freak car accidents, nervous breakdowns, depression, marital and family problems, and stalled construction work have almost been the norm. While she talked, aa large rat strolled back and forth across the floor in the room behind me. Since we didn't have any way to deal with it, I shut the door - out of sight, out of mind :)

"S" proceeded to tell me that she had just gotten back from visiting a lady who had been a model, but who went missing several years ago. Everyone assumed she had abandonded her family, but it turned out she had been kidnapped and held in captivity for years and forced to work as a prostitute. She managed to escape out of a high window and then was chased down and severely beaten by the other prostitutes as she ran away. She managed to get to the home of a relative, where she had to be taken directly to the hospital for emergency surgery on a cyst on her back. [We later found out that she finally arrived at home only to find that her family has converted to Christ. As the neighborhood children gathered around the house and chanted "hey, hey, Jesus is our King" (which rhymes in Portuguese), her family showered her with the love of Christ.]

As we started the service, we found out that there was an 11 year old child from the community who was missing. An angry relative had shown up at the house with a gun, and she fled into the night and never came back. We prayed for her safe return, and then continued with the service. As usual toddlers, dogs, and mothers freely came and went. In addition, we had several boyfriends/fathers present who were also workers on the kitchen construction project. I was storying through Nehemiah 7 and then helping them draw spiritual truths out of the text for themselves. The lesson was absolute chaos. I was emphasizing integrity and fearing God, and several of the women kept punching the men when we mentioned being faithful (in general). It's hard enough to get them to look at the Bible without constant talking, confusion, babies, and punching going on.

During the study, we heard that the missing child had been found. We stopped and thanked God for answered prayer.

We finished up, and one of the grandmothers (she's 34) said that she wanted to dedicate her new grandbaby. "S" asked me to talk about dedication vs. baptism, said she was going to get someone (who I assumed was another baby) and disappeared. I got up and explained what dedication is, that we don't baptise babies, etc., and then proceeded to dedicate the baby (I figured hey, I'll go with the ministry opportunity that's in front of me at the moment). "S" came back in some time later and said that it was time for the dedication! It turns out that she had gone to get the father, who was one of the construction workers who had left during the Bible study.

Meanwhile, a little girl comes into the room and tells us that the missing child is still missing and didn't come back after all. After some confusion, I (who have no idea what's going on and don't know any of the people involved) am asked to go figure out what's going on. I go out to find a distraught lady outside with a crowd gathered around her. I finally get her to tell me that someone said that her daughter was with the police, but she didn't really know. Someone came and got her and brought her inside, where I prayed for her daughter's return and "S" witnessed to her and leads her to Christ.

[We later found out that the child had been found by the police and turned over to her older sister, and noboby bothered to tell her mother where she was or if she was alright. So, God answered our prayers and she was returned home safely.]

Then, the father of the baby I have already dedicated came back in under considerable duress, and "S" prayed over the parents. All the while we were praying, one of the other construction workers is motioning for him to get back to work, and he is shrugging his shoulders and rolling his eyes....

It was one of those days. I teach church planting and missions, and this is not how I tell people to get it done, but sometimes it's what happens despite our best efforts. I got home mentally and spiritually worn out. However, in retrospect, a missing mother was found and ministered to, a missing child was found, a lost mother came to Christ, and a child was dedicated to the Lord. All in all, not a bad day!

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