Thursday, February 24, 2011

"First Fruits" in Pichal

We were in Cubulco this past weekend and we were able to witness how the Lord is continuing His work in the churches.  Several years ago we made a decision as mission and churches to enter a stage in the relationship where the mission would reduce its financial support each year.  While this was a hard decision to make, it was a necessary one for the further maturity and independence of the Cubulco churches.  It was important for the churches to realize that they needed to take on more responsibility especially in the area of finances. In previous years we spent considerable time teaching on giving, but since there was no plan in place to reduce funding the many of the people in the churches did not feel the need to give.  Thankfully now most of the churches understand that giving is a vital part of worship, although there is still a lot of work to be done on teaching people what the Biblical concept of giving is.
The following story is an example of how the teaching on giving is taking hold in some of the churches.  This past Sunday I was invited to attend a special service in Pichal, an aldea which is about an hour hike from the end of the road.  Since the bridge has been washed away we had to cross the river in a little boat. The church had planned a special service in which each member would bring the first fruits of their harvest.  The service was planned from 6:00pm till midnight, but since I had to leave earlier I stayed until a little after 9:00.  We had to be at the river by 10:00 because that was the time we had set with the boat operator, or risk having to swim across.  I was privileged to be a part of this service together with several other people from the church in Cubulco and my two oldest children Nico and Ellen.  I had the honor of being able to preach on what the festival of the first fruits was and what it means for us today.  When I was done preaching the people in the church formed a line and brought their offerings.  Some brought ducks, others chickens, and others brought corn or other produce.  Some other people who had sold their produce gave money instead to the church. After they had brought their offerings several of us prayed over the church and their gifts to the Lord.
Although the service was supposed to be to give the first fruits of the harvest the people admitted that after hearing the message they realized that they were not really bringing their first fruits.  The reason for this was that they did not really understand fully what first fruits where. Now they have a better understanding and I told them that what matters the most is that they felt the need to give and that they gave joyfully.   The Lord loves a cheerful giver!
Several days after the service I was able to ask several members of the church about how they felt  after the service and their response was "liberating".  This is exactly was giving does.  Giving brings freedom.  Freedom from holding on to what belongs to God.  Freedom from trying to do it on your own.  I hope and pray that little by little the people of our churches in Cubulco will fully grasp the Biblical concept of giving.  Many churches in Guatemala do not teach on giving according to what the Bible says.  The oblige people to give by embarrassing them if the do not give.  Many churches will announce who has tithed and who has not.  While this is something we want to avoid in our churches, it is important that the churches understand that giving is important in worship!
Some of you might be wondering what the church did with the offerings.  Well, that is a good question and that was also the question the people had for me.  What do we do with these chickens, ducks, and produce?  I told them that they had several options. The first was to sell it all and give the money to the church.  The second was to give part to the lay pastor and the rest to needy people in the church or the community.  The third was to do some sort of combination.  The fourth was to take the corn and fatten the chickens and ducks and then sell them or help the needy.  In the end they apparently sold everything right then and there and the money was given to the church.  The church collected over Q900 or $120 that evening, something that would normally take them months to collect. 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing Nico! I still vividly recall the family in (I think it was Chirramos, close to Pichal) sharing and giving of the little they had to host us (Martijn, BasJan, and I) for lunch. The few possessions I saw that they had (some chickens, a lonely goat tied to a tree, and a home with a dirt floor), and yet they were so grateful for you showing up and teaching them from God's Word. God bless you, Lia, and your kids as you teach these people also about the great blessing of giving!

Jake, Andrea, & kids