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. 

Getting our Driver's License

We mentioned in a previous blog that live here in Guatemala is more time consuming than life in North America and Europe.  Things that maybe take minutes to do or maybe an half and hour or an hour can take several hours or days in Guatemala and countries like Guatemala.
Recently we had to renew our Guatemala license and we thought we would explain to you the process in order for you to experience what it is like. Step 1 in the process was to get an eye exam.  This consisted of five sub-steps.  First we saw the receptionist who wrote down our names.  Next we had to see the doctor who checked our eyes.  From there we were sent to another desk where they took our picture.  We next had to see the receptionist again and had to pay the fee.  From there we were sent with a piece of paper to see the eye doctor who had to sign the paper.  After that the final step was to have all our papers photocopied.  This whole process took almost an hour.  Step two in the process was to proceed to the place where they issue the license.  This also consisted of several sub-steps.  First we were given some papers at the door to fill out.  From there we had to pay the fees for our license.  After this we were sent to have our driving record checked to see if we had any outstanding fines.  We did not so we were asked to go to the next step.  At this step we were had all our papers looked at and processed.  When this was finished we had to go to the next step which was having our picture taken for the license.  The final step was waiting for our license to be printed and given to us.  This process also took almost an hour.  In total it took us around 2 hours to get our license.  This might sound like a lot of time, but we were actually quite happy at how quickly we were able to get our license.  Things in some areas a becoming more efficient.  
However, there are other areas that continue to be very time consuming.  We are in the process of getting residency status for our two youngest children and the immigration office keeps changing the requirements  Almost every person you speak to at the immigration office has something different to say.  It becomes quite frustrating after a while.  Hopefully, one of these days this will all be arranged.