Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Silver Lining

Presbyterian Synodical Meeting
Santos the obtero addressing the church
Normally when it is time to go on furlough I leave with some excitement. Excitement to see "home" and family and friends. Excitement to be able to get some rest and relaxation away from the stresses of work and the context in which we live here in Guatemala. However, this time around I do not feel that as I leave Guatemala with a heavy heart. I spent the last three days in Cubulco supposedly to witness part of the organization of the church in Cubulco. Instead, I found the church divided because of problem within a family. Instead of that problem staying within the family it was spread throughout the church. I believe the pastor dealt with it correctly although it was a "lose lose" situation with no positive outcome. The family does not agree with the decision and therefore are opposing him and talking bad about him and because the people in Cubulco (shame based society) are about saving face, they will not stand up for what is right, but will support whoever they talk to. This makes dealing with problems and sin extremely difficult. Then if you add the gossip factor in, which is rampant in a small town, it makes it all the more difficult. So instead of witnessing some thing constructive, I witnessed something destructive. Instead of spending time enjoying watching what God is doing, I watched the destruction of what God is doing because of human sinfulness. I spent the next few days dealing with this issue and others surrounding it and although I was able to provide Biblical counsel and encouragement, I did not go away with a sense of confidence that things will be resolved soon. I feel that the problem will continue on and that the gossip surrounding it will continue to go around as well. Of course what goes around is not the complete truth, but the version of the person who is wrong. It is hard to deal with things when the truth is being covered up and people are not being honest. It is hard when people who are not directly involved with the issues at hand prefer to believe half truths/lies rather than the full truth. I am constantly amazed how members of the church prefer to believe the gossip in town over the truth. What also amazes me is how cultural norms take precedent over what the Bible teaches. Time and time again, I will be in situation where people ask me what to do and even though I show them from Scripture what the right course of action is, they almost always do what the culture, family, community says. I understand that it is difficult for make that break, but as long as this happens the church will continue to remain weak. There are many things within a culture that are good and that we can learn from, but there are others that are not and need to be changed. Too often culture and tradition trumps the Word of God. The Bible should supersede a culture and bring about changes and not the other way around. However, we often face the opposite and that makes the work very challenging. Please pray for the pastor and I as we face this challenge and pray for complete transformation of the people in the church that they will surrender to the Word of God.
Pastor Xicara Teaching
Instead of meeting in the church we met in the coolness of the shade outside
Even though I had some difficult days, God always provides encouragement and hope.... as silver lining if you will. This time the encouragement and hope came from the church in Pichal. Recently the church expressed its desire to function as a proper church with a functioning consistory. In the past we formed consistories in most of the churches, but in most cases they failed to work as the members did not see the importance of having them. The consistories would meet when necessary, which in most cases was when they were planning a special service and deciding on what the eat afterwards. Very little emphasis was placed on the spiritual well being of the church. It was not for a lack of support or lack of teaching from the missionaries. For years we have been struggling to organize the churches and looking for practical ways to help the people see the importance. An idea occurred to me to see if our obreros could attend meetings held by the Presbyterian Church. I spoke with Pastor Xicara about this and he gave me the contact information. I sent a letter to the secretary who gave his approval and informed me that the obreros could attend for the same price as Presbyterian pastors. While only one of the obreros attended (unfortunately the others had other commitments), the result was positive as this obrero (Santos) returned home to his church (Pichal) and told them what he had experienced. His enthusiasm was contagious and the result was a meeting together with Pastor Xicara and myself last Saturday in which teaching on the offices was done and candidates were named. Over the next few months more teaching will be done on the offices, elections will be held, and office bearers will be installed. This is exciting and encouraging. The church in Patuy is in the process as well, but many of the others are not. I ask that you pray for the organization process in the churches of Pichal and Patuy. Also pray for the other churches in Cubulco, Xeul, Pajales, and Chirramos. All of these churches have various degrees of problems that hinder their growth and development. Pray for God's Spirit to move powerfully in the lives of all the members and the leadership.