Thursday, March 13, 2014

Disappointment and Discouragement

In my previous entry I mentioned that I would update you on what has been going on during the past few months. However, more than a month has past and I have not posted anything. There are a number of reasons for that from being busy and not having a desire to write. However, the main reason  is that I have been feeling very discouraged for quite some time.
When I went into mission work I expected to see and experience great things. I had read a number of biographies of missionaries. Many of these stories where filled with exciting examples of God's power at work in the lives of people. I heard the stories of my parents in law who had experienced first hand the transforming work of Christ in the lives of stone aged headhunters and cannibal in the mountains of Irian Jaya (West Papua). I therefore expected to see the same or at least something similar. I expected to see people coming to the Lord in droves and growing in their faith. I expected growing and maturing churches. I expected some disappointments and failures since that is part of life. What I did not expect was that the "disappointments, failures and discouragements" would far outnumber the "spiritual successes". I expected them to be the exception rather than the norm. Many times I have felt like "throwing in the towel" like Elijah. Many times I have wondered if I was to blame for it all. Many times I have wrestled with God trying to understand what He purpose and will. Many times I have asked Him why it has to be so difficult and have not received an answer. After 14 years (not all were always frustrating) I am still here. I hope that it is not my stubbornness or pride that is keeping me here, but God's calling and being faithful to that calling.  
The latest reason for my disappointment and discouragement has to do with the transition of our churches over to the Guatemala Presbyterian Church. For almost a year we have been working on this transition although it has been a desire of ours for many years. It has taken so long because the churches and their leaders where not convinced it was important to do. As missionary or mission board we can not make that decision for them. They need to come to that conclusion themselves. My job has been to facilitate the process. The first things we did was to have our leaders attend some of the events and activities held by the Presbyterians. In May of last year some of our leaders attended the Presbyterian annual general assembly meeting. In August our leaders went to a three day pastors retreat. Then from October till January the leaders met with the leaders of the Presbyterian church to talk about the process of joining. In January letters requesting permission to enter the Presbyterian denomination were sent. In order to be able to received as official churches, the churches needed to be organized. From August till today much work is being done with regards to the process of ordaining office bearers. Although I had some concern, in general I was excited by the enthusiasm shown by the leaders and the advances that we were making. It appeared that by May of 2014 the process would be completed and the Reformed Churches of Cubulco would become Reformed Presbyterian Churches of Cubulco.
However, my excitement was short lived as I received disturbing reports from Cubulco in February. I heard that some of the churches were backing out of the process and wanted to give more time. Suddenly all these "concerns" were being raised, "concerns" that were not concerns before. After several conversations with different people in Cubulco I quickly realized that there was more to it than simply some concerns. Someone from another church with connections to churches and money in Canada had been speaking to and enticing some of the leaders with financial gain if they would join their church. As mission we have been working on weaning the Cubulco churches off of outside support. We entered a 5 year process 5 years ago in which we reduced the financial support given to the leaders of the churches by 20%/year. 2014 happens to be the last year that these leaders with be receiving financial support at which point in time the local churches need to step up to the plate and make some effort in supporting their pastors. We have been working for many years with the churches in this area. Although changes have been made and members are giving more to the church it is still not like it should be. Some of the leaders of course are looking to see if they can get support from other sources. On the one hand I do not blame them, but on the other hand it is disappointing to see. Most of them have a better life than most people in their community because of the financial support they received for many years from the mission. They and their families have had opportunities and benefits that most other people in their communities never had. 
As a result I am deeply disappointed in what has transpired. I am disappointed that someone who is supposed to be a brother in Christ would use money to try and entice members from our churches to jump ship. I am disappointed that churches in North America support projects in other countries without checking into what they are doing to see whether or not it is a worthwhile cause. (I was recently in a community not in Cubulco where there were four churches all with a similar name, all results from church splits within the same church and all were sadly built by money from churches in North America. As churches in North America we can unknowingly be supporting division within the body of Christ.)  I am disappointed that some of our leaders are so easily swayed by this and that they are being deceptive about it. I am disappointed that most likely the process of joining the Presbyterians will stall and come to nothing. 
I share this disappointment with you, not to discourage you or for you to say "why waste your time there". I do not share this with you so that you will feel sorry for me, although I would covet your prayers as I do often feel quite alone, frustrated, and discouraged when having to deal with these kinds of challenges I share this with you so that you can involve yourself in the work by praying "intelligently" for what is needed at this time. I ask that you join me, my family, the mission, and others who I have shared this with, in fervently praying for Cubulco, the churches, leaders, and members. Pray that God's Spirit will descend with power on the leaders and the churches so that peoples hearts are pricked and that a "revival" will take place. Pray that a holy fervor will take the place of complacency. On several occasions when talking the main pastor in Cubulco (Edgar Xicara) he has made the comment that many of the people and leaders in the church need to be be re-evangelized. It appears that many have the disease that affected the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:4 as they have "lost their first love". I firmly believe that it is only specific prayer that can and will bring about change.