I found this photo above while weeding through our large collection of digital photos we’ve taken these past few years. (pun intended of course) Bethie took this one while at a women’s retreat at a rustic Bible church camp over in Michoacán a couple years ago. Maybe to you it’s just a photo of some corn at sunset. However, as I ponder the image, I see much more than that. I see a lot of what God is doing here in us and in the ministry He’s brought us to and brought to us.
For example, this evening we enjoyed a brief (about an hour) time with Emanuel and Mari Cruz in their home for our weekly Bible study.
The words I just wrote really don’t describe for you the scene and situation. Allow me to sketch out some images of this setting:
This young couple has gone through the most difficult time in their lives these past two months, but since the darkest of dark moments, they’ve seen God reach into their hearts and change everything.
Mari Cruz has come back to a faith she once held to in her youth in a place not too far from where the photo above was taken. Emanuel came to faith and is discovering, much like his older brother, Jason has discovered, that what he once thought about God was not the truth of who God really is.
Each week we’ve enjoyed wading through an introductory study of Romans with this couple. We drive downtown to a cross street that has high curbs (curbs high enough at some points that to jump off them one could literally break a leg!), narrow sidewalks, and masonry covered homes and buildings that are contiguous. There are no spaces between each building. The front doors are right there, right up to the sidewalk.
Having a modest salary, they live inside a small compound of rooms. The large metal, black gate at the entrance to this compound has a door set inside it, and this door has been open every time I’ve ever passed by it. Inside, there is a long narrow patio with “apartments” wrapping all the way to the back and and lining both sides. Simple metal doors that lead to one or two small rooms. Emanuel and Mari Cruz live in one of these small 2-room apartments. There are no carpets. Not even tile. Just cement floors. There are no bathrooms inside these apartments. There is one bathroom near the middle of the compound with a shower and toilet. This is the bathroom that all the tenants share. There are over 25 apartments.
The first few weeks when we came to study, they pulled out the two plastic chairs that they use as dining room chairs and Beth and I sat on those while they sat on their bed. Last week I noticed that they put up a rope with a sheer curtain to divide the larger room (about 15 feet by 10 feet) into half with their bed on one side and a couch on the other side. I was surprised that they had gone out and purchased a couch. We found out later that they were embarrassed that they didn’t have seats for all of us when we come to study the Bible with them, so they bought the couch so that we’d have something nice to sit on. They use the plastic chairs, and Beth and I sit on the couch. There’s not enough room to sit across from each other, so we form sort of a “T” shape in the small space.
It’s warm and humid most weeks during this time of year. They turn on a fan and always ask if that’s OK. YES! It’s OK! I hold my loose pages together and enjoy the air movement while the sweat under my shirt runs a lot slower than before the advent of the fan. The spasmodic flies, which liven up the room, at times, retreat from the blowing air.
Their toddler, Luis David, plays out in the patio with the neighboring kids. He runs around and through the apartment’s open metal door which is guarded by another sheer curtain, I usually can see that he’s out there and still playing. He comes to the doorway from time-to-time and grunts and points (he’s not quite talking yet). A neighbor comes home from work and passes through the patio. Another neighbor passes the other direction, a towel wrapped around her head. The community shower is open and available again.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not writing this for anyone to feel pity for anyone. Nor am I writing this to glorify anything we’re doing. I’m honestly just trying to give you a picture of grace. What God has done in their lives is so sweet. I can honestly say, I’ve never known anyone else who ever bought a couch so that I could study the Bible with them. When we come to study, they’re dressed in their best and are sitting in the little patio area with their Bibles in hand (with their neighbors walking in and out, heading in and out of the bathroom, kids running and riding around the little area) and just waiting for us to arrive. I don’t really know if our visit with them is the highlight of their week, but I sure get that feeling every time we come. Of course, it’s not us. It’s Him. It’s God and He has made all things new and all things worthwhile. His Word truly is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.
There is a harvest around us and around you too. The sun is setting. The Son is coming. Oh that we’ll be ready when He returns. Oh that we’ll be found faithfully tending His harvest when He returns. Will we be? Are we ready now?
The next three days we’ll be joining our teammates for some time to get away from our routine, enjoy our families, read, rest, pray, and think. I have no agenda and don’t know what, if any, agenda there may be planned for us. I know I’ll be thinking about what God has been doing here and what He is doing. I’ll be praying about what is yet to be done and what part in it God would have us take. He’s all that we have; and we are His. I am looking forward to whatever it is He says in these brief days ahead. I’ll be praying for His harvest…and for His harvesters. I’ll be praying some for you. I hope you’ll pray for us too.
Galatians 6:9-10 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”