Every March, S.O.S. Ministries sends down a team to Central America to minister and to run some women’s conferences in the various locations, and it’s an amazing trip. For the men who ask about such trips, I always encourage them that it’s not a ladies trip but that the conferences are a backdrop that often involves some amazing meetings with their husbands who wouldn’t normally set foot on the property. (It’s amazing what serving a family and serving food will do…)
Even with that being the case, this trip was unique…
Lost in Translator
We were on our way to Hondruas and picked up a new translator, Francisco, who turned his life over to Jesus a few months ago after living a disordered life of drinking and drugs. Last December he seemed to be going through the motions, but this time, he seemed genuinely excited to go.
As a primary translator for the team, I was doubly excited, because it meant I wouldn’t have to carry the main burden of translating for the team, which would free me up to do other things… like breathe.
When we got to the border, Francisco took a long time to come back from the office, and when he finally returned, he told us that there was a crime committed in his name that he’d have to clear up, which meant he couldn’t come with us.
He was upset, saying, “I’ve come to serve the Lord and now this happens?”
Anyone who’s been in the same situation knows what it’s like to have a closed door – it’s frustrating, and I was bemused and slightly frustrated that after telling everyone how happy I was not to be a team translator, I’d just gotten another promotion. A friend of mine reminded me of God’s faithfulness and the feeling quickly passed. Yes, He can and does use even my Spanish, and He also even used being turned back at the border to grow Francisco in his faith.
The team gathered around him and prayed, assuring him that God had some kind of purpose for this, and that he would be joining us on the ministry soon enough…
Children’s Ministry and the Main Thing
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven… so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” – from Isaiah 55
In Honduras, we usually have a ministry team that takes care of the children while the women’s conference continues, which allows the women to relax and hear the word of God without distractions. This time, our ministry team was four men, and most of the children were pretty young. Our team did an admirable job of keeping them entertained but we were getting worn out and the kids were in danger of getting bored. We went to put on a movie when we felt we couldn’t do any more, but the projector wasn’t bright and the sound wasn’t working.
One of the team members told me he’d done kids ministry in the past and could give a lesson, but I was doubtful that we could keep their attention. Still, we gave it a shot, and the moment we began teaching them the word of God (the parable of the unmerciful servant), they became completely still and even asked some really good questions. We shared the gospel about how Jesus had completely forgiven us of our sins and that we should share that same forgiveness with others and several of the kids locked eyes with us the whole time.
This happened two days in a row and I realized, sheepishly, that the real purpose for the children’s programs should not be to distract the kids while their mothers hear the gospel; it is another venue to share the gospel. God worked through us the moment we were obedient to that calling and befuddled all our attempts to entertain outside that main thing – preaching the word to the least of these.
Hats off to the team… that was quite the adventure.
Someone to help us
You may remember this, but back last December, some of the young men from Honduras told us that their parents did not care for their spiritual growth and that no one would teach them the scriptures.
This trip, we played a game of soccer with them that went on for quite awhile and we invited the young men to join us for a Bible study. For a moment I thought that everyone left – something that does happen sometimes in the ministry – but two of the young men stayed behind.
One of the young men on the team and I went through parts of Matthew 5 with them – that murder and adultery are not only sins of action but sins of the heart. When we told them that even looking at a woman with lustful intent was the same in God’s eyes as committing the act itself, their eyes grew big. “No one can do this,” they confessed. We finished with Jesus saying that you must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect and about how He had provided a way by living the perfect life for us. We gave them notebooks and a Bible and they told us that when we returned, the notebook would be full of questions. It was an awesome answer to prayer, and we’re hoping to continue that ministry in July.
Just so you know how difficult it will be for these young men, their cousin had been coming to the church, but according to our church leaders, his parents told him that if he continued to attend, he would be thrown out of the house. Pray for them – the road to salvation will not be an easy one.
Because we had a smaller team this time, we brought the entire group of Hondurans (the cooks and leaders and their families) to eat with us in Copan, and the next morning, we invited everyone, even the cooks, to join us for breakfast. Laughter and amazing conversation followed – even across language boundaries. How good and pleasing is it for brothers to dwell in unity!
At first the younger Honduran girls balked at the idea, thinking it wasn’t permitted to eat with the Americans – wow. No wonder they seemed a bit stand-offish. No one had ever told them this, but they assumed it was the case, and I’m glad the team corrected this.
How beautiful is team unity? When we got ready to depart, several of the Hondurans told us that their favorite part of the team being there was the times we ate together as a group. Is this not what Jesus prayed for in John 17 that all believers would be one even as He and the Father were one? I’m excited to see what the next trip brings.
When we returned, we were looking forward to a baptism for our new translator (Francisco) and his familiy. But the day of, we found out that he and his girlfriend of ten years were living together but not married, even having kids together.
Baptism into Christ is a baptism of repentance – turning from your old sins, so what would you do? I’ll tell you what would have been the easy thing, to turn a blind eye to the whole thing and just baptise them and hope they made it right.
But that’s not the way of the Lord. He desires His people to be holy and pure, so we confronted them in this, and it was… really… awkard at first. But the Lord began to work in their hearts and they went from being taken aback to getting excited about obeying the Lord.
He agreed to move out and to stay with the team at La Esperanza for the sake of obeying God’s call to purity in their lives. Just to show how excited they were to get married, he woke up at 4 AM the next morning to go pick up his future wife and get the process started, and later that day, they brought their entire family out to minister alongside us.
Now normally, the process of getting the paperwork and everything lined up for a marriage takes a week, but they were so excited that they got the process done and we celebrated the wedding just two nights after we had confronted them. Praise the Lord when His children obey Him. Pray for our brother Francisco and his wife, that they would pursue the Lord with all their hearts, and that their marriage would be blessed. Lord willing, we will be baptizing them in July.
The team that “gets it”
I needed to spend some time abiding in the Lord the last day of the trip, because things had been so chaotic and quite frankly, I had not prioritized my time with Him. The team had things under control with the last womens’ conference, so I decided I needed to go. On the way to the room, I saw the soldiers and some of the men outside and had a strong urge to evangelize them. Yet it was almost as though the Lord were urging me to spend time with Him instead – that He was able to do His work (John 15:5).
When I came back, all of the men from the team were sharing the gospel with the men on the property and the soldiers – one of them even using google translate to communicate the message. Some of the girls had befriended a local doctor and were making sure that the doctor and her sister left with Bibles.
It was incredible. The team just “got it”, and many people not only heard the gospel, they heard it compassionately from members of the team. God is good – it never ceases to amaze me what He is able to do when His people come together to serve Him. The same invitation I give to people in person I’ll give to you, come join us this summer. I would love to serve with you.
As one last thing, there are many in El Salvador who are seeking to get a higher education but who are unable to attend. One of them is a fine young man named Roberto who is constatly serving at the church and seeking to grow in the Lord. He’s brilliant – top of his class – but because his father abandoned him, he has no way of going ahead to the university and may not even be able to finish high school.
Please pray for those who are looking to further their education, and if you are interested in donating to the education fund for El Salvador, please contact me or go to www.soshope.org/donate and be sure that whatever you give is earmarked “El Salvador Education”. We will make sure that 100% of the funds go to that purpose, knowing that whatever we have done for the least of these, we have done for Jesus Himself. (Matthew 25)
In His strength,
the least of God’s servants,