Wednesday, July 24, 2013

They Prayed for Paint

Pastor José’s eyes were rimmed with red as we gathered at the front of his church. We had just finished painting his house, transforming a drab concrete building into a vibrant standout in his barrio.

“My family – we gather every morning to pray, and we have prayed for a year to have our house painted,” he explained softly as the translator relayed his words.

I dropped my eyes to the dirt floor of the “Jesus is the Way to Heaven” Church. I have just repainted my entire house, and prayer was not part of the process. The money was in the bank, the desire was in my heart, and that’s all there was to it. I wanted to, so I did.

The humble pastor went on to tell us how his family has prayed for paint, but God did not allow for it until now. “Many people in my country think pastors are becoming wealthy,” he said. I wondered what they would think of American celebrity pastors as wealthy as our athletes.

He told us of how just that morning God revealed to him a lesson about protection. He said that God kept them from having the money to paint it themselves so that others would see the house after our team left and know that the money came from God, not their own greed.

The paint provided a beautiful lesson as well as a beautiful house.

We all bowed as José began to pray, the Spanish flowing from his mouth in the most heartfelt prayer I have heard. His words and the translator’s overlapped, and though I missed some words, I did not miss the Spirit. 

The sanctuary had no air conditioning and only dirt for a floor. There were no projectors showing catchy videos, no sound system blaring latest hits. No pens advertising fancy logos, no worship guides to fill in.

But make no mistake – it was worship. 

I wiped away the tears that would not stop as I thought of how wrong I – we – have been. Pastor José prayed for a year for what we deem simple, and I give up after mere days on what is important.

As the prayer grew in intensity, the wind began to blow. The yellow plastic decorations that hung above our heads began to rustle, and I knew it was the Holy Spirit in our midst. I cannot explain what I felt as we gathered in that place, but I know that it is a place God has blessed.

Pastor José’s church continues to grow, with people bypassing other houses of worship to attend there. Their previous location was destroyed by a drunk man wielding a machete, but the congregation now knows that God allowed its destruction for a purpose. Doesn’t He always?

I did not want that moment to end, a moment when the Lord’s glory came down and was palpable, but as all such moments in this life must, it did. We wiped away tears, hugged the gentle pastor, and assured him of our continued support.

Friday, we will leave this place, having painted some walls and played with some children. We will return to our state of the art church facility and our own luxurious homes. We will reenter our daily lives, demands returning and needs pressing.

But we will not forget. We will remember standing in the shadow of a volcano where the Spirit erupted, touching our hearts and reminding us of His love.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Poverty Is Not Just Physical

Her brown eyes followed our van as we passed her on the bumpy road, looking through the windows at a dozen Americans conspicuously out of place in her neighborhood. We had come to bless a local Nicaraguan pastor by painting his house, a luxury for a man whose family can easily be without food. 

She spoke nothing to us, but I wondered what her words would be. What stories could she tell of living in such a place? Homes walled with black plastic sheeting; floors nothing but dirt. Garbage littering what passes for a road, leading to a neighborhood where children wander unattended and adults loiter because there is no job to be worked.

I saw her for just seconds, but her face is on my mind tonight.

She could be me.

My natural reaction on any trip away from America is to pity the inhabitants of wherever I travel.

“They just don’t know what they’re missing,” I think.

Which is what? More electronic devices than there are people in the house? So much food that I toss expired bags full? So many channels to watch that I never have to converse with the people I love most?

Maybe I’m the one who is missing something.

Poverty is not just a physical condition. So many of us – rich Americans who are spoiled more than we know – are really the poorest of the poor. We lack contentment in our everyday and peace in our condition because we know too much. We know that the world is full of more – more to do, more to buy, more to see. 

But now as the rain is pouring and I am reflecting, I wonder… Does it matter that there’s more? If peace is possible in the scarcity, why do we convince ourselves it’s only found in the plenty?

If I have learned anything from the people of Nicaragua on my trips to their country, it is this: possessions are not the purpose, and poverty is not just physical. I have walked into houses with no beds – no beds! – and the inhabitants smile and hug. I have played with children who don’t have playrooms mimicking Toys R Us, and they are exuberant. I have seen cardboard as the only barrier from the elements, and the families are joyous.

I want that to be me.

That should be all believers.

Christians are not immune from the traps of the world – more, better, now. We spend on what doesn’t last and invest in what is fleeting. We store up here and neglect what is to come.

Remind us that we are your hands and feet, Lord, and that unless we serve, people hurt. People starve. People die without You.

You have commanded us to love, but we choose when and where.

You have commanded us to give, but we selfishly hold some back.

You have commanded us to go, but we make excuses and sit in comfort.

Forgive us, Lord.

Create in us a new heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

On a Plane Again

Tomorrow is a big deal for the new Mrs. Scott. From this point forward, it shall be known as 'the day Jennie got on a plane on purpose for the second time in one summer.'

Kind of catchy.

The first time was to catch a cruise ship out of Puerto Rico for a luxurious honeymoon where someone else turned down my bed and made cute animals out of my towels. Sunday is to go to Nicaragua for a mission trip where bats are said to fly through the house I'll be staying in and where I will have zero access to a hair dryer or flat iron.

So the trips will be slightly different.

Other than the plane ride, I'm so excited I can't stand it. If I could just be beamed up like Scotty, all would be well. However, beaming up technology hasn't made its way to me yet, so I'll be forced to zoom through the air at 500 miles an hour in an aluminum can.

Can I get some pills, please?

Suffice it to say I'm not the best traveler. I have what might be called in some circles a slight case of the panic attacks. My poor new husband still bears the claw marks on his arm from our previous flight. If I could just be the one flying the plane, I think I'd be ok. It's a control issue. And maybe a "we're 30,000 feet above the ground" issue.

But whatever.

Once we arrive in Nicaragua, we'll be working with some local missionaries to paint, build structures, love on some kids... Anything that needs to be done.

All joking aside, this country is one of my favorite places on earth. I've been there once before, and it's where I began falling in love with Mr. Scott. Literally a life-changing experience. I'm praying that the next week will be equally as life-changing. There's just something about getting away from the convenience of my everyday life to remind me of the needs that people face constantly. (And I'm not just talking about the needs of the Nicaraguans. I'm talking about the needs I have to get over my own selfishness, act like Jesus, and share the gospel).

Next week as internet access allows, I'll be sharing what our team is doing and how God is working. We appreciate your prayers!

Now to go find those pills...