After our enforced hibernation in the days following our arrival, this was the week when we made our first tentative steps into our ministry contexts, with participation varying between the passive and the active.
The weekend saw us toddle along to the church for our first services there, and we were encouraged by what we saw and heard. During what is normally the teaching slot, a group of four young people, who had just returned from a national youth evangelism conference in Santa Cruz, were given the floor and asked to share with their cohorts some of their experiences. So excited were they by what they had seen God do that the other youth leaders practically had to wrench the microphone from their hands just so the meeting could finish on time.
The church had paid for these young people to attend the conference because they will be joining the youth leadership team this year. The more senior youth leaders, however, had stipulated that they must seek discipleship opportunities if they wish to serve on the team. Three of this group have approached Amanda and I about this possibility, and we’re really excited to be able to meet with them on a weekly basis, hopefully beginning in the next couple of weeks.
The aftermath of the Sunday services the following morning was a chance to briefly catch up with the last few people we hadn’t yet seen, including Carlos & Carla, whom readers may recall from previous entries (Carlos is a recovering alcoholic whose life has been miraculously turned around in the last couple of years). The church was full and there was a good number of young people around; encouraging, as one of our struggles in the past has been to challenge the youth to participate in the church throughout the week, not just on Saturday nights (the adults, meanwhile, can be a little too removed from the youth work, if we’re honest).
That evening had a first-day-back-at-school feel to it, as we prepared ourselves as best we could for going back to work at the Foundation (Amanda), or going back to the Foundation to work (Craig). First thing on Monday morning, we met with the other members of the FT board to outline what we saw ourselves doing. Amanda re-stated her desire (shared here in early January) to take charge of human resources and use this as an opportunity to minister to FT’s staff, several of whom are not yet believers. I, meanwhile, explained that I would be stepping back from FT activities, for the moment at least, to concentrate on church matters. However, I would be happy to help in taking care of communications with FT’s supporters, a role I had in the past.
And so, while Amanda spent the week getting to grips with the nuances of HR, I spent most of my time writing the 2014 sponsors’ report, something that requires a little more research when written by someone who wasn’t even in the country that year.
Nevertheless, the church is definitely where I want to be working this year, and during the week I had some fruitful meetings with the pastor, Elías. After the year I have had at Cornhill, with all this time to think carefully about what we’re doing at El Jireh Church I’m inevitably brimming with new ideas and methodologies; over the past couple of months, I’ve had to continually remind myself not to land all of these on the leadership at once, so as not to frighten anyone! I also need to be accepting of those times when it will only be possible for us to meet halfway on certain issues. All that said, however, I was able to share a few thoughts with Elías over the course of the week, and he was generally receptive to what I had to say.
We’ve endeavoured also to spend meaningful time with others. Amanda spent Friday afternoon catching up with Grecia, with whom she is hoping to resume a weekly discipleship session. Grecia comes from a challenging family background; her father’s alcoholism and the family’s impoverished circumstances have not given her the easiest start in life. However, she and her siblings (including Elizabeth, who took over my work in Education last year) are regular attenders at El Jireh. Grecia is just out of high school and was one of the young people in attendance at the Santa Cruz conference. Amanda, naturally, is thrilled to see how she’s progressing.
I, meanwhile, had the opportunity to sit down with a male FT worker who himself used to be a mainstay at the church, but who has had some problems over the last couple of years and has a lot of faith-related questions he struggles to find answers for. I offered him the chance to meet regularly outside of work hours and he seemed open to that; please pray for him. At the prayer meeting on Tuesday evening, I spent some time praying with, and getting to know, Daniel, who is Romina’s husband. (Romina, you may remember, had studied medicine in Cuba for many years before returning to FT to work in 2013. She has also been a great help in the music ministry at El Jireh. Daniel, a Cuban native, with whom she began a relationship when studying there, was finally able to move down to Bolivia in 2014, and they were married late last year.) This was the first meaningful interaction I had enjoyed with him, and it was heartening to get alongside such a spiritually mature guy. We’re keen to encourage young couples like Daniel & Romina, whose desire to glorify the Lord in their marriage is a tremendous example to young and old in the church.
- The young women’s Bible study group (which Amanda launched in 2011) is meeting again tomorrow evening. We’ve been delighted to see this group go from strength to strength over the past year, with the participants taking turns to lead the twice-monthly Bible study. Pray for God’s continued blessing on this group.
- Craig has several activities he’d like to develop this year, including a new men’s ministry and regular training for anyone in the church who is involved in Bible teaching. He’s also looking into the possibility of launching a training course for pastors in the Trinidad area. Pray for wisdom to know how to go about all of this, and patience while he waits for the Lord’s ‘green light’.
- For the various little signs of encouragement we’ve seen in the church over the past week.
- For further confirmation this week of God’s will for us.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!
Craig & Amanda