Saturday, February 11, 2012

When God Works in Unique Ways

About a week ago I had the privilege and unique opportunity to travel to Nicaragua as a part of a service team for a newly established village. While in the village our team of 16 served alongside the members of the community harvesting and planting crops, building friendship, offering support and sharing life.

I use the word “unique” because of several factors. First, the trip was planned by my Rotary Club in Sammamish, not by my church. Some months ago Charlotte, the chairperson of the international committee of our club discovered a Seattle based non-profit ministry called Agros. She was impressed with their model of offering help to the poor in ways that empower them to bring about change in their lives (more about that later) and she led our club to partner with Agros in a multiyear commitment of several thousand dollars. As far as we can tell this partnership between Rotary and Agros is a first.

Regarding the uniqueness of partnership, for this trip Sammamish Rotary was teamed up with church members from three churches in Spokane. Though Rotary holds many values and goals that are common in churches, Rotary is also careful to not embrace Christianity over any other religion but mutually respect all. In my estimation the partnerships with Agros and the churches was terrific.

Second, God was a work in a unique way by sending me on the team. Yes, I’ve been on international mission teams before but my participation has been around my skills and abilities. I’ve done teaching and leadership training for church leaders and various outreach efforts. But those that know me laughed or smiled broadly when they learned that I was going to go do work on a farm. I’m about as unhandy as a guy can be when it comes to working with my hands but there I was milking a cow, picking peppers and watermelons and cutting plantains.

Third, my experience was unique because of the way the events of the week unfolded for me. Most of the team from Spokane did not know that I was a minister and none in the village did. Though our team had devotions and prayer together and we experienced chapel services with the people in the village, I never led a meeting, led a prayer, or led a devotional time. I didn’t facilitate any of the debriefing sessions in the evenings. These are the kinds of things that I do all the time but in the first part of the week my role was simply servant and friend. It was refreshing for me and I enjoyed watching others do a great job leading. I love being led well by others.

But midway through the week the Spokane friends had hoped that our team might be able to have a communion service with our friends in the village. The leadership council kindly said that this would not be possible without an ordained minister to oversee such a service. At that point someone mentioned that I was an ordained minister. After I sat down with the leadership council and we discussed various issues of difference between the Catholics and Protestants in the village we were able to have the Lord’s Supper together in our Thursday afternoon chapel service. It was one of the most special communion services that I’ve officiated.

Now that I was “outed” as a minister various villagers asked me to pray blessings on their homes and families and crops. In my last hours there I was privileged to serve with the gifts and abilities that God has given me.

During my time in Nicaragua God spoke into my heart and addressed several lessons for my life that I’ll share in the next couple of posts.

I’ve been following Christ for over 35 years. I still marvel at the new and unique things that He does in and around my life.