My pastor husband and our son are in need of some as they return tired from a ministry trip to Guatemala. Mike goes there every four months, trains pastors from five different villages in the tropical jungle of the mountains. He co-labors with Misioneros Sin Fronteras, the ministry arm of our church in Guatemala, lead by Pastor Cristian. He was a Guatemalan native long before he was a pastor on our staff.
The pictures are just like the ones you see on the television commercials that we are all numb to. But I've been in their homes. I have hugged their necks, squeezed their hands in prayer, and given them my cortizone cream before I traveled their dusty village road back to America.
It wasn't just a week-long mission trip to scrapbook when I got home. Rather, it is a relationship, now five years in the making. It's grown and developed as they gain trust, come to Christ, and we grow in love for one another. They have names and siblings. We watch them grow from toddlers to teens. We bring them money from America, training in first aid, stoves with proper ventilation for indoor cooking, and friendship - the lasting kind.
They give, too. They broaden our perspective, they show us what simple faith is supposed to look like, their true dependence on God because there is nothing else. They smile their joy despite their bare feet, itchy lice, and distended bellies filled with parasites. We have much to learn. There is much to do. This Fallen Earth is no place for rest. There will be time for that when there is no more sorrow, and every tear is wiped away.
I feel the urgency when I see my son literally carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. And there are so many ends still in need.
Bibles in their native tongue, translated by Wycliffe translators whom Mike has met and whose story we have read, are delivered and disbursed - one per family. Each bible and family is prayed over by our team. This translator, a man from the village, was spontaneously recruited because he spoke both Spanish and Ke'chi. As he repeats powerful prayers in the ear of his grateful neighbors, he is humbled and moved to tears. He will now be among those that overflow the church, shoulder to shoulder, standing room only, for entire services.
My son, who struggles with consistency in his own bible reading, realizes that these people will not misplace their bible as he sometimes does. He's convicted by their eagerness for it. In the village, it is a most treasured posession, even when illiterate. The parents rely on their children to read it to them, the ones that get a small amount of schooling. Unlike Adrian, they will not forget to read.
These villages are far from civilization and the rule of law. What reigns here is mob rule. Crime is a rare problem, mostly because the villages lynch criminals. Just before our church team visited, this boy was caught breaking into a small store. The village was planning to tie him with ropes, pour gasoline on him and burn him. A death sentence. Pastor Domingo preached to the village the story of the woman caught in adultery, telling his flock we have all robbed God. Who will cast the first stone?
The village laid down their stones and flung forgiveness instead. The boy is now a Christ follower, and Mike and Cristian baptised him in the river with six other new believers. Pastor Domingo wades close by with rolled up pant legs and bowed head in thanksgiving. And so it is, God's law of forgiveness now reigns supreme in the village.
This meal of chicken soup and tortillas was not eaten by our team. It was cooked with unclean water. The same water from baptism, washing clothes, and bathing. They understand that their food makes us sick and know that we won't eat of it. But they are honored that we come, and they have never stopped preparing it for us.
Food they need to feed their families, sacrificed for overfed Americans who were glad to go without for a day. They do not have it to give, yet kill their finest and cook it for us with a heart of thankgiving anyway. God lavishes his grace and we Americans have much to learn. There is much to do, and Fallen Earth is no place for rest.
Mike sits and makes a joke, pretends to eat, but the laughter and friendship and the memories and brotherhood are not a joke...not pretend.
The medical work they did was meager. We had only one nurse with us this time, but the mountain people come even still. Adrian entertained children while they wait. Eager to get in, they steal a peek through the wall (yes, that is an exterior wall of the church building), hoping they will not be turned away . . . . No one is turned away. The prayer is most essential when the medical care is only a drop in the bucket. They depend on the Lord because there is nothing else. And we have much to learn. There is so much to do.
How Great Thou Art was sung that day in three languages (English, Spanish, Ke'cki), Christ crossing every barrier that divides. Humanity is exposed, all are vulnerable and laid bare before one another. Humility is in abundance. The villagers: humble of station, but rich in hard work, generosity, and unbelievable peace in the midst of survival stuggle. The Americans: rich in possessions, humbled by a surprise lesson that Poverty freely gives what money can't buy. A realization that we are all the same - in need of but few earthly comforts, and all desperate for mercy and saving grace.
They teach me that rest is something to look forward to. For now, I have been inconvenienced with knowing intimately a third world people. A people whose names I know. Whom I call friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. I am learning that rest is a luxury, indulged in at the expense of another...at least for now.
The rest I choose is the one Christ himself offers. Being weary and heavy-laden are pre-requisite. It involves a yoke that is easy and a burden that's light. But there is a yoke and a burden, to be sure. As long as I have unsaved neighbors and friends, there will be.
And I will not scold when my son falls asleep in church because he has labored hard in a field that is white for harvest. What better way is there to grow tired? What better way to rest? Besides, there'll be time for rest when we get Home.