Part 4: We are one in the Spirit

Posted: July 29, 2014 in Dominican Republic, God's Presence, Holy Spirit, Ministry, Missions, Pastoral ministry, Wightman UMC
A view as we were walking at the end of one of the streets in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

A view as we were walking at the end of one of the streets in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

I love church.  It has been a part of my life since before I can even remember.  I remember standing in front the church as I was baptized, along with my sister,  at Friendship Presbyterian Church in Hickory Tavern, S.C.

I’ve been a part of the United Methodist Church for more than 20 years.  Over the past eight years, I’ve been a youth volunteer, youth minister, pastor, associate pastor and then pastor again.

But sometimes, I think about a quote from Francis Chan’s book, “Crazy Love.”  He talks about how the church likes to plan and sometimes we plan to the point of what we will do if the Holy Spirit shows up.  Sometimes, we just don’t know how to handle it when the Holy Spirit shows up and wrecks us.  Maybe the same thing can be true in our lives too.

That’s probably what hit me the hardest during my time in the Dominican Republic. There was no “cellular data,” no internet to fall back on.  I wasn’t receiving e-mails all the time.  There was no Facebook or any other kind of data.  In fact, in the time there, I made just a couple of calls to talk to my wife and daughter.

For the most part, I was there in the moment.  No schedules, nothing else going on.  It was just a chance to experience God in the moment.

One of those moments came on the second day of our walk through the community in Santiago.  A small group of our “missionaries” went out that morning with Awilda Rosario, wife of the pastor of the church we were working with.  Awilda knew that area and she knew people there.

We simply started to walk from home to home.  We invited children to the Vacation Bible School and then we found ourselves in a home.

In the first home, the husband and wife pulled chairs from all over the house so that we could sit and talk with the husband in their garage.  The wife offered us water and I had a glass and thanked them for their hospitality.  The husband talked to us about the Bible about what it meant to him.  It was a great visit and we thanked them before we moved on.

As we walked down the street, Awilda stopped to talk to a man that we encountered there.  She had a long conversation with him in Spanish.  As he walked away, she apologized to us for not translating.  She said, though, that she saw that man walking on the street many times but had felt in that moment that she just needed to talk to him and encourage him.  Maybe that was the beginning of the Holy Spirit’s message for that day.

We made several other stops, but we ended up in a home with a mother, a son and the man’s nieces and nephews.  Through Awilda, the son told us of how he had spent so much of his life on the street, battling addiction issues.  However, he had found the strength in God to battle through those addictions.  He was still alive today because of God’s love.  His mother told us that she should have been dead a few years before that.  But she had miraculously pulled through.  She also gave the credit for what had happened to God. It was an incredible and inspiring conversation.  Awilda asked for someone to pray and that ended up being me.

I remember thanking God for the chance to be in this home, for the blessing of this time and this conversation.  I prayed for them, for all of their family.  It was a moving moment for me and one in which I knew I was not alone in the prayer.  God’s presence was with us.

That feeling would continue at the next home we visited.

I decided that this would be my time to talk to the family.  My conversation was with a young man named Brian.  Awilda was serving as our interpreter and I talked to Brian about the VBS and how the children were invited to come and to be a part.

But as I was talking to Brian, I felt very distracted by the older woman to the left.  Her name was Matilda and she seemed to be very unhappy as she washed out the plastic milk jugs in the sink.

There’s a part of me that was simply ready to end this conversation and move on.  There’s a part of me that was saying, “She doesn’t want you here.  It’s time to go somewhere else.”

Matilda said something to Awilda in Spanish and they began a conversation.  All I can feel at that moment was this sense that I needed to pray for Matilda, that I had to pray for Matilda.

I told Awilda that I wanted to pray for Matilda and Awilda said she wants you to pray for her.

As I begin to pray, the word “hope” kept coming to my mind.  I prayed for Brian, Matilda and their family, and I prayed for hope as Alwida translated each line of my prayer into Spanish for the family to hear.

At the end of the prayer, Matlida had tears in her eyes.  Our group began to walk away and Matlida hugged Awilda and then grabbed my hand and said to me, “Gracias.”

I remember after that seeing the tears in Awilda’s eyes as she told me what Matilda had told her.  Matilda said that she had no hope and that she was just waiting for Jesus to take her out of this life.  When I prayed for hope, the one word that kept coming to my mind, I was praying for the one thing she was looking for in her life.

That day became a day in which I was wrecked by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit opened a door that I might never have seen or known otherwise.

I knew that as I walked away that day that something bigger was at work in me.  After spending months dealing with illness and then surgery, I knew that I had felt battered mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.  I was already mending physically and getting there mentally.  But that day was the opening of a door to the healing of my heart, my emotional and spiritual center.

And that will be the theme of the next two parts of this journey.

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