I saved Piedra Gorda for last because it is the furthest out from us, and is also the hardest place to write about. In fact, I've not really looked forward to writing this. I'm going to be flat-out honest in this post. Usually, that gets me in trouble, but what's the gain in sugar-coating things.
|Arianna walking the dusty streets of PG|
So, when you walk up to Piedra Gorda, an immediate sense of gloom overcomes you (well, at least me). I've not yet not had that feeling. Kids constantly having to be taken to the hospital, a new story of woe every time we get there, and just looking around at the homes and people wipe me out. And then I have to teach! I remember one time (after and not before I taught thank the Lord), we visited Carmen when she was sick. I still shutter at the thought of feeling the way she did and having to live where she does. Dusty floors, multiple old dirty mattresses (3 in one room), cracks and holes all in the walls, no electricity, musky smell, and a lot more. I tried to picture myself in her shoes, and I think it was the first time I could identify with what it meant to "go crazy."
But I want to return to the sentence, "...And then I have to teach!" Because, even though it is hard to teach after seeing everything-sometimes I have to pray a lot to be able to- once I begin opening up the Word of God, the words of God give me great comfort. And I can only hope they give great comfort to the listeners. They give me comfort because they speak of eternity and a life with Christ that "momentary afflictions" only make all the greater (2 Cor. 4:17).
However, there is a greater problem than all this. Yes, if the physical was all that was the matter, I'd be stricken by it for sure, but could take comfort in the spiritual. I know some who are reading this are thinking, "didn't he just say that he takes comfort when he opens up the bible?" And I did, but I can explain. I do take comfort for I know the truth of God's word. I know that these people of Piedra Gorda (PG) can and will experience the joy of Christ now, and have the type of life that could produce an exceedingly great reward...if they would but turn to Christ and drink from the Living Water. But, that little word "if" is a mighty word indeed. Somehow, someway, it seems that the multitude here are more interested in the things of this world! I can understand that to be true in America (even though that still shows an extremely foolish and short-sighted manner of thinking), but not in PG where dust and heat are your greatest companions! So, though I take comfort and know that there is hope for these people-I doubt many of them know that yet (or at least truly believe it), and it is this that creates a weighty burden that presses far more upon us than the physical one. I shudder at the fact of many of them living a life as they are, only to open their eyes upon their last breath to the Judge of the Universe-Who will show no mercy to them at that time, and will rather, usher them into their new abode-a place that makes Piedra Gorda look appealing.
I think and hope there is a tiny remnant Christ has redeemed. Perhaps, there are a few who have bowed in heart to the Lord Jesus. But this remnant is very small, primarily illiterate, and still ignorant of many ways they differ from the entanglement of Catholic roots that surround them. In fact, it is difficult to determine their true spiritual state. And I've been wondering how those true Christians will grow in Christ when they can't even read. I want to arrange a time they meet for a public Bible reading with one who can read and is a Christian there, but I'm not too sure that there is even a desire for that. I think they think they are fine with our two times a week teaching. But they are starving!!! and I don't even think they know it, which does make me wonder if there is truly a knowledge of Christ there at all.
Can you see why PG can be a difficult place to minister to? Poverty abounds, both physically and spiritually. Sometimes, I want to grab them, shake them and yell, "Wake up!!!" but that would do no more good than grabbing a corpse and telling it to awake. And so I have learned that what the Bible says in Ephesians 2 is true. Man is dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1) and only God can make them alive (Eph. 2:5). Some men lay in their coffin with a nicer suit, better make-up, more trinkets, a nicer-smelling rose, and others lay in their naked, without a ring, without a watch, without a suit...but still dead. I once thought that it would be easier to reach the people here because they did not have as many things as we do back home to trust in and take pleasure in. That makes sense, but I should have read my Bible better. Men are dead, and only an act of God can awaken them.
Don't get me wrong, these people are nice. They'd probably give you the shirt off their back, but then realize they didn't even have one to begin with. But nice isn't going to get you into heaven. If there is not a spiritual awakening here, then PG is going to hell. That may sound brutal, that may sound blunt, even sound uncaring. And I'd agree with the first two descriptions, but not the last-not "uncaring." Guys, we see these people every week, they are part of our lives week-in and week-out so it breaks my heart to say that. The most loving, caring thing I (or anyone) could do for them (or anyone) is to face reality and then figure out what we can do to change it...still realizing that only God can change it but that He can use us in the way He has directed in His word. Some would say, "just love on them", others would say "just keep preaching the Word" and still others would say "only prayer will avail." And I could find scriptures to support all three, so that means that no one of those alone will necessarily suffice. For example, if all you do is pray (still, in my opinion the most important) and never share the gospel or demonstrate love, (which John 13:35 says is the way others will know that you are a disciple of Christ) you might as well stop praying!
Oh, how I have a great burden for them (as well as all the churches here). Please do not cease in bringing them before the Lord. Since you can only pray, please pray for our gospel, and Bible teaching to be with the power of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:4), please pray for us to demonstrate the love of Christ that John 13:35 speaks of. Please pray for wisdom for us (Jas. 1:5) to better determine how we can spend more time with them (it is difficult because they are the furthest out and we have two other places we minister to) because I don't think the two times a week is enough right now, especially when both of those times are given solely to teaching. And above all, pray for God to send His Spirit to go before us and prepare hearts, to fill us as we minister, and to remain after us convicting of sin and leading to the cross.
Thank you! I only wish you knew how your prayers are being heard. I will write a post soon containing many of these blessings. If God get's a hold of PG, I'll be sure to add that to the list. It would be the most magnificent one by far. In fact, if God sent a revival there...I think I might turn into an animal for Him! I would not only know God can do all things because I read it, I will have seen it displayed in front of my eyes and will be in awe (as I hope you will be). Like I said, I think I would turn into an animal...though that sentence only convicts me as to why I wouldn't be otherwise...