So this team of 15 people came from two different churches in two different towns to tell people in my town about the love of God and the reality of the gospel. They came to encourage and spurn on 5 local churches which are pastored by guys I serve and teach - the largest having maybe 80 members - the smallest less than 20.
Each day for 5 days the team broke up into groups with 2 team members, a translator, and at least one member of the local church. We walked around the town, knocking on doors, talking to people in their stores, on the streets and one amazing sister even jumped on a chicken bus and worked through a tract with 50 fairly captive Quetzaltecans. Each day we were in the neighborhood of the church and we invited everyone we saw to a service that night at the church. It was a short service by Guatemalan standards: 60-90 minutes. We sang, gave testimonies, and preached the gospel.
Since I'm the missionary I was both translator and church member for my groups. For the first 2 days I was blessed to be with Jeff (a successful businessman and life-long church goer who only in the past year has given his life to Christ) and Allison (a college student and veteran of mission trips who is hitting the point in her walk with Christ where she's asking herself. "What does all this really mean?").
All I did was encourage them and say what they said to people. God did everything that mattered. He gave these two courage - real courage - to talk to people they didn't know, to pray for them, to ask them, "Hi. Can I tell you my story? It's about Jesus, and really, it's his story. Do you have a few minutes?" And then off they'd go. It was amazing. Amazing because God was doing it. I merely translated as I witnessed vessels filled with the Holy Spirit talk to people about the most important thing: The gospel. We walked and in between houses and tiendas (little stores) we munched Tortrix (Guatemalan Fritos) and built each other up.
Those first two days were a pretty heavy strain on my brain. Translating is hard. It's really better called interpreting because you just can't say it in English and it make sense in Spanish unless you tweak it a little...sometimes a lot. And those who know me know me to be slow paced. I'm the turtle. My first response in crisis is, "Give me a second to think." and that's not an option when you are translating a conversation. The second night I was translating for Matt, one of the pastors and my covenant brothers, and I could not say the word, "Bueyes" - Oxen - from the parable of the great banquet. It's pronounced "Bwea-yaes" and I kept saying "Boo-ae-yes" until I finally said, "Vacas, vacas" "Cows, cows, the guy was buying cows!" and Matt and I laughed and hugged it out.
I was relying on myself that night. I was trying to translate as best I could and my best wasn't cutting it. So the next day I just let the Lord do it. He used all the time I have spent learning Spanish and all the vocabulary that was buried in my brain, but all I can explain is that He did it from then on out. Matt and Treb (the other pastor and covenant brother) preached 3 sermons each, one long one on Sunday, and the Lord communicated the gospel so that some 40 people make professions of faith that week. God did that. God does that. It's what he does. He saves people and he uses imperfect disciples to do it.
I have been in 'ministry' for a long time. I use 'ministry' because every believer has a minsitry - I've just been getting paid for it. I have told a lot of people about Jesus, about the state we are all in before we put our faith in him, and about our need for his redeeming love to save us. I have implored people to accept his offer of grace, often to groups of people. But I have never in 13 years of minsitry had a person pray to accept Christ as their savior in front of me. I was always happy to tell the story, but just wanted to experience that.
Our 4th day I was walking with Treb and Cindy. As Cindy was telling the story to a lady on a corner, Treb noticed the guy next to her leaning in to listen. So Treb and I started talking to the guy. I know Treb. Really well. And translating for him is a cinch because I just say what I would say and that's what he's saying. It's really fun when we're preaching together and I can finish sentences he begins while he's still saying it. God is is just so much fun to serve. Anyway, we talk to this guy. And he just kept saying, "Yes" when we'd ask him questions.
Do you want to hear about God's love for you?
Do you know that there is bad news - that you are separated from God by your sin?
Do you want to have a relationship with God that begins today?
Do you understand what by praying this prayer and believing only in Christ that you will be saved?
Do you want to pray with me right now?
This did not occur in some quiet coffee shop. We were standing on the corner of a highway with chicken buses and dump trucks rumbling by. We were 10 feet from the road because that's where were were when God moved in this man's life. This guy's family was standing behind us, waving their arms to try to distract him and get him to drive them away. And he just kept saying yes.
And Treb led the man to the Lord and I said what he said so the man could understand.
It was amazing. Awesome. Life-giving. And I got to experience that with one of my dearest friends on the corner of a highway in Guatemala. God is good, isn't he?
Over the course of the week I was so very, deeply blessed to translate for Treb and Matt as they preached (literally) the gospel and implored sinners to receive the grace of God. "Today is the day of your salvation" we boomed from 5 different pulpits. And because God was working, people came to him.
We simply walked and talked with people. Most just walked away. I'll be honest. Most were just too busy. Many were our brothers and sisters in Christ who invited us into their homes and prayed for us. We prayed for sick children and broken families. We encouraged scared people and gave candy to kids and told them Jesus loves them. We bought cokes and watched the World Cup and walked around the city where God has us and it was simply wonderful. We filled out information cards so that the churches could follow up. And we enjoyed life in the Lord.
So that's what I did a few weeks ago. Ten 14 hour days wore me out, but it's worth it. It's always worth it for the gospel. And next week I am going on vacation. So that I can keep doing this until I'm too old to walk. Then I want to tell the other old people who are too invalid to get away about Jesus until he takes me home and I can see that man on the corner who was the first person I ever saw redeemed in front of me and then we can worship the Lord face to face forever.