Friday, September 4, 2015

First Day of School

This is a 100 peso bill. It's the largest bill in Argentine
pesos. Today it is worth $6.50. Tomorrow it will
probably be worth less. Pray for Argentina's economy.
Before I left for vacation a month ago, I was asked if I was interested in being the church treasurer. I said, “No.” without hesitation, which got me a look that said, “I actually wasn’t asking your opinion.” This was followed by a, “Well…” that meant, “You and I both know you have to do this.” I sighed in agreement and puzzled over my situation. I’m pretty good at math, but I have no experience or knowledge of finance. Being treasurer sounds like getting to hold onto the money in some club, but it’s actually a lot of bugging people and reading receipts and feeling responsible for too many things. However, we have a limited number of personnel options. I have no desire to learn this job, but my math skills set me above the rest of my team. (This statement should speak volumes considering I have no qualms putting it here where I know my teammates will read it and agree.) I finally came to this question, “Is there no one else you can ask?” “I mean, I haven’t asked everybody…” “Could you? If no one else wants to do it, I’m available, but I really don’t want to.” The day I got back from vacation, I was told, “Hey, since you’re the church treasurer, let me show you how to get into the safe.” Sigh.

After Bible study, Laura, Vanesa, Pastora Jaci and I
took their daughters to a park. 
While I grudgingly did what I could to figure out the church’s finances, I still had my other jobs to complete. At Bible study, we discussed conversion based on 2 Corinthians 3:16-18. “but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” The women shared their own conversion stories, including how God removed the veil of desperation and seeking security in money and relationships, how God freed them from fear and confusion, how impatient they are to be transformed into Christ’s image now instead of growing closer to Him each day. In the end, we all agreed that continual growth is important, though not ideal in our own eyes. We ache for heaven. Right now, these young plants need much pruning in order to be ready for healthy growth. They feel the weight of the world’s lies and seek more truth every day. They can’t see it now, but God is equipping them with perseverance and a thirst for righteousness. All they know is the pain of the knife as God cuts away the broken and dead branches. While I encourage them, I feel God challenging me. Do I really think I have no dead branches of my own? Am I willing and ready to go under the knife every day?

Through Facebook I’m able to watch my teacher friends ready their classrooms. Actually, when I was in the States, I was able to spend a couple hours at my mom’s school helping her prepare for the big day: the first day of school. My first day of school happened this week. It was my first day of discipleship classes with the new believers who attended a leadership training retreat while I was gone. Instead of juggling a mountain of hand sanitizer and teaching playground rules, my first day of school centered on the highly anticipated topic of prayer. We have been a broken record of assurances that prayer is simply talking to God like you would talk to a friend. Our new believers, however, have had too much exposure to the formality of South American Catholicism to be completely comfortable with this. When I told them there are six stages of prayer, their eyes lit up (Finally! We’re getting to the good stuff!). I clarified that this is the development of a set aside time of prayer, a daily devotional prayer, not the qualifications of a “real” prayer. They nodded their understanding and egged me on, “Teach us how to pray!” I explained the benefits of beginning with worship, thanksgiving, confession, and intercession before making personal petitions and finally thanking God for what He is going to do. They asked clarifying questions and took notes fervently before broaching the big question, “What’s the deal with the Lord’s Prayer?” I started the typical response of the Lord’s Prayer is very important as a model of how we should pray. Fortunately, my students are persistent and asked the real question, “Do the exact words of the Lord’s Prayer have their own power?” The answer to this is obvious, but if you’ve been taught your whole life that the answer is yes, it can be troubling to hear that the answer is no. Now, God has been preparing me to answer this question for about five months. When I was still in Ecuador, God prompted me to memorize the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish, and since then He has been growing in me a love for the exact words of the prayer in both languages. After assuring my students that the Lord’s Prayer has no power of its own, I shared with them that I love using it in my daily personal time with God. Instead of rote recitation of the words, I quote a part then expand depending on the circumstances of the day.

Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. You are so far above me, and Your ways are so far above mine. Thank you for Your love. I love You.

Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Bring Your kingdom to this place, Lord. Do Your will among us and through us. Bring Your kingdom to our meeting today. Speak through my words and speak to me through the words of others. Do Your will in our decisions and actions. Make us as obedient to Your guidance as the angels in heaven.

As I quoted the Lord’s Prayer and gave examples, I saw eyes start to widen. “You can apply it to your own life!” Isn’t that beautiful? A dead and empty ritual suddenly coming to life in the truth: Jesus’s words are as powerful now as when they were first spoken.

It won’t surprise you to hear that I love my job. I love my job. I have an inexplicable joy for this task that is difficult, frustrating at times, and always outside of my cultural expectations. The person I would be without God would not love this job. God has given me a love and enjoyment for His calling on my life. I love my job. So how could I think that being treasurer is something I’m going to have to suffer through for the next two years? How can I possibly expect God to call me to something that I’m going to dread doing every day? I will be faithful to Him as He has always been faithful to me. I am excited to uncover His vision and receive His passion for the use and organization of our church’s finances. What a beautiful expectation.