Today I saw the power of God in a more real way than I have during my entire trip here to Mexico. Today I saw God cross the language barrier with the power of His great salvation. Today I saw God use an American man to bring a Mexican woman to an understanding of the gospel. Today I saw God save another of His lost sheep.
This week and next, we have a team of doctors here from the United States, led by Brother Lanny Ashcraft, to perform free cataract surgeries on the many under-privileged people here in Jimenez who cannot afford medical expenses. So we're working together with the hospital and the Lion's Club here in town. The people go to the Lion's Club to register and get an examination. Then they come over to the church to wait for the surgeries at the hospital.
So we meet at the church like usual on Saturdays at 10:00 AM for visitation and witnessing in town. So Pastor Jose Luis asks where we should go today and says we could either hand out tracts in town like normal or stay here and talk to people waiting on their surgeries. Most of the guys wanted to hand out tracts (isn't it always easier to just hand somebody a tract and walk away?), but I said, "Pastor, I think we have an opportunity here that we don't have on other weeks. We don't need to go out to the people because they're coming to us today." He said, "That's right, they're already here! Let's go talk to them." So some of the guys went to hand out tracts and Jose Luis and Jesus and I (that's Jesus Chaparro, not Jesus Christ, although He was there too) stayed at the church to talk to people." Today I saw the benefits of my training day of witnessing on the south side of Peoria - to listen to God.
I'm going to tell you something for all of you who have never been on a missions trip and/or can't speak another language. It is very easy to be a Christian missionary when you are with national believers who have been trained in witnessing. All you do is stand there with your smile, your Bible, and your tracts, drawing people in by your "Americanism", and listen intently while the nationals explain the plan of salvation and lead sinners in a prayer of repentance. That is very easy. It is also very powerful. If you haven't seen it, I tell you it will change your life. But listen, it is not enough to use them (the nationals) as a crutch. It's the same way that I used to tell the teens at Cornerstone, "Don't use your tracts as a crutch. Leave them on the tables at a restaurant, if you must, but don't use that as an excuse not to talk to somebody." Do you want to see God use you? I mean YOU! Then you have to step out in faith and put yourself at risk, in a vulnerable position, and see what God will do through you. This is a lesson I am learning.
So we are at the church with lost people flooding in to have their needs met. They come for their physical needs; we seek to meet their spiritual needs. We have New Testaments and tracts placed all over the seats at the church. Nearly everyone is reading something. So now I stand there, listening to God, asking Him where to go, and whom to talk to. Pastor Jose Luis starts up a conversation with a couple who claim to be Catholic. Everyone else seems occupied with their crying children or their friends, so I sit in and listen. Pastor Jose Luis begins explaining sin and our need for salvation. He never mentions church. He never mentions religion. He talks about Jesus Christ, us, and sin. The man and wife listen. The man understands. The woman says, "But he's a Catholic." Jose Luis doesn't mention the church. He says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." He explains the plan of salvation and the need to receive Christ as his personal Savior. And the man, understanding, says he wants to pray. So Pastor Jose Luis leads him in a prayer of repentance right there.
So that group leaves for the hospital. It's about noon now and Pastor Jose Luis asks if I can stay at the church and be in charge until Brother Martin arrives at 2:00 PM. So I agreed and he left for lunch. So it's just Jesus and I. The next group of people comes in and I'm kinda walking around the church listening for God to tell me whom to talk to. Meanwhile, Jesus walks across the street. There were about 4 or 5 men who had gathered across the road, just to watch what was going on with all this activity at the church. Oh, just so you all know, Jesus is one of our boys from the ranch who is 17 years old. About 20 minutes later, Jesus walks back across the road and says to me, with a smile on his face, "Dos." What a coward I am! A 17 year-old just went and talked with 4 or 5 guys twice his age and returns having won two of them for the Lord!
So I went back inside and that's when I saw her. She was sitting all alone on the left side of the church, flipping through the Bible in the seat. God said, "There she is. Go talk to her..." So I walked up near her and waited. I watched her as she quickly read through some of the tract. I was trying to see where she was, following along in my own tract, to determine when to jump in and say something. I hesitate, "God, I can't do this. I can't talk to somebody in Spanish about salvation. This is something that they HAVE to understand. What if I can't explain it to her clearly?" I waited. She picks up the Bible and starts to read it. I could see as she read that she was lost - lost in the pages and lost in sin. She starts to read at the beginning (that's what you do with a book, right?); she skips to the end (that's what you do when you don't understand a book, right?); she starts to flip through pages in the middle (maybe looking for pictures or something that would help her understand). Then she kinda sets the Bible in her lap and looks around. She didn't say anything, but I could sense the attitude: "Does anybody know what this is all about?" God commands me again, "Go and talk to her. She's ready." "But God, what if I can't explain it to her? I don't even have my own Bible with me with my notes and memory verses." He rebukes me, "Listen, you little scaredy-cat, it is my message and you are just my messenger. Now go..." I don't mean to make this over-dramatic, but this is just the way everything was happening in my head.
As I look back on this, I think of Moses. God says to him, "Come, I will send you to Pharaoh..." "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh..." And God replies in Exodus 4:12, "Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak."
So the Lord bought to my mind Acts chapter 8 with Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch: "Do you understand what you are reading?" "How can I, unless someone guides me?" That was my cue. I walked up and sat in the chair next to the lady: "Good afternoon, ma'am. Do you understand what you're reading?" She smiled and said, "Well..." wanting to say yes, but then honestly says, "No, I don't." "Well would you like me to explain it to you?" She nodded. So I took the tract that we had and began to explain to her that every one of us has a problem - sin. We walked through the Romans Road as I told her that our sin separates us from God. I watched her face very carefully to see if she was understanding. Over and over I asked her, "Do you understand me?" She did. So I told her that Jesus Christ has paid the price for her sin. "Do you know who Jesus Christ is?" "Yes, He is the Son of God." So I read to her Romans 10:9 and said that all she has to do to repent is to believe this message in her heart and confess with her mouth that Jesus is her Lord. I asked her, "Do you believe that this is the truth?" "Yes," she said. "And would you like to make this decision right now?" "Yes." So I told her that I would lead her in a prayer, but that the prayer wouldn't save her - because I am not God and I do not save anybody - but her faith in God's Word and in Jesus Christ would save her. So I led her in a simple prayer of repentance of sin and faith in Jesus and she asked Jesus to come into her heart and save her! It was the most beautiful thing I have seen! I felt as if I were watching somebody lead her to the Lord, rather than doing it myself.
So then I told her that now we are a family. I told her how God was writing her name down in the Book of Life. I told her that now when she reads the Bible, the Holy Spirit inside of her will show her things and make her to understand it. Then I left her alone and went for walk to try to take in everything that had just happened. I was praising and thanking God for using a weak, fragile vessel like me to shed his light into the darkness of a sinful heart. Then I returned to the church. I wondered what she would be doing. The Bible says, "...by their fruits you shall know them." When I got back to the church, Marina was sitting there still with her Bible open. She was no longer skimming through it; she was reading it. The surgeries go relatively slow with so many people to operate on. So Marina and her group were there for about 2 1/2 hours waiting. I never saw her put her Bible down once. She sat there and read it the whole time. At 2:00 PM, Brother Martin arrived and decided to get up in front of everyone and preach the gospel, instead of just going one on one. As he did, I watched Marina. Martin says, "How many of you know that if you died tonight, you would go to heaven?" All of the church members raised their hands - and so did Marina. The patients/visitors did not. As he preached, He would say things like, "How many of you believe that hell is a real place?" Marina raised her hand. "Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?" Marina raised her hand.
It was beautiful. She had understood. And now I understood as well. When I am weak, He is strong. When I cannot speak, He will speak. When I take the risk, He takes the action. What a wonderful God we serve! And what a privilege to be a part of His work in this world!
"Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!"
- Psalm 107:1