May 23, 2008

Dramatization of the Vision

I recently found out that not only did one of our earlier updates not get sent, it was erased forever. So, one of the most powerful stories was lost, but I’ll try to recreate it. If you want to skip to the main event, scroll down to #1-5!

Hopefully, everyone knows that our vision is to make disciples, who can make disciples, who can… When a pastor and friend of mine said he wanted to come over with a team, my first thought was, “I don’t really do teams, but I don’t want to say ‘NO,’ so…” We talked about his gifts and callings and what he could accomplish here in Ecuador. He is one of the top Puppeteers in the U.S. He gives seminars and classes concerning “Children’s Ministry” all over the country, and about 1/4th of his church is made up of children.

I immediately called Michael down on the coast of Ecuador where his family and 2 other couples have been planting a new ministry to the largely un-reached/ un-churched people of Atacames, Esmeraldas. There they basically start the new ministry by going into the public parks, playing games and giving food to the children there.
After a while, they get an invite from one of the parents to go into their home. From there, they start a cell group style meeting. As you can imagine when doing a Bible study in one of those homes, all the neighboring relatives come which include: Grandma, Grandpa, Cousins 1-10, Aunts & Uncles, Brothers & Sisters, Moms & Dads, and close neighbors. There can easily be 20+ people in some of the first meetings. After several house churches evolve, community events begin to grow as well as training of the new converts. During the past few weeks, the first walls went up on the new church building.
Getting back to my friend...You can now see how important those initial contacts with the children are. They can literally change the whole community and eventually build a church. So, we decided to bring my friend in for a couple of weeks. He was to give his seminars to the students here at the seminary in Quito and down on the coast with the new converts and missionary families.
It is easy to see the importance of training the soon-to-be pastors and missionaries from the seminary, but I want to focus on what happened at the coast.

1. The first blessing was that I was able to do the translating for the whole event! I was a little nervous at first, but was very pleased. I don’t know if I’ve ever had such a payoff moment. That one event seemed to make the year of my life spent in Costa Rica doing language training all worthwhile.

2. The 2 couples besides the Mills are from Bolivia and Argentina. April and I met them almost 12 years ago on our first trip to Ecuador from Lee. They are now graduates from the Seminary and are working here in Ecuador as missionaries, making disciples on the coast!

3. We spent the first day or so teaching the leaders and new converts how to make puppets. Puppets are so expensive and most often the people here depend on mission groups to bring some from the States as gifts. We removed that excuse! Now they know how to make Sesame Street and Disney quality puppets out of materials in their own town.

4. We spent the next day or so teaching them how to use the puppets correctly, and how to declare the Gospel with them. They also learned how to make balloon animals, drawings, and other clown tricks for the kids…anything to help declare the Gospel!

5. After spending another afternoon with just the leaders discussing Children’s ministry in general, we devoted an entire Saturday to actually using their new found gifts and talents (what an idea)! We went to the 3 local parks that the missionaries had been working with for the past half year. Then we went up into the mountains where my real story begins:

5 continued: Josué had just found the place a few weeks before. It was a small village that had no church and had NEVER heard of Jesus the Christ, Son of the living God. It is becoming more rare in Latin America to find such places, but they are there, usually among the outcast, racially unaccepted or poverty stricken areas. Josue went up the week earlier to get acquainted with some of the locals so that we could have some acceptance when we got there. We took the long bus ride up, walked up a difficult trail full of unpleasant smells and strange mud.

When we got to the village, we found what you might call the town center and park deserted. As some of us set up the small puppet stage and got out the balloons, the others went around asking people to come out to the “show.” Our little battery operated boom box and animal balloons eventually called the people and their children out of hiding. I translated again while my friend did a small portion of the service. After he was finished, we stepped back and let the newly equipped team do the rest.

I cannot describe fully what happened during that next half hour. I stood breathless as I watched a hand full of newly trained disciples using the puppets they made themselves declare in a simple and understandable way the name of my Savior to a people who had never heard. The sweet name of Jesus filled that stale air that had never carried such a beautiful sound before, like a perfume.

Then I looked at the leaders of these new disciples. Graduates and disciples themselves from the seminary that I love, and it dawned on me! I was literally watching the dramatization of the vision God gave me over a decade ago. I was watching Disciples make Disciples make Disciples! I started to weep.

Friends…This is what I will forever do with my life! In whatever form it may take, we must all make disciples who can make disciples who can…


Amy said...

Matt, this is a beautiful story! God has called me to a different kind of missions - the kind that keeps people like you and April where He wants you to be. Stories like this one are what people here in the States need to hear to inspire support in the form of contact, prayer, and $$. Keep 'em coming!

p.s. Very excited about the new baby! Can't wait to see pics :-)

dB Rocks said...

Matt, keep up the Godwork! I was directed to your blog through your movie selection. My favorite is Shadowlands. I will check back with you guys occasionally. Keep serving the King.