Family and friends,
Greetings from Chile! It has been about a week since I last reported and it hardly feels like we’ve even been here for a few days. The week passes quickly with our Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays filled with our six hour teaching schedules while Tuesdays and Thursdays are utilized for shopping, lesson planning, touring Temuco, and doing a few various chores. Saturday we generally relax or visit the different places in Temuco. On Sundays we try to visit a different church each week and spend the rest of the afternoon in fellowship and relaxation with other Chilean brothers and sisters.
After a somewhat stressful first day of teaching, we were able to gauge the students’ various levels of skill in conversing in English. We then divided them into three levels; beginning, intermediate, and advanced. The students all come from a wide variety of backgrounds. I have met an electrician who was let go from his job and wishes to improve his resume by learning English, a taxi driver studying to be a missionary who wishes to witness to English speaking foreigners like myself, and a pastor/psychiatrist who wants to learn English so he can go to America as a missionary. Whatever their background, all are eager to learn and most wish to use their skills to serve the Lord. After every conversation I am encouraged by their desire to learn in spite of financial difficulties or overwhelmingly busy schedules.
Last Friday night, we had the opportunity to eat with the care taker of the seminary, Louis, and his wife, Eliana. Louis is a Chilean Navy veteran and is now the pastor of a church about forty miles into the countryside, in a town called Chapod. At dinner Louis invited us to his church, and asked if any of us would be willing to deliver a message. Andreas and Heather both accepted his invitation. While Andreas preached to the congregation, Heather spoke to the youth. The congregation consisted primarily of Chileans of Mapuche descent, which is the largest tribe of Native Americans in Chile. The church was humble to say the least. Half of the Sunday school room was inaccessible because of a gaping hole on one side they were trying to repair, which revealed the flooded earth beneath. The entire room smelled of mold. The sanctuary
consisted of wooden benches placed on a cement floor with concrete walls. Above the stage and on the left wall hung the only decoration in the entire church; a wooden inscription that served as a testament to their faith. It read: “Christ: Savior Sanctifier Healer Coming King” and then “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” 1John 5:11-12. This simple mission statement was all that they needed on their walls. The people had come to worship in communion with each other and the Holy Spirit.
After Andreas’ sermon and several hymns, Pastor Louis asked if there was anyone who needed prayer for healing. I watched as he anointed five people with oil and prayed over their ailments. Then I simply listened. Not trying to pick out the few phrases and vocabulary of Chilean-Spanish I knew, but I just listened. I heard the sincerity of a man of God imploring the Lord on behalf of his hurting people. I remembered how before the service began, the people gathered from far distances all around the countryside, traveling on roads filled with potholes and mud, just to hear the Word of God and offer their praises to Him. I saw the houses in which these people lived and the conditions that they grew up with. I saw the faith in these peoples’ eyes and thought of the hardships they had to live with, and I knew from their worship that they were there because they loved God. These people had so little to offer and so many things they could have asked for, but they still remained faithful to the gospel they had first heard. When I compared this life to the life I had always known I could not help but cry. What incredible faith these people had! While so many North Americans lose faith over such small things compared to the everyday struggles of these passionate Christians I felt ashamed for my own lack of faith in Christ and endurance for the cross. I was strengthened to see such a strong community of believers despite what they had to overcome every day.
Once the service came to a close, I asked if I could play the drums with the praise band and we played several contemporary worship songs. Heather sang and Andreas took a few snapshots. Later, Heather and I ate with a family from the congregation that lived just down the road from the church. The mother is currently a student in our English classes and is doing very well with Heather in the intermediate course. Andreas went with Louis and Eliana to the house of the worship leader and his wife who serves as a deaconess in the church. After a warm meal and short siesta (or nap) we turned home after a great day of fellowship and worship.
This trip is still in its early stages, and I cannot wait to see what else God is planning on showing us. Thank you so much for your prayers! I ask that you would continue to pray for the students and their families as they work to learn English to assist them in their various callings and ministries.
Thank you all, and God Bless,