Friday, March 24, 2006

Without a doubt, yesterday was the day I have dreaded most this year, and to be perfectly honest, my choice would have been to enclose myself in my office and deal with the pain privately. That will never happen in this line of work. In spite of the fact that every memory of our great loss was and is painful, God’s promise of unmerited, yet immeasurable grace, peace and joy were and are evident in every moment, and I am grateful for encouraging phone calls, thoughts, letters and prayers for my family in the States, my family in Tepic, and for me.

I started the day off at a ladies’ breakfast from which I didn’t return home until almost 1. When I got home, the little rustic table on my front porch was covered with flower arrangements, potted plants and love letters from different people from the Tepic church who had stopped by to share with me. I checked my email and found other letters of encouragement.

I also found an automatically-generated alert from Chase bank that a withdrawal from the work account of more than $400 had been made yesterday, pretty strange since I hadn’t made any transactions in that account for over a week. A quick check of the account online, revealed not only one unauthorized debit withdrawal for over $400, but also 5 other smaller withdrawals, and all of them listed the exchange rate in rupees! The $404 withdrawal was to pay Ryan Airlines in India! God chose an interesting way to take the immediate edge off the focus on my personal pain. To make a long story sort of shorter, a claim has been submitted to the dispute department, and my debit card (which I have NEVER, ever used anywhere but at the ATM at one bank 4 blocks from my house) has been cancelled.

When I finally finished dealing with that issue, I put the finishing touches on a platter of capirotada, a kind of gross-tasting (until you get used to it) and gross-looking (you never get used to that) Mexican bread pudding with raisins, dried figs, candied quince and guava, etc., that is the traditional Easter/Lent dessert, and I quickly reviewed my lesson for our weekly ladies’ Bible study in María Esther’s house. María Esther and her daughter María Luisa surprised us with homemade tamales and hot chocolate to go with the capirotada. The ladies hung on every word of the lesson, shared some very deep-rooted prayer requests, and reached out to their sisters in love that only God can give to people from such diverse and disparate social backgrounds. Once again, I came away marveling at the power of God’s love and Word to bridge differences, transform lives, comfort by His Spirit, and restore vigor in all of us. The Bible study started right on time at EXACTLY 5 :), but I didn’t get home until nearly 9!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

For once in my life I find myself at a complete loss for words to counsel, encourage, uplift or soothe the pain in others. On this personally unforgettable date, the remembrance of which will be forever etched in my heart, I find comfort in a personal love letter from our Father, who is never at a loss for expressions of comfort. May His words permeate our spirits with perfect peace and infuse our hearts with incomprehensible joy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Today I had a pow-wow with Pastors Manuel and José Lopez regarding the status of translator selection and the "letter" of request from the Huichol leaders for backing from The Seed Company. The Huichol believers are more anxious than we to have the Old Testament in their "heart language." The logistics of performing their end of the task have caused them to run up against many (for them) proverbial "brick walls," but they are not the least bit discouraged; and we all know that these "brick walls" serve to orient us in patience in future potential moments of discouragement.
Presently, the entire work force of Huichol believer men, with very few exceptions, is out working in fields at various worksites throughout the state of Nayarit, not for the purpose of increasing personal reserves, but in an attempt to raise funds for transportation, supplies and food provisions for the biggest reunion of new and experienced believers that they have ever had at one place. The get-together will be hosted by the church at Zapote de Picachos during Semana Santa (Easter Week), and the consensus is that it is important for everybody who has the need or desire to attend should be able to regardless of whether they can "afford" the ridiculously expensive costs of boat transportation and food. They are pooling their resources in the most impressive display of brotherly solidarity that I have ever seen. Pastor Manuel shared with me that he has been meditating on an appropriate theme for the celebration, and God has laid on his heart the idea that "We are so fortunate to have the New Testament in our hands." He said that in his studies God impressed him with the fact that "God's Word is entirely sufficient; it purifies, sanctifies, edifies," …and a couple of other "…ifies" he mentioned that my non-photographic memory refuses to recall. Then in the clincher, he questioned, "BUT what good is it if we don't apply it?" I agreed whole-heartedly and reminded him of the example in James of the man who sees his face in a mirror but walks away giving no attention to the reflection. So, the theme of the Easter Week celebration of new life, in addition to the ever-present evangelistic thrust, will be "to be doers of the Word, and not hearers only."

Thursday, March 16, 2006

José was here yesterday, and I related to him a narrative Barbara Grimes forwarded to me, about Walter, Ronald, and the great sacrifice they willingly made to get the translation of God's Word in the heart-language of the Tennet people of Africa. José hung on every word of the story as if he and Manuel themselves were the protagonists, and I could see the empathy inscribed on his furrowed forehead and in his misty eyes. When the story concluded with the concept that some are naturally gifted for the role of translator and others are equally valuable as supporters, he couldn't have agreed more. With other key Huichol leaders, he and Manuel have discussed at length, the project and their need to choose and appoint likely translation candidates based on character and God-given skills.

They are well aware of the system, and they understand the need for doing things "decently and in order," as well. In spite of the fact that patience is one of their major virtues, and faults, the seeming foot-dragging on their part for getting the “letter” processed is not as it may appear.

In the course of our conversation, José mentioned that they were told that Porfirio (from Codorniz and Emilio (from La Quemada), likely translation candidates, are working somewhere on the coast. They tried desperately to locate them, but were unable. José made several calls from my house to Venansio, a Huichol lay-pastor in Tijuanita, trying to follow-up, also to no avail. José is going to make another trip this Saturday to the area in an effort to contact them regarding the translation project. José and Manuel had planned to make the long trip to Codorniz, on the Jalisco border, to encourage, teach, and edify the believers in Pastor Porfirio’s remote village, but since nearly everybody who is able, including Porfirio, is at the coast working, the trip has been cancelled. He also mentioned that he had heard that Emilio is considering returning the Colorado (US) for a few months on a work permit like he obtained last year.

Meanwhile José and Manuel suggested to Gumercindo the possibility that he could be one of the translators. Gumercindo replied that he doesn't think he's "smart" enough. )
(My opinion is that he's WAY smart enough, and his wife, Máxima is also "smart." However, I don't want to influence their own Spirit-led selection.) José and Manuel both insisted that he shouldn't think in terms of doing the whole OT on his own, but that they would all be willing and craving the opportunity to review, discuss, and reduce to the best option, every word if necessary. José said, "The problem is not that we don't think we can translate from Spanish to Huichol; it's that this is not just any piece of writing. It's God's perfect Word, and we don't want to mess it up!" Wow! So, all this is to say, the desire is more than there, and the wheels are turning, but physical logistics have made carrying out the letter of petition including the names of potential translators difficult to say the least.

Monday, March 13, 2006

José, Manuel and Gumercindo led the group that just returned from their teaching trip to the village of El Patroneño where the men from the village of Guásima del Caimán have gone to work in the fields to earn enough money to pay boat fare for the new believers to attend the big Easter Week Huichol "conference" at Zapote de Picachos. They all want to be baptized that week and be part of the "family gathering." It’s a very long hike from their village to the water’s edge, then another long ride by boat to the landing nearest the village of Zapote de Picachos where the gathering will be held this year.

The teachers stayed 2 days in El Patroneño and taught follow-up on the security of the believer and baptism. Since there is electricity in El Patroneño, Gumercindo dreamed up the idea that they should take a video player and the Jesus video in Huichol, too.

José came to town this morning with the great news that the new believers are growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and their testimony before others who are also working there motivated 6 others to receive Christ.

Pastor Manuel, especially, is feeling stress as there are so many needs, and he is so compassionate. Just last week he was telling me that he ran into 3 men from Paso de Álica, Ángel, Victoriano, and the third of whom he couldn’t remember the name. He said, “They knew me, even though I didn’t know them. Everyone knows me.” I replied, “Yes, and like Paul said, that is a big responsibility!” I reminded him that Paul encouraged believers to be imitators of him as he imitated Christ. (Manuel was well aware of Paul’s admonition. He knows and lives his Bible better than most pastors I know.) I also advised him that he is in the perfect position for Satan to attack. I explained the game of bowling and the significance of knocking over the “kingpin,” and then I related him to the “kingpin.” “BIG responsibility,” I said, “Be very careful of temptations. They come in all shapes and sizes (I mentioned a few examples.), and Satan would love to dangle one in front of him that would result in knocking over a whole line of new believers.” Anyway, it turns out that Ángel and Victoriano basically begged him to bring a group to Paso de Álica to share the Good News with them. He said that there used to be a group of believers there, but now there is nothing. Manuel said that he had just been reflecting on some things he and Kirt discussed a year ago, just before Kirt went to Heaven, when Kirt had asked him, “What’s happening in Paso de Álica, El Roble, and Guadalupe Ocotán? That’s where things had their beginning for the Huichol believers, but it seems that that area has dwindled.” And now “out of nowhere, Ángel and Victoriano appear!” So that’s Zapote, Patroneño, Zitácua, Guásima, Codorniz, La Quemada, and now Paso de Álica that are begging for a piece of him. And he can’t wait to resume the recording of the New Testament, and to get started on the translation of the Old Testament. That’s a LOT of pressure for anyone from ANY culture!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Last summer a large group of "non-traditional" Huichols were expelled from their village by local judicial authorities for not practicing the “accepted religion.” According to José Lopez they were Adventists, Apostolics and Baptists. The government made a place for them near Guadalajara, but Pastor Lopez says that the "Baptist" group couldn't hack the accommodations, and they have come back to our area looking for a new place to live. Presently, they are in Huanacaxtle, but they are not content there, and they went to ask Lopez for advice. Everybody knows Lopez.

They need access to a large parcel of land so they can plant their corn, and it appears they are considering the area near Atonalisco, just beyond where Roman lived when we were working with him in the early 80s. Pastor Lopez seems happy that there will be another large group moving into the area, but he is quite concerned that they begin to study the Word. Then there's the group of new believers from Guásima del Caimán who have gone to work in the harvest of the fields in El Patroneño, near Santiago. He and Pastor Manuel are itching to take a trip there to follow up on them, knowing that the "enemy" will no doubt be on their heels, and help them through the constant temptations that are so accessible in places like that. José and Manuel have a LOT on their plates. They work so well together, and their gifts complement each other in such a way, it scares me. Sometimes it's not easy being the "big chiefs," oh, but the crowns they are laying up in Heaven!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I received an email from Joe Grimes (the Huichol New Testament translator who in the 50s and 60s with his wife, Barbara, lived among the Huichols for 16 years).
His letter, directed to Huichol pastors, José and Manuel, exposed the kind of organizing that will be necessary for his organization (SIL) and The Seed Company (TSC) to get involved with the existing Huichol churches in facilitating the translation of the Old Testament into their “heart” language. The indigenous Huichol translators will need outside help with training, guidance, and consultation on the translation, funding for special needs like computers, books, and workshop and consultant travel expenses; and for that assistance they are required to submit a formal “letter of request.” This “gringo” red tape is foreign to the Huichol mindset, but they are willing to do whatever it takes to get God’s complete Word in their hands. José and Manuel have whole-heartedly agreed, along with other church leaders, first, to form a committee to write the letter requesting help, and second, to work and sacrifice whatever is necessary to achieve this goal beginning with taking a bus, boat, and hiking long distances on foot over some really rugged terrain to present the project to and get words of commitment from available and willing qualified bilingual (Spanish/Huichol) helpers.

Joe Grimes in Hawaii and I in Tepic arranged a time this morning for pastors José and Manuel to talk via a Skype computer connection to Joe, who is obviously fluent in Huichol. Joe says that when he talks to some of the Huichol pastors, “it sounds more like he’s talking to Peter and Paul because they're so soaked in Scripture. That's why they take seriously the instructions in the New Testament about using the Old. They've become accustomed to obeying the New Testament after 39 years, and that's behind their quest for Moses and the Prophets. Their attitude isn't colored by being around churches that are accustomed to giving short shrift to three quarters of the Word of God. They really want the whole thing.”