[by Malissa Campbell]
Early in the morning on Monday, the 16th, the youth pastor, Omar, and his wife, Kenia, met us at our hotel in downtown Leon. They would be our guides and translators for the day as we went to the different communities surrounding central Leon to show us what their church was doing within each community, to pray for the members, and to become familiar with the area—It would be a time for us to become acquainted with the situation so that we could know how best to help and assist them.
Water bottles in hand and sunscreen heavily applied by the prudent among us, we hopped into the church buses to the first of three community, Fuyuleza.
Balloons graced the entrance of the sister church in Fuyuleza. “Welcome ACTS team” reminded us that we were indeed in the right place, though I think many of us were not convinced. We met church members and prayed for two women who were suffering from severe medical conditions. After praying we were escorted back to the vans by groups of lighthearted and surefooted children who waved goodbye as we left for our second stop.
The second community, Monte Horeb did not have a church plant, but members of Iglesia Comunidad are still known and working, distributing food and doing a short devotional with the people in the house of one of the church members once a week. Women and children lined up next to the health center located there as they saw us gather there ourselves toward the end of the tour. Their hope was to fill their vessels of various sizes, colors, and states of sanitation with food, but this was a miscommunication. Right before leaving, we went to the house of a woman named Rebecca, a new church attendee. She asked for prayer, and after pastor Felix spoke about the importance of accepting Jesus as her savior, she asked to pray to accept Jesus.
The next and last community we visited was Telica. The young pastor of the church plant in Telica greeted us as we entered the large, cinderblock church. He then led us behind the building, where we stood among roots of a construction project. He explained to us that it was his desire that the church add a classroom for the children who currently had no place to meet. A few bricks and $1,000 of the $4,000 needed marked the beginning of this undertaking. It was clear that date of completion was unsure, but the knowledge of the goodness of God was certain.
In each of these communities we went around to encourage and pray for members and those with struggles and it is how we ended the day by going to pastor Felix’s house to pray and sing for his mother.
Tired and sweat in a way that shouldn’t even be described, we got back into the vans to return to the hotel. It felt like we had gotten onto an international flight and not into vans as we were greeted by dinner and AC back at Hotel León. But praise God that this juxtaposition can be used to grown in Christ-like generosity and genuine thankfulness when it becomes more apparent how underserving we are of these gifts.
It would be possible to spend a fair amount of time trying to describe all of the things we saw in these villages, but it is probably somewhat subjective as well as futile. That being said, maybe it is important to take some time to go over what was felt as we took in our surroundings.
Being in communities with such intense poverty, it would be understandable to leave with a feeling of helplessness and a bitter taste of defeat, but that is not the conclusion that I think was drawn by our team nor by the church members who gladly “uncovered” the truth of the living conditions in the communities outside of the city.
Instead, there appears to be a resolved confidence that hope was not at all diminished by the hot weather, mud, or shacks in varying states of structural integrity. Why such confidence when there was so little hope of triumph over innumerable hardships and trials? What is there to cling to when there is seemingly nothing? but maybe it is this very situation where God is pleased to see the truth of the gospel stand as victor over empty promises of life. The truth that nothing can outshine the pearl of great price which is our salvation in Christ Jesus comes to mind first, but it also true that there is no thing or circumstance that can diminish the brilliance of this hope we have.
It is vital in these circumstances to be set on the price set before us, to run the race with endurance. There is hope and that is cause for rejoicing, not pity. The greatest treasure is given freely to all who ask. No matter the streets or the cities, Tieton or León, the fragrance of Christ spreads out from his church. The city on a hill shines light which vaporizes the darkness of poverty and illness.
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55) Christ has overcome. The battle is won– let us carry the message of victory far and wide.
Thank you for your time and your desire to stay updated with our team. Please join us in praying for focus; that we would “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifest in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:10), and we would continue to set our minds on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Romans 5:1-5).
All glory to God who slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.