by Paco Amador
(Editor’s note: This is the 3rd of a 9-post series on non-negotiables for authentically leading a church towards being more evangelistic.)
A few years ago I found myself walking up the winding path to a little church in a dusty rural town in the southwest corner of the state of Oaxaca in Mexico.
I was there because a sweet old lady from our church had called me. She never called. So when she did, I responded. Sitting at her kitchen, she announced, “God told me to tell you to go back to my home town in Mexico, take a group of people and preach the gospel.” I never know what to do when people say, “God told me.” But this time I challenged her, “If God told you, then let’s raise some money for the trip.”
She immediately got to work conspiring with her relatives and others from her hometown living in Chicago. They sold tamales, fervently prayed, enlisted people, had garage sales, you name it. In the end, when all was said and done, she had mobilized a team of 13 people from our church, including my wife and I, and had raised enough money to send the entire team filled with supplies back to her little town in the mountains of Oaxaca.
As we arrived to the Sunday morning worship service up in the hill, the pastor approached me and said, “You are preaching today.”
I preached my heart out that day to a room full of people, many of whom spoke Spanish. But throughout the message I noticed that a young teenage girl was translating my message from Spanish into the local indigenous tongue for (whom I later found out was) her mom.
As I drew to the end of the message, I gave an altar call. No sooner had my words been translated than the mother enthusiastically raised her hand up and her daughter followed.
Just then, the pastor of the church got up and stood next to me. With large motions, he waved her to the front and challenged her to leave her old life, repent, and enter into the new life, where Jesus is King. That day, I prayed, ushering those two women unto the arms of the King.
As soon as we finished praying, the pastor asked if there was anything else they wanted us to pray for. Humbly and with a newness of shame, she mentioned her witchcraft experience and how as long as she could remembered she had not been able to sleep through the night.
It’s amazing the amount of thoughts a person can have in a split second. As any good “American” would, upon hearing her plight my mind immediately went into “fix it” mode:
I wonder if there is a doctor in town that we could recommend her to?
I wonder if she would have some form of medical insurance that would cover her?
I wonder what kinds of pills they have here in this area for lack of sleep?
I wonder if this runs in her family?
And just as I was running triage in my mind, I overheard the pastor gently saying to her for all to hear, “No problem. We will pray for you right now and Jesus will heal you. Tonight you will sleep.”
I stopped and looked at the pastor; myself also a pastor, I was taken aback by that noble idea. Jesus healing? Why didn’t that occurred to me?
After all, hadn’t Jesus said, “I have come to set the captives free.” Why not take Him at His word? The Apostle Paul said that the kingdom is not a matter of words, but also of power. While speaking about John the Baptist, Jesus had also mentioned that the Kingdom of God advances forcefully and no one can enter into it halfheartedly. You must cannonball into it.
Recently, I was praying with a pastor friend in our city. We were going through Psalm 37. After the reading, he asked me to read verse 11 again. I had been using my Spanish Bible. Our translations in English read, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” In Spanish, my version read, “…the dispossessed shall inherit the earth.”
I am thinking about my own faith, the difference between that pastor’s reaction and mine, of the expectations I have of who God is and what He can do, and of the difference in faith between the “resourced” and the “dispossessed.” Over and over, I continue to be confronted with what seems to be a truth in neon letters. When confronted with the world, the resourced immediately look into their arsenal to solve the issues they face. Conversely, when the dispossessed are hit with the violence of their world they don’t look to themselves; the resources are most likely not there. Instead, true children look with expectation to their heavenly father.
Could it be that the difference in my faith is whether I fully trust in the One who owns all the resources of the earth?
That day back in Oaxaca I experienced the difference between a resourced pastor and a dispossessed one. I was glad he spoke first. He will inherit the earth.
The next day, we went to visit the mother and daughter we had introduced to the Jesus the day before. I don’t need to tell you. You can already guess it. She met us with a huge smile. Her first words: “I slept great last night.”
Unlikely teachers indeed!
Paco Amador (@PacoChi7) pastors the New Life congregation in a Mexican immigrant neighborhood in Chicago. He enjoys running, dancing with his four daughters, wrestling with his three boys, and bike riding through the city. Pastor P and his wife, Sylvia, have been married for 20 years.