God gave me a vision a couple of weeks before I left for San Telmo and I prayed for it daily. I had a sudden conviction to live out my faith not just in prayer or reading of the word, but to practice them publicly. I felt that our Christian walk should be greater than just praying in my room by myself, or having revelations through bible reading in my journal. I felt like God was calling on me to do much more.
About a couple of months ago my home church went through a huge breakup. For months before that, and I can even say for years our head elder did not like our senior pastor and his wife very much. After a series of events where my dad was elected as an elder for our church by the church, our head elder became angry. The issue was that my dad was already an elder from a different church, but my parents decided to leave that church because the issues they had with their pastor. So, the elder of our church now kept on arguing that it was “illegal” to make my dad an elder at our church. Fights and argument broke out in our sanctuary. Through all this so many people were hurt, especially the innocent children who watched their parents fight without knowing why. My leader, the EM pastor decided to resign out of nowhere. She announced to our group she was resigning with no warnings or a “2 week notice.” She didn’t explain why she was leaving, and honestly, I heard some back stories behind her partaking in all our church drama. I didn’t say bye to her, or show any range of emotions for her departure. I simply felt betrayed, and to keep myself from sinning I didn’t say a word to her though my heart fumed with bitterness, anger, and regret. Our church split, the people who wanted to stay with our pastor came out of the church and the building while others who agreed with the head elder stayed. We have been holding worship services at homes and we have been growing little by little.
The reason why I share this story about my church is because it has a lot do with what I felt and learned in San Telmo. I went as a teacher to serve at El Porvenir, but I became a student to God’s teaching. Every day I was in San Telmo I felt a burning desire for prayer within my heart for my church back at home. I cried out every time I envisioned our pastor and the church members. I asked, “God, why do I keep thinking about our church when I should be focused on El Porvenir, my own heart, and the brothers and sisters here in San Telmo with me?” He didn’t give me a direct answer, but I knew he answered me through the conviction to pray for my church. Every time I prayed I had a new vision/revelation of what God wanted me to do when I went back home. I felt like he gave me words to add onto my testimony. He then broke my heart for my family members, especially my sister. My sister and I are best friends, close, but volatile to one another when we fight. My sister has a deep brokenness that I instead of praying for, yelled at her and tried to force her to turn to you. I remember standing in front of the alter crying for my sister’s sins and brokenness and feeling an overwhelming conviction to pray for her and her sins as if they were my own. That is where God shared with me that my sister and I are spiritually connected to one another much more deeply than I thought. We are bound together by our sins, and we must lift up and break off our sins together in His name.
I remember Pastor Paul asking the El Porvenir teachers how many of us thought about our beds and our homes? I felt so ashamed and guilty that I missed home, but I now know after being in San Telmo for two weeks that God allowed me to feel homesick, tired, and frustrated, so that he may break off my comforts and fleshliness. He showed me I would soon be returning home, but I wouldn’t be back in San Telmo for at least a year, and in that realization, there was much more God wanted to reveal to me in San Telmo that he wouldn’t show me back at home. He showed all of us teachers that in God’s eyes we are like these children in many ways. I remember feeling frustrated with the children whenever they didn’t listen, or whenever they traded our attention and love for someone elses. I remember I felt so betrayed that one of our students kept on wanting attention from the station leaders instead of their class teacher’s (me). I closed my eyes and I prayed, “God, what would you do? I know I can’t be angry at these children not just because they don’t know better, but because they deserve to have persistent unconditional love. How do you do it, God?” It was in that moment God told me I’m just the same. God pours out his love to me, gives me attention, asks me to come before him, and I look the other way and seek love from other people. I’d rather have human love than Godly love, and I admitted it right then and there that I was like these unruly children doing whatever their flesh desired. But God, out of his own character and his most inner being loves us to the point of death. That’s how unconditional his love is for me and for all.
For the first time in a long time I felt I was surrounded by God-filled people and while I was in San Telmo I rarely had a hard time giving worship to the Lord. I always overcame my struggle of tiredness, sleepiness, laziness, and complaints simply through conviction of prayer and through my fellow brothers and sisters who were to me examples of Christ. I thought, this is what a church is. This is what a Body looks like. I constantly had leaders encouraging us through rebuke and shouting to die to ourselves. Yes, I was encouraged through the yelling, because I knew it was done in love for us to trust in the Lord. “Die to yourselves 24/7.” I think that was my favorite line of this mission because it was exactly what I had to do everyday. But I knew I wasn’t alone. I knew all the teachers and our team leader had to die to themselves as well, and I was not the only one struggling. I never felt so exhausted, so sleepy, so emotionally drained, so dead out of all the missions I’ve been through, even Panama. I remember I started to get sick and I battled stomach aches almost everyday. I had a sinus cold and my head felt 10 pounds heavier. But the day I was the sickest was the day I gave my hardest. The night before, we were seriously rebuked by our team leader because we were becoming too comfortable. We had done the program for a week and it became a routine. We all gave into our tiredness and laziness, and God led our leader to lead a night of prayer where we asked God to forgive us and strengthen us so that we may redeem ourselves the next day and the days after. I remember our leader said to go beyond our curriculum, and use our imagination if we lost the kids’ focus. That’s exactly what I did the next day. I gave it my all. I journaled that night, “My body was literally dying in sickness, but I knew I was living, the most alive I’ve ever been in Spirit.” I knew the Spirit was moving in me the day I gave my all. See, it was not in flesh, for if it was I would have failed and gave in to my fleshly sickness and tiredness.
I learned when you give God your best God will surely show you the best. When I gave God more of me he had more to fill me with. God shared so many special things with me, but of all of them this one is the greatest. It goes hand in hand with the prayer and vision I had before I left for San Telmo. He said he would send me into the darkest places to bring light to them. I knew this meant I would be sharing the gospel with people inside and outside of my church. My spiritual walk was stunted by my fears of rejection, and yes, I have been ashamed of the gospel. But I know the power has always been in me through Christ Jesus, but there wasn’t authority to activate that power. All my shame, sins, laziness, idleness, and fears blocked the way of Jesus’ authority to awaken the power in me. Now, I know what it means and looks like to die to myself beyond just the words. The Word became life in me, and I am not ashamed of the gospel. God revealed the mystery of the church so that all may have access to the Lord through the gospel. We are his messengers. We have work to do, don’t we?