Friday, April 5, 2013

A trek worth making

Little did I knew when I stood at the edge of the beach in Punta Banco near the border of Costa Rica and Panama in April 2012 that my dream of being reunited with my Ngobe friends would come true.
All the arrangements to visit the indigenous communities of Carona and La Palma were made by Pastor Carlos Espinoza from the rural town of Laurel, Costa Rica.  Pastor Carlos has been mentoring the Ngobe pastors since the year 2000. He provides counsel and pastoral care to the men who live far from Christian seminaries or Bible colleges. The pastors who live in these communities had attended two previous Bible storytelling workshops and it was now my turn to return the favor and go to them.
Just a few weeks ago, my partner in ministry, Brendan Blowers and I, along with Pastor Carlos and two others, traveled eight hours by foot to reunite with the men and women I have come to know and love. I was invited to share Bible stories in their church services and help the pastors refine their skills in Bible storytelling.
The wooden church in Carona, under the leadership of Pastor Armando, meets three times a week in the evening. It was obvious when we entered the unassuming church that it lacked many comforts known to us in the West: electricity, tile floors, and air conditioning. But what it lacked, it over compensated by the warmth of the people and by the presence of the Holy Spirit. The invitation to share a Bible story with the congregation allowed me to see once again how the Word of God can pierce the hearts of men and women no matter their level of education or economic status.  The first parable I shared came from Luke 18:9-14, The Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The simple and profound six verses encouraged the believers in Carona that those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (v.14.) The affirming words of Jesus resonated with the humble congregation as they identified themselves with the tax collector in the parable. Unlike the proud Pharisee in the story, the Ngobe pastor admitted he has nothing else to offer Jesus except the acknowledgment that he is a sinner saved by grace.

I often wonder if those who have less in this world understand the words of Jesus more clearly than those of us who have so much more. In the case of Pastor Armando and his church, they most certainly do.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth – Matthew 5:5
Leo, Alberto, Laura, Brendan, Carlos ready to go
Sharing a Bible story in front of the church
Pastor Armando and his wife Rosalia
La Iglesia Cristiana de Carona
Aerial view of the Ngobe community
How Brendan and I looked like without sleep
A typical house in Carona 
Pastor Armando's church pulpit