Friday, May 10, 2013

The snake and the rooster

       “Laura, would you happen to have a Bible story about superstition that you could share tomorrow?” asked Manuel.  His invitation to present a story to the Cabécar men and women of Alto Rio Peje regarding a recent incident he had witnessed was eye- opening. Manuel and Yorlenny Porras is a missionary couple that has been serving the indigenous community for the past two years.
Manuel had observed how a rooster had been tied up to a tree and not allowed to roam around like most other roosters in the community. When he asked a member of the community why the rooster was tied to a tree, he was told that the rooster had been picking on chickens and chicks in recent days. If allowed to go on, that would mean a snake would soon bite someone in the community. As a result, the rooster needed to be tied up otherwise someone would be injured and die. According to Manuel, his observation necessitated an opportunity to cast light on a false practice that the Cabécar people had long believed.
       The story of Paul on the island of Malta in Acts 28 came to mind although it was not in the original agenda. After telling and retelling the story, questions about the story followed. When we began asking questions on how the inhabitants of the island viewed Paul as the snake fastened itself to Paul’s hand, there was silence. Pastor Marcelo Mora, the senior pastor of the community, turned quietly to Manuel and told him he did not understand the question. I explained that the islanders of Malta had acted superstitiously when they declared that Paul must have been a murderer, ‘for though he escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live’ (v4). As we looked for ways to define and explain superstition from the group that assembled that morning, Manuel asked Pastor Marcelo if he had his permission to share his observation about the rooster being tied to a tree. Pastor Marcelo allowed him to use it as an example and Manuel then commented on the similarities of the two. While the group listened attentively to his reference, I sensed the Holy Spirit prompting me to return to the story and ask how the islanders felt about Paul after a snake gripped his hand. It was obvious that fear was what drove them to accuse Paul of being a murderer and it was also fear that caused the community to tie up the rooster to a tree. Irrational belief in Acts 28 as well as in this modern misconception practiced by the Cabécar has fear at its roots. As the story continues in verse 5, Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The contrast of Paul’s reaction led to open discussion among the Cabécar. Paul’s display of confidence and faith as he shrugged off the snake spoke volumes to the men and women who were present that day.
       Later that night, several of us were asked to pray for a young couple expecting their third child. The father had been battling nightmares and strange visions at night. When he told us his burden, the story of Acts 28 came up in the conversation. “Don’t forget, fear is not from God. It makes us weak but God makes us strong,” said the pastor to the young man before we closed in prayer.

      The amazing insights and profound observations that are found inside a Bible story can shape and mold the mind of any and every believer, as the Holy Spirit is allowed to be the great teacher.

Laura presenting Bible stories in Peje, Turrialba, Costa Rica
Manuel Porras sharing with Cabécar congregation
Pastor Marcelo Mora (left) praying for those who are about to share their Bible stories
Yorleny Porras holding newest member of the Cabécar community, baby Debora
Ministry partner, Tatiana Noriega (second from left) spending time with Cabécar young women
Ministry partner, Brendan Blowers (third from left) listening to music with Cabécar young men
Our last day of learning Bible stories at Alto Rio Peje