God is present and active in every situation of our lives. Sometimes we don’t always recognize God’s presence and activity within us and around us. But occasionally we catch a glimpse of what God is doing, and that can propel us forward in our journey of following Jesus. I had one such experience toward the end of our mission trip to Guatemala earlier this month.
Throughout the week, we spent a good bit of time with the people of “The Tracks.” When we weren’t working (building a staircase or painting a house), we found ourselves on the walkway outside the Christian school. People from that community gather there throughout the day; mothers talk together while they wait for their children to be dismissed from school, and kids play fútbol (soccer) with makeshift goals marked by stones or shoes. In this setting, I was able to practice my (severely lacking) Spanish skills; essentially, I could communicate about names, ages, and family relationships, and whether or not we would be coming back tomorrow. One family in particular attached itself to me, starting with the youngest daughter, a little girl named Faviola.
Every time I saw little Faviola, she wandered over to me, gave me a hug, and waited for me to ask how she was doing: “¿Cómo estás?” And her response was always the same, in a clear, bright voice: “Bien” (good). Faviola quickly discovered that Pastor Jerry carried candy in his pockets, and she learned to ask him for a piece every time she saw him. It was remarkable, then, on our last day at “The Tracks,” when Faviola saw the two of us and gave us each a piece of candy. That candy tasted pretty good, I have to admit.
Faviola has three older siblings: Eduardo, Henry, and Cindy (the eldest, not pictured here). Toward the end of the week, Henry started talking with me. He conveyed great respect and maturity as he talked about his school, his family, and some friends of his that he had met recently. For a long time he mentioned a friend named Guillermo, and he seemed very intent on making sure I knew who Guillermo was. I had trouble understanding Henry because of his strong accent. But eventually he asked his mother to switch SD cards in her phone, and then he showed me pictures that he had taken earlier in the month.
Henry kept talking about his friend Guillermo, and as the pictures flipped by my eyes, I suddenly realized that Guillermo is not just Henry’s friend but my friend as well: “Guillermo” is Spanish for “William,” which is the name of Pastor Bill from Eagle Ridge Church of God, a friend and colleague of mine from Midland. Sure enough, Pastor Bill was the man in those pictures with Henry! He had been right there, in that same location, just two weeks earlier. Each year, Eagle Ridge sends a mission trip team to Guatemala just like we do, and Pastor Bill went on their trip this year.
Henry was very excited to learn that “Guillermo es mi amigo, y nosotros somos pastores.” (Bill is my friend, and we are pastors.) Just before we left “The Tracks” for the last time, Henry made a point to ask me to send Guillermo his regards. I did just that, as soon as I was back in range of the internet at our hotel.
This encounter with Henry, Faviola, and the whole family is a blessing to me. It shows me that this world is, in fact, incredibly small: a young boy from an impoverished area of Guatemala City knows not one but two senior pastors from Midland, Michigan. And it shows me that God is ready to surprise us with simple yet profound joys: a little girl saying “I’m fine!” every day, a boy asking about life in a country he has never visited, a Savior who unites us all in his love and salvation. It shows me that the Holy Spirit moves ahead of us wherever we go so that we might be amazed and encouraged by his work.
This is true not just in Guatemala but here in Michigan as well. Who knows how God has already prepared the people you meet, so that your words and relationships might help them experience more abundant life? Who knows how God is preparing you right now so that today, even today, might mark a new beginning in your own life?
It’s not a question of “if” God is present and active, but “how.” The “if” only relates to whether or not we recognize his work in our lives.
“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed.” (Read Jesus’s parable of the kingdom of God in Mark 4:1-20.)
How is God asking you to help prepare others to receive his message? How is God preparing your own life to receive his truth? How is God’s word taking root in you and in those around you? How is God present and active in your part of the world?