Sunday, April 24, 2011

My (second) Holy Week

The week before Easter is known as Semana Santa ("holy week") in Latin America. It truly is a holy week; the whole country of Costa Rica slows down in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. The normally omnipresent honking of the dense traffic of San Jose was literally silenced as most people either went on vacation or stayed at home with their families. Many stores were closed this week, or at least closed earlier in the day. You can’t buy alcohol this week, and the prostitutes even “close up shop” due to the temporary lack of activity in San Jose.

We here at YWAM had quite a bit of activity, though. We had a guest speaker from Missouri named Jude. He heads up a skate ministry in the States called Untitled Skateboards. He spoke on John 3:16 and took us to his first of two events of his up the hill from us at a church. Ramps were set up for the local youth to skate for free, which was cool because there are no free or public skate parks in Costa Rica. It’s a shame, because there were around one hundred teenagers present. I must say, I was really disappointed in Jude’s sharing of the gospel. While everything he said was true, and theologically sound, I felt he portrayed an image of God that was inaccurate and perhaps detrimental to the skaters.

He made them all very aware that they were sinners. For whatever reason, he thought it would be effective to compare God to a cop trying to pull over everyone speeding on the freeway. We, as humans, had the choice to either pull over or just try to outrun our pursuer. Either way, we’d have to face Him eventually. In the whole half hour that he spoke, Jude only mentioned the love of God – the motive and rationale behind His sacrifice and resurrection – once, and it was dwarfed by the fear and condemnation he was preaching before. When he extended an invitation to the skaters to accept Jesus into their hearts, no one raised their hands. I didn’t blame them; why would they want anything to do with a God who was out to get them? Jesus was just another person who thought they were a nuisance. This has been weighing on me all week, and still makes me really upset.

Something really interesting happened the next day, though, unrelated to the skate ministry. Our leaders wanted us to pray for an Outreach team that was distributing Bibles in a town called Guanacaste on the pacific coast. We split up into small groups to prayer for six of the thirty staff and students distributing bibles. While we were praying for the usual essentials – safety, boldness, unity and the like – I had this feeling that someone or some people on our list had lost something important, and needed to find it, so I prayed that God would deliver whatever it was back to them. When we were done, we were supposed to write down anything we felt we received from the Lord and turn it in to the staff, in case they needed to hear anything we heard.

That following weekend, one of my leaders came and found me and told me that one of the guys I prayed for had lost his wallet during the outreach, but ended up finding it. Also, a girl on that list had misplaced her contact lenses, but ended up finding them as well. Kinda cool, huh?

Wednesday was definitely a highlight for me. After breakfast we went to Zona Roja (the red-light district) and served the homeless alongside the Salvation Army. The homeless men and women would come in waves to the dining hall, where we would always begin with some scripture and a prayer of blessing of their food. Some of us worked in the kitchen, some of us were serving the food, some of us greeted the hungry at the door, and some of us just hung out with them while they ate breakfast. I had the privilege of sharing a word from Isaiah and saying grace for the second wave of people. After that, I got to pray for two substance abusers, who expressed desperation for God to fill their souls. The first was English-speaking and California-raised Ignacio, who was an alcoholic and lost his job as a security guard for showing up to work drunk. His employer said he might give him a second chance, if he cleaned up his act and had another interview. We prayed together for that upcoming opportunity and he vigorously shook my hand in gratitude when we were finished. Later, I prayed for Manuel, an older man from Nicaragua. He had no friends or family in San Jose, and he would constantly use heavy drugs to alleviate his feelings of loneliness. He didn’t want to do this anymore, so my translator and I prayed for him. As my words were repeated again in Spanish, Manuel started to tear up, and I couldn’t help but do the same.

In honor of Semana Santa, we spent a lot of time reflecting on who Jesus was. We read through the gospel of John and meditated on the different names and titles God gives Himself. It was really humbling to read all of the different names that Jesus was given – bread of life, the true vine, friend, good shepherd, teacher, light in the darkness – because it showed how big our God is. He is so big that He can fill every need in our lives. He is our teacher and counselor when we are in need of guidance. He is our father when we need provision. He is our friend when we are lonely. It makes me wonder how I’ve been viewing Him lately and what role He wants to fill in my life right now.

We watched The Passion of the Christ on Thursday night, took communion afterwards and had a time of confession on Good Friday. I got drafted into the worship team. Scott, my new friend from Australia who was heading up the band, could hear me singing during one of the sessions when he was next to me so he demanded my participation. We led the entire base this Friday morning in some songs. It was so much fun, and people seemed to really enjoy it.

Saturday was Jude’s last event. This one was in the central park of San Jose, where they rented out a huge space to put ramps. We didn’t have a clear role in this event, like the last one, so we just watched from the sidelines and hung out around the park. My friend Chris and I played Frisbee with some skater kids, who later expressed that they wanted to add us on Facebook. Hundreds of people came to skate again for free and ultimately to hear Jude’s legalistic gospel of fear. I know, I know. I’m being kind of harsh. I need to remember that seeds are in fact being planted, and that it’s amazing that there’s someone who wants to share the gospel with skateboarders. In the end, I think God’s love is preached through the mere provision of space to skate. Most people are too poor to afford the expensive private skate parks and there was even free Powerade for people to drink when they got thirsty.

So, today is Easter. The whole base got up at 5am to sing some songs, watch the sunrise and remember the resurrection. I must say, I really wish I could spend today with my family.

Praise report:
-Merlin, our 27 year old classmate from El Salvador, has never even heard English until he came to YWAM but is now speaking in full sentences after two weeks of exposure.
-During a time of confession on Friday, my cold finally went away after I confessed to two of my classmates that I had been judging them unfairly. I asked for their forgiveness and I noticed an hour later I had stopped coughing and sneezing!

Prayer Requests:
-Favor for Ignacio and healing for Manuel, the two men I prayed for at the Salvation Army.
-Growth in the area of grace. Pray God would fill my heart with his favor and patience for people.
-For an open heart for myself as I continue to learn. Pray that my heart and mind would open to the voice of the Lord.

1 comment:

  1. I love reading this Charlie. I love your honesty. I'm so glad to hear about the things that are meaningful to you. Very interesting about Jude's preaching. And very touching about Manuel and Ignacio. I'm sure you were a blessing in their life.

    Love you,