By Jason Lewis
What a trip! That’s me preaching at the Ministerios Sembradores church in Quetzaltenango (“Sembradores” is Spanish for “Sowers”). I had an absolute blast there. It was great meeting up with Pastor Juan Castro (our Latin America director) and his friends. I knew that the movement there is Pentecostal, so I prepared to be stretched beyond the boundaries of my conservative style of ministering. Sure enough, that’s what happened. I was definitely out of my theological comfort zone, but in a good way. The best way I can sum up the trip is that it was 50% sanity, but 100% God. I know the math doesn’t add up, but that’s kind of the point.
Everyday had a new highlight in store for me, everyday a new lesson, a new takeaway. For the sake of time, I’ve chosen one story to share that basically embodies the whole trip. In Guatemala, it’s an honor and a privilege to host a missionary. Not so much because of who the person is, but because of what the person is doing. The act of serving God is held in very high regard, and someone who is in transit in the service of God is well looked after. They see you as heaven-sent. A gift from God worthy of the best stewardship they can muster. A missionary, regardless of who he is at home, is anointed with the Holy Spirit for the task, and to be able to have that anointing in their home is a great blessing for them. By serving the servants, they please the Master. Actually that’s the name they called us the whole time we were there, “Los Siervos”, Spanish for
“The Servants”. Three times a day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we went to a different church member’s house to be served their best food on their best china. What a joy it was for me to break bread (and tamales) with those fine families, and my prayer is that Jehovah Jireh may replenish all that was consumed, and more. So that’s the setting for my story, we were on our way to a house to eat lunch. We had been in Guatemala for a few days already and I was starting to get used to the routine. We go to a house, they roll out the red carpet, we feast on amazing Guatemalan cuisine, we pray for the hosts, and we move on to the next thing on the schedule. This house however, was going to be a little different than the rest.
The host was a sister from the church there, mid 20’s, servant-hearted, gentle, and altogether pleasant. She welcomed us with a warm smile and a very un-shy kiss on the cheek, the staple of all Latin American greetings. As we broke the threshold we were overpowered by an aroma that was clearly hours in the making, perfectly timed to peak at our arrival. We sat at the table. As course after delicious course poured out from the kitchen, the only thing better than the food was the fellowship. Except for Carlos. A background shadow of a presence, and a proverbial elephant in the room. He kept to himself and stayed off to the side. Nobody paid him any attention because you just knew that any attempt to engage him would be awkward. I couldn’t help it; I confess: I judged him.
His hair was greasy and clumsily styled, his clothes were dirty and slept in. He was probably a drug addict, an alcoholic at least. A burden to his family and a nuisance to his neighbors. Trouble. I felt sorry for him, obviously a lost cause, no hope of ever reaching the level of holiness that I have. Why was he even here? Did he not know that men of God were coming? This afternoon was supposed to be about how great I am, I came here to be served! How dare he impose his sad state on my lunch plans? Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, that was the track my train of thought was on. A sense of spiritual pride had crept in, and I had shown it safe harbor. In hindsight, shameful.
His sister (our host) motioned for him to join us, and he did, but reluctantly. The ambience changed as he sat across from us at the table. It was all of a sudden all about him. I felt bad for him. He was physically outnumbered and spiritually outgunned. I could see right thru him. I thought that thanks to me, on that day, he would have an encounter with God he would never forget. That he would see my obedience and be challenged to change. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Actually, what happened was, on that day, I would have an encounter with Christ that I would never forget, thanks to Carlos.
Pastor Juan started the conversation with a stern statement, “Carlos, God wants to set you free today”. We all knew what that meant; it was a declaration of war. Carlos proceeded to confess all the things he was struggling with. These were big struggles. The desperation in his voice was genuine; he was sick and tired of being sick and tired. But there was something else; he nodded to his sister as if to signal her in way, to tell her that it was time. Then softly, and politely, she asks us if it would be ok if Carlos washed our feet. What? We looked at Carlos, he told us that he heard men of God were coming to his home and he thought if he washed our feet, it would help him get the victory he was longing for. He began to cry. His sister began to cry. We all began to cry. The Spirit of God had fallen in that place in an “upper-room” kind of way. It was more than
the Spirit of God; it was the Spirit of Christ Himself, and He was with Carlos. They took us to another room, and to my amazement, Carlos had it all set up. Clean towels, wash bins, warm water… The whole time I had been judging him, he was trying to muster the courage to ask us to allow him to wash our feet. I’ve never felt as small as I did that moment.
We said yes, of course. So he did, he washed our feet. During the process I felt the Lord speak to me for Carlos. After Christ washed the disciples feet, He died. After He died, He arose in victory! Christ not only wanted Carlos to obey by the washing of feet, He wanted to take Carlos from his chains, to the upper room, to the cross, to the grave, and finally, to victory. After he finished washing we laid hands on him, and prayed, Carlos prayed with us. I am glad to tell you that the old Carlos, on that day, passed away. And the new Carlos rose up in victory. The Spirit of Christ that was with him was now within him. His whole countenance changed. The chains were gone. We had a new brother. Brother Carlos. Forgive me for judging you Carlos, and thank you for teaching me about humility, obedience, and victory.