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people of praise

Impart encouragement and strength

Halstead

“What do you think you can possibly do to encourage the people in El Potrero? You do not know the language, the culture, the environment! You are from a middle-class suburb trying to help some poor farmers in a small community in Honduras! How can you, of all people, encourage them?”

I was asked that question, just days before I began my journey to visit the El Potrero (CRC) Church family in Honduras. Not only did that question haunt me, but I also heard, just a day before our trip, their church building literally blew down a month before during a severe storm. There was no church building, just an empty lot where an adobe brick building used to stand. What could I possibly do to help or encourage them?

Our team of seven arrived in the small village on a Saturday, and we realized that we were not in Kansas anymore. The community has no electricity, no running water and the main water source was from the nearby river (drinking, bathing, washing clothes, etc.). The farmers used simple hand tools to farm their hard clay soil and hilly land. The only source of income and sustenance in their community is farming or livestock (cattle, pigs, chickens).

Despite these hardships, we enjoyed our Sunday morning worship service, outside, under a tree, with the El Potrero CRC family.

We spent the next several days visiting many families in the El Potrero community. We prayed with each family and blessed their home. We also witnessed that the church family had been working diligently since their church building had collapsed a month earlier. They had begun to dig out the ground for their new church building, and we helped them begin to pour its foundation perimeter. We were encouraged by their hard work on rebuilding their new church foundation and the joy they shared by working on it together. On our final full day in El Potrero, I left the work crew a few minutes early to prepare for our last worship service later that day. The question I was confronted with days before our trip now haunted me as I cried out to God, “Lord, what can I possibly say to these faithful servants in El Potrero CRC to encourage them? Lord, I need your touch! Lord, I need your words! Oh Lord, help me to speak your truth to encourage them!”

While I was walking on this dusty road to our host family, crying to the Lord for his guidance and words to speak to the El Potrero community – he answered. The Lord enveloped me with his presence and filled my heart with his love for this community, his love for these people and his love for this church in El Potrero.

Later that afternoon, the Lord brought many people from the community to our final worship service in El Potrero. I now had the answer to the question I was confronted with: “What could I possibly do to encourage the people in El Potrero?” I found the answer in Matthew 17:1-5. When Jesus was going to Jerusalem to complete his task and die on the cross for our sins, the father sent two people to encourage Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration: Moses (who never did complete his task and lead the people into the Promise Land, Numbers 20:12) and Elijah (who never died but was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind, 2 Kings 2:11).

Did the father send Moses, who never completed his task, to encourage Jesus to complete his task? Did the father send Elijah, who never experienced death, to encourage Jesus that death was not too bad? No, what was the word that the father spoke to his son through them, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” What word could I possibly have for the church family/community in El Potrero? The word the Lord gave me was this: “This is my people, whom I love; with them I am well pleased.”

I had been questioned if our trip could be an encouragement to the church/community in El Potrero. The Lord showed me that all we needed to do, all I needed to do, is to share the love of our father. As we spent several days literally helping them dig up rocks for their new foundation, the Lord also showed me that he had laid the foundation stone years ago when the church family was started in El Potrero.

“As you come to him, the living stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:4-5).

I went to Honduras hoping to somehow encourage the El Potrero church family, but I came back encouraged, strengthened and assured of one great truth from the father: “You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Jim Halstead is pastor of Fort Wayne Community CRC. If you are interested in submitting a column (750 words or less), send it to Terri Richardson, The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802; fax 461-8893 or email trich@jg.net. Please include your name, religious organization and a phone number where you can be reached. For more information, call 461-8304.

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