A member of our church family has passed away. Her name is Gloria. She was disabled and lived in some of the most impoverished conditions you can imagine. She had been coming to church for a while, but had recently found her place in the body of Christ.
It was always a source of conviction and encouragement to see Gloria hobble into church on her crutches each Sunday. Breathing heavy and sweating profusely, she would smile and greet me with a kiss on the cheek. Her chronic asthma and physical disability made it extremely difficult to go anywhere...but the one place she desperately wanted to go was church. She wanted to be near her church family.
God used Gloria to impact many of the lives around her. She had a tremendous impact on the men of the church. They were convicted and rallied together to reach out in love to help. Most of these men struggle to make ends meet for their own families; however together they committed to raise enough money to pay the rent for decent home close to the church. God also used Gloria to impact the mission teams visiting the church. One team conducted a BBQ fundraiser while another cleaned and painted her new home. It was beautiful to watch the body of Christ in action. Selfless acts of love and service for their sister in need.
The day of Gloria's death the mission team visited Gloria. During the visit the mission team prayed that God would heal Gloria and ease her physical suffering. They also prayed that she would like the home they were preparing for her. I doubt any of them thought that God would answer their prayer in such a powerful way.
Later that same day Gloria was taken to hospital because she was having difficulty breathing. Later that night she died...at least physically. The prayers of the mission team had been answered. Gloria left her weak and broken body here on earth, but immediately she was with the God the Father and has no physical pain or suffering. Not only that...but I know she likes the new home Jesus prepared for her...It's perfect!
The next day I had the privilege of attending Gloria's funeral. It was like no funeral I have ever attended. There was upbeat music, balloons, and tons of people from the church. I didn't see anyone weeping, though I did see some tears of joy. Together we worshiped God.Pastor Jorge preached an encouraging message. And then, there was dancing! It was more like a party than a funeral. It was a beautiful celebration! We all knew that our sister Gloria was now in a much better place. I will miss seeing Gloria for now, but it felt selfish to mourn her death.
At one point during the service I leaned over and told Dave "I want my funeral to be like this!", he smiled and agreed. Through it all I've been reminded that because of Christ, death has lost it's sting. He really has turned our mourning into dancing and overcome death with life!
Loving life and death here in Costa Rica,
Love you guys,
Monday, July 26, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
His name is Jullian, he lives in a small home in one of the worst areas of Alajuelita, and he is a winner! It all started a couple weeks ago when a mission team brought down a brand new skateboard to give away. This is a huge gift and I knew it would cause all kinds of problems if I just chose someone to give the skateboard to, so I decided to use it as a prize at youth group.
During youth group I held up the skateboard and showed it to the excited crowd. Eyes got big and applause broke out as I explained that the skateboard was a prize to be given away at youth group next week. It was to be a simple contest. Whoever brought the most friends and could recite the most scriptures from memory would win the prize. Plus, to make it easy to invite friends, we were going to have a pizza party as well.
Friday night rolled around and it was time to give away the prize. I walked out onto the stage and asked "how many of you brought a friend tonight". To my surprise I saw one small hand rise into the air out of crowd of about eighty people. It was Jullian, and he was standing next to the friend he brought. That's it?, I thought to myself, Only one person brought a friend? I was amazed especially since we normally have a few visitors each week with no incentive of winning a prize. I asked Jullian to come forward and we presented him with the new skateboard. He was so proud and grinning ear to ear as he received the prize.
After youth group I asked many of the kids why they didn't try to win the skateboard. They said things like "I knew I wouldn't win, so why try", or "I didn't know it would be so easy". Most were disappointed, shocked, and embarrassed for not trying. It seemed like I was inside a living parable, and Jesus was teaching us all.
Life here in Alajuelita is hard. The poverty stretches beyond the lack of physical wealth. It makes it difficult for people to believe that things will ever get any better. It creates an attitude that causes many to just stop trying. This event has caused me to better understand the culture we are up against.
Please pray for us as we hold out the prize of Jesus Christ. He is the hope of the world, and the only one who can really make things better. He is the greatest prize we could ever win, and it's easy...it only requires faith and surrender.
Love in Christ,