It’s easiest to write when inspired—by the Holy Spirit, by an event, by illumination from the Scriptures, by something. And what moved me last month was a set of photos from Guatemala (you'll see the slideshow when you click through to read the full article), especially a very ordinary photo of a simple bookcase.
Rewind to 2008: “They have no study materials.”
Back in 2008 (was it that long ago?), I was invited to be part of a team of teachers going to Guatemala to teach pastors. My topic was hermeneutics (translation: “reading, teaching, and preaching the Scriptures in context”), and I spent a lot of time before the Lord preparing. One day as I was sitting in my small, but book-lined, study, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “They have no study materials.” I haven’t learned nearly enough over the years, but I have learned not to respond by asking the Omniscient One, “Are You sure?” And He was right, of course. At the two different seminar locations in Guatemala that March, I asked for a show of hands from the pastors and leaders. How many had a Bible commentary? Only a scattering of hands went up. How many concordances? Few hands. Bible dictionary? Fewer hands. I brought that report back to our small fellowship, where we prayed. One member, Al Strickland, couldn’t get it out of his mind. He shared his burden with some men on a church-building missions trip about six months later, and the thousands of dollars needed for the pastors’ study books were pledged before that team returned home. The books were purchased and delivered by February 2009.
Fast-forward to 2013: A Bookcase!
During my visit last May (2012), Brother Atilio Chávez, the pastors’ pastor, alerted me to the fact that their group of churches had grown from thirty to over forty. All the new pastors, about a dozen, needed study materials, too. I wrote a blog post about that (see A Day of Tres Oportunidades), and after I returned, we made the need known a bit more widely. Folks inside and outside the fellowship contributed. The funds were sent to Guatemala about three months ago. The study books were purchased, and just this past month, they were delivered to the new pastors. You can see some of these leaders with superintendente Atilio and with their books in the album window below.
The same day the book-presentation photos arrived, another Guatemalan snapshot arrived, and it really struck me. To an outsider, the unspectacular image might not mean much. Pastor Edwin Reyes (whose church building in Betania [“Bethany”], Quetzaltenango, is one of our pastors’ conference locales) secured a bookcase for himself. I see “our” three books (the concordance, the Bible dictionary, and the one-volume commentary) along with some other reference books on the top shelf. But I also see other books—notebooks, paperbacks (some of which I surmise have come via T.J. Henken’s Iowa-based ResourcingNow ministry, channeled through Pastor Jorge Cerritos and his Iglesia Ciudad de Refugio (City of Refuge Church) outreach. And are those children’s books I see on the bottom shelf? So it seems, and I’d like to think so.
So the book donations you gave in 2009 and 2012 are having an impact. The photo of Hermano Edwin’s bookcase and growing library probably represents a trend. Today in over forty pastors’ homes in Guatemala, there’s a good chance that three large Bible reference books are no longer content with a linear foot of space on a table or desk or small shelf. They’re calling other hard- and soft-bound friends to join them, and they’re being used by eager pastors (many of whom have had limited educational opportunities) in their study of the Scriptures, in preparation for their preaching and teaching, and in their private devotions. Your generosity has helped make this happen.
Yes, those libraries are growing—and so are their owners! So, yes, I’m inspired by these photos, especially by the one with Edwin’s book collection. Others may look, shrug, and say, “Right. A bookcase. Whatever.” But I see the images of these pastors and of this simple, white bookcase, and I thank God for these spiritually hungry servants of God. It makes me keep praying, “Señor, ¿de qué otras maneras podemos servirles?” (“Lord, in what other ways can we serve them?”)
After I wrote the entry above (but before I posted it), Edwin wrote to me, saying, “La biblioteca era chatarra para otras personas, pero la vi y la pedí y me la regalaron, la limpie y la pinte, quedo como nueva…” (“The bookcase was other people's junk, but I saw it, asked about it, [and] they gave it to me. Some cleaning, some paint, and it's like new….”) These pastors and pastoras, my friends, my inspirations—I wish you could meet them! Lord willing and providing, I'll be returning to them in just three months, this coming May.
[If you'd like to contribute towards this spring's teaching trip to Guatemala, you can do so by a tax-deductible contribution using PayPal or by a check to Finest of the Wheat Teaching Fellowship, P.O. Box 2754, Chesapeake, VA 23327-2754. Thank you!]