We got in the car at 6:00am Sunday for a three-hour drive to a church in the interior of Paraguay where I was to preach. Pastor Ceferino said, “Let’s pray before we set off.” He prayed fervently for safety on the trip. Later, as he was passing a long line of traffic on a narrow two-lane highway with no side berm, I was really glad we had prayed!
Travel in other countries is a real trip! Although some places in Latin America have good highway systems – at least in and around the capital city – many roads are poorly designed and poorly maintained. Even international routes can be just two lanes. Roads are clogged with bicycles, motor scooters, pedestrians, and the occasional horse cart. Cars break down more often; accidents are frequent.
When requests are shared in church, people often ask prayer for friends or family members who are traveling. Drivers often pause to pray when they get behind the wheel before starting the car. It is a habit something like asking the blessing before eating a meal. The sense of danger heightens a sense of dependence on God. We really need His help and protection to get where we are going. I admit that some taxi rides in Latin America have been good for my prayer life!
The thing is I’m old enough to remember when people used to pray before driving in the U.S. Even though our transportation infrastructure needs an overhaul, the U.S. has made great advances in the quality and safety of our highways. There are many fewer old cars on the road; the reliability of cars has improved; breakdowns and accidents are not as frequent. The upshot is that we no longer need to depend on God for our safety. So we no longer pray before starting to drive.
The issue is not the design of the highway, but our sense of reliance on God. In our comfortable culture how many other things do we now take for granted that people used to ask God for? Let’s pause to pray before we set off on whatever we are about to do.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. While you are at it, pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.... Pray that we will proclaim it clearly, as we should.” (Paraphrase of Colossians 4:2-4)
written by Paul Olver
I recently had the privilege of traveling with dear friends Pastors Paul Olver and Delia Nüesch-Olver, as well as Dr. Tina Chang, to Asuncion, Paraguay. Paraguay is a beautiful, green, and hospitable country with a rich, layered personality. It was truly an honor to spend time in Paraguay!
I experienced great hospitality from the Free Methodist Church in Asuncion and an unforgettable opportunity to witness God at work in Latin America.
Here are three things the FMC in Paraguay taught me.
ONE: There is refreshing joy in watching God prepare an entire conference of leaders for the harvest.
In the church today we talk a lot about how God is preparing hearts to follow Him. We pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers. We pray for the seeds being planted in the lives of those we’ll meet to be fruitful.
But there is something unique and beautiful about watching the pastors of an entire conference being prepared by God to move into a season of harvest. In fact, more than unique, it’s refreshing and brings joy to any soul passionate about seeing people fall in love with Jesus. The church in Paraguay is being prepared by God to reach the harvest.
TWO: A sense of urgency is restoring.
Pastors are called by God to the work they do. Much of that calling is founded in an urgency to share the hope of the gospel with those who are truly lost without a savior. That urgency, over time, can be replaced by duties, lists, procedures and policies. Witnessing a group of pastors who share great urgency, years beyond their calling, restores others who are working for the Lord to their personal place of calling. The church in Paraguay has an urgency to reach people for Jesus.
THREE: Being teachable is mission critical.
Being willing to learn from every situation and hear from the Lord in each new encounter is a truly valuable trait. Watching so many people eager to learn more about leadership, conflict management, and church planting and growth was a reminder that we all need to be willing to learn in every phase of our walk with God. When we are learning from the Lord, and those sent by the Lord, our ministry will reflect that. The church in Paraguay is willing and eager to learn, as to benefit God’s work.
John 14:26: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He willteach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”
I believe the Free Methodist Church in Paraguay will continue to see God do great things. I leave this encouragement for all pastors. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”