Thursday, October 13, 2005

Guyana - October, 2005

I just finished a biography about a famous missionary of the late 1800’s. As I turned the pages, I enjoyed learning about this amazing individual and his numerous exciting experiences. The missionary traveled tirelessly from village to village, explored new cultures and learned a multitude of new languages. All in all, he was extremely skilled – for in each place he visited, he constructed large church buildings and filled them with new and energetic Christians. The missionary left a church-building legacy like no other.

As I read about this legendary church builder, I had to crack a smile and laugh, for it seems as if my current specialty in Guyana is quite different than his was. Instead of being a church builder, it seems I spend most of my time as a “bathroom builder!”

During my first year in Guyana, one of the major projects was helping Ebenezer Lutheran Church of New Amsterdam build it’s first bathroom facility. Numerous individuals helped contribute to this project, and the members of Ebenezer continue to be grateful (not to mention, they continue to be much more comfortable!). Proving that God has a great sense of humor, the bathroom projects did not end there! Currently I am helping to construct a bathroom facility next to the Lutheran Camp and Retreat Centre of Skeldon, and not only that, in a few weeks I will help complete a new toilet facility for St. Phillip’s Lutheran Church – one of the four congregations which I serve. And so, as I think about all the projects taking place, I have realized that – while some missionaries are called to travel the globe, build churches, and fill them with people – it seems that God has called me to travel to Guyana, build new bathrooms, and fill them with – (well, you get the idea!)

In all seriousness, I find the construction process to be extremely meaningful – and a totally worthwhile experience. Building a new structure – no matter what it may be – allows people to relate in ways like never before. When you work in the hot sun with sweat pouring down your skin and blisters growing on your fingers, you develop strong relationships in ways not possible in more “comfortable” settings. Although I find it a bit funny that I am an ordained “bathroom planter”, I find that I am building some wonderful relationships along the way – and above anything else, that is what I am called to do. In the midst of building new bathrooms, the Guyanese people and I are building friendships, building trust in one another, and building loyalty to one another – and as far as I am concerned – I cannot think of a better way to spend my time.

The experiences of the past two months have reminded me that a missionary is called to “see needs and meet needs.” Without question, I could have traveled to Guyana with a specific plan all ready to go, but that would not have been faithful to my assignment. Instead of imposing one’s predetermined strategy, I believe a missionary should “walk alongside” others and mutually decide what is best for the people and the culture. As strange as it might sound, in this particular place at this particular time, God has called me to work alongside the Guyanese people and build new bathrooms. Is this what I had in mind? Of course not! (They don’t teach many toilet installation classes at Luther Seminary!) However, I always try to remember the most important question: “Is this what God has called me to do?” And the answer is a resounding: “Yes!” The people of Guyana need me to be their pastor, which allows me to preach, teach, marry, baptize, counsel, and do all the functions typically associated with ordained ministry. But also, the people of Guyana need me to help build new bathrooms and perform a host of duties never typically associated with ordained ministry (Today I helped a man find his lost donkey)! All in all, as I live and serve in this foreign culture, I find the mixture of expected and unexpected to be a breath of fresh air, and I am blessed to be in such an exciting atmosphere working with such wonderful people.

I wish to thank all of you for the continued prayers and support during the past months. I love you all from the bottom of my heart, and I pray that God continues to shower you and your loved ones with love and guidance.

With peace and love,