Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Guyana - December, 2006

December 12, 2006

Greetings from Guyana!

“Tamesh” is a five-year-old boy who attends Nativity Lutheran Church in Crabwood Creek, one of the four congregations I serve here in Guyana. Crabwood Creek is a challenging environment, where economic poverty is the norm, drug trafficking is prevalent, and violent crime is common. However, even in the midst of this difficult setting, nothing seems to dim Tamesh’s energetic spirit and creative personality.

An example…

One Sunday morning I was delivering a sermon and I couldn’t help but notice Tamesh in the second row, sitting directly in front of the pulpit, beginning to take his shirt off. I thought, “Well…it’s Guyana, we’re on the equator, and it’s hot. It won’t be a big deal.” Then, Tamesh began to take his sandals off. Again, I thought: “Sandals? Not a big deal. No one will mind.” Then, Tamesh proceeded to take off his pants and underwear, until he was completely naked. It was at this point that I stopped the sermon to ask what was going on (…I wondered if he felt compelled to perform a rendition of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden!). Tamesh simply responded: “Pastor Brian, it’s hot in here! I can’t listen to you when it’s hot like this! I’ve got to cool off!” The congregation busted into laughter! Never before had I experienced a naked five year-old sitting in front of the pulpit in the second row (Luther Seminary’s preaching courses never prepared me for that)! Nevertheless, I suppose there is a first time for everything.

Some would say children like Tamesh are a disruption on Sunday mornings, but thankfully, the members of Nativity Lutheran in Crabwood Creek have a faithful understanding of God’s love, and they see Tamesh for what he truly is: a Child of God and a blessing to us all. In the midst of hardships and struggles in Crabwood Creek, Tamesh’s periodic moments of unruly behavior has a way of reminding us all that God has a wonderful sense of humor and an amazingly profound love for all people, regardless of how well behaved they are, and regardless of whether or not they have clothes on! Tamesh is far from perfect (…and God knows I’ve disciplined him quite a few times!), but no matter what he says or does, he will always be welcome in our congregation, and the love of Jesus will never leave his side (But I must say, I do hope he will learn to keep his clothes on!).

For Kristen and I, we use this “turn of the calendar time” as a period to reflect and consider the various blessings of past, present, and future. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas as a new “family of two”, we offer God thanks for bringing us together in marriage, protecting us, and showering us with blessings among these wonderful people of Guyana. Also, as we get ready to turn the calendar to 2007, we consider the future and contemplate where God is leading us and how we may faithfully answer God’s Calling in our day-to-day lives. And of course, in the midst of considering past and future we always try to give thanks and be mindful of the present, for each day we are surrounded with numerous reminders of God’s goodness. We have each other, we have wonderful family and caring friends, we have a great setting surrounded by hospitable and compassionate people, and most of all, we have a God who continues to provide us with both comfort and challenge each day in our lives together.

What amazes me about the Christmas Season is that we all celebrate in such different ways and in various parts of the world, yet the true message of Christmas knows no boundaries and stay true in all places. While I am sure your Christmas celebration will be quite different than Tamesh from Crabwood Creek, what I do know is that just as God watches over him each day, God will continue to pour blessings in your life and provide you with everything you need. Christmas can mean numerous things to different types of people, but no matter what, I pray that it will be a time for you to give thanks for the past, consider the future, and also stay mindful of the blessings of the present.

As always, Kristen and I thank you for the ongoing prayers and support. We wish we could accurately express just how much it means to know that you are thinking of us, praying for us, and wishing us well. We always look forward to the next opportunity to thank you all face-to-face!

With peace and love during this season of Christmas!