This May long weekend I put out the plants and planted some things from seed. It really does take faith to believe that those vulnerable plants and tiny seeds, in black dirt, will produce fruit. There is so much that could go wrong (frost, bugs, rain, lack of bees) that it can be hard to believe. Last week (while going through the same book that I’d gone through with my first Pastoring of Pastors group) I came across a note I’d written in the margins—a wish, a prayer, a hope, that my nascent ministry with pastors in Bolivia would bear fruit. It triggered a memory of the lack of faith I had when writing that note. When comparing that note to the current reality, God rebuked me with the words, “O you, of little faith.”
When we returned to Canada at the height of the pandemic, we left behind a small Pastoring of Pastors group that met weekly in our home, with some fledgling groups in three other cities. At first, they just waited for us to return. When that seemed less and less likely, Pastors Lourdes and Alberto, looked at each other, and said, “If this is going to get done, we’ll have to do it.” We (the three of us, on Zoom), were just laughing about this yesterday. As soon as it became possible to conduct in-person training events, they did. After each event, new groups were formed. Even though some groups never resumed after the pandemic, there were 24 active groups meeting in Bolivia at the end of 2022.
This year, the training events have continued. The denomination has included Discipleship and Pastoring of Pastors (DPP) in its 5-year plan. The President and Vice-president are on an Executive Committee that oversees DPP. The head of the National Pastors Union is the Chair of this committee. Five key pastors are taking an online School of Discipleship course with me. This week, Lourdes has organized the first retreat for women pastors and pastors’ wives—32 are registered from cities all over Bolivia. Recently, she conducted an event, via Zoom, for a large church in Oruro; 30 people ordered discipleship books after the training event. Afterwards 14 more people want to start, so she’ll have to do another training and order more books for the same church. Pastor Alberto has started a weekly radio and call-in program using DPP materials, and recently conducted a workshop in Sucre, attended by 19 people. He is now going to conduct 3 more virtual, follow-up training events with them.
Janice is experiencing a renewed passion to use her music. Her dad was her biggest cheerleader. When he passed away, her passion for using her music waned; problems with her wrists and the isolation forced on us by the pandemic, didn’t help. But the flame never died, and her use of music for ministry always continued, especially with a few key students at the Emmanuel Foundation. The Emmanuel Foundation, in general, is emerging stronger after the pandemic, in spite of health concerns. In faith, things are looking good for the Foundation, the ministry there, and Janice’s continued involvement.
In our call yesterday, we were all chuckling and saying that the current growth would never be happening if I hadn’t left; but at the same time, Lourdes calls me their “Guardian Angel” watching over what they’re doing, looking for materials, cheering them on, and sometimes topping up their budget.
Last, but not least, many, or all of you, will know how our daughter, Marigan, has struggled with long-Covid. Even with so many of you praying, for about two and a half years, she could hardly do anything without experiencing overwhelming fatigue, and there was virtually no change in her condition from month to month. We all kept praying, but at times, there was really not very much faith that anything would change. Now, in the last few months her capacity has improved miraculously. From struggling to open her eyelids, much less, lift a limb, she hiked uphill with me for three hours (and back down), 158 floors, 22,641 steps, 15.6 km, and she drove, there and back (2 hours and 40 minutes) without experiencing any post-exertional malaise. Part of her rehabilitation involved memory exercises. In her final test she scored 100% at the highest level of difficulty. The therapist said they hadn’t seen anyone score that high in 10 years. The psychologist added that they had never ever seen anyone score that high. The factors leading to her improvement are multi-faceted, including her remarkable optimism and determination to overcome it, but we are also giving God credit for her improvement.
It’s hard to believe that those little seeds I’ve put in the dirt will bear any fruit. But the seeds have already yielded an abundance of tomato plants, the buds on the sour cherry tree look promising, and we’ve seen quite a bit of evidence that gives us hope in recent times. Seems like it’s time to start believing more.