Sunday, February 23, 2014

Could You Come to Our Little Church?

(I prepared this message on December 5, 2013, but somehow failed to send it out.  So here it is:)

One of my greatest joys is responding to invitations of pastors of small, struggling churches in difficult areas. Since most of them can call a special service on a week night I am happy to fill my week nights wherever.  

Brother Torientino, at the keyboard here is trying to get something started on a corner in the Buenos Aires suburb of Garin.  

He has built this structure on rented property.  The owner has accepted the structure as part of the rent. 

About 20 feet from the church door is this unprotected 10 ft deep ditch in the middle of the street.  My only place to park was as close as I dared to the hole to leave room for large trucks to squeeze past my little car as they turned the corner.  Pastor’s little boy enjoyed throwing rocks and clods into this ditch that is being prepared for a drainage canal during heavy rainfall. Pastor Torientino says this area floods often.

This past Tuesday I was in a smaller town called Tristan Suarez about 40 miles away.  We held the service in the Pastor Dalbert’s front yard.  I had finished with Felipe and the children had left when someone took this picture.  

The adult group was small, but several were first timers so I took time to pray with them at the close of the service.  I felt that some were making their first steps toward the Lord Jesus.  

Then I enjoyed a delightful dinner with Pastor Dalbert, his wife and daughter.  My hope is that they were encouraged and blessed.  

On my way back to my temporary apartment at midnight I suddenly encountered both lanes of the freeway totally blocked with dozens, maybe hundreds of stopped trucks.  I did not know whether there was an accident or what, but noticed that the driver in front of me stopped to talk to one of the truck drivers standing around… and then squeaked between two trucks to the grass alongside the freeway. I followed.  The bank was tipped steeply, but we went ahead several hundred yards and managed to get off on a ramp.  From there we drove on side roads for a long ways and then had to turn back as that road was also blocked with a huge pile of junk.  I tried another one.  It was also blocked and this time there was a large bonfire burning with picketers blocking the only escape route.  So again I turned back, searched and found another road that went many miles out of my way.  At least it went somewhere!  And by now I was part of a train of cars and huge trucks trying to get somewhere… anywhere! 

On top of all this my GPS froze up and had to be restarted.  It did no good anyway since I was nowhere on any database map.  These “roads” were not roads that merited mention on the database.

Obviously the pickets were well organized and had deliberately blocked practically every possible exit from that area.  Now I was on a road that was not really a road.  Huge trucks were crossing a fragile narrow bridge with no railing… I followed.  Huge holes were everywhere.  So much dust filled the air one could see very little.  I passed one poor guy whose nice car had fallen into a huge ditch.  He was standing there holding his head in his hands.  It would take a tow truck or tractor to get him out, so I passed him by.  Within an hour of following this train of vehicles we all finally escaped back onto the freeway on the other side of the pickets!  

By 2 AM I was back in my apartment.  But I am sure that I was very fortunate, because as I was driving parallel to the freeway many of those miles, I could see the blocked freeway from several places in my extended “tour” and many cars were trapped between miles and miles of huge trucks and had no way to escape.  Those unfortunate ones were probably there all night!
The problem of pickets in Argentina is very serious.  They apparently have complaints and are trying to stop the entire country from functioning just to be heard.  They seem very proud of themselves if they make enough trouble to get TV or front-page coverage.  I am told that some unions or political organizations actually support full-time picketers that organize and do this regularly.  It is their “job”.  And they go about seeking which locations to block when trucks are trying to bring supplies into the city or at peak hours of traffic.  

It is so sad to see what seems to be, at least on the surface, a deliberate, organized attempt to stop the country’s forward progress.  I guess this is better than terrorism, since they at least are not killing each other… yet.

Enough negative talk.  It is not just Argentina.  It is a world that is rejecting God.  And while it squirms and twists and in its struggle to survive, God still reaches deep into hurting and broken hearts to bring many into His glorious gift of salvation.