Moises taking notes at a study in Jardin
Carlos teaching in Chilon
Ramona with young friends in Zapata
Dear praying and giving friends,
I think that we could all use some Good News right now. As we listen to the radio or watch the news on TV, we are overwhelmed with the sad condition of the world economies and of more dire predictions. I was visiting with our daughter on SKYPE the other night and she was lamenting their tight budget and wondering how all this was going to work out for them. She was even considering looking for a second job. I told her the story of Chuck and I, many years ago with babies, a small salary that never quite made it through the month, and the anxieties that went with it. We sat down to try and rework our budget and in the end, all we could come up with was to give more away. We took God at His promise to provide for those that give to the poor. Give and it will be given unto you. In the measure that you do to others so shall it be done to you. What you give to the poor you give to me. We believed those words more than thirty years ago and we still believe them and live by them today. God's economy is quite different than the world's economy. As Charles de Foucauld writes “The best way of always having enough is to share generously with the poor, seeing in them the representatives of Jesus himself. And then be full of confidence.” (from Meditations of a Hermit)
Now for the Good News. God is alive and well. We see Him in the faces of the next generation of leaders of the churches in the highlands of Chiapas, young people who cannot get enough of the Word of God. Last fall, Chuck was asked to teach two classes at the Seminary here in San Cristobal de Las Casas. One was a college-level class that was an overview of the entire Bible. The second was more of a beginner's-level class that was covering Jesus and the Gospels. Chuck gave up sleep, food, and all creature comforts to prepare and give these classes weekly. We both 'suffered' through the birthing pains of developing these courses in a relevant and contextual manner for this particular student body. Chuck was also preparing another course that was basically a panorama of the Bible to be given in individual churches and in regional gatherings. When these workshops are given, they have to be translated into Tzeltal and/or Tsotsil and they need to be made multisensory and accessible to very intelligent, capable people that have not been given the opportunity to learn to read.
In my devotions this week, I was reading in Colossians chapters 1 and 2. Paul speaks of his 'suffering' for the gospel. I put 'suffering' in quotes because I think that in the context of the joyful results, it is hard to call it real suffering. I paraphrase Colossians 1: 25 like this: Chuck Shawver has become the servant of the evangelical churches in the highlands of Chiapas, by the commission God gave him, to present to them the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen among the Tzeltals and Tsotsils, the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Verse 29: To this end he labors, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in him. All of you reading this that have bounced around with Chuck in a combi or truck over dirt roads and iffy stream crossings, slept on dirt or concrete floors, and given up basic comforts to be a part of this ministry, understand why I include this last verse. Now go back to verse 28: We proclaim Christ, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. What a wonderful privilege! That cannot be called suffering.
As I look back over the past months, all of the paths are beginning to come together. The hard, hard work of presenting weekly coursework has steeped Chuck in the Bible and made the panoramic course more coherent. When young and old are hungry for God's Word, taking notes, asking questions, begging for more, it is inspiring and energizing. When you experience the conversion of an entire family, a communion service where you run out of the elements because so many believers show up early in the morning to worship together and remember Christ's suffering for them, churches with every wooden plank full waiting for a Bible workshop, only pausing for a simple meal and wanting more teaching, you know that you are living the Good News.
The needs are great. The poor always suffer when economies are shaky. Daily we are met with more physical needs than we can deal with other than to pray and to bring each person and need before the throne of grace: a pastor who needs a more adequate home, a family who has experienced an unfortunate accident that threatens their livelihood, a young man who is losing his eye to an infection that has not been treated, young people who need help in the next step of their education, etc. We are so grateful to you for your faithfulness and generosity. We pray that all of your needs will be met as you continue to give generously, and what looks in the eyes of the world as 'foolishly.'
Blessings on you!