Sunday, September 21, 2014

CASCARÍ


Back in the days when my family and I lived in Venezuela and if I had no other commitments at other churches, on Sunday mornings we drove up a bit higher into the Andes Mountains from where we lived to the little pueblo of Cascarí. There, built on the slope of a steep mountainside, was a little church. It was to that church where we went to worship with the few people who attended there.
One Sunday, after we had been gone on furlough for more than a year to Wisconsin, we drove up Cascarí to attend the church and to see the people. It had been a long time since the people there had seen us and they did not know that we had returned to Venezuela.  We arrived at the service quite late, but that did not matter so much at Cascarí.  It was just a little group of believers and they were not so preoccupied with schedules. 

When we arrived, Brother Luis was reading Scripture. We entered in the back of the church building and tried not to interrupt.  Most of the folks there were illiterate, so they were in the habit of listening very intently to the reading.  But of course, they could not help but note our presence, and after the reading everyone stood up to welcome us.  We went around to shake hands and to receive and give hugs and kisses.  After all of the greetings were over one of the men stood up and asked me, “Brother, did you bring a teaching for us this morning?”

The truth was that I had not.  I had not gone expecting to preach.  However, for some recent months, the church had been without a pastor.  Previous to that, and when we had left for Wisconsin, they had had a student from a Bible Institute in a nearby city who was completing his year of practice at the church.  This young man had been one of my own students at the Bible Institute and was acting as a pastor for the church at Cascarí for his apprenticeship program.

However, unknown to us, this young man had finished his time of internship and had left the church a couple of months earlier.  Since that time, the people of Cascarí had been carrying on alone.

The people that made up the church at Cascarí were few and very poor.  There was really no work to be found in the village apart from the harvest of the coffee beans once a year and working in the sugar cane fields. Some of the men of the village actually had to go to a larger town to find work and, since the distance was so great, had to live separated from their families.

Because of the few members and the poor economic conditions of the area, the church had seldom been able to hire a full time pastor. Nevertheless, the church had usually been richly supplied.  A former missionary had helped them to build a very nice little church building with a separate Sunday school building in the back of the church, and they had often been able to have students from the Bible Institute serve as their pastor from time to time over the years.

         For a couple of years previous to the most recent Bible Institute student, there had been a lay pastor from Colombia who had moved to a nearby village and who had been helping them. But for the moment, there was no one. The church was without someone who had been coming to teach from the Bible.

And so it was that when we arrived after a year of absence, the people were once again without a pastor.  When we arrived late that Sunday, they asked me, “Brother, did you bring a teaching?”

Because I did not know that they had had no pastor, I had not come that morning prepared or expecting to do any teaching. Besides that, we had been so busy just getting back into the country that I had not even had time to think much about anything else.

Nevertheless, I rose to my feet and started to walk toward the front of the church, trying to think of something of encouragement that I could say to the people. Besides my general unpreparedness, I was not a long time Spanish speaker and after a year without speaking that local language, I also wondered how that would go.
 
(Continued in a few days)

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