I just got home from some good, rugged, developing country-style work:) Our third church, Iglesia Bautista Vida (Life Baptist Church), signed a contract last week on the purchase of a house to hold services in. We’re all thrilled with how God has worked in these circumstances as He always does! I pray frequently for God to give all of our churches land of their own; and right now we’re 3 for 4!
So today I went with my daughter and a few other young ladies to help the pastor and his wife get the place cleaned up. It’s always the same story when we get a new building: There are many walls to tear down and truck loads (really horse-drawn carriage loads to be accurate) of garbage and trash to carry off before you can even get around to the painting and detailed cleaning. This particular house has 8 broken windows, plumbing and electrical issues, and holes in the doors. It’s in worse shape than the typical “bad”, because it was actually a run-down drug house. People in the neighborhood went there to deal and use drugs.
As we were taking loads of trash out of the house, the pastor was telling me about some of the drug paraphernalia he found there a few days back. Street drugs in Chile are different than they are in the US. Because of price, drug users here have been very creative to come up with other, cheaper things to get them high. And after 8 years of ministry in Chile, I still don’t know everything about it all.
I do, however, know a great deal about drug paraphernalia in the US. Before I lived for Christ, my life was filled with drugs and alcohol. I had a lot in common with that run-down house. And cleaning it today brought back some memories from long ago. But the memories didn’t bring sadness or regret, they brought hope!
As I was scrubbing the black toilet and carrying out loads and loads of trash, I kept thinking about how much potential the little house has. It’s on a major road, which is very important in our culture; and has an immense front patio, that once closed in, will make a great auditorium. It was so thrilling to imagine what this house will become. It’s going to be a work in progress, but it’s pretty amazing to consider that a house that was once used for vile, sinful practices, will now be used to win people to Christ and help to edify Christians!
As I was imagining the transformation of the new church building, God helped me to remember how much He has transformed my life, and the lives of so many Chileans I know and love. This temple of mine was also once used for vile, sinful practices; but by the grace of God; it’s now used to win people to Christ and edify other Christians too! And I’ve seen this same miracle take place in the lives of many others here!
It’s sometimes difficult, because these changes can’t always be seen immediately. We left the house cleaner today than when we found it. All the trash is out, and there are no signs that drugs were ever done there. Over the next few weeks and months, as the budget permits, broken windows will be replaced, walls will be painted, leaks will be sealed, cement floors will be poured, new walls will go up, curtains will be hung…..and the little building will be a vessel used for the eternal purposes of our King. And as the years pass, and God brings fruit; other additions and upgrades will be added to the church to make it even more useful for God’s work.
Am I the only one who sees this comparison and gets all filled up with hope? I love to look back and remember what God brought me out of. It’s humbling and thrilling all at once. He’s cleaned me up and used me for His purposes. And while He’s using me, I get to see the same thing in the lives of others.
The job wasn’t easy today. We got our hands dirty, and we left tired. And it’s pretty much the same way helping someone else get their lives cleaned up and ready for Christ to use. But there’s no better work out there to do! Because our God is good, and He changes people’s lives!