I was walking with some team members on the final “work” day of our mission trip, and we chanced upon an older man, Emmanuel.
Emmanuel was the man who started the missionary work down in Santiago years ago. He recently suffered a stroke, and said he was too sick and too old to continue the work…but he wasn’t down about it all. He gave us a bit of his story, talking about how Pastors Niko, Felix, his son Eduard and other folks we had met used to be students in his school, and now they carry on the mission.
That’s when it hit me.
All these seemingly random stories we had the good fortune to hear that week were all a part of Emmanuel’s story. The Hole, Los Perez, the cistern, the short- and long-term missionary stories…they were all small chapters and tangents in Emmanuel’s much larger story in Santiago.
And that larger story, as big as it is in Santiago, is a much smaller part of a grand story that’s been unfolding for thousands of years in the Bible.
I had been reading that Bible for a while, wondering what it means to me, and quite doubtful on what it means in general. But quite suddenly, through realizing my small part in Emmanuel’s story, I realized my role in that bigger story. An infinitesimally-small role, sure, but not necessarily insignificant.
Later that night, as we recapped our day with the team, I talked about Tom Sawyer. I spoke about all the random stories of the week. I did a horrible job at tying together my thoughts from meeting Emmanuel. I wasn’t ready to share all that was on my mind, so I summed it all up simply: “I think I finally got it.”
Pastor Steve asked if I could expand on that.
“Ask me tomorrow.”
I wasn’t being flippant in my response; what I finally got was deeply personal, and would likely change from day-to-day. I had been asking myself all along what was wrong with me; why I couldn’t figure out this “God” thing; and why it had become so important for me to do so. I was finding some answers in the Dominican Republic, but couldn’t quite verbalize it beyond “I finally get it.” At the heart of it was the realization that all along I simply felt that I wasn’t good enough.
I was my own roadblock.
Towards the end of our trip, I needed to ask something to Pastor Dave, but my usual self-doubt had already swirled its way back into my head. “Dear God,” I said quietly while washing the morning dishes. “If I’m on the right track, please let me know.” A moment later, Dave joined me at the sink, so I went ahead and asked if we could have a chat sometime that day.
We finished the dishes and the team headed for Sunday services. I worried that the service would be long and boring, and I’d be like Tom Sawyer distracted with something as curious as a beetle. When the band opened, I realized I had another worry that would never have crossed Tom’s mind…the service was all in Spanish.
It wasn’t long. It wasn’t boring. And I wasn’t distracted. I was so overcome with emotion as the band played an unfamiliar song. “Open the Eyes of My Heart.” The simple lyrics “open the eyes of my heart, Lord, I want to see you” resonated with was I was feeling. Despite them singing in Spanish, and despite me not knowing the song, their playing struck such a chord with the prayer that I’d been working on for so, so very long. It’s weird explaining it this way.
Flashes of important moments of my time with Lifeline Church replayed themselves in my head as they continued singing.
The pastor, one of Emmanuel’s sons, began the message. So many flashes of insight came at me regarding so many of the questions and problems I had been struggling with on this journey…my distrust in the Bible; not caring if the resurrection ever occurred; not knowing if God created everything, or if God sprang from nothing with the rest of us; and so on. So many questions that contributed to me not feeling good enough found their answers. I couldn’t stop the tears.
The clearest insight was a message to lighten my heart and be joyful. I was hearing, “You are good enough.”
I turned to Matt, one of our missionary team leads, and asked if I could see his Bible. He opened up to where the Pastor was speaking in Luke 5. And as I read the words, the tears kept coming. It was that familiar, swirling raw emotion, not happy or sad, but so incredibly overwhelming; a catharsis long overdue. The gist of the message from Luke 5 was that Simon Peter was telling Jesus to get away from him because he wasn’t good enough, and Jesus was telling Simon Peter that he was good enough and to come and join him.
This was a life-changing moment, in a week of many life-changing moments.
When Dave and I finally got around to that chat, the nature of what I had to ask him had so profoundly changed…but I’m going to have to Mosey on that another day.