The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Breaking of Bread

The joys of this work are innumerable – the thrill of seeing someone understand that God truly does love them regardless of their past deeds, the delight of watching a child’s eyes as they receive a new pair of shoes or their first Christmas toy, the joyful tears of watching a new brother or sister come up out of the waters of baptism fresh and whole. The list goes on and on, and we feel very blessed to be part of God’s plan here. However, we are also very aware of the huge responsibilities that come with these joys. Each day brings a new question that we are striving to answer with biblical truth, and not with human traditions. We also feel charged with the responsibility to not teach them these truths, but guide them to their own understanding of them. That has proved to be an immense task.

We have spent the past 6 weeks studying the ‘Santa Cena’- the Holy Supper. We have read from Exodus through the New Testament as a church, and individually in our homes, and ask the following questions.
1. What is the origin of the Lord’s Supper?
2. Why did Jesus partake of it?
3. Why did he change it, and how?
4. Who should partake of this sacred practice?
5. Is it a mandate or an example for us?
6. When should we do it?
o What day?
o What time in the gathering?
7. How should we do it?
o What do we use? Why?
o What is involved logistically?
o Individually how do we prepare and partake, spiritually and emotionally?
8. What does it mean for us today?
9. Individually, what is our intention in partaking?

We want to share what this little tradition-ignorant church decided, based on their understanding of Scriptures, but want to first challenge you all to read and pray and answer these questions for yourself. No-one can live by the beliefs of another. You must understand why you do what you do for it to be of any spiritual value to your life. The answers Riverside in El Valle came up with may very well not be yours, and that is ok. We will not judge your understanding, and pray you will not judge ours.

The Lord’s Supper actually began in the time of Moses as the Passover meal. God commanded the Israelites of Egypt to kill an unblemished goat or sheep, pass the blood over the doorposts of their houses, roast the animal and eat it in one night, along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. This was how God would know which houses to pass over as he killed the first-born of each household, God’s final attempt to compel Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. Read in Exodus 11 and 12 for the whole story. It is an amazing account of God’s power and patience! God then commanded that the Israelites to remember this miraculous occasion every 14th day of the first month (Jewish calendar). That is why Jesus, centuries later, took part in the Passover. He was Jewish and it was a commandment to do so.
We are not Jewish and so are not commanded to partake in the Passover annually.

Just before his crucifixion Jesus asked his disciples to prepare a place to commemorate the Passover ( Mark 14:12) and then they gathered to observe this mandated celebration at the appropriate time. However, there were some differences. The gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus took the bread, gave thanks for it, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take it; it is My body”. Later he gave thanks for the cup of ‘fruit of the vine’, and passed it to them saying it was the blood of His covenant, poured out for all. In Corinthians 11:25 the writer tells us it is a new covenant. In the same verse we also read that Jesus said that the disciples should do this (eat the bread and drink the fruit of the vine) in remembrance of Him.
We believe that Jesus brought a new covenant with his blood that opened an avenue to God that never existed before his death. We believe that the new covenant covered our sins and purified us in the eyes of God, who is holy and perfect, and cannot abide with sin in his presence. With the new covenant, Jesus became the perfect lamb of sacrifice for us, eternally. This change liberated us from the laws of Moses, and placed us under the law of Love established by Jesus. This is what Jesus commanded us to remember as we ate and drank in fellowship with believers.

In Corinthians we also find a warning: Paul tells us that, should we eat and drink without recognizing the body of the Lord, we eat and drink judgment on ourselves (11:29). This led to much discussion concerning which body, the physical or the spiritual body of Christ. Again in Corinthians (12:27) we are told that the believers are the body of Christ, and we have already discussed the physical body sacrificed for all.
It is the understanding and agreement of the church that Paul was referring to both the physical and the spiritual body. Therefore we should direct our hearts toward the suffering and sacrifice given for our salvation, as well as recognize, or discern the body of believers, which is the church.

Jesus told his disciples that they should ‘do this’ in remembrance of him (Luke 22:19). In 1 Corinthians Paul writes “and so, my brothers…” (11:33).
These two examples, as well as others, lead us to believe that all disciples of Christ ought to participate in this holy meal, commemorating Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul implies that the members of the body of Christ are baptized into that body.
While we believe collectively that all baptized disciples should join in the Lord’s supper, we also believe that this rite is a very personal one, and we are not willing to be, nor should we be, judges as to whether a non-baptized believer should partake, or whether one baptism is more ‘sufficient’ than another. We leave this decision completely in the hands and heart of each individual.

Jesus did not mandate a specific day or time, in fact, he says,”whenever you drink it” (1 Corinthians 11:25). However we have an example from the first church in Acts 20:7 where the writer tells us that they met on the first day of each week “to break bread”.

While we find no commandment to participate in this sacred observance, we, as a church choose to follow the example of the bible, not only in breaking bread and sharing the cup, but in doing it on the first day of each week. We choose to do this because the first church chose to do so, and because we recognize the need to remember Christ’s body sacrificed, and living in this body of believers. We will not hold this standard up to others as if it were a commandment, but choose to follow for our own personal relationships with God.

We also choose to gather in the morning on the first day, as it is a convenient time, and we find no direct command regarding the time. Also, when we choose, we can partake of this during our shared noon meal.

The accounts of the original Passover speak of using lamb or goat meat, unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The account does not prohibit other foods or drinks, nor include them. However, in the account recorded in the gospels in which Jesus participated, only the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine are mentioned. Again, added foods are not prohibited, simply not mentioned.
The writer of Mark did specifically mention that “while they were eating…” (14:22ff), implying that it was more than simply bread and fruit of the vine. Also, Paul wrote in Corinthians that the meal should not be eating to fill the belly, but to remember the body of Christ (11:17-29)

As a church we concluded that, in all likelihood there was meat and bitter herbs on the table at Jesus’ Passover feast. However, Jesus only chose to use the bread and the cup as the symbols of his body, so no other foods are necessary. They are also not forbidden. In an effort not to be tempted into the mistakes of the Corinthian church, we have chosen to share only the bread and fruit of the vine.
The bread will be unleavened, and can consist of crackers with or without salt, as we find not mention of salt as part of the bread in either Exodus or the gospels accounts. Acknowledging 1 Corinthians 10:15-17, we believe that Paul’s reference to the ‘one loaf’ probably refers to their being only one loaf that was shared among the believers. Further, that his use of this symbol is significant for the analogy referring to the church. However, we believe that the use of one loaf was not a command, but an example, and one that we believe to be inconsequential regarding our spiritual observance.
The fruit of the vine can be from grapes, maracuya, or any other vine fruit. Because of convenience, normally we will use grape juice. We acknowledge that Jesus probably drank wine because it was most readily available in that place and time, but it was not mandated. Regarding the use of one cup or many, the examples of the Scripture are unclear. We believe that Jesus held one cup, and blessed one cup, however in Luke (22:17) Jesus told them to “divide it among them”, which could imply that the each poured some into their own cups. Again, we believe it not to be of consequence concerning our spiritual rite, so will drink from individual cups, as is our custom outside the Lord’s supper.

1 Corinthians 11:27-29 implies that we ought to examine our hearts, and empty ourselves of all malice, asking forgiveness when necessary, before participating in the Lord’s supper. Later in verses 33 and following Paul reminds us that we should be concerned about the rest of the body, and considering them as we prepare to break bread.

We believe that we should take some moments to prepare ourselves to break bread with our brothers and sisters, seeking God’s purification of our hearts, then forgiveness for any malice we hold toward others in Christ’s body. Then, with pure hearts, participate in remembering Christ’s sacrifice, and his living body, which is the church. It is a solemn occasion, and a very personal one.

We are thrilled and in awe at the choices the individuals made, and the decisions that were made as a group. It has been a major struggle to get them to claim their faith, and not just take what we believe as their own faith. This is a major step for the church. For almost two years we have studies and discussed various topics with them leaving with a paper telling them what we believe. When I would ask for some individual opinion or belief, they would always look back on their notes, or simply not answer until our answer was provided. Our approach to this study of the Lord’s supper has been intense, and very demanding of their time. All contributed to finding the scriptures, but once a list of all pertinent passages was gathered, each person was given the responsibility to read and pray. We gathered weekly to discuss what they had read, and for the first several weeks it was quite unproductive. You must understand, these people have centuries of learned resignation as their model. They have been told what was white and what was black for so long they just repeat what they are told. What an amazing feat of God that they have broken that chain, and are thinking for themselves!

You may wonder why I am so certain that they have made these decisions without simply following our input. I might not have been sure except, I do not personally believe exactly the same as the church! There are one or two areas that I feel differently, but they are areas of preference, and example rather than command, so I am content to live with their decisions. Yes, they are aware that I disagree, and they feel strongly that, unless there is a direct commandment, the majority should rule in these situations.

This is breakthrough church stuff! They actually own their faith regarding the Lord’s Supper! Praise God! He can get his message across despite of us fallible humans!

Now just keep us in our prayers as we move on to speaking in tongues, being ‘slain in the Spirit, and women’s role in the church! God definitely must be in charge of these classes!

Riches blessings!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Our Wonderful Mail System!

We went to the International Fair in David today. It was much like the Arkansas State Fair. There were many more things for sale, and there were only cows and horses in the livestock barns. We took Yari, Magdiel and Sister Ana with her daughter, Kathy. It was okay I guess. First time I have ever been to an International Fair. Glad I went.

Yesterday we had tried to mail a letter but our post office was closed. Today the office was open but we could not mail the letter because they did not have any stamps. The reason they did not have any stamps was because they were robbed yesterday morning early. We have to go to David to receive a package anyway, so we will mail the letter there.


We learned today that the reason we have to go to David to receive packages instead of them coming here to Volcan is because our post office has been robbed so many times they will not send them up the hill anymore. Before going to the Fair we went to the post office in David to pick up a package. It had been there for a few days, so we had to pay a rental fee of 85 cents. This is the process: The post office receives the package, then when they get around to it, they send a note to our post office box in Volcan that there is a package. This takes anywhere from 5 days to 5 weeks. Once we are aware of the package we can go pick it up. To do this, you first need to ask which window has the package. They look at the note then send you to the right window. At the right window they confirm that they have the package, and how long they have had it. Then they stamp your paper and send you to a different window. At this (the third) window they will tell you how much money you owe them for the package, and you will pay them that amount. Later I will explain what happened if you do not agree to pay the amount. After paying you are sent back to window #2 (but really #4) where the package is then brought out of the back and you are required to open the package in front of two witnesses. When they are satisfied that the package is safe, and indeed yours, you can leave. Interesting, and very….frustrating!

Okay, so last June I ordered some text books from Amazon. I paid $45.00 to get them shipped International Express (10 days), so I would be sure to have them read for my class that started in August. The books did not arrive throughout the month of July, so on August 4 I re-ordered, and paid $72 to get them here in a week. They were shipped through DHL, and arrived in 21 days. I was thrilled! Only a little over a week late for the class! Still with me? I have my second order of books, and am in the middle of the class in mid-September when the note arrives in our post office box - you have a package in David, please come pick it up. So, we wait until we need to go to David again, and go by the post office. I go to window #1 and she directs me to the correct window #2. There they check the paperwork and tell me that the package has been there for over a month and I need to pay rent of $18 to pick it up. I explain that I just got the notice, and they say that the records indicate it was sent to me over a month ago, so I must pay the rent. I asked what the package is, feeling certain it is the long-lost books (that I no longer need). She says the information is confidential and when I pay the fee I will know. I said, “but what if I don’t want the package?” She just stared at me, then turned and asked the man behind her, “what if she does not want the package she says?” they both look at me like I am crazy then say together, “why don’t you want the package?” I said I do not know what the package is, or who it is from, and you want me to pay $18 to see it – I do not want to pay $18 for a package when I do not know what it is.” Well this went on for a bout 20 minutes, with my temper rising, and nothing changing, so I said “okay, thank you” and walked away. They stopped me at the door and asked what they were supposed to do with the package. I said, “Well, you know what it is, right? So you can figure out what to do with it!” and left. Okay that showed my poorer side, but, the story gets better!

When we went to pick up the package today – it was from a friend in the States to a mutual friend here, and I get to the last window. The lady taps a box that has my name on it. She says “This has been here since last September”. I act innocent and say “Really?” She just shakes her head and asked me to open it. I did. It was, of course the text books ordered twice last summer. The class is over (I passed) and we have no use for the textbooks, but she just handed them over commenting on how bad some of her co-workers were about taking care of business. She did not dun me for the $18, or even a penny. That was it! Now we will try to figure out how we can get the books back to Amazon, who sent the second books without charging for the lost books.

There is always a new adventure here!

Keep us in your prayers!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Time with Celinda's girls

Yesterday we took Celinda’s girls who are school age shopping for uniforms, shoes, and backpacks for school. It was such fun! Their eyes were like saucers as we looked at the new clothing, and they actually chose what shoes they wanted. They ran from place to place, and gave a million hugs in between. The hugs and kisses we want to share with Doyne, Margaret, Phillip, Nancy and Holly. Thank you so much for allowing us to be your liaisons with these gifts! We took them to McDonalds for lunch. Okay, for those of you who are rolling your eyes, saying Yuck! McDonalds. Just look at the picture of these girls on their first-ever trip to McDonalds! When I asked if they would like to go there, six eyes became wide as plates, they looked at each other as if we had just given them millions of dollars. It was priceless! When we had finished shopping, and were on our way to eat, Emelia said,” Miss Joy, what does it mean to say “Happy meal”?” I said, “It is a little box that has a hamburger and French fries and comes with a soda and a toy”. She sucked in her breath and all three girls screamed in delight. Then Marie, the baby of the group said, “Can I ask for a happy meal?” I said, “Of course, if that is what you want.” Emelia was not satisfied, she said,”But can I ask, myself, for my very own Happy Meal?” I wasn’t sure exactly what she meant, but said ”You can ask for your own lunch.” She insisted “my own happy meal?” I replied again, “Yes, if that is what you want”. They laughed and giggled all the way to the restaurant. Once we were inside and they saw the play land, they forgot all about food! We were all tired and thirsty, but they only had eyes for the playground equipment! I told them they could play as soon as they ordered, so they each walked up to the counter, and in their very shy, timid voices, ordered their own happy meals, then stood amazed as the young man delivered their food and toy. They ate and drank quickly, then went back to play. It was such fun to watch!

After lunch (and a half hour to play) we took the girls to have their eyes checked. The optometrist was very good with each of the girls, but Yamileth’s eyes caused his ever- present smile to fail. I could see right away that something was bad, but we thought before going that she needed glasses. Even she had said she could not see well. We just did not realize how bad it was. Apparently, she has a severe astigmatism in her right eye – worse than 3.5. It has been so for such a long period of time that her brain has decided not to use that eye at all. She cannot see anything but light and dark in that eye. The left eye is pretty good, though, so we will get glasses to make the good eye better, and put a partial correction in the bad eye, though the doctor says it will do nothing. She says that Yamileth is too old for the problem to be corrected, but it could have been corrected nicely if she had been brought in at an earlier age. So sad. I am seeking advice from the States before we give up hope. Yamileth, of course, just took it all in stride, and moved right into playing with her toy from McDonalds.

We got back to Volcan after 6 PM, tired but happy with most of the days activities. The children have already been by today to say hello and eat a bite with us. We have learned to always have something on hand for them when they stop by. It may very well be all they eat today. During the school year they will be provided a good breakfast and lunch daily- the breakfast courtesy of their sponsors and Heather, and their lunches are provided by the children of Riverside in Gassville. Thanks to you all for what you do for these precious children of God!

Well, I have skipped some things that you would enjoy knowing about, but will try to keep you better abreast of our happenings!
(This is the last of three posts today, so look down to get the first two)
We love you all and miss you !
Joy & Lynn

Going home to Santa Marta

We spent last weekend in Santa Marta, visiting, encouraging, and being blessed by the wonderful church family there. This time we brought Yaritza for her first visit, and their first chance to meet our almost-daughter. We also brought them loads of questions about the upcoming medical campaign coming to them in June. This will be a joint work of Riverside in Gassville, Riverside in Panama, and Santa Marta, with additional help by other congregations as well. They are very excited about this great opportunity to help the community in Jesus’ name, and to share the gospel with them as well. It is so difficult to get out (to bigger towns) for medical care, even if they had the money to go.

We invited one of the scholarship recipients, and a dear friend, Magdiel to come and work for us for the month before school starts. There is little work there, and the pay is, at best, $3 day. So he is here, helping Lynn out with the farm preparations for our sheep to arrive. We have finally found some of the kind we want (hair) and that are adjusted to this climate, so we will bring them home as soon as our fences are ready. Magdiel is a great young man. He is 18, and just graduated from 9th grade. He says he wants to be a doctor! Until we began providing help, he could not afford to go our of Santa Marta for classes above 6th grade. Thanks to Brody and Sarah, he has gone for the past two years and completed three years in that time!
Magdiel is a solid member of the church, and a leader at Santa Marta, and so is a wonderful addition to our little congregation as well!

From Storms to Storms...

It has been far too long since we blogged. WE hit the ground running, then lost water and electricity for two weeks, and then, well no excuses, we have just been busy or tired all the time. I will try to hit the highlights of the past month and a half, then try to be more faithful in keeping up!

Remember when we left Arkansas, we were in the midst of a terrible ice storm. the trees were all broken off, no electricity, roads were ice-covered? Well, three days after we got back to Volcan, the storms came here. We promised the folks here that we did not bring them, but not sure they believed us! A three day wind storm hit wiht winds above 100 km per hour day and night. The loss of electricity and water provided several opportunities for ministry;
Lynn had his eye on one of the neighbor’s trees that we actually watched fall, tearing down all the electric lines from our place on down the road. It actually broke a pole three houses from us. It also feel across the road, blocking it entirely. That provided an opportunity for Lynn to work with the other neighbors clearing the tree. Since Lynn doesn’t say much other than hello to the neighbors, they know little about him, or who he is. He worked as hard s any and harder than most getting the tree cut up and out of the road. We don’t have a chainsaw, so he was going after it with his machete. I don’t think he could have done anything better to ‘prove’ his worth in the eyes of the men, than swing that machete. It is the tool of every man here, and Lynn, with years of experience surveying and cutting line, knew just how to make that machete cut! It was a most enjoyable experience for me to watch the men commenting among themselves at how adept he was with it. They had all seen him working on the yard and farm, so knew he was not a lazy man, but he was doing things many of them could not do with a machete. Several of them came and shook his hand before they left. Okay, I was a little proud!
When the tree blew over, it pulled up the main water line for every house from ours on out several miles. That was next on the list. Lynn worked on this problem with the neighbors who owned the tree for several hours. The accepted rule is if it is in front of your house, you are responsible for fixing whatever problems there are. So, this was not our problem, but Lynn has made a habit of helping anytime there is a water problem. This time, because it was our next-door neighbors, we had many hours to visit and chat. I had to go to the store, so brought back sodas for all, which was quite a treat for them. When the job was done, I invited the family to church, explaining that we had children’s class as well. They knew, of course, and had never come before, but on Friday, her three boys came to class, and haven’t missed since. Still haven’t seen the parents, but Grandpa has come once. Progress, little by little. Thank you Lord!!!
The winds are amazingly strong here. The locals say this is the hardest ‘summer’ in years. I bet there are over ten thousand trees down throughout Volcan. They are still falling, but not as much as before. It is bad enough throughout Panama that they have postponed opening day for classes by 1 month. There are still down trees on our little school here in El Valle.