Historically, I would only pray for miracles when all hope seemed lost. These last several years I've become much more accustomed to praying for miracles inside of my daily activities, and regularly storm heaven for miraculous healings and life-changing conversions.
|I think we could have filled a couple gallon jugs|
with the water that we rang out of our clothes that day.
Just the other day we rode our bikes to a town nearby to sing praise and worship with those who live on the margins of society. En route, it began to pour rain, which would have been inconsequential had we not been carrying all of our poster boards that display the lyrics of the songs we sing in group settings. I begged for a miracle of protection, that somehow the poster boards would remain dry. When we arrived we were as wet as we would have been had we dove into a pool, but by the grace of God our poster boards were only wet on the edges. As I recall the countless times that I've begged Jesus for His miraculous intervention, I don't ever remember praying for silence.... but that just goes to show that He knows better than I do what is needed in each particular situation.
Shortly after moving to Aguada we began exploring the town. We found a basketball court and hamburger joint, the hardware store and bank. We also discovered the corner where folks go to escape from life. At this particular corner sits La Marqueta de Georgie where one can buy paint brushes and canned sausages, lottery tickets, fishing hooks and an assortment of alcohol. There's a video gaming room in the back and the woman behind the counter, who I'll call Iris, cheerfully sells shots of liquor and individual cigarettes as she jokes with the regulars. From the time we stumbled upon Georgie's corner Chris felt called to minister to those who refer to this little place as their second home.
Chris' ministry began one evening when he went to Georgie's just to hang out. Before he left we prayed that the Lord send His Spirit ahead of Chris to prepare the hearts of those he'd encounter. Three or four hours later he returned home and recounted the fun that he had with the locals, who were pleasantly surprised by his fluency in Spanish and great sense of humor. Together, Chris and I returned to the corner to get to know the regulars. Through prayer, we knew that the Lord wanted more, but what? If we were actually going to preach we knew that we'd need Iris' blessing, but how could we convince her that our objective (which is to help people come to know Jesus in a meaningful way) does not conflict with her objective (to make money)? When we began talking Iris was uninterested. It seemed that perhaps she assumed that, as missionaries, we were anti-everything: dancing, drinking, smoking, gambling, fun. She explained that the people who go to Georgie's corner are tired of others demanding they change their lives, make better decisions, etc. She insisted that they would drive us off using a colorful assortment of vulgarities. We assured her that we've grown accustomed to being laughed at and don't mind. If she would just give us a chance...
After more conversation Iris began to warm up to us. Finally, she confided in me that her youngest son was born blind. For sixteen years she fell to her knees every day when she awoke, at midday, and again at night to beg the Lord for a miraculous healing. Like St. Monica, she never gave up. The next part of the story I missed because I couldn't understand her - between her trembling voice and thick Puerta Rican accent my only hope was to decipher her gestures...which didn't tell me much. She waved her arms around her mid-section, looked up to heaven several times with teary eyes, waved her arms some more and then said that at age 16 her son was miraculously healed. For the last two years he's been able to see perfectly. Although Iris' faith is obviously unshakable, she assured me that her customers don't want to hear anything about Jesus. Again, I asked that she just give us a chance...which I'm SO glad she did.
Last Thursday Chris and I returned to Georgie's corner. We greeted Iris and asked her to say a quick prayer for us. We plopped down on the curb and begin chatting with those gathered. When the time seemed right we stood up and begin introducing ourselves to each little cluster of guys. We explained that we would be reading the gospel; afterward, we had fried empanadas to share with everyone. Iris then walked out of the store, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Let me handle this." She proceeded to inform everyone that we are missionaries and that we would be reading a story from the bible. She made it very clear that she expected them to be respectful and quiet. Iris then nodded to Chris as to say it was time to start. As Chris began to read I crossed the street and sat alongside those a bit further away to see if I was able to hear him. La Marqueta de Georgie is located between the two main roads where everyone "cruises" in cars with huge, blaring sound systems that make the windows in the houses vibrate. Click on this link to see an example of a typical Puerto Rican Sound System.
In addition to the music, there's always a ton of other noise: people yelling, tires squealing, horns honking. Three times, while Chris was reading, I yelled to tell him to read louder because I couldn't hear. At one point Chris had to pause while an extra loud car - with extra loud passengers - passed through the intersection by Georgie's. When the gospel story concluded Chris gave a reflection. To our surprise, many of those gathered chimed in and shared their thoughts about the story as well. After a bit of time one of the guys yelled to me and said, "Hey, don't you have anything to share?" So, I explained what the story meant to me and reminded them of Jesus' mercy and unconditional love, which are gifts that we are incapable of earning. As the discussion continued I bowed my head and said a prayer of thanksgiving because things were going way better than we had anticipated and exponentially better than Iris predicted. As far as I was concerned, this first time of preaching God's Word on Georgie's corner was a big success; little did I know that it wasn't just a "big" success, it was a miraculous success. Let me explain...
After everyone had been served fried empanadas and Iris saw that they were content, she called me into the store to talk with her and the man who seems to play the role of bouncer. Iris' demeanor was stoic. Mr. Bouncer was shifting back and forth. Glancing around, Iris said, "I have to ask you a question." My heart began to race. This seemed serious. Had we done something wrong? Was she upset? The pressure seemed palatable - not only would I have to understand Iris' thick Puerto Rican accent perfectly, but I would have to give an acceptable response. What was going on? Iris finally said, "What happened out there?" I just stared at her. She repeated her question, but I didn't know what to say. Finally I muttered, "Um, I don't understand. I don't know." She continued, "When your husband was reading the bible, what happened?" I assured her that I didn't know what she was talking about. Iris turned to Mr. Bouncer and then turned back to me. She then explained that as soon as Chris started reading everything became absolutely silent; not quiet but silent. Mr. Bouncer had been outside listening and rushed into the store to get Iris. When she stepped outside she was struck by the complete silence. She said that she could see the cars passing which most definitely were blaring music, but she could only hear Chris' voice. Feeling as though they were going crazy, Iris and Mr. Bouncer asked several others who were standing around if they could hear any other noise other than Chris' voice, and all of them confirmed that "something had happened to make everything silent". While Chris was reading a white car passed through the intersection with music playing SO loud that the windows of the nearby houses were vibrating. Iris saw the car pass, but heard nothing. Mr. Bouncer informed me that this divine silence remained until we were all finished discussing the gospel story, at which point the ambient noise returned instantaneously - as if someone unmuted the world.
Iris declared this time of silence a miracle. Mr. Bouncer told me that we could come and preach God's Word anytime we wanted. Collectively, they agreed that the Lord desires for us to be in this place at this time and said that they can't wait to see what else He's going to do. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. When I left the store I was greeted by a man who thanked me for coming and said that we were welcome anytime.
Chris and I stayed at Georgie's corner for several more hours that night. Iris put on some fun music, one of the regulars got out his homemade instruments, and we danced the night away. I praise and thank God for all He does to reveal Himself to us in the most unsuspecting ways. I am most grateful that Iris and Mr. Bouncer were willing to give us a chance and, like them, feel eager to see what else Jesus has planned for our ministry at Georgie's corner.
In the bible there are many accounts of Jesus' big miracles which may lead one to believe that a miracle isn't really a miracle unless someone is rising from the dead or walking on water. However, strategically placed between the big ones are the seemingly less significant miracles which remind us of Jesus' desire to intervene in the minutia of life
Personally, I love the story in chapter 17 of Matthew's gospel where Jesus instructs Peter to pay the temple tax with coins that he got out of a fish's mouth. This story helps me to remember that Our Lord works in the most surprising ways. When Chris and I were preparing to go up to Georgie's corner last Thursday, we never thought to pray for a miracle of silence, but the Lord knew that this is exactly what Iris, Mr. Bouncer and all those gathered would need to realize that we come in peace, and that we want nothing more than for them to feel the love of Christ inside of their difficult situations.
I am eternally grateful to all those who have and continue to support us in this life of missions. Together, we are an amazing team! Please pray for our ministry at Georgie's corner, that through the Word of God, the people there may encounter Jesus in a transformative way.
May God bless you today and always, Karen
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