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Santa Barbara Surprises

Right after the trip with the pastors from Evansville and Jason Courtney, we went to Santa Barbara with a team from Maryland to help start a house construction for a widow. The whole trip was a blessing. I watched the youth from the team interact with the children from the village. They not only played with the kids, they loved on them! They were all-in, all the time. Our job was to fill bags of sand and then carry the bags across a dry river bed, up a hill, and down into a valley where the house would be. These bags were heavy after a few trips, but the guys on the team would carry them and still have the energy to pile the kids in a wheelbarrow and push them around. As I watched, I thought, Jesus takes on so many forms. Sometimes he is shirtless and tattooed and loving on people. The highlight of this trip was walking from house to house and meeting the people. We met a couple named Jesus and Bernarda. Bernarda was 71 years old. When the group first met Bernarda, she had come to the work site to welcome us to the neighborhood. She had intermittently talked and prayed to the point that we never knew when one conversation ended and the other started. It was all fluid. Her husband, Jesus, despite his old age, was out under the hot sun filling bags with us. We went to their house and we met Bernarda's brother, Dolores. He was hunched over and had an ulcer that would not allow him to eat. We of course prayed for him to be healed and we got him some of the medicine that he needed. While we were at their house, Bernarda told us about her husband. They had been together for over 40 years! They had seven kids together, all grown up, and neither had ever been unfaithful to the other. She smiled and said she had never had eyes for another. Then as if on cue, Jesus came out of the house to talk with us, and it was like electricity in the air. They both looked at each other and you could see the love she was describing. They looked like wrinkly adolescents, giggling and holding hands. Angie commented later about how adorable they were and wondered if there was something we could do for them. I said, we should send them on a honeymoon, thinking they have probably never done anything romantic, or adventurous ever in their lives. They had probably gotten together and lived in the same house , tended their kids, and survived. Angie jumped as the Lord put an idea in her mind. The team had booked a hotel in town for another missionary who was to come and spend the night, but had to cancel because his family got sick. The hotel room was on reserve for that night, and no one was going to use it! Angie told us and the plan was formed to turn the hotel room into a honeymoon suite! Rina and Angie went to the hotel and informed the staff of our plan and they decorated the whole room with flower petals and swans. Bernarda also loved Jesus wanted to be baptized. She had never been baptized and wanted to know if we could do it. The team said yes and we planned a service for 4:00p.m. at her house. Pastor Montinio, who the group knew from the area, was to come and perform the ceremony, but when 4:00 rolled around, he could not make it. We found another local pastor and invited him, but as we walked to her house, I could feel his hesitation. We showed up, and Bernarda was in her best dress, her hair combed and so excited for her baptism. It was a perfect moment and I imagined how christ desires the church to clean itself up and present itself as a bride to him. I was seeing it in Bernarda. She was ready to marry Christ. As we discussed what would happen and how to proceed, there was more hesitation from the local pastor, who wanted Bernarda to do some formal religious things. As I watched and listened, I saw the joy and hope that was so evident and contagious in Bernarda, start to fade and frustration started to set in. I prayed in my heart, "God this cannot be. This was supposed to be the happiest day for her and it is getting ruined." As I prayed, I knew that I would have to take charge. With the help of Martha Abshire, we started service. I read the great commission out loud for everyone gathered to hear and Martha began to play worship. We prayed and celebrated in the Lord. The atmosphere changed. as we sang, the local pastor was moved and I could see a release of the spirit in him. He moved forward to help me. We put Bernarda in her own "pila", wash basin. She publicly confessed faith in Jesus Christ and in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we baptized her! I expected heaven to open up, my heart was so full. She came out of the water with her hands pressed in prayer and the thanksgiving and joy poured out of her lips as water dripped down. I know that God was blessed and I felt so honored to be able to bless him like that. Bernarda climbed out and was giving wet hugs to everyone on the team. I felt that maybe there was someone else who wanted to be baptized. We might as well open it up, and when we gave an invitation, one of the youth from the team responded. Nathalie said she had never been baptized and this seemed like a perfect time and place. She gave a public confession and we baptized her in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. What a day of rejoicing!!! What a joy. The team had ordered 50 baleadas for the occasion and we left the food with the community to celebrate. We told Bernarda and Jesus, we would be back later to say goodbye. Little did they know that they would be whisked away on a romantic getaway. Kayla, one of Dave and Angie's friends, drove back to the community and picked up the couple. She took them to the hotel and they stayed in a beautiful room, with running water, shower, air conditioning, the whole bit. Angie had arranged a dinner for two at the restaurant, and breakfast the next morning. It was too perfect. It made my heart glad because I knew this was God's extravagance, not ours. He is a God who loves us lavishly. I believe that he was so pleased with Bernarda's step of faith, her confession of love to him, that he took her to that hotel and showed her and her husband his lavish, extravagant love that knows no bounds. They never would have imagined a night like it, or a place like it ever, yet God was pleased to give it to them. That is the God I love and the God I serve. He is extravagant. Last year there was a car accident in Maryland. Nico's best friend Patrick was one of three victims who died. God has been moving and the youth that came on this trip were Patrick's friends. His brother, Steven, also came along. In the wake of such a tragedy, Patrick's parents formed a foundation called the Patrick Shifflet Foundation, to do things that Patrick would have wanted to do. This trip and team was a result of that vision. The foundation funded the construction of the house for the widow, and they funded a few other needs. In February, I had a vision to start a scholarship program in MLV. Even though the students pay a symbolic fee, sometimes even that fee seems expensive when you factor in transportation and food every class day. I have always wanted to have a program, but never knew how to structure it, or how to start it. It would be a way to help the students, but also to get closer to them, to show them God's love. This February though, I knew what to do. So I made an application, and I promoted the program. We had many applicants applying for a few full scholarships, and many partial ones. At the time, I did not know how we were going to pay for it. It was nothing more than a line item in our budget for this year, that has not been met. But, I figured if God wants it and I am moving forward, then the money would come. On the last day with the team, Nico's dad, Nick, and Steven told me the foundation wanted to support us. They gave me some money from the Shifflett foundation and the amount was what I had figured scholarships would cost! I knew as soon as they gave it, what the money was going toward. Thank you Shifflett foundation for your generosity and your support. Their donation is an investment in the potential we see in our students, toward their development as people and leaders. If you would like to support students and classes, our general budget for the year is not yet met. There is still an opportunity to get involved with what God is doing in Honduras. We have two discipleship classes now, during the week and we ask for your prayers for the twenty who accepted Christ and for the students in discipleship. Our goal is not to produce mechanics, or welders, but to produce leaders, culture changers, who with training and with the Lord will make a difference and we need your help. Thank you for your prayers and support. Brian, Rina, Angeliene, and Nathanael Ruark

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