My favorite story of God’s provision is seen from the other side, when we got to participate in God’s blessing on someone else.
During our time in Juarez with International Family Missions we had the honor of working with dozens of churches and ministries, orphanages, safe houses, etc. By far my favorite place was a drug and alcohol rehab center for men called Agua Viva. It was a holy place, filled with broken men being repaired by the Spirit of God. In trouble with the law, rejected by family and society, physically destroyed by their addictions, without any earthly hope, these men had reached the very bottom of a deep pit. The only light entering a pit comes from above, so all they ever wanted to talk about with me and our teams, was Jesus. There was no chit chat. So often I would sit down with a few of these men and one would immediately cut to the chase, “Dígame sobre la vida para mi en el Señor Jesucristo.” (Tell me about the life for me in the Lord Jesus Christ.)
The ministry of our teams consisted of spending time with these guys, praying, talking, eating, playing basketball, soccer, or handball. These simple visits from our families, children and all, gave them hope.
When men first arrived at Agua Viva they were often going through withdrawals. There was a crude “hospital” consisting of some beds where the men would endure their terrors together, while being ministered to by men who had only recently been in those beds themselves. What a joy to see burly, scarred and tattooed men (whom you would never want to meet in a dark alley) tenderly wiping a sufferer’s face with a cool cloth and praying over him.
God purposely chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise, and He chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful. He chose what the world looks down on and despises, and thinks is nothing, in order to destroy what the world thinks is important. This means that no one can boast in God’s presence. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 Good News Bible)
Some of the men had written this in a huge mural on the ground made with small white stones.
Once I spent a day as one of them, leaving our home at 5:00 AM so as to be in time for the first of five chapel services at 7:00. The day consisted of chapel, chores, bible reading, chores, prayer, eating, more chores, and more chapel, all infused with a lot of laughter and deep conversation. In a quiet moment at the end of the day, I was sitting with one of the guys and he said, “Why would you [in all your peace and comfort] come all the way here and spend your time with [worthless] guys like us?” What a joy to tell The Story of how and why God left the splendid throne of Heaven and humbled Himself to become a helpless baby in a poor family, only to live a short life and be killed by those whom He loved so much. What a joy to identify with this man as a sinner, and to lift his chin up to see that in spite of our failures, we have inestimable worth in the heart of God. What a joy to recount the resurrection victory and the resulting new life for each one of us by faith!
Another beautiful aspect of Aqua Viva is that they do not have fundraisers. As a ministry, they live by faith, believing that God’s daily provision is a powerful witness to the men. How can these men have any hope of life outside in the “real world” that, like Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, permanently brands them as losers and criminals? Jesus promises that if we seek His kingdom and His righteousness, then we will be provided for. Therefore the life of faith at Agua Viva is the experimental proving ground of our only true Hope. On the wall of the dining hall is a poem, “Si hay rodilla, Hay tortilla, Si hay fe, Hay café.” Translated this means, “If there is the knee (kneeling in prayer), then there is tortilla. If there is faith, then there is coffee.” And this is actually where my story begins.
After a wonderful time of ministry at Agua Viva with a particular outreach team, the group returned to their home state and took up a collection. A few weeks later a second team arrived at our ministry base in Texas, bringing an envelope of cash with them from the first team with instructions to take the money to Agua Viva. The problem was that I had no plans to return to Agua Viva any time soon. The trip took most of a day or even longer if the border crossings were extra crowded.
It was perhaps six weeks later that an opportunity arose to return to Agua Viva, which was a relief because I was feeling guilty about the money delivery which was delayed, so I thought, for my own convenience. My oldest son Daniel, about 10 years old at that time, and I traveled out past the bleak “Farmers of the Desert” neighborhood of cardboard-lined wooden palette shacks to the brightly painted Agua Viva compound. As we drove our car through the gate, the leadership of the facility were coming out of the dining hall.
Daniel and I got out and greeted the brothers warmly with handshakes and embraces after which I held out the envelope and said, “This is a gift from a team that was here a few months ago.” The director’s expression became serious as he opened the envelope and carefully counted the cash, which was in a variety of denominations. Then his face lit up with joy and he spun around and showed the money to his brothers. They enthusiastically chattered in fast Spanish slang that I couldn’t follow except for the frequent exclamations of “Gloria a Dios!”
The director turned back to me and explained, in the little child Spanish that I speak, that they had just arisen from their knees (the action of rodilla) when we drove up, and that they had just asked God for exactly the amount of money that was in the envelope. And here I thought I was being lazy. But God had delayed me so that these brothers could have the blessing of His immediate and exact provision.
Glory to God (Gloria a Dios)!