After a bit of a hiatus from house meetings, we are back at it. For a few months, we had our weekly gospel meeting in the building we meet in. It went about the way we expected. No one was motivated to invite their neighbors. So, of course, no one came in. This is not a metropolis with curious sidewalk strollers deciding to poke their head in and check things out. This is a tiny village where everyone is related, where decade-old disputes still simmer under the surface, where your religious beliefs are town gossip. There is very little chance someone will just walk in. A personal invitation is vital.
So it’s better in the patio. We haul chairs through town and set up in the yard of whoever’s turn it is. That family feels a responsibility to fill the chairs. This isn’t now the job of the missionary, or the church in general, although we all pitch in. You get your family and your friends into your backyard. Then, in the kindness of God, they repent and trust Christ and begin attending the regular meetings. It’s not a formula, it’s just the way things often work here.
Last Friday it was our turn. We went around as a family inviting people then went home to make 13 liters of lemonade from our saggy and burdened citric grove and get things set up.
People began to trickle in, filling up the seats we had brought from the hall then filling up our stack of extra plastic chairs, then filling up chairs from inside. We began to sing and the howler monkeys joined in, then the dogs began to howl. Whether it was a cacophony to the neighbors or beautiful melody to the ears of the Lord likely depends on how well your ear is trained to the peculiar worship of the animal kingdom.
So we praised the Redeemer together and heard again the most wonderful story ever told.
As humans we are prone to routine. Usually, that’s considered healthy yet in a spiritual sense, a mere routine can become detrimental. Do we just go through the motions: attend meetings, say the same general prayers, hear the same general messages, invite the same people (maybe)? There is no change, no growth, no zeal, but hey–we’re doing it! Sometimes we (I!!) tend to plod through worn-down paths when we could instead set sail in a sweet little schooner with a fresh breeze billowing the silks and filling our mouths with salt and hair, and head out into uncharted waters. It is beautiful to round some strange cape with Christ at the helm and find yourself getting to swab decks on this incredible ride.
For years another assembly an hour away has been struggling. We have invited. We have had meetings and open air. We have knocked on doors and walked through the parks handing out literature. We have scratched our heads and broken our hearts wondering why the Lord wasn’t seeming to bless. Until one day He just did. And he filled the hall and saved and restored and brought families back. We weren’t even home at the time. God doesn’t really need us; it’s good to remember that, too. He finds joy in our labors of faith but He also finds joy in showing us Himself.
I think that is what is especially wonderful about this work God has given us all to do. We can invite and have meetings and serve drinks and smile and answer questions and all the rest but we’re just His workers, just called to be faithful. He is still the only One who gives the increase. Praise God.