Hey everybody!!!! I (Levi) know it’s been a while since I posted, so let me update you on my life.
Since getting engaged, Jael and I have been planning for our wedding in early July. We’ve also been busy getting ready for our first missionary assignment as a married couple. After being accepted into Global Lutheran Outreach or GLO (a missionary organization that connects missionaries with different Lutheran Church bodies throughout the world), we were extended a call to work in Paraguay.
We will be working as missionaries, through the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay–a church body in Paraguay that wants to reach more people in their country with the Gospel. As you can see from the photos below, work has already been started where we will be working–in the district of San Pedro, about 5 hour’s driving distance from Asunción, the capital of Paraguay.
Several years ago, a vicar (Victor–he’s the guy with the glasses in the above picture, teaching the kids) from the Lutheran Church started to do some church-planting work in this area, facilitating worship services, as well as running other activities. Our work will be to help in this work, reaching out to the people in that area with the good news of Jesus Christ. We’ll soon actually be visiting Paraguay so that we can better see what this work will look like.
Until then, Jael and I are working on learning new languages! Jael is learning
Spanish, and I (since I already have learned Spanish) am learning Guaraní (the indigenous language of Paraguay) and Portuguese. We (or, rather, just I, until our wedding in July) are also traveling around and visiting various churches, to tell them about our future work in Paraguay. We would love to make a personal connection with you and your church, or visit you again if you’ve already met us! You can reach me at LeviKarth@gmail.com
If you want to know more about how you can help, please check out the “support” tab above.
Well…okay. I didn’t just get engaged. It was about three weeks ago now (or has it already been four weeks?). Who did I get engaged to? Meet Jael Trinklein (soon to be Jael Karth):
Jael and I met way back in January 2016, when we were both on the fundraising trail: She, going along with her dad, who was preparing to serve as a missionary in South Korea, and I as I got ready to head to Peru. We later met again in March 2016…and long-story-short, we’ve been talking ever since…and are now planning to make it a life-long pastime.
So…what are we doing right now? Well, right now Jael is back in South Korea, getting ready for our upcoming wedding, while I am back in the United States (after finishing up my internship in Peru), spending a lot of time praying, reflecting, and taking steps toward my next call. And we’ll soon be sharing more details about what my next call might look like. Please keep us in your prayers as we seek God’s wisdom and guiding hand in these next steps in life!
It was far from being a normal day at Castillo Fuerte. Not that my many days at our mercy center in this poor neighborhood (La Victoria) have ever truly been what I would call “normal”, but this day was especially abnormal due to a somewhat major emergency situation that had all of our Peruvian teacher staff just a bit alarmed. And, after realizing that I wouldn’t be much help to them, I eventually let them do what they needed to do, and I found myself upstairs, trying to keep some kids contained. Being kids, they were aware of the situation, while at the same time, they were quite occupied telling each other goofy stories and such.
In the midst of all of that, one of the kids suddenly thought of something. “Wait!” she cried out to the other kids, who were busy being full of energy and laughter. “Why don’t we pray for this situation?” The next thing we knew, the child (around ten years old) got us to all calm down and pray with her for the situation. While part of me was just a bit embarrassed that I hadn’t thought of praying with the kids in that moment, it was also a really awesome moment in which God seemed to be showing me that he has indeed been using me here.
It’s one thing to help a kid learn how to be mostly silent (and not chatting with their friends and not moving around) during the prayer time in our chapel services. It’s one thing to see the kids wanting to have a turn to lead us in a prayer to bless our lunch. But it’s a completely different thing to see them putting into action Philippians 4:6 (NASB) “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
During my time here in Peru, God has been teaching me a lot of different things. Something that he has been especially teaching me is the great power and the extreme importance of prayer. He has been teaching me how prayer is not simply an occasional activity or a routine habit in my daily or weekly life, but much more about trying to understand and live out 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NASB), “pray without ceasing”. Prayer is one of the many ways that we rely on God in the midst of each and every one of the problems and difficulties that we have in our life. Prayer is one of the many ways that we continually give thanks to God for his great mercy and grace, both when things are going well in our lives, and when things aren’t so well. And, more than anything, prayer helps us to grow in our relationship with God.
So, learning more and more how to use prayer in my own life, I have wanted to help the kids at Castillo Fuerte use prayer in their own lives, too. After all, I don’t want these kids just to have a basic idea about the Gospel without any more depth (although of course the good news of Jesus Christ is the absolute most important thing that I can communicate to them). I don’t want these kids to just come regularly to the Bible classes and church services that we put on. I don’t want these kids just to be growing with God when they’re at Castillo Fuerte. I want them to know God and have a relationship with him—a relationship that affects their life all the time, when they’re at home, when they’re at school, when they’re with their friends, and everywhere else, too.
Teaching them about prayer has, in part, included talking about the idea of prayer and what it involves, over and over and over again in the different Bible classes in which they participate. But, beyond simply just talking about prayer, I’ve also tried to use many different Bible classes to actually spend a good amount of intentional time praying for them, as well as giving them the opportunity to pray. Through all of this I’ve hoped and prayed that they have indeed been grasping onto this idea (as well as the many other ideas that I’ve wanted to teach them). So, this young girl taking the initiative to lead us in a prayer for the unknown situation (which, by the way, turned out fine in the end) seemed to be a huge affirmation that God teaching them through me had indeed had some fruit. And having that affirmation seems likes a very fitting way for me to wrap up my time here.
My time here in Peru as a missionary is indeed wrapping up. As I write this toward the end of November, I’m looking ahead to just barely a month more of work here. I expect that these next few weeks will be quite busy as the time truly comes to say goodbye to everyone here, and as I start packing up and, finally, heading off.
I have learned a whole lot during my time here in Peru, in addition to what I’ve talked about with prayer. And I’ve also seen God using me in different ways to bring more people to know him better. I hope and pray that these people will always continue to draw closer to God and have a strong relationship with him.
So, you may be wondering “What comes next?” This will be my last official news blast as a GEO missionary through the Office of International Mission of the LCMS. However, hopefully really soon I can send some news on where God is calling me next, whenever that becomes fully clear. Until that time, I ask that you keep me in your prayers, so that God would give me lots of wisdom and discernment in these next steps in my life.
Coming up with new ideas, switching things up, adding new challenges: I realized that all of these were needed as I tried to brainstorm how to better teach the Saturday evening children’s Bible class at our church plant in La Victoria. For quite a few months, I had been walking through the book of Acts with the kids in that class, teaching them about what the early Church was like and how God was bringing more and more people to have faith in him. However, after one too many classes where the kids were having a hard time paying attention, I figured that it was probably time to try something different, both with the topic and, more importantly, with the way that I was teaching.
While coming up with different topics, I’ve tried a different way of teaching the class that empowers the kids a lot more and lets them actually help to teach the Bible class. Since a lot of the kids in this class have been coming to Castillo Fuerte for at least a year, they have had a lot of experience reading the Bible, so I figured that they were up for a new challenge: They would be divided into two groups, with each group being told to read together a Bible story, think through the story together, and then present what they had learned to the other group (with a presentation that, of course, included the essential puppet show). In the midst of all of that, I (and any other adults helping me) would be there to help guide the kids and think more deeply about what they were reading as well as plan out how to present their portion of the class.
Obviously, kids are kids, so every class seems to have a different outcome no matter what we do: Sometimes that they don’t fully understand the Bible story and don’t get as organized as they would have liked (kids don’t always have a lot of patience!), while other times they have a ton of fun as they quickly grasp the Bible story and put on a really humorous presentation for us.
And either way, I think that it’s all worth the effort, because even if they don’t always understand the Bible story when they read through it the first few times, I can always still recap everything at the end of the class and help them see the good news of Jesus (how he suffered, died, and rose again to life in order to give us eternal life through faith in him) in the Bible story. And they are learning and figuring out how to teach the Bible to other people, which could quite possibly be a skill that is grown in them more and more as they mature in the faith.
Even as I try out new ideas in the Bible classes that I am teaching, I am also seeking to remind the kids of what is truly important as my time here in Peru starts to wrap up. Not too long ago, as I was teaching one of the 15-minute daily Bible classes to the kids in Castillo Fuerte during our after-school program, I had them help me count up how many days were left in October…how many days are in November, and for how many days I would probably still be in Peru in December (which will probably be my last month here), showing them how very close my departure is.
But at the same time, as I connected this with John 1:19-28 (a story where John the Baptist showed how his work wasn’t about himself—it was all about pointing people to Jesus), I reminded them that Castillo Fuerte isn’t about Levi. Coming to Bible class isn’t about Levi. Learning about Jesus isn’t about Levi. It’s about Jesus—learning more about him and walking more with him. So even after Levi is long gone from Castillo Fuerte, they can and should still be growing in their walk with God, as they continue to learn more about him and his love and grace for them.
With my DCE internship here in Peru ending in just a couple of months, and with all of the pledges and donations that I have received being more than enough, I’m not seeking any new financial support. However, I would definitely appreciate your prayers as I seek wisdom from God as to where he is calling me next. Thanks for much for supporting me during my time here in Peru!
Many afternoons at our Castillo Fuerte Mercy House in La Victoria, I can often find myself juggling multiple things at the same time. One Tuesday afternoon not too far back, shortly after we had our chapel service, I was trying to have some kids practice playing music, since for a while now I’ve been working on raising up worship leaders among the kids so that there will be people to keep playing music after I leave. When I have the kids practice music (especially the keyboard), I usually have been playing along with them on the guitar to help them keep a beat and concentrate on the song. However, I have been letting them play on their own more and more so that they learn how to not be dependent upon me—which is really the whole idea, since my hope is that they won’t need me in order to have music in church.
So, at the exact same time that I was letting kids practice on their own, I also was trying to get some good bonding with the youth groups kids, since they usually get out of school around that time and start showing up at Castillo Fuerte. And, of course, I was also trying to get stuff ready for our youth group meeting later that night…as well as a few other things. While the kids were being watched by the Castillo Fuerte staff, I ran to a nearby fruit vendor to get some food to prepare for theyouth group meeting. After getting some food and then walking back into the Castillo Fuerte building, I soon had a big smile on my face. I saw three or four kids huddled together, playing some of the musical instruments, while at least a couple of other kids were gathering around, singing with them. As they worked together to make music, they were keeping a great beat and were hitting all of the right notes! So I could see that they are already able (at least with that song) to play music without my help.
Of course, in addition to all of my time spent helping them get better at playing music for church, I’ve also still been greatly enjoying the large amount of time that I get to spend teaching the Bible, including the Bible study for our youth group. Probably for at least seven months now (if not more!), the youth group kids have been pleading with me almost every week for us to talk about the book of Revelation (these kids, at least in that way, aren’t that different from kids in the United States!), since they had obviously poked into before and were fascinated by all of the weird things going on inside of the book. However, not wanting them to simply get lost in weird stuff that they weren’t quite ready for, I kept the study on some more basic stuff (like the Gospel of Mark and the book of Acts), even as they kept pleading and pleading with me.
Finally, this past week, I realized that I would really need to get started on Revelation if I wanted to get through it before my internship here in Peru ends in December. Thankfully, I’ve read through Revelation with people on other occasions, so instead of getting lost in all of the weird things going on or getting confused by all of the questions that people ask (e.g. what exactly will the end of the world, and the steps leading up to that, look like?), we were able to stay focused on what (or really, who) the book is all about anyway: Jesus Christ, our risen Savior, who will one day soon come back for us to take us home to be with him for forever. And, as we pulled in different passages from the Bible that are connected with Revelation, the Scriptures began to speak for themselves, and Jesus’ centrality in the book became clearer and clearer.
With my DCE internship here in Peru ending in just a few months, and with all of the pledges and donations that I have received being more than enough, I’m not seeking any new financial support. However, I would definitely appreciate your prayers as I seek discernment and wisdom from God as to where he is calling me after I finish my time here in Peru. Thanks for much for supporting me during my time here in Peru!
And here’s my latest video blog episode!!!! CHECK IT OUT (well, only if you want to–you don’t have to…but if you want to get a quick peek at what I’m doing in South America this is probably the easiest way)!!!!!!!!
Here’s a good example of what a typical day looks like for me…
As I scurried over to our Castillo Fuerte Mercy House in La Victoria, quickly dropping off my backpack and saying “¡Hola!” to some of the staff, and then hurrying back to the nearby park, I breathed in the crisp, winter air (which really wasn’t that cold since it rarely even gets below 55 Fahrenheit, though the humidity makes it feel a lot colder). Soon, I was back in the park, joining a few of the teachers and a bunch of kids in a good game of “Monkey in the Middle”. After playing that with the kids for a while, one of them suddenly noticed that the basketball court was open (it also serves as a soccer field, and earlier there had been other people playing on it), and so suddenly the kids went off in a mad dash to claim the court, quite excited to be playing what is currently their favorite game.
Though I’m not very good at basketball (don’t expect me to ever actually get it in the hoop!), I do greatly enjoy playing it with the kids, so I was all geared up to play. We were just about to split off into teams when…well, kids are kids, and sometimes that involves a little bit of drama. So I soon found myself waving off at the rest of the kids, telling them to start playing without me, as I stood by the side of the basketball court and talked over why we shouldn’t have a cranky attitude with a very cranky kid. Making sure that people are reconciled is often a pretty big deal to me, so the two of us missed out on the entire game as the kid worked through her crankiness and finally (as we walked back to the Mercy Center to eat lunch) she was ready to offer a few necessary apologies.
After lunch, while most of the kids played board games upstairs as they waited for their classes to start, I pulled aside a couple of the kids to work on their music skills with them. Having been practicing for a couple of months now, they’re actually better on the electric keyboard than I am, but (being kids) they still need someone playing along with them (which usually means that I’m playing with them on the guitar) as they gain more and more confidence in their playing abilities. It has been really exciting to see how much they are progressing, especially as they little by little are participating more in the music ministry during our church services. My hope is that the kids will be able to continue on playing without me after my internship here in Peru wraps up by the end of this year.
Finishing up with the music time, I headed upstairs to the big kids’ classroom and tried to keep the attention of a dozen or so kids for 15 minutes as we talked about prayer. It seems like too many kids (and maybe people in general) get quite intimidated at the idea of praying, which was definitely the case that day as I told them that we would go around in a circle and ALL have a chance to pray. Whenever a kid would protest, “But I don’t know how!” I would remind them that, seeing that they were just then talking to me, they could also pray, because prayer is simply talking to God.
And there were many other moments that day (as there are most days) to not simply talk about the love and grace of God (which he offers us freely by grace through faith in his son, Jesus Christ), but also to live it out and model it for the kids, showing them God’s love. And I don’t just want the kids to know God’s love and grace, but I really want to see them sharing it, too.
Hey everybody! Here’s my latest video blog episode:
And here’s an excerpt from my latest newsletter:
One of my favorite events in the past few weeks was the visit of my university supervisor, Dr. Jacob Youmans. Dr. Youmans, director of the Director of Christian Education program at Concordia Texas (the university that I graduated from), came at the end of June to spend about a week with me. Bringing his family with him, they got to follow me around and see what my life as a missionary here in Peru is really like, as well as the work that God is doing through me here.
Since the entire Youmans family is quite musical, one of the especially enjoyable parts about their visit was how much they were able to help me with the music ministry aspect of my work that God has put into my hands. On one of their first days here, they headed with me down to my favorite part of Lima—the music market at la Plaza Dos de Mayo (I’ve mentioned that market in previous newsletters). There, we got an actual electric keyboard to use for the worship at the mercy ministry of Castillo Fuerte in La Victoria.
After bringing the keyboard (on the crowded bus!!!!!!!) over to our mercy ministry, the Youmans family (who has a lot more piano skills than I do!) was able to better show some of the aspiring kid musicians how to properly play it. In other words—just with that, they were a huge blessing!!!
One part that I especially enjoyed from the visit of the Youmans family was the feedback that I got—because an outsider’s perspective can often be quite insightful and encouraging. Dr. Youmans especially encouraged me to keep on training kids to be worship leaders, which could help them get more involved in the life of the Church.
Since then, the kids that I have been training in music have continued making great strides in their learning. Just a couple of days ago, one the kids was confident enough in her skills to play along to “Jesus Loves Me” (in Spanish, of course) during our music time during chapel. It’s exciting to see how these kids continue to grow in their skills!
These past few weeks have also been really crazy with quite a few changes in the lives of the missionaries, and we would all definitely appreciate your prayers as we get used to those changes. One such change is that one of my fellow missionaries, Deaconess Caitlin Worden, just a couple of weeks got married to a Peruvian man, Jeancarlos, who has been a member of our church here for quite some time. While obviously quite exciting, this of course also means that there are a lot of new things for them to get used to.
There’s also a lot of transition going on with some of my fellow missionaries. Just a couple of months ago we got two new missionaries, Pastor Cullen Duke and his wife, Deaconess Jackie Duke. Even as they are transitioning to life here in Peru, we are also having to say goodbye to a different missionary of ours, Pastor Herb Burch, who is transferring to the Lutheran mission in the country of Belize to help the mission work there. So with all of these transitions, prayers are definitely appreciated.
Also, check out this excerpt from my latest newsletter:
Setting goals is a lot easier when one has a specific time limit. After figuring out in the past few months that my time here in Peru is limited (my DCE internship here ends around the end of December), I have in some ways found myself more freed than limited, because it has helped me re-evaluate what I am doing and what my goals for my internship here are. And you’ll probably remember from my last newsletter that one of those goals is to leave behind some trained musicians who can bless the churches here with continual music in the church services.
After getting interested in the charango (the ukulele-like instrument that you probably saw in my last newsletter), and then seeing its limitations, I did some more scrounging around one of the musical instrument markets here in Lima, and eventually stumbled upon the melodica (see picture above). As you can probably tell just from looking at it, the melodica works a lot like a piano in that it has the same keyboard system, with the one big difference being that, instead of making music by electric speakers or by strings being knocked, this is used by blowing through a tube.
So what am I doing with this melodica thing? Besides simply using it to teach some of the basics of music theory to some of the kids at the Castillo Fuerte site in La Victoria (where I’ve already been spending a large amount of my time), it also is a good starter instrument to get kids interested in being church musicians. And, once again, seeing that I’m trying to focus more on specific goals (since my time here is short), helping kids learn music is one of those goals.
Of course, simply teaching how to play music for church services would be a very empty goal if that was all that I was doing with these kids. One of my other main focuses (which has been my focus for almost a year now) is continuing to be a part of the formation of the kids at the Castillo Fuerte Mercy House in La Victoria. A lot of that work involves simply spending time with those kids, showing them how much God loves them by letting his love shine through me. As a Peruvian pointed out to me, a lot of those kids just need a lot of love.
Obviously, continuing to teach these kids about Jesus is the other big part of the equation. Some of this involves just answering their questions. Not too long ago, instead of picking a specific topic for a 15-minute Bible class that I was going to teach, I just let the kids ask questions about anything related to the Bible (which meant that the question about the existence of zombies did not get answered in great detail), giving them a chance to satisfy their curiosity, and giving me a chance to see where they could grow more in their knowledge of God’s Word and his plan for our salvation.
Besides simply teaching the basics of the faith to these kids, these Bible classes have been a good opportunity to cast a vision for these kids. Specifically in the Saturday evening Bible class at the church in La Victoria, I have been walking with them through the stories in the book of Acts. It has been an awesome opportunity to help the kids learn more about how God empowered all of his people with his Holy Spirit and send them forth to be witnesses “to the end of the earth” (see Acts 1:8). After all, nowis the best time to get them thinking about the Great Commission and how they too are a part of that mission, since God wants to use all of his people (including kids!) to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the whole world.
I’m also having a lot of fun helping the Bible come alive for these kids, especially in the Friday afternoon Bible class that I help to teach them. As we go through different stories in the Old Testament, I have been able to use a wide variety of elements to help the kids really imagine what it was like (for example) for the Israelites to cross through the Red Sea on dry ground (see Exodus 14). Of course, beyond simply having really interactive classes, the point is to make sure that they’re engaged so that we can remind them how the whole Bible points back to Jesus Christ and how he came to this earth to live, die, and rise again to give us the hope of eternal life with him.
Even a trip to window shop for a charango can be an opportunity to share the Gospel. And I guess I should first explain what a “charango” is before I tell the whole story so that it makes more sense. Here’s a picture of a charango (which is a Peruvian stringed instrument):
So what’s with the charango? I got interested in them this past month as I began to focus more on the musician part of my job. Before I got here to Peru, the church in La Victoria had no musicians, and everything was sung a capella. Since I’ve gotten here, God has been using me to run the music ministry there. However, rather than simply running the whole thing myself, I really want to train up more kids at the church in La Victoria, teaching them how to play different musical instruments. That way, the music ministry isn’t dependent upon me being present.
Knowing about la Plaza Dos de Mayo (a certain area in Lima where there are a lot of music stores), I decided to ride the bus for an hour and check it out. After getting there around 12:30pm, I poked my head into just one music store, looking around at what they had. Walking out and past a few more stores, I eventually walked into a second music store, looking over the different stringed instruments that they had. I was especially interested in the charangos and similar instruments since I assumed that they would be cheaper than guitars and maybe easier to play.
Right after I entered the store and started looking at the different instruments, the shopkeeper—a middle-aged Peruvian man—saw me and rushed over. After asking just a couple of questions about the different instruments (at that point I didn’t even know what a “charango” was called), he opened up the display case and, one-by-one, pulled out a few of his different instruments and began showing me how to play them. Next, he took me to a backroom in his shop and showed me a bunch of music sheets that he had for the charango (which was the instrument
that caught my eye the most). Then, he showed me even more of his instruments. Finally, he took me even further back into his shop and showed me the room where he actually made most (if not all) of the instruments that were sold in his shop.
And somehow, in the midst of his excitement to see me all of that, the question came out about what I did for a living, and I soon found myself talking with the shopkeeper about theology. He quickly bewildered me for a moment when he talked about God being love, and then suddenly seemed to change what he believed and he declared that “God does not exist”. After getting more of a grasp on his very round-about way of explaining things, I finally realized that he was talking about how (entirely in his opinion), God does not exist in time and space, since (once again, in his opinion) God is spirit. He also had some really interesting views on who Jesus was/is.
His sister, who was also in the shop, quickly warned me that I wouldn’t be able to talk sense into her brother when it came to religion. Thankfully, I remembered that, no matter how much I put my own effort into it, I can’t bring anyone to faith—that’s really the work of the Holy Spirit as he works through the Word of God. So I simply relied on pulling out different Bible verses, trying to connect the dots for the shopkeeper, talking about how God himself took on a human body when the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, was born as a baby boy, and how he did that as part of God’s plan to give us forgiveness, salvation, eternal life, and a relationship with him.
After quite some time of us going back and forth around this topic, while being interrupted occasionally by other customers, I suddenly realized what time it was—2pm! I had probably been talking with him for over an hour! And I had to get to Castillo Fuerte in La Victoria by 3pm to teach the daily Bible class there. So, after about ten more minutes of chatting with him, I thanked him for his time and headed off. While walking toward the bus station, I realized that, in terms of window shopping, I hadn’t been very efficient with my time (seeing that I had only visited two stores), but that God had obviously had a different purpose for my trip there.
After rushing to get to the Castillo Fuerte in La Victoria, I had just a few minutes to greet all of the kids and teachers before I found myself teaching the older kids’ class. I had them read 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (NIV) Using that verse, as well as my story of my conversation with the shopkeeper, I talked about how they, too, can be used by God to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the world.
Even vinegar can be a tool to share the Gospel. The week before Easter, I really wanted to be serious about teaching the kids and youth at our Castillo Fuerte Mercy House in La Victoria about Jesus’ sufferings and death for us. So the Monday before Easter, I needed some strong-smelling vinegar for one of my Bible classes with the kids. After searching in the mission office (where I live) I only found a bottle of really diluted vinegar that barely had any scent. So I ran over to the tienda (a small grocery store) just a few hundred feet from my house to find a better bottle of vinegar. After completely butchering the Spanish word for vinegar as I asked to buy a bottle, I brought it back to the mission office and asked our Peruvian secretary to smell it (my sense of smell is horrible so I needed a second opinion).
“No, this doesn’t smell very strong,” he told me in Spanish. “What if you tried buying a bottle of red vinegar?” So I hustled back to the tienda and ordered a bottle of red vinegar (which I was hoping would be stronger). As the lady at the cash register (who had also sold me the first bottle) was walking over to grab me a bottle, she asked, “What are you cooking?” At first I just said, “Oh, it’s for a Bible class with kids.” Obviously, that wasn’t a very satisfactory answer, so I ended up explaining to her that I wanted to teach on Jesus’ time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was arrested (check out Matthew 26:36-46), specifically talking about the “cup” that he was asking be passed from him, i.e., the cup of God’s wrath that Jesus received on the cross when he took the full punishment for our sins. So a quest for the perfect prop for a Bible class became an opportunity to share the Gospel.
I never ended up finding a more potent bottle of vinegar (everything I could find was really diluted), but thankfully I found a few other odd ingredients to mix together with the vinegar in a cup, and it ended up having a very nasty stench. So during the Bible classes that day, God used me to talk with the kids (after they had all gotten a smell of the vinegar-potion and gagged) about how much nastier our sins are, as well as how much Jesus suffered for us on the cross to save us and give us a relationship with God by grace through faith in him.
The next day (Tuesday) I got to use the nasty smelling potion (which I had made sure to save) again. Deaconess Caitlin Worden (one of my fellow missionaries) and I had the youth during our youth group meeting go through a Holy Week meditation activity. I set up different stations where the kids would sit and read a Bible passage from the story leading up to Jesus’ death (from Matthew 26-27). Additionally, there were some extra words to meditate on at each station (often verses from one of our hymns), and the youth were also encouraged to take time to prayer. There were also different objects to see, touch, and smell (the nasty-smelling vinegar-potion!) that would help to illustrate each part of the story.
It was awesome to see how much the youth enjoyed all of it. They spent over an hour reflecting and praying as they moved from station to station, and a lot of the girls in our youth group were actually moved to tears as they pondered the story of what Jesus suffered to save us. After it was all over, Caitlin and I sat down with them and processed with them what they had experienced and learned, while having them read through some Bible verses to truly remind them why Jesus did all of that, like the following verses: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself….” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18 ESV).
Life is also exciting as God continues to use me to build relationships with different adults who are connected to our church plant in San Borja. During our Friday night Bible studies (which is the main gathering time when I see a lot of these people) I often have to be ready for a wide range of questions, since a lot of them have read just enough of the Bible to have some really good questions about different confusing topics. Through it all, God has been using me to emphasize the clarity of the good news of Jesus Christ—that he came to suffer, die, and rise again to live for us, so that through faith in him we could have forgiveness of sins and eternal life for forever with God.