I don't know about you, but some days I don't pray very specifically, or with much faith. The truth is I don't pray every day... well not like a formal thing where I get all religious about it. I am average when it comes to faith. Honestly, I am hoping for an easy commute, that's why I leave my house a little before 7 AM each work day. I am hoping that I don't get sick. I am hoping to manage my finances in such a way that I don't spend more than I make. Which, incidentally, is a lot easier without kids, especially kids in college. But this blog is much more about what we receive from God, than it is about what we ask Him for.
A few years back I planned a trip to southern Brazil. I was traveling solo for a short 10 day preaching tour. I enjoy other cultures, and I have historically stayed with pastors in the region instead of a hotel. I also enjoy giving, so I pack some small gifts that are indigenous to my region here in the US. I remember getting ready and packing my suitcase. I added in some music CDs that I had done the graphics on, some whale watch t-shirts because they have those nearby and a bottle of cologne that I like, which is sold only in the US. I tossed in my Portuguese/English Bible, a couple of suits and a handful of ties and dress shirts and headed for Logan Airport.
As always, my trips are a little off-the-cuff with some surprises and "sudden-lies" from the Holy Spirit... and some attacks from the devil. I arrived at the Curitiba Airport and one of my host pastors met me there. He brought a young man, Alex, to interpret for our trip to his house. On the way he also informed that my regular interpreter would not be able to help at all. What!?! That means that I am on my own to preach in Londrina for 6 days. After 24 hours of flying and airports, I didn't really have time to think about what that meant in terms of getting around, and preaching.
I preached and served communion to the little church in Curitiba. I met a wonderful man, full of the Holy Spirit. He was basically the equivalent of a state policeman. He didn't speak any English, but he welcomed me into his home, showed me his birds, his guns and photos of his family over the years. It was actually kind of fun, me looking up just about everything in my bilingual dictionary, and him laughing at my mispronunciations. The next night I went to another church and preached again with the interpreter, Alex. He asked me for a Bible in English, but I was reluctant to give mine up as much I would have loved to.
As I left, I gave each of them a CD.
The next morning three of my friends and I drove the 6 hours to Londrina. No one in the car spoke English, so we passed around the Portuguese/English dictionary and parallel Bible for most of the trip. I thought I would impress everyone and learn how to ask for chicken at the roadside cafe. In line I asked in my best accent for galenia (the dictionary word for chicken). Everyone began to laugh, and my pastor friend quickly corrected my order.
"Frongo." he said, shaking his head. The woman at the register look very relieved.
Apparently the word that I used, and which is in all the Portuguese phrase books, was slang for "chic" = hooker. Oh well.
I arrived in Londrina having learned quite a bit on my "language immersion" ride. It was good to see Pastor Erinaldo and his family again. His family graciously opened their home to me again.
I gave him a bottle of cologne and t-shirts for his wife and kids.
Pastor Erinaldo knew enough English for the two of us to get by. I wasn't scheduled to preach that night, but I was the next. He asked me what I was going to be preaching on, and honestly, I didn't have a clue. I knew that he couldn't interpret the sermon that I had printed notes for. I was thinking that a good interpreter takes just as long to repeat in Portuguese what I say in English. Therefore; a 40 minute sermon will take well over an hour. This would be torture for sure.
He and I agreed to keep it simple, and I went to my room an prayed... well actually, I fell off to sleep and had a dream. In the dream I heard the Lord say, "you reap what you sow, if you plant corn, you will reap corn. If you plant beans you will reap beans , and if you plant love, you will reap love."
When I awoke, I looked up this verse: Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good... NKJV
I recalled a sermon that I once heard an Argentinian pastor preach a few years before. He had preached a similar message about reaping and sowing. I also remember that I disagreed with him. I didn't believe that reaping and sowing was always returned in the same "currency" that you sowed in. In a spiritual sense, sowing corn seeds did not, in my mind, mean that I would specifically reap corn.
For many years I had given offerings and seen God meet my needs. My cars run with out fuel, and some of them lasted much longer than they should have. There were all kinds of ways that God returned my cash investments in the Kingdom, however; almost exclusively not with cash.
I sat down at dinner and discussed my dream and sermon topic with Pastor Erinaldo. He said that he did not agree that God would return something that we sowed with the exact same "currency" either. But then he reminded me of dreams and words that I had given on my previous trip just two years before. They were very accurate and he thought that we should continue to pray about this fresh revelation for both of us. I was discouraged because I wasn't getting anything else from God. And be sure, preaching something that you are not convinced of is very dangerous. We were both puzzled, but we had a sermon to get ready for.
At breakfast we had to decide what we were going to do at the meeting that night. The pastor shook his head, and asked me to preach the sermon on reaping and sowing. We'd see if God would produce fruit from it. I made it a ten minute message, and we worked hard to teach him the English and me the Portuguese so that it made sense. It took six hours to craft this out-of-the-box message.
That night I preached the message to a small congregation with his help. Not only was it well received, but people began to give each other money, car keys and bus tokens to sow into their lives. More amazing, the pastor did not recognize most of the people in the pews and did not know where they came from. We had no idea how they may have found out about this Monday night meeting. He took a larger offering then he was accustom to on a Sunday service! People were sowing expecting a return.
I preached the same message 8 times in 6 days.
The next day I drove with the my friends the 6 hours back to Curitiba to catch my flight home to the US. Pastor Erinaldo came with us to take care of some official paperwork in the capital city. He would take the bus back to Londrina the next day.
As we all stood in the airport saying our good byes, the policeman gave me a gift. It was a t-shirt that said "Policia Cival" (State Police). One of the woman gave me a bottle of Brazilian cologne called Carpe Diem. And Ps. Erinaldo gave me a CD entitled Aclamé ao Senhor (Shout to the Lord). He had inscribed the cover with a blessing.
The pastor began to weep. He said God has returned to you (David) the cologne which you gave me, and the whale watch t-shirts you gave to my sons and my wife. He began to tell the others of this strange message that I preached. It was then that the policeman told him of the CDs that I gaven him a week earlier.
Everyone began to praise the Lord as we saw how perfectly He returned the exact three items that I had sown.