“Vale la Pena” is a phrase that means something along the lines of “It’s worth it.”
When I think of some of the challenges that we face, I have to ask the question – is it worth it?
Is it Worth it?
Is it worth it, living by faith on surprise support in the mail box?
Is it worth it, the embarrassment when our new friends are reflexively astonished when they discover that we don’t have a car, and then try to hide their astonishment?
Is it worth it, the sense of gratitude when people pity us and give us a ride or pay for our movie tickets?
Is it worth it, learning a second language and mess it up while trying to communicate God’s grace?
Is it worth it, walking away from a six-figure income to help Latin American pastors equip their church to do the work of evangelism?
Is it worth it, being eaten by mosquitoes, using outhouses, frigid cold showers, and sleeping in uncomfortable beds to help ignite small churches in Panama and help pastors reach poor people?
Is it worth a 14 hour frigid and uncomfortable bus trip to teach pastors for 3 hours on evangelism during a torrential downpour where I have to shout to be heard, and encourage them in their ministry?
The grace of God has captured me. It has transformed my life.
Going to Paso Canoas
24 hours after returning from Guatemala, I got on a bus and made the 7 hour trek to the border of Costa Rica. Those buses are very cold with cranked air conditioners. Trying to sleep is a near impossibility without assistance from Benadryl.
Not to mention the two “wake up the entire bus” stops on the way for a bathroom break and then a passport check out in the middle of nowhere.
As we get closer to the destination, beginning about 4am, this express bus starts dropping people off and picking people up, changing the pitch of the engine white noise and putting the lights on in the cabin.
When I arrive at the border, I’m wiped out. We check into a hotel for the day at $10, a little tourist hotel that has no comparison to the US. That price included a floor fan and a TV. I don’t worry about the TV and fall asleep fast, my discomfort is of no import, just finally horizontal to sleep.
I wake up with splitting sinus headache.
Since we’ve walked into Costa Rica, I’m out of place not knowing where anything is, or even how to convert my currency to get a bottle of water. My host is with me, so we find someT bottled water, have a little lunch, and then go to the church to give the class for the day.
I’m at the International Prayer Center in Paso Canoas, Costa Rica.
The church is in the process of remodeling. Half the roof is missing, which becomes painfully obvious a few hours later during a torrential thunderstorm. Here, most churches don’t go into debt to fund remodeling. They just live with incomplete projects until they raise enough money to tackle the next part.
A class 13-14 people gather here on monthly basis for the mission institute that I teach for here in Panama. They pray for my headache to be gone, which it does. We meet in a little covered classroom off to the side of the sanctuary. Gratefully, a floor fan is located for me so I that I can stay somewhat cool.
After some introductions, we walk through some discussion questions.
What is Evangelism?
“Go and speak the good news to those who haven’t heard.”
“Go and bring people to church, give them information about salvation.”
“Sow the seed of the love of Christ.”
Why is Evangelism Difficult?
These answers roll of the tongue pretty quickly. When we move to challenges to evangelism – the answers roll out even faster.
What right do I have to call people to repentance?
They don’t listen to me.
I don’t know WHAT I can say?
What are the challenges in the church?
Notice I didn’t ask them about their church, but the church in general. People are more apt to speak of their difficulties if it’s more collective.
People are comforatble with their own church.
Lack of knowledge and passion.
Lack of training.
Compartmentialized only to gifted evangelists.
Full Time evangelists don’t have enough economic support.
No cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
These things are a little harder to get out, but once they start talking, it flows well.
What is the fruit of evangelism?
I wanted to probe to see what is the goal for evangelism. The answers were
This intrigued me as non of the answers spoke of the beginning of a discipleship process or any kind of conection to the local church. We covered this discussion for a while, and talked about the relational value of intentional small groups to help connect people.
I described a feature of Latin American evangelism that I have observed – call for a decision, but no or little effort to connect to a church. While everyone agreed with that observation, there wasn’t much more discussion about it.
What are the means of evangelism?
I was surprised by the answers of this group – it was all program driven and non-relational
Tracts and door to door
Street Evangelism in the parks.
Leadership classes to train people in confrontational evangelism
Meeting social needs by medical clinics, food panties, tutoring.
In these answers, which are all good, what is missing is 1-1 relational evangelism in the course of ordinary life.
This answer caught be my surprise, and as I’ve been talking with many different pastors these last few months, I’m not off base in my observation – this suggests a need for personal evangelism training that is not a program, but a part of ordinary life – raising awareness of such opportunities.
Eventually, I moved into my lecture, but was drowned out by a slamming rainstorm that reverberated off the steel roof. I had to shout to be heard, and felt my voice beginning to give out. Though my headache had left, my strength was still not 100% having not slept well and just returned from 7 days in Guatemala.
We finished up, and discovered we had just missed the 6.30pm bus back to Panama City. We had to wait around for the next available direct bus which put us back home at 5:00am, right where I had left at 10pm two nights before. 30 hours after my departure, I was back home.
Vale la pena
Was it worth a 30 hour round trip to teach a group of 13 church leaders, in Spanish, for just 3 hours, and spending $50 in expenses?
In terms of a use of time – likely not. There are probably better ways.
But in terms of being available to these pastors and to motivate their work for the kingdom of God where they are – you bet.
I’ll be visiting them again 3 more times this year, and will seek to fill out the weekend with some additional preaching to use more time out there.
Yes, it’s worth it. This is the center of our calling and that’s while we are pushing through the challenges we face.