Friday night on the streets of Medellin is much different from Friday nights on the streets of Wauchula. While it is true that Friday Night Live can get pretty busy, and Giovanni's can get pretty full, there is no comparison to what we experienced riding in a taxi on our way to the first session of our Mentoring Training. Let's just say that it's hard to admire the beautiful city of eternal spring when you've got motorcycles coming at you from all - and yes I mean all four - sides, and your taxi driver is maneuvering his way through them as if he is riding a Gator through an orange grove.
As we pulled up to the church (after getting turned around - that's Spanish for lost) we saw a most interesting sight. Sitting on top of the church were some buzzards. Now I've been on enough back roads to know that buzzards usually know when something is dead long before we humans do. I know you've seen them circling waiting to take the dive. Something is dead somewhere.
We exited the taxi and walked across four lanes of busy Medellin traffic, making me feel like I was back in the old Atari Frogger game I used to have as a teenager. Once we were inside the church, however, the busy streets were a quick memory. Pastors and their wives from the network of churches had gathered to be taught the practice of Mentoring by our new Texas friends. What a great time of fellowship and partnership in the Lord. These pastors and wives had brought lay leaders as well, and were looking forward to the beginning of a spirit-filled weekend. The depth of the team from Texas and the humility with which they approached the training was inspiring. I can hardly wait until tomorrow morning. While I miss my family more than I can express I am also gaining valuable insight into how to mentor my own children, as well as others God allows me to lead. I'm also learning a lot from the Texans (although I hate to admit it) about healthy, spirit-filled, mission minded followers of Christ. Perhaps we'll talk more about that later.
As I finished the night with conversation, I couldn't help but remember the buzzards on the church roof. Perhaps some animal had suffered an untimely death, and they were standing on ready. There was certainly nothing dead about what was going on inside that building tonight. I do wonder, though, how often we as Christ followers proceed with life as if everything is great when the "buzzards" know something is dead. In my own life I have noticed recently that sometimes it is not until later that I realize a part of me that used to be very alive is now gone. It's that way in relationships, in communities, and I am afraid it's that way in churches as well. Churches across the world are great at keeping dead things propped up as if they are still alive. I wonder if we need a few buzzards to let us know the status of our spiritual lives. The truth is that others notice long before we do. We are so good at pretending.
Tonight as I heard one mentor share his story I was impressed with how open he was. He was done with pretending. His only goal was to share his story so that others could learn how to share theirs. Believe it or not, this mentor had actually lived in Oxford, Mississippi, and loved it. I had to wonder if there weren't some buzzards flying around - not really. He was the real deal.
It's time to stop pretending and time to start praying for the Lord to restore to us the joy of our salvation (Psalm 51:10). Before we can honestly pray that prayer, though, we have to admit that we've lost the joy in the first place. It doesn't have to be that way. Life may be crazier that a taxi cab on a Friday night in Medellin, Colombia, but our God is still on His throne, and His sanctuary is still a place of refuge.
Get rid of the buzzards by experiencing new life today!!