“I am the vine, you are the branches.
Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit,
because apart from me you can do nothing.”
I felt physically ill. The load I was carrying was heavy. A four-day spiritual retreat for the wives of pastors (who are part of the ministry Twelve Churches) in León, Nicaragua – the second poorest country in Latin America. I’d been to Nicaragua before, and to the state of León, specifically. I knew of its landfill neighborhoods, its drug problems, the countless obstacles that come with extreme poverty and the often oppressive religious culture that affects women in particular. I wanted there to be transformation, healing, and liberation for them as we discussed the important topics of self-esteem, shame, forgiveness, and God’s grace. I wanted this retreat to be worthwhile, but I was intimidated by their immense circumstances and my limitations.
The group dynamics were complex. The context was different. The topics were heavy. The first day was particularly difficult. I felt like I was pulling teeth. I was wondering whether this would end up being of any benefit. As the week progressed, so did our time together. Profound conversations took place. Deep wounds were addressed. Grace was poured out. We concluded the retreat with Holy Communion. There’s nothing like the Lord’s Table – the nourishment, peace, renewal, forgiveness that it offers. Tears flowed freely. God was worshiped. The Spirit moved. Love was proclaimed and demonstrated.
The perspective I received in Nicaragua is that: ministry is not my job. Transformation is not my responsibility. I’m not the one who heals. God invites me and allows me to join in and be a part of his work. I choose to participate, or not. I choose to offer my best or give minimally. God will do God’s thing with or without me, and most often despite me. We frequently carry loads that are not ours to bear. We easily forget – whatever our occupation is – that it is God who works miracles. God is the one who brings the dead back to life. God is the one who gives sight to the blind. God forgives. God enlightens. God is the mover and the causer. God is the giver of all good things. God is the vine; we are the branches. Thanks be to God.