by Michael Berens-VanHeest
Today we hosted the first day of Vacation Bible School, and the theme for the day was listening. The Bible teaches us that it is not enough to merely listen to the word of God. In fact, it tells us that if listening is all that we do, we are deceiving ourselves. We must act upon what we read and hear in God’s word, and we are given the promise that if we both listen and act upon the wisdom of God’s word, we will be blessed in all that we do.
So as I went through today, I tried my best to listen. I would like to share with you a few of the things that I heard today.
In the house of an elderly couple where we installed a stove this morning, I had an opportunity to have conversations with both the husband and the wife. I listened as they shared some of their life experiences with me. I heard the pain the woman’s voice as she told me about the deaths of three of their eight children.
As I looked around the home of this couple, I marveled at how different it is from my own. Like many of the homes that we visit, this one had dirt floors, with bamboo-like cane walls and rusted corrugated metal rooftops enclosing only covering only a fraction of the space. As I observed the chickens and turkeys that share their living space and the wide variety of plants that had been carefully planted and nurtured in order to grow food, I found it to be both fascinating and beautiful. I complimented the husband on their beautiful home and listened as he responded, “Yes, but this is nothing compared to the houses you have in the United States.” As he said this, he held his arms out wide while looking upward, emphasizing the difference in size between what he imagined my house might look like and what he knew his home to be.
As I got to know this fascinating couple during the hour or two of our visit, and reflected on how difficult their life must be, I began to sense deep within them a strong undercurrent of strength and conviction that I struggled to make sense of. I began to understand when the wife later told me that the most important gift that she had received from her parents was a faith in a kind and compassionate God.
This afternoon, during music time at vacation bible school, I listened as approximately sixty children sang praises to God. I was overwhelmed with emotion when I heard the children loudly sing out the very first song that Shawn played, clearly remembering it, despite the fact that it has been a year since they sang it last.
As the children sang about the amazing things that God can do if we have faith in Him, even if it is as small as a mustard seed, my mind jumped back to the home of the elderly couple. Seedlings of faith, I thought. Perhaps that is what God sent us here to do: plant and nurture seedlings of faith.
I pray that God will use the work that we are doing in the village this week to nurture the faith of all of God’s children, regardless of age, so that they too might come to know the strength, love, and hope that God alone can provide.