A week ago from this past Thursday afternoon I experienced the living, breathing, alive Holy Spirit in the most tangible way I could possibly imagine. Signs and wonders…just like the Bible says. This post is an effort to explain that moment. It’s taken me a week to process and I am still not there. I don’t feel like I have the right words. Here’s what I know I encountered the Lord, I am changed. This must be shared. Here goes nothing.
To start with, we probably should head back to a little bit before that afternoon. The Saturday before I welcomed back a great group from Asbury Church in Madison, WI led by Pastor Harold. This year was my third year leading this team and it was the best trip I have ever led. You can read about it here in our trip journal.
Three years ago when we met, I took Pastor Harold around the Northern Country side to meet some of the pastors and pastoras in rural locations. We ended up one afternoon in Caledonia with Pastora Rosaura. As we sat at the feet of this ministry giant, Pastor Harold and I wept. We wept with her and her team as we heard of struggles in Caledonia and we wept for them, joyful that we had the opportunity to be in this place amongst the fields. Getting in the car, wiping tears from our eyes, we said to each other, “the team has to come here!”
Fast-forward or rewind (depending on your perspective) to a year ago and the meal that we shared with our brothers and sisters in the New Heaven and New Earth. (A recap from last year is found in this blog post). The post shares it all but for most it was truly a life-changing experience. Pastor Harold and I left that moment and said “the team has to come back here.”
So like most things, we got to planning. I did my meeting thing with Pastor Rosaura and Pastor Harold did his thing recruiting this year’s team. As I sat with Pastora Rosaura she shared the desperate needs of Caledonia. You see the village, like most of Northern Belize is a sugar cane village. The Sugar supports all the income. People are either cane farmers, cane cutters, cane truck driver, cane truck mechanics, shops that sell parts to cane truck mechanics, etc. etc. etc. You get the picture. The cane season was delayed due to a work-stoppage for 3 months and people were suffering. Pastor Rosaura cried for her people as she shared that some homes could not afford the 1.50 BZD ($0.75USD) bus fare to send a child to high school. She cried as I shared that the team, that Pastor Harold wanted to come back and he wanted to do more. She looked me square in the eye and asked “I hope we did our best last year!” I took a long sip of my coke and belly laughed. “General” I said (we are on a nickname basis now). “you all did fantastic. We have said the Lord has not forgotten about you, about Caledonia, and about the struggles. Our team wants to serve you in whatever capacity we can.” She shared how she has vision for all the kids in Caledonia to have a bed for their own. She shared how families were hungry and women were tired, trying to hold up the families during times of deep trial. We prayed and I left. Glowing from being around such a ministry giant.
The following day I phoned Pastor Harold and shared everything Pastora Rosaura and I spoke of. She said as only Pastor Harold can “Right, right right….Josh no problem.” We planned for 7 bunk beds, groceries for 20 families, and a women’s spa day.
We were going to minister to Caledonia. Only we didn’t realize The Lord through Caledonia was going to minister to us.
We arrive on Monday for the spa day, and we noticed there weren’t a lot of women around. We were slightly disappointed but continued to pray and prepare. After some brief conversations we realized the cane season started that day (PRAISE GOD) and women were waiting for their men to come home from the fields. Undeterred we focused or more specifically the women on our team focused on the women that were there.
A woman came in hurting, in pain, she had just lost someone special. She was loved, she was pampered. She left with a smile brighter than the son. God’s love shining through.
Another woman came in and said to a team member, not knowing your story, “you look sad.” Our team member was slightly sad and the woman from Caledonia said come down to the river with me. So they walked and through spanish only (a language that only this one member of our team was fluent in), this woman ministered. Both came back full of life, full of joy. God ministering.
While this was going on our construction team started on the beds. Our rag-tag crew led (not really) by me was getting going. Only we looked around and noticed there were more men from Caledonia helping us that there were team members. I asked about the fields and THEY PRAISED GOD they weren’t called into work so they could serve with us. A couple of hours later, we were a well-oiled machine making beds but more importantly making jokes and friends. These 12 MEN. I repeat 12 MEN were not hanging with us because they were getting a bed or a member of their family was getting a bed. They were with us because that’s what you do. A body of Christ serves together.
I had the AMAZING opportunity to step back from ministry and watch all of this happen. A small twinge, a light-bulb went off.
I had to go get drill bits. A man stops me from leaving says come with me and then loans me his bike as we go to his house. Before we get to bits, I have to see his garden, his produce and obviously try some. I get the bits, he gives me his bike and says that’s ok I have another, someone else will bring that one home for me. I was blown away.
The next day in Caledonia we set out to deliver the first bunk beds. We worked out the order of where to go and how to do it and then went to make sure others were doing well. I hopped in the truck and then looked around inside. The cab was full only it was full of our Caledonia construction workers. “What about the fields today?” I asked. They answered “Josh, the cane fields can wait. These people need beds today.” So we set out 8 Belizeans and our team. We set up beds and as we are leaving the first house, one of the men of the church says “Excuse me brother Josh but shouldn’t we pray?” Uhhhh….yes, we should. So arm in arm, Belizean and American we pray. We cry out to the Lord and pray blessings on this house. A singular community working together to bring more of Him into their presence.
We get back to church and each of the men shares something with us. Whether it was fresh coconut, sugar cane, or Jamaican lime juice, they were so excited to share of whatever they had to “each one as he had need.” As I was leaving that afternoon, Pastora pulled me aside and asked if I would bring the whole team there on the last day because a brother from the village wanted to share a river tour with us. Of course I obliged. Besides when the Lord wants to shower you with blessings, there is nothing to do but receive with glad and generous hearts.
The final day comes and we head up to Caledonia. We were greeted once again with coconuts, sugar cane, more lime juice, and sweets. More men surround us, load up the bus and head out for bunk bed delivery. Others join with our team as we canvess the neighborhood with grocery bags and prayer. It ends at the last house. I pull up with the Caledonia men in my truck and catch the girls running back to school after their lunch break. I stop them and convince them to skip school for a little bit and wait for their new bed (bad influence I know). As our team works hand in hand, the mother of the house begins to weep and the girls start to giggle. Excitement bubbles in the air. Our team which is no longer the mission team plus members of the church in Caledonia works to complete the last delivery; we are one in Christ truly with all things in common.
We finished and the girls climbed up on the bunk. And they smiled. It wasn’t an ordinary smile. It was the Lord and his glory shining through that little girls smile. It was as clear as I have ever heard the Lord speaking to me saying “well done my good and faithful servant. Do you see what can be accomplished when a church is living out my mission.” Absolutely wrecked, with tears falling, I got back into my car astounded. I can’t describe it.
So we head back to the church and feast at the banquet that Pastora Rosaura had set up for us. In the middle of eating the Lord says Acts 2 – you have to share on the bank after the tour. I run to grab my bible, sit down and read and it’s clear. These are the words the Lord wants me to share and wants me to see.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47
Everyone gets back from the boat tour where the tour operator and his family decided to share with us 3 additional desserts because the 3 we had at lunch weren’t enough! And we sit as a team, as a church, as a fellowship of believers. Lorelee begins worship and suddenly like a rushing of the wind, the wind comes, it blows, only I know that I know I know that it’s not the wind. It’s the spirit of the Lord. Lorelee concludes worship and their on the side of the river in the small sugar cane village of Caledonia I tried to read Acts 2:42 – 47. Only the words were blurred through my tears. Drops fell onto the page. It was as if all the joy I have ever had in my whole life was welling up inside and coming out through tears. Literally the Lord through His rushing wind, through His Spirit penetrated my heart and said “you see. This is MY Church. Encourage them. This is my church take it to the nations.” With great power from the Lord, I got through the scripture. I locked eyes with Pastora Rosaura and preached my brains out, encouraging here that The Lord says…
This is HIS CHURCH. You are living out HIS design. That if every church in Belize lived out HIS command like Caledonia we wouldn’t be facing the problems we face today. I promised her that WE WILL STAND with her, that WE WILL ENCOURAGE HER, and that WE WILL TAKE CALEDONIA to the country and the rest of Central America and beyond.
The wind died down briefly….a calmness and stillness sat in the air. Shaking with fear, with joy, with I don’t even know what to say except shaking with the Holy Spirit….we linked arms, hands. whatever. Arm in arm, hand in hand we prayed as a unit. Caledonia praying for the team, the team praying for Caledonia. I looked up and saw out of the corner of my eye the Glory of the Lord shining down again. The Lord’s literal presence was there. As soon as I laid eyes on The Glory, the wind rushed again, the Lord filling us up for our mission. It was literally if He was saying GO, you have seen this, you are filled Go and replicate.
When Moses came down from the Mount after spending time in God’s presence, his face radiated the Glory of the Lord. He looked different; he was different. Something happened on that river bank. I am different. We are different. I have encountered the Living God and the Power of His Spirit unlike anything I can put into words. The Lord has forever knitted me to Caledonia for sure but more importantly Him. His charge is clear and I must obey.
Caledonia a village that Pastora said was forgotten was the scene of revival. Revival of my soul, revival in our team. revival in the village. Caledonia a place that always tries their best. Caledonia a birth place of revival for the country. The Lord has not forgotten them. and He is not done in Caledonia. He is not done using them for His plan and bringing his Kingdom to Earth. I am just blessed to have had a front row seat in what He is doing there that week.
I left that afternoon from Caledonia, wrapped Pastora Rosaura in my arms and said I tried my best. With tears in her eyes, she looked at me and said Josh, you did well! I hopped in the truck and pulled away into the midst of the cane fields, trying to figure out what all this means. Truth is I still don’t know. I still can’t describe it. But the Lord knows and He is using me. My prayer is that you all would encounter the Lord is the most tangible way possible and allow Him to use you more than you could possibly imagine.
And the Glory of the Lord shined all around them….and I was so afraid.