After spending almost 9 years on the mission-field of Puerto Rico and 3 years processing what I have learned there, I'm ready to share some of these life-changing moments with you.
One of the many stories that may floor you, is about a pastor who tried to expel us from the city.
Let me back up a bit.
We were asked by a church in a small mountain city, to become one of their leaders and teach them about revival. We had served as associate pastors during the revival of the early 90's & these pastors seemed genuinely hungry for a move of God, so we accepted.
We weren't children pastors, but my husband loved talking to the kids. He told them about God's power and encouraged them to pray for their unsaved parents, grandparents, etc. They did! Parents were getting rocked by God as their children
prayed for them at home. In turn they'd invite their extended families to receive prayer -they were getting physically healed and turning their lives over to God. It was an exciting time! The kids were getting fired up and families were changing.
(Photo of my husband praying for a child in Paraguay)
Unfortunately, the pastors didn't like it.
"These kids aren't equipped and these families aren't coming to church," they griped. We needed to stop encouraging this behavior among untrained children and allow the adult leaders to visit the homes so they could bring them to church.
Problem #1 - Thinking an institution needs to supervise what God is doing in His sovereignty and love.
Problem #2 - Believing that the ways of God can be understood with the natural mind.
We did our best to explain that this was what a true move of God looked like. Pure, untainted love, reaching out with no strings attached. We were told that to allow these things, but not disciple these people, was un-Biblical. "Make disciples of all nations," they quoted. But what they refused to understand is that reproducing church members wasn't the same as making disciples.
Then God started moving in our home.
Around that time our house was continuously packed with college aged kids. (I'll share some crazy stories about this in another post.) They too were getting fired up about praying for strangers, believing for healing/miracles, etc. And they were experiencing them for the first time. Our house was overflowing with hungry lives and we were having a blast! Wow! The stories we have about physical manifestation of God's glory when they visited are astounding.
A true move of God cannot be controlled.
The church was not happy. We were messing things up. We were causing chaos! Didn't we know that some of the youth coming to our house didn't even go to church? Didn't we know some of them drank alcohol and were sleeping around? What were we trying to do?
They were upset with us for trying to change the way their leaders prayed for people - they were pushing them down. When we explained that pushing wasn't a move of God, they became indignant! (Yet people were falling when some of the "un-trained" kids gently held someone's hand.)
After much prayer, we decided that this church wasn't really looking for revival. They were looking for their church to grow and to control a move of God. We lovingly explained we would be leaving.
That's when they tried to expel us from the city.
We were in trouble now! During a city-wide (small city - not even a stoplight) pastors meeting, this pastor stood up to let everyone know that Len and Gretchen Rodriguez were witches. We were manipulating people and trying to steal everyone's church members in order to start our own church - our own cult! (By the way, we had no desire to start a church. --Nope! Not even a cult.)
While some of the other pastors grew upset, the leader of the meeting said that since we weren't there to defend ourselves, they needed to be quiet. (This leader later became one of our friends.) We had no idea what was going on, but some of the youth found out. They rushed to our house and let us know that the leaders of this church were going to stand in the town center with picket signs saying we were witches and needed to leave the city. These kids were so mad! We needed to go and defend ourselves. They had formed a group and were ready to march to the pastor's home with us. They wanted to help us create our own signs and retaliate. Our reaction shocked them!
"We're not going to defend ourselves," we said. And we gathered with this group to pray for and bless these leaders. It was a total God thing - we had no bitterness in our hearts. As a matter-of-fact, we felt badly for these people who were obviously deceived. Our hearts grieved for these leaders.
These kids had never seen anyone respond with love. They knew we had a right to be mad, but instead we taught them a valuable lesson. One they still hold dear to their hearts. It was probably one of the most single important moments we experienced on the mission-field. It was the day these kids saw love in action and learned what honor looked like.
The church never did storm the center with ugly signs. They grew silent. One night the Lord gave me a dream about what was happening in this church. They had opened themselves up to deep deception. The Lord sent us there in His mercy to help them, but they refused help. Their eyes were white with blindness as they tried to lead each other. They were worshipping with their backs to the altar and were staring at blank walls. Pride was driving them, but taking them no where. (I suppose that's where I got some of the ideas for my fiction novel, Aegis.)
I woke up crying - my heart broke for them and I was able to pray with a true heart of understanding.I ran into this pastor day after day at the grocery store. It was kind of funny! We literally ran our grocery carts into each other as we rounded the corners. I would smile at him each time, no butterflies, no anger, only real agape love. Every time he frowned, grunted, and one time he almost ran away. Let me tell you - I was amazed at my own reaction! I'm not trying to give you the impression that I'm perfect! This was truly the hand of God.
In closing, let me point that the "greatest" things we did on the mission-field didn't happen when we preached at churches. It was the times we showed love. It was the times we believed in people; the times they learned that God believed in them. It was the times we empowered others to step out of their limitations and become "Jesus with skin on" for others. It was when we simply realized that we were being watched - by those around us (both for and against us), and by the Lord. It was when we valued those the church system deemed as unfit for ministry. (Let me say I am not against church. I am a member of Bethel church in CA.)
What situations have you come against like this? How has it affected you? I'd love to read your comment below. If you'd like to receive updates on this blog, please enter your email at the top right of this page. Feel free to share this with your friends.