On Friday, we wound our way through the streets of Quito with Rick at the wheel, James riding shotgun (I couldn’t bear the trauma anymore) and Pastor Oswaldo in the back seat with me. We gritted our teeth and made distorted faces as Rick weaved us along the absolutely crazy streets of Quito and through the absolutely crazy, forgive me, drivers of Ecuador. Rick has adapted well in this area. Some might not even be able to distinguish him from one of the native Ecuadorians while at the wheel. But, that is a story for another time. James and I were very grateful to have a skilled driver to transport us and even more thankful NOT to have to drive. We were on our way to the church that Oswaldo pastors.
Oswaldo, a student at the Assembly of God seminary that Rick directs, pastors a church in some portion of Quito that I couldn’t find again if I had a GPS and the building had a spotlight on it. The neighborhood has narrow, poor streets and most everything is constructed of cement. We made our way up one of the mountains that surrounds the heart of the city and eventually arrived in his neighborhood. Houses everywhere. Few cars. Many perros. Many, many ninos. It seemed the higher we drove in Quito, the poorer the people were and the more humble the dwellings. The gate was swung open to the church building’s courtyard and the faces of children lit up the landscape. There must have been 75 kids running everywhere. Big kids. Little kids. Baby kids. It was amazing. The amazing thing about their being so many kids in Oswaldo’s congregation is that, for the most part, children don’t really have much to give. Frankly, outside of love and affection, these little ones had nothing to give. Their “tithes” are very small. They rushed to Oswaldo and many gripped him about the knees as we made our way across the dirt courtyard and up the stairs to the “auditorium”. The joy of the children filled us and, as often was the case, tears filled my eyes as we looked on this work of Oswaldo’s heart and God’s grace. To pastor a church filled with so many children is to give yourself away profoundly.
With all of this in mind and flowing through my head and appearing before my eyes, I was truly and deeply inspired by the faith and humility of Oswaldo and his wife. When all were gathered into the auditorium I counted 8 adults and that number included us. Only one other man was evident and Oswaldo confirmed that it is the men who do not come. It was a common theme in Ecuador. He was glad that the teenage boys could see other grown men participating in the life of faith. You see, children don’t give anything, not because they don’t want to but because they have nothing physical to give. I have no idea how Oswaldo survives but I know it cannot be on much. It didn’t matter. His motivation was crystal clear: the Lord Jesus Christ and the hope He brings and Oswaldo’s deep love for children. One beautiful little niña followed us (Oswaldo) throughout our tour, gripping him by the legs most of the way. Her name was Diana and I spent the entire tour devising a plan in my mind to get Diana back to the U.S. to live with us. I couldn’t come up with a legal approach. Oswaldo explained that her parents beat her and the she came to the church for hope and help. It was heart wrenching but I can’t imagine that it was that unusual. In an impoverished neighborhood in a lawless society, I am sure this is more the rule than the exception. Jesus told us to become like little children because little children have nothing to demand. They have no rights. They are wide open and helpless – just as we need to be before Jesus. Diana sought hope, help and love at the church and Oswaldo showered the love of Jesus upon her. One thing was blatantly obvious: Oswaldo loved children. This spoke volumes about his heart.
Oswaldo spoke. Rick spoke. I played and sang the one Spanish song I know and then several English songs. They were humored by the music, which was fine and common. Their rhythm also lacked, well, rhythm. They clapped along but rarely on beat. Finally, before we left, James asked if we could gather around Oswaldo and pray. He graciously accepted. As we gathered around him and laid our hands upon him, this humble, godly man sank to his knees on the floor. I was overcome with emotion to see this man who was literally giving his life away for the gospel and for children simply sink slowly down to the floor with his face down. The humility of Christ in him radiated out. We sunk down with him and I pressed my hands into his back as if somehow to let God’s awesome love, hope, joy, peace and strength, what little I had, flow into Oswaldo and lift him up. James prayed a strong prayer, a beautiful prayer and as we blessed Oswaldo, we also were deeply blessed. As you would expect from a humble man of God, he asked if he and his wife and the other man and his wife could gather around us and pray for us. We wisely and gladly agreed. Ah, the unhindered blessing of God. His favor is shown in humble men and women who have given themselves totally to Him and are pouring out their lives on others. The love and joy of Lord Jesus filled us to the brim. I’m not being self-denigrating when I say that the mountainous faith of Oswaldo made my faith seem like a miniature mustard seed.
Please pray for Oswaldo and God brings him to mind. He is such a strong, yet sweet man. The aroma of Christ was upon him and we were allowed to enjoy it.