Christmas was such a great time of joy. But suddenly gushed out an outpouring of sorrow.
The Aratu Church glowed during 2 outstanding holiday services. Friday evening’s meeting brought “Christmas in Egypt”. It blended a children’s cantata and teenager-adult drama that were extremely well done. Obviously, hours of rehearsal time had been invested.
Speaking of those hours, we were a part of that as the Senior Choir prepared “A New Heart for Christmas”. It likewise wove a moving story line between lively and lovely songs. The group had an opportunity to sing at a mall Dec. 23, then at the Sunday-evening service. Rehearsals were held almost daily for the 2 weeks before the presentations. This led Mavis to conclude, “I don’t think the Pastor and his wife should be allowed to sing in the cantata.” She has a point. But we still were glad we did it this time.
Our sacrifice was nothing compared to that of Sônia, the guest choir director. Every rehearsal meant an 80-minute round-trip, which she offered gladly. Sônia’s dedicated leading helped make the 27 choir members eager singers. We rejoiced in the talents of 5 soloists, 2 of them teenage sisters.
Within 2 days, gladness turned to sorrow, then tragedy. First of all, we heard of the resignation of Pastor Rômulo from the Pituba Church. We’d started that work in our livingroom in 1975. It once had been a prospering ministry. But as we’d seen too many times before, the shepherd didn’t know how to treat his sheep. A once-solid Congregation of 80 had dwindled to 20 sorrowing folk.
Longtime members were so concerned that two-thirds of them signed a petition early in December asking the Pastor to leave. Almost a rerun of what’d happened in Aratu 16 months earlier. But unlike that example, this man struggled to reverse this request, but finally gave in and said farewell to the Church the day after Christmas.
Sad, yes. For him, his Family and the Church. But this was nothing like the stunning news received Tuesday morning. We were told that the 19-year-old son of the Aratu Church’s previous Pastor had been killed by the police along with 2 other friends involved in a series of robberies. A shock, yes, but not a surprise. This young man had been involved with criminal elements for several years. His problems constantly had been excused by his father. They were one of the main causes of friction between that Pastor and the Church.
A year ago, Dick had expressed his concern about Filipe to his Pastor Francisco, “I fear that some morning I’m going to wake up and hear that your son has been killed–by the police or the drug people.” “Well, if it happens, it happens,” the Pastor calmly replied. The family’s bitterness is so great toward the Church that none of us even was given any details about funeral plans. Lord, please soften their hearts. And let some of us minister to them.
Life had gotten complicated here on a lesser scale, involving telecommunications. Dec. 21, fire struck the main transmission facility of the region’s major telephone, cell-phone and Internet provider. The resulting outage reached 6 states. As this is written, all we have back is low-quality cell service. Most rural cities still are unreachable. Internet may not be back till Jan. 20. So, how did you get this? We “hitchhiked” on another service fellow missionaries Stephen and Lourdinha Veness have. Yes, we’re tempted to make the switch, too.
There are busy days ahead. But we’ll tell you about those when they’re behind us. Just do remember to pray more than you might’ve done. Praise God, we’re fine. The Aratu Church is fine. But there’s lots of heavy “artillery” exploding around us. Thank you for your partnership in this challenging ministry. God bless as you look ahead to the year with two 1’s at the end.
Rejoicing in the King of Christmas,
Dick & Mavis Buck