Thinking Out Loud

February 19, 2019

An Amazing Divine Appointment

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:22 am

This picture was taken in Boca de Sama, one of the villages. It’s possible that some of the resort and tour staff live in places like this, but more likely they live in crowded cities.

Before Ruth and I left for Cuba last week, someone asked me if we were going on a mission trip. I supposed that’s more consistent with our history as a couple, but no, the purpose of the trip was ostensibly pleasure.

However, as with our previous trip there, we did take some Spanish New Testaments and Christian books; about 12 pieces in total. (I greatly regret not having taken about four more.) This is so important when Canadians are travelling to Cuba because Americans can’t go there, and Europeans don’t have access to U.S. Christian resources in Spanish.

There is a tradition of Canadians leaving gifts on the bed each morning for the housekeeping staff — so we include a piece of literature here — but I did give a few directly.

And the we met L., part of the resort’s entertainment staff. He was standing talking to the lifeguards and we got into a one-to-one conversation about family, education, work, faith and life in general.

Do you believe in divine appointments? I have goosebumps just typing this. They happen but you have to be programmed to expect them and then intentional about making them happen.

Either that day or the next I said to him, “Would you like a Bible?” He said he had one but it was borrowed and wanted to give it back to the person who had given it to him. (God was already at work!)

The reason I felt bold enough to come out and ask him if he wanted one — feeling bad that I had to walk it back and say it was only a New Testament — is because of another divine appointment we had with Steve, another guy from Canada who is spending a month at one of the resorts. Steve is a whole other story which I’ll save.

L. never got the Bible the next day. We just didn’t connect. But we did the day after.

And then he said something extraordinary: “Are you going to the buffet? I’d like to join you for lunch.” Just that day I had comment that you never see the hotel staff at the buffet. God was up to something!

For an hour we talked (Ruth was there for 75% of it and made some excellent contributions.) Christianity in Cuba has its beginnings in Roman Catholicism — though Pentecostalism is growing rapidly — and L. struggled with the sacramental view of baptism; that it is the human agency of salvation; that it changes you into a different person. There were many other discussions including about words which are important but not Bible words, such as “trinity” or “incarnation.”

The subject turned back to his family. I told him to be sure to impart his faith to his kids, mentioning them by name. For some reason I started tearing up at that point and so did he. He then told me it had been an hour and he had to get back to work.

Pray for L., his partner (couples tend to live together in Cuba) and his two kids A. and L.  His sister is an Evangelical — they call us Evangelists which is appropriate — so he does have other possibilities for getting his questions answered.

Do you believe in divine appointments? I do. This came at a time of genuine spiritual disappointment, and yet for an hour afterwards, I walked the length of beach in amazement of how God set it up. Pray also for J. who was so happy to get a copy of “In Touch” by Charles Stanley which helped break open a wider conversation. (I think many of the Canadian Christian tourists are very reticent about their faith while on holiday.) Pray also for T., our housekeeper, who was the recipient of about 7 of our pieces of literature.

Pray also for M. who took us on all-day jeep tour including a hike and swim in the mountains. He grew up Quaker — a large Christian group with a strong presence in Cuba — but like many Cubans, can’t get to church because they are always working.

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December 13, 2018

Strasbourg Christmas Market Shoppers Weren’t Expecting Bullets

Reports of killing rampages which take place in Europe may seem a world away, but it’s different when you walked those same streets just five months earlier. You have a mental picture which no television news crew can come close to approximating. You remember how those streets fit together. You remember the crush of people when you were there. You try to imagine what you might do or where you would run if the same thing had happened on the day you visited.

Crowd scenes have always been potential threats. For as long as I’ve lived, I’ve been aware of men switching their wallets to their front pockets and women clutching their purses more tightly. But of late we’ve realized that every concert, every sporting match, every trip to the shopping mall is fraught with the possibility of a random act of violence being carried out by someone mentally deranged or having a political agenda.

As we walked the streets of Strasbourg earlier this year, those thoughts are always in the back of your mind, but they are buried deep — very deep — as you take in the sights and sounds and smells. The people at the Christmas market on Tuesday night were no doubt in the same head-space; not expecting anything the second before the bullets could be heard.

The city we saw was beautiful. In the collage above, the upper left corner looks like it’s from a tourism photo. The tour boat came by at the right time and there was a young couple, possibly on their honeymoon, standing next to us who I chose not to photograph. We had crossed the border from Germany an hour earlier and after an unnecessarily long bus ride, had been let loose in this picturesque place that stated so clearly we were now in France.

Christmas Markets are a big deal in Europe. Our friend Lorne has written about them extensively. When you’re in the moment of a scene like the one upper right, you never think of people firing shots into the crowd; you never consider your vulnerability. Your brain doesn’t say, “I could be dead in the next five seconds.”

Which is how it should be. You ought to be able to enjoy an occasion like this in relative security. But that’s not the world we live in.

As of this morning the confirmed death toll is 3, with 13 people injured.


(I’ve included enlarged versions of the two pictures mentioned below.)

 

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