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God of surprises

An ELCA pastor listens for God's voice in Guyana

Ministry experience: Before a Bible study class at St. Thomas Lutheran, our 30-member congregation, I noticed that Leila, a frequent participant, was absent. I was told that Leila had broken her ankle and couldn’t leave the house for a few weeks. I felt terrible. Then the Spirit struck. I closed my books, packed up our supplies and proclaimed, “Field trip.” My students and I began the trek to Leila’s neighboring village.

When we approached the house, Leila couldn’t believe her eyes. And although we had to wait outside a few minutes (she wanted to straighten the living room, brush her hair and change her dress), she welcomed us in. We sang, prayed for her recovery, shared food and drink, and had an all-around fantastic time. What was intended to be an hourlong Bible class at church became a three-hour social extravaganza at her home. It was a night I’ll never forget.

One of the main lessons I’ve learned serving as a pastor in Guyana is that the best of life’s pleasures aren’t planned or predictable. When I left home that day, I figured most everything would go as planned. When my students walked into church that day, I’m sure they had no idea what was ahead. And Leila certainly didn’t expect the class would arrive at her front door.

Serving in Guyana leads me to believe in a “God of surprises.” As much as I try to program my workdays and plan a monthly calendar, I never end up where I first expected to be. It helps that my greatest local mentor is Roy Thakurdyal, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana. He is a blessing, for he teaches me, a young minister, about how the national church functions and how Guyana is similar and different from what I was used to in the U.S.

Joys and challenges: Parishoners say they know God loves them and is willing to protect them at all times. They live very simply and say they don’t need programs and things of that sort. They simply want to hear the good news—the assurance of God’s love and direction for their lives.


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