Here is a true story I heard yesterday from a fellow Ecuadorian church planter who works in a neighboring region of our province.
After training, Luisa was eager to get started. She had no where to go, and did not know where to start. After praying she was led to a tree. Her first gathering consisted of herself and two other girls. Luisa was ecstatic. She was on her way to becoming a church planter!
Two weeks later, the tree was cut down by the owner of the property. Luisa was devastated. She went to her church planting mentor and cried, "Now, what am I supposed to do? I have no where else to meet. The tree has been cut down."
Her wise mentor told her, "Thank the Lord! He has now provided you with a place to sit! Resume meeting in the branches of the fallen tree."
Luisa did so, and the group meeting continued to meet for a couple of more weeks. All was going well until the owner decided to burn the fallen tree.
Luisa went back and lamented, "Now what are we going to do? The owner has burned our tree. Now we don't have anywhere to sit when we gather."
Her mentor told her, "Go back and continue to meet amongst the ashes. Church is not the place, but the people the Lord has given you to work with. Trust God, He is with you."
Luisa did so. She and her little band of new believers continued to meet in the spot where now only ashes remained.
Meanwhile, the intrigued owner continued to wonder at the group that so faithfully gathered no matter what he did to the tree. Finally, he too began coming to the gatherings to learn more about what was going on.
After a few weeks, he too gave his heart to Jesus. With his new heart, he donated the portion of land where the church had been gathering. Since it is hot out in the equatorial sun, he also decided that it would be nice to build a shelter to meet under as well.
Luisa's "ash church" is the first this year of 25 that my new friend is praying for in 2011.
So many lessons can be learned from this story.
One that registered with me is that God often has to reduce our "trees" (works) to ashes before He can build his church amongst us.
Another goes along with the idea that set-backs, trials and even tragedy are often viewed as detriments to the work. More often than not, they end up being the very means God uses to accomplish His purposes.
What other lessons do you see in this story?