Hollywood, from Cecile B De DeMille to the latest high-tech special effects studios have shaped our expectations of what the miraculous should look like. Whether in biblical stories or adventure tales or science fiction and fantasy, the miraculous on film is mostly loud, large, and awesome; it is often either overwhelmingly majestic or shockingly violent with lighting, sound and scale expanding to the limits of the screen or, with 3D glasses, even beyond the screen.
Not so with the Gospel.
We see Jesus traveling from place to place, doing the miraculous mostly on a scale that disappoints Hollywood producers. Spitting on a beggar’s eyes? Extending a hand to a crippled man? Reversing a family burial? Touching lepers and healing the outcasts? And when he does create a miracle of some substantial scale, say feeding 5000, or calming a storm, his purpose is so, so disappointingly commonplace. His purpose is to meet immediate human needs, bring peace to his friends, transform the life of one suffering person, restore the grieving; it is not to create spontaneous worldwide dominance, or brighten the entire universe with a cosmic lightshow. No wonder we miss miracles.
One of the important parts of our recent world hunger trip to Peru, was the way God reintroduced us to the miraculous.
The miraculous was on hand in Peru. It was of the Gospel scale and not the Hollywood scale. The miraculous started with dust, endless dust. In many places, there is so much dust because there is only water for 25 minutes a day. It is powdery and fine and constantly whipped into clouds by merely living daily life.
The clouds of dust and the bright orange and yellow paint of the building announce that you are close to a school in a Peruvian village. The World Hunger Offering supports the living water ministry of Peru and we drove up to the site where our Peruvian hosts, Jaime and Orlando, parked the vintage 1941 water drilling rig on the school ground, ready to open a well to serve not just the school, but the entire village. Waiting for a “milagro” (miracle) that would give safe water 24 hours a day to their homes and their school, the children were dressed in costumes to perform dances, poems, and songs. Community leaders read resolutions and recognitions, over a sound system that was run by car batteries, taking into account the undependable electrical power. “We know this is of God. We know that you are here because of your faith in Christ,” the school director says. “Your faith, rekindles our faith,” she says. “Clean water for our school means education year round and better health and attendance.” “Clean water for our town restores a treasure of our heritage” says a 6th grade boy dressed in a costume of ancient Inca finery (his proud family leans inside the school window.)
The well is common, small, and unremarkable. It is pumping out water into a new garden plot on the school property representing the fact that with water the village can have TWO harvests a year instead of one. Medical services can come because of clean water. We read scripture, Jesus saying he brings living water, and we pray sentence prayers, in English, Spanish and Portuguese and Ketchua. Meet the miraculous.
This is one village. Jaime and Orlando, with the leadership of Larry and Joy Johnson (FBC, San Angelo) have witnessed this miracle in Jesus name more than 300 times in villages throughout the Andes and coastal regions of Peru. Three hundred wells.
Circling back to a school with a well for five years, the kindergarten playground is positioned over the well. Boys sit on the jungle gym above the humming little pump and say in enthusiastic English “Thank you Texas Baptists.” The local pastor of Iglesia Bautista Monte Sion, Pastor Helmer beams; his wife teaches bible every day. Meet the miraculous. It sounds a little like a generator and it looks a lot like being loved in the name of Christ. The government doesn’t do this, the city doesn’t do this, the families can’t do this. The church does this.
Inside the first grade classroom, an eager student pulls me aside and begins to read from a picture book telling the story of Joseph, being abandoned by his brothers, becoming Pharaoh’s leader and then meeting them again during famine. As he turns to the last page, showing Joseph in reunion with his siblings, he gestures and says “muchos hermanos” (many brothers) and then he gestures to us and says in a quick phrase “hermanos de Cristo” (brothers in Christ). He’s off to play.
Forget special effects. Meet the miraculous. It is joy amid dust, and water and people in need. It looks a lot like the Gospel version of Villa Milagro, a small place of miracles.
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