Lately, I have been especially watchful for God’s presence with us as we await provision in times of scarcity at Tierra Nueva and New Earth Refuge. Someone recently asked if I ever wonder whether our financial hardships are signs that God is not blessing our ministries, or that we are somehow out of favor. When payroll is due and there is nothing in the bank, we do find ourselves examining everything, open to changing course if needed. During times of famine, it is tempting to imagine leaving for greener pastures or launching another tiring fund-raising campaign. But humble God is mentoring me. It seems Jesus longs to see us take the best theology he’s taught us further and deeper, learning to see him and receive from him in the “least of these” whom we can easily disregard.
In a recent Sunday dialogical Bible study at Tierra Nueva, I was struck as we looked at the journey of Ruth. In the story, Elimeleck, whose name means “my God is king,” together with his wife Naomi and their two sons, Mahlon (sickness) and Chilion (fragility) leave their hometown of Bethlehem (house of bread). They travel as immigrants, due to a famine (lack of bread). Did they feel somehow pushed to migrate to meet the pressing needs of their sons “sickness” and “fragility”? We are invited along on Naomi’s journey to discover how God is king in ways far different than Elimeleck, Naomi (or we) might normally think.
Elimeleck and Naomi migrate to
In the next scene, Naomi returns with Ruth to
Naomi is angry at God, whom she envisions as harsh and punishing. Yet she appears blind to God’s presence with her through humble Ruth, her widowed daughter-in-law from
Ruth’s clinging reminds me of the description of Genesis —a man clinging to his wife and the two becoming one flesh. Paul reads this as metaphorical of Jesus, the bridegroom’s union with the church (Eph -32). Is Jesus with us like Ruth was with Naomi—a clinging, close presence that we could easily disregard? Who has been clinging close to me whom I haven’t recognized? Who has been clinging to you?
This June, enough donations came in to Tierra Nueva to cover all expenses except my paycheck and Gracie’s. It was July 19 and our mortgage payment was due to be electronically transferred. Our account was nearly empty, short $1,000 to cover the mortgage payment. I came out of the jail at , tired after four bilingual Bible studies. In the jail parking lot, a Mexican man to whom I have ministered for a number of years was waiting for me in his car. I assumed he wanted to talk with me about an upcoming day in court. Instead, he directed me to get in the back seat, and then sat beside me, pulling out his checkbook. “I want to give you this, Roberto,” he said, handing me a check for $1,000.00. I was shocked, and have since been meditating on God’s Ruth-like, clinging presence with me through unexpected mediators.
Since I first met him in a jail Bible study over five years ago, this man has at times clung to me for advocacy and friendship, as he has gone through many struggles. I have watched him take on “my God”, like Ruth took on Naomi’s, leaving behind his avowed atheist mindset. He has become an increasingly fervent believer, as God has rescued him time and time again from losing his legal permanent residency status and being deported far away from his young daughter. My faith has become much stronger as I have watched God rescue him over and over. He has ministered to me in many beautiful ways, even as he has needed my support. Yet I have often failed to recognize Jesus’ close presence mediated through him and others.
Now he has brought our family through the hardest financial month to date. Should I be surprised? No! This is God’s way of being Emmanuel (God with us), choosing to encounter us through the hungry and thirsty ones, the stranger, naked, sick and imprisoned one (Matt 25:35-36). God has chosen foolish things to shame the wise and the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27ff). And the strong ones like Naomi and Boaz certainly have their place too. In fact God has been blessing us more and more through stronger ones too.
- Over $35,000 has recently come in gifts from a number of supporters for New Earth Refuge, which us being completed at a rapid rate.
- Tierra Nueva made it’s August payroll on time.
- Cascade Lumber gave us a generous reduction on lumber costs.
Please keep us in your prayers: for God’s Presence to increase, bringing healing, liberation and provision.
I challenge you to ask God to open your eyes to God’s humble yet saving Presence that is with you now, and to read through the book of Ruth.
Abundant blessings in Christ,