Dominican Republic Trip- Day 9

Today has been a day of final preparation for the pastors’ conference, which starts tonight.  I spent the majority of the morning working on writing session transcripts.  It is difficult because I am not very familiar with the cultural context and cannot picture in my head how it is going to work.

I had the privilege of meeting with my translator for about 2 hours working on the material for tonight.  He has been very helpful, and it was great to be able to explain passages to him as we worked through them for the conference.

We began the conference by meeting the pastors at a restaurant for dinner.  In typical Dominican style, this did not begin on time.  The dinner was interesting.  Brad had to leave to go get another pastor as soon as the majority of the pastors arrived.  Brad is the one person at the table that all of the pastors knew.  This created some awkward silence.  It was interesting to watch these pastors make small talk with people that they did not know.

After dinner, we took the pastors to a local hotel where we would be staying for the conference and having the sessions.  We ended up having 5 Haitian pastors come to the conference.

I was really nervous about leading the pastors’ conference.  I am younger than all of the pastors and am not very familiar with their ministry context.  In attempting to select session topics, I was looking for issues and texts that would have a universal application.  After reflecting on the conference, I think that the Holy Spirit led me to topics that were both thought provoking and helpful.  It was truly and honor and a privilege to have this opportunity!

In the first session, we looked at the ministry of presence.  This is the idea of being there for someone who is in need.  I began the session by discussing the fact that there are times in our lives and ministries when we know that God is in control and has a plan, but in those dark times, it is hard to see that plan.  I shared that we often want to have answers for a hurting person or family, but many times, there are no answers to give.  This is why the ministry of presence is important.  There are times where we must simply be present with the hurting and show them Christ’s love through us.

The ministry of presence was discussed using John 11Open Link in New Window, which is the story of Lazarus’ death.  This is one of my favorite passages.  In John 11:35Open Link in New Window, Jesus chooses to weep with Lazarus’ family.  This is ironic because Jesus knows that He is going to raise Lazarus from the dead.  Jesus chooses to weep because He weeps with the hurting family.  We worship a God who weeps with the hurting.

The first session concluded with a discussion of how God had used these pastors to display a ministry of presence with their people.  We also discussed practical ways that pastors could be present for there people.  We ended the session in prayer for people we knew that were hurting in our own ministries.

After a short break, we began the second session.  In the session, we discussed Ephesians 4Open Link in New Window: 11-16 and the importance of equipping others for ministry.  I began by describing ministry as hard work and something that you cannot do on your own.

We were able to discuss the importance of seeing Christ as the head of your church.  I encouraged the pastors that in order to be a leader in the church, you must first be a follower of Christ.  It is Christ’s church working for Christ’s glory.  Pastors are just stewards of the gifts and power of God.

The discussion in the second session was much more involved as pastors shared practical ways to get church members involved in leading in the church and in church services.  I think that the pastors left the session with some important leadership lessons and practical ideas.  The session ended with prayer.  I had the pastors pair up in twos to pray for each other regarding God giving them wisdom in equipping others for ministry work.

The evening ended in an unexpected way.  As pastors were beginning to go to their rooms, they started singing about the joy in their hearts through a hymn.  It was amazing to see God beginning to build a community between these pastors.  The pastor’s conference ended at 1 AM, and I was exhausted.