This is a story about termites.
I’d prepared that week’s team of volunteers to expect schedule changes. To not be surprised if the bus driver arrived on “island time” despite being en camino (on the way) or if a conversation over cafecito (coffee) lingered and made us “late” for our next engagement. In short, to be flexible. But I did not prepare them for an infestation.
The great termite invasion
I woke up Saturday morning to the following late-night WhatsApp messages:
[10:39 PM] are you still awake?
[10:41 PM] we have been invaded by termites.
No, I was not awake. Turns out I missed the excitement of shaking wing fragments out of suitcases and toiletry bags, hunting and destroying the colony’s “king,” and setting up makeshift towel-and-couch-cushion cots. What ensued was a blur of coordinating a massive emergency extermination effort. Despite the meticulously crafted paper-plate chariot wheels and the headdress adorned with Mardi Gras beads, the team’s Philip and the Ethiopian skit for escuelita (Sunday School) at one of three Santiago-area Dominican Republic Lutheran Mission congregations was the furthest thing from the members’ minds.
I headed to the church anyway, hoping against hope they’d be in a position to come, but eventually looking on helplessly as a missionary colleague began to kill time by reading Felipe y el etíope.
This is a story about termites.
But it is also a story about prayer.
Remembering to take time to pray
Mid-rhyming quatrain, Josué raised his hand. “We haven’t prayed yet,” said his sweet eight-year-old boy voice. Josué and his three older brothers live with their uncle and grandmother in a nearby neighborhood. He faithfully attends every Saturday, and a local deaconess described him as respectful, well-mannered, and loving.
We had, in fact, not prayed yet. Another of the local deaconesses rectified the misstep right away, but not before Josué had taught me, twenty-five or so other kids, and a handful of theologically trained adult leaders a powerful lesson that morning.
Had I prayed yet, asking God to pave the way for a speedy resolution to a disturbing situation? To grant peace of mind amid a minor trauma and restorative rest after an uncomfortable night? Or thanking Him for the swift action of all who had intervened in the team’s distress? Do I regularly pause amid my morning run, the New York Times crossword, breakfast, and showering to lay my burdens before my heavenly Father?
Carving out time to pray
Martin Luther is supposed to have said this: “I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Let’s face it: I’m not going to sleep for the next three weeks, my fall is packed, January and February are already tight, home service will be a blur … my life is busy. And while the randomness of life abroad is its own breed (were you inexplicably locked out of your office this week?), hustle and bustle know no borders, and we’ve all been infiltrated not with an army of minuscule six-legged enemies but with sin, death, and Satan. And yet, “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4–5).
Life won’t be a cakewalk if we fold our hands immediately after jabbing them repeatedly at the snooze button, but there is power in commending our days and actions to the One who created us and the time we inhabit. He delights in our adoration. His strength to resist temptation becomes ours as we confess and bask in His sure forgiveness. Gratitude pours forth, and all in need are laid before His throne. Yes, entrusted into God’s almighty hands, our lives glorify Him every step of the way.
As the morning wore on, Josué and company missed out on what I’m sure was an Oscar-nominated drama but nonetheless learned about the same Jesus the Ethiopian eunuch. They sang, they colored, they ate galletas (crackers)and drank refresco (soda), and they went home. I met up with my bleary-eyed yet ever-optimistic team for lunch, but before we dug into our pica pollo (rotisserie chicken), we bowed our heads … and prayed.
Note to future volunteers: Island time is here to stay, but the termites are a thing of the past. Come and serve boldly!
Find the perfect prayer for every event and circumstance in the Lutheran Book of Prayer.