Thursday, October 24, 2013


Cesar's story
by Jeff
Discovering Cesar has been like finding an enormous nugget of solid gold after months and months of panning the same old riverbed.  He was there all along, but I never noticed him.  Mostly because he was lurking in the shadows... watching... listening...thinking... waiting.  When Amy and I started an evangelistic Bible study in his poor neighborhood in our town of Jataity, eighty people came out for the big event!  The numbers slowly dwindled over the following months, as did the unrealistic dream of starting a massive church overnight!  What filtered out from that initial surge of interest was a core group of three families who have been learning and telling Bible stories now for eight months.  We have seen glitters of gold as some of the participants have had “Aha!” moments  when they finally understand a truth from God’s Word, or they let go of a long-held erroneous belief or tradition.  The first “flash” of pure gold came the night when Cesar’s wife prayed to receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior at the close of a Wednesday night Bible study.  When she decided to get baptized the following month, Cesar and I met for the very first time.  He came to witness up close what he had been watching all along from the shadows.  It turns out that this quiet, shy man had been listening very carefully to what I was teaching and then discussing those things with his wife back at their house.  The Lord was slowly but surely drawing this nugget up to the surface to be revealed in due time. 
Months went by and Cesar and his wife started coming regularly to the other Bible study we do at our home on Sunday nights.  It seemed that their appetite for God’s Word was insatiable and they were more than happy to walk 2 kilometers in the dark to hear what God would say to them through that week’s Bible story.  Last week, the Timothy Training workshop I direct was to be held starting on Thursday and ending on Saturday.  On that Monday, I felt led to ask Cesar to attend, but I wasn’t even sure he was a believer yet!  I had seen some fruit, but how should I ask him?  That kind of direct question is not always wise to ask in this culture. It rarely gives you the answer you really want. So I asked him and his wife to go with us to a mid-week praise service being held at the Bible Church in San Francisco, where the Timothy workshops are held. Somewhere along that bumpy, dusty road, they said that something very interesting happened to them on Sunday night after the Bible study.  We had just heard the story of Balaam and how this sorcerer admitted that witchcraft and curses weren’t going to “stick” to the Israelites, because God was on their side.  Instead of the evil curses he was being paid to pronounce over them, one blessing after another poured out of his mouth, much to the chagrin of his employer, King Balak!  Our group had a lively discussion that evening about the sometimes paralyzing fear of witchcraft and curses from which many Paraguayans suffer.  We left with an assurance of God’s greater power to protect his followers from the schemes of the devil and his allies.  Upon returning to their home that evening, they found three cigarettes rolled together in a piece of paper, stuffed between the wood planks of their bedroom wall.  They opened the paper to find Cesar’s wife’s name written there!  Someone had tried to curse them at the very moment they were attending a Bible study about witchcraft!  I asked them how they felt and how they responded.  Cesar said that he now had no reason to fear such things, as he had just learned from the Balaam story that if God is on his side, and he is following God, then fear has no place in his life.
  I had the answer I was looking for!  I asked him to tell me that part again, the part about him following the Lord.  He said that he had indeed prayed to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior not too long ago.  I immediately asked him to consider laying aside his work in his onion fields to attend the Timothy Training, and he confirmed the following day.  So this brand new believer experienced his first Bible storytelling training seminar.  At the outset of the seminar I told a very long story, about ten minutes in length, covering the whole panorama of God’s story of salvation from Genesis to Revelation.  I drew out a storyboard of stick figures and symbols on a piece of butcher paper 5 meters long!  As incentive to learn it, I offered a new Guarani Bible to the two men who could retell the story with the fewest errors.  To my surprise, I observed Cesar reading over the story text, working his way through the storyboard, and thumbing through the prized Bible several times a day during the conference.  When Saturday morning came, Cesar told the entire story with the fewest mistakes, and earned his very own Bible- his only one!  This is coming from a guy who only started opening his mouth at Bible studies a month ago!  I had no idea he had the memory capacity for that length of story.  Well, the other six stories we learned concerning the life of Gideon were a breeze for him.  They are only three to five minutes in length.  He really enjoyed the story learning, the basketball games and the fellowship with mature believers who have been leading churches for 5, 10, and 20 years in some cases.
His life was changed.  How do I know?  Well, the next day was Sunday, and we were due to start the six stories about Gideon at the Sunday night Bible study.  I rolled out the five meter long storyboard on the floor and passed him a pointing stick and asked him, Do you want to do this or me?”  He confidently took the stick and proceeded to tell the entire story of the Bible to the group!  Then, since that went so well, I invited him to tell the first Gideon story from memory and he launched right in to it.  He went from a mere Bible study participant to Bible study co-leader overnight!  Months of prayer were answered in such a short time.  Worries like “Who will be able to lead these Bible studies when I go on furlough in 9 months?”, and “Lord, show me a man I can disciple into a leader!” have been suddenly answered!  I’m so grateful to God for bringing Cesar into my life.  I can’t wait to see what God has in store for him and his family in the months and years to come!  Timothy Training was the perfect tool at the perfect time to equip this young Christian with the confidence and knowledge necessary to become a leader in God’s future church in Jataity!

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