Four months ago, when I unexpectedly lost a job I loved dearly, I thought I would never recover what I had lost. It took me months to crystallize my thoughts, but I am finally able to share what I have come to learn about… 

Losses and Gains

1. I lost the platform to speak to hundreds weekly but gained the time to speak every day to those few who love me unconditionally.

School of humility’s lesson #1: You can’t save the world if you are not loving on your family.
2. I lost a reliable income but gained the glory of living with integrity all the way to the end.

School of humility’s lesson #2: When mission and money collide, you must let mission always win.

3. I lost the adulation of people but gained the realization that it’s more blessed to receive one good advice than to give many.

School of humility’a lesson #3: Don’t let people come to you when they should be coming to God.

4. I lost the power to make big decisions but gained the discipline to make apparently mundane decisions that have huge consequences to my daily walk with God. 

School of humility’s lesson #4: The little things we decide to do when under pressure to retaliate speak much louder than all the decisions you ever made when you seemed to have been loved by everyone. 

5. I lost the rush of standing weekly by the bully pulpit but gained the joy of sitting daily at the feet of Jesus.

School of humility’s lesson #5: The most powerful posture is being bent in adoration in the presence of God.

6. I lost the title of “pastor” but gained the function of “shepherd” with people who continue to love me unconditionally.

School of humility’s lesson #6: People who know you will never listen to those who only know about you. 

7. I lost the chance to steer a big ship but gained the revelation that the crew was never going to let me ever bring it to its final destination anyway.

School of humility’s lesson #7: There are ships not even God can turn. 

Between gains and losses, I lost in the peripheries but gained in the substantive. My losses have humbled me but my gains have made me a better man. I am content. 

Now, I am not saying I am “happy.” I have been sad, angry, and felt the weight of humiliation often; but I am content. And do you want to know why? After all these months of quiet suffering, I finally realized it is God’s will for me to suffer. That’s right: God’s school of suffering is in session and for some reason I am the pupil sitting next n the front roll. 
Like Job in the Old Testament, I don’t have to know why I was given to suffer. All I need to know is that by God’s grace I have been given the opportunity to suffer a little tiny bit for the sake of Christ. Compared to what my Master had to endure for my sake, what I am going through now is only child’s play, so I am content. Though the suffering is real, I ought not to complain. With time, God will accomplish His purposes in me. I surrender my will to Him.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

June 2017

PS.: For those who are praying, we are still in Lititz and I am still looking for a job. We are packing because we must move out of the townhouse where we live due to severe reduction of income. We appreciate your continued prayers. 

Escola da Humildade

Há quatro meses atrás, quando eu inesperadamente perdi um emprego que eu amava profundamente, eu pensei que jamais seria capaz de recuperar o que eu havia perdido. Foram meses de reflexão até chegar ao ponto de poder solidificar minhas idéias, mas creio que finalmente posso fazê-lo. Eis aqui o que eu aprendi sobre…

Perdas e Ganhos 

1. Eu perdi uma plataforma que me permitia falar à centenas toda semana mas ganhei tempo para falar todo santo dia com aqueles que me amam incondicionalmente.

Escola da humildade. Lição número 1: Você não será capaz de salvar o mundo se não estiver se dedicando a amar a sua família.

2. Eu perdi uma fonte de sustento segura mas ganhei a glória de viver com integridade até o fim.

Escola da humildade. Lição número 2: Quando missão e dinheiro entrarem em rota de colisão, deixe que missão ganhe sempre.

3. Eu perdi a adulação de pessoas mas ganhei o aprendizado de que é mais abençoado receber um bom conselho do que dar muitos.

Escola da humildade. Lição número 3: Não deixe que as pessoas fiquem buscando a você quando elas deveriam estar buscando a Deus.

4. Eu perdi o poder de tomar grandes decisões mas ganhei a disciplina de fazer decisões aparentemente insignificantes que na verdade tem um fator determinante no meu andar com Deus.

Escola da humildade. Lição número 4: As pequenas coisas que decidimos fazer quando estamos debaixo da pressão para que nos vinguemos falam mais alto do que as decisões que fazíamos quando todos ao nosso redor aparentemente nos amavam.

5. Eu perdi a picardia de ficar diante de uma platéia atenta toda semana mas ganhei a alegria de sentar diariamente aos pés de Cristo.

Escola da humildade. Lição número 5: A postura mais poderosa é aquela que nos põe debruçados diante da presença de Deus.

6. Eu perdi o título de “pastor” mas ganhei a função de “guia” p’ra muita gente que continua me amando incondicionalmente.

Escola da humildade. Lição número 6: As pessoas que conhecem você nunca darão ouvidos àquelas que só ouviram falar de você. 

7. Eu perdi a oportunidade de capitanear um grande navio mas ganhei o conhecimento de que a tripulação não tinha nenhuma intenção de deixar que eu levasse o barco até o seu destino final.

Escola da humildade. Lição número 7: Há navios que nem Deus pode redirecionar.

Entre perdas e ganhos, eu perdi no que é periférico e ganhei nas coisas substantivas. Minhas perdas me ensinaram humildade e os meus ganhos me ajudaram a crescer como pessoa. Sigo contente. 

Notem que eu não estou dizendo que estou “feliz”. Muitas vezes encontro-me triste, com raiva, e sinto o peso da humilhação, mas ainda assim estou contente. E querem saber por que? Depois de vários meses de sofrimento solitário, finalmente dei-me de conta que essa é a vontade de Deus – o meu sofrimento. Isso mesmo. O ano escolar da escola divina do sofrimento abriu-se para mim e eu sou aquele aluno sentado na primeira fileira. 
Como já sucedera a Jó no Velho Testamento, eu não preciso saber o porquê do meu sofrer. Eu só preciso saber que pela Sua graca Ele me deu a oportunidade de sofrer um tantinho pela causa de Cristo. Em comparação com o que o meu Mestre suportou por mim, o meu sofrimento é como se fosse passar uma noite num hotel de luxo, e aí está a fonte do meu contentamento. Mesmo que o sofrimento seja real, não me cabe reclamar. Com o tempo, Deus haverá de cumprir o Seus propósitos em mim. Eu entrego minha vontade a Ele. 

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade
Junho de 2017

PS.: Peço que continuem orando por nós. Eu ainda estou procurando trabalho. Precisamos. Os mudar da casa onde vivemos até o final de agosto mas não sabemos ainda para onde iremos. 

Today I had the opportunity to participate in a conversation about abortion via a FB thread. The original post was by someone who made the case that a fetus does not become a person until it has the ability to become “cognizant.” The post was long and I don’t have permission to publish it or quote excerpts here. Instead, a reproduce my response. It was meant to give a secular person a counter-argument that did not appeal to the Bible or God. Tell me how you think I did:

“I read your comments and respect your perspective. I can’t help but notice, though, that you start by “solving” the crux of the issue with a firm fiat pronouncement, “… to the point that it [the fetus] achieves cognizance.”

But that is really the point of the debate, isn’t it? If you start by “solving” that, then there is no more debate. We could all go home and watch reruns of “Seinfeld” and all would be well with the world. But you will understand this because you apparently know how to lay out an argument. In order for me to be absolutely sure I will do everything I can to protect the life of the unborn, I have to suspect the pronouncements of anyone who makes an arbitrary decision about when life begins. The baby in the womb is not going to send a message saying, “Hey, as of 3 pm today, I am cognizant,” with little pink hearts swimming in the amniotic soup.

So, who makes that determination? Well, luckily for you, you made it, “Scientifically, I consider a fetus a person at the point that it can begin thinking and expressing emotion.” “Scientifically,” then, you would have to come up with an undisputed formula that proves when someone starts to think. Tall order. How do we even prove that we can think? And as far as expressing emotion, is feeling pain an emotion? When does a fetus begin to feel pain? What about babies in the womb who because of congenital diseases will not ever be able to “achieve cognizance?”

These are questions for which clear cut, definitive answers are lacking, so I must be skeptical about your judgment, other so-called experts’ judgments, and even my own judgment.

But that doesn’t mean I make no judgment and sit on my hands. In my case, I choose to err on the side of doing all I can to give that little “clump of cells,” as you called it, as much of a chance to survive on the other side, as it is humanly possible, respecting the life of the mother, of course.

I can make that argument without appealing to morality or a higher authority, as I just did here. But the argument is still rather tepid, I must admit, because it lacks the force of the divine obligation to protect human life, which I believe is implanted in all of us.”

May God give us all the humility and grace to interact with others on this and other difficult topics, without driving them away from the beautiful Messiah we love so much.

 

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

 

 

I recently watched a documentary on the life and art of Australian’s concert pianist David Helfgott. You may remember that the movie “Shine” was based on his life. The documentary was about his 2015 Germany tour and it’s simply called, “Hello I’m David!”

David experienced a nervous breakdown early in life and was in mental institutions for 11 years, at a time when psychotropics and electric shocks, among other things, were the treatments of choice. No one thought David would ever recover but then he met Gillian, his wife of now over thirty years, and his new life began.

Under Gillian’s careful guidance and infinite patience, David began to play to large audiences again and his artistry has reached millions throughout the world for about three decades now.

Admittedly, David is not your typical concert pianist. He grimaces, grunts, mumbles to himself audibly, all of this while he is playing. He is not the most technical of pianists either, but he can still play up a storm. The music he plays has hurricane force, now becoming one with him, now leaving him to crash against the shore, in an explosive act of giving.

David is not your typical human being either. At 65, socially, he functions like a little child, like a special child who is filled with wonder and compassion, who sees beauty in every little thing around him. David, left to his own devices, would probably spend all his time meeting everyone who comes within striking distance of his path. Like a magnet, he moves toward people, telling them, “Hello, I am David. What’s your name? Are you from here?” Then he hugs them, kisses them, and dispenses phrases, barely comprehensible, like “be happy in the moment.”

Watching how people react to David’s overtures toward them was worth the price of the film. At first, people naturally resist, and some even recoil. Soon, however, they engage him and in their own awkward way they return the love and appreciate the attention. In the eyes of the world, David is not “normal,” but is that really true? Consider this:

The love between David and Gillian is ebullient – a word that refers to liveliness and enthusiasm. And they relate to each other with a level of compassion and kindness that I’ve rarely seen, even when David’s behavior could easily prompt someone to “lose it.” I am convinced that what brought David back was the love he feels from his “darling,” as he always calls his wife. Together, they know how to celebrate every little thing they have and they finish their day every day remembering the many reasons they have to be grateful.

I stumbled into David again as I was preparing to preach this Sunday’s message on generosity. I wish I could talk at length about David Helfgott and his wife Gillian because they model generosity well in my book, even though and they are not religious people.

I will probably not have time to talk about David this Sunday, so I will say it here: lately I have been wondering if we have this whole thing about ‘normalcy’ all upside down. David lives like a child who is always fascinated with the universe around him. And he treats everyone as if they were the most important people in the world. Could it be that he is “normal” and the rest of us aren’t? Maybe God can use someone like David to remind all of us about what is really important in this life.

David’s life sends me back to the pristine world before the fall. No, I am not saying he is sinless. I am just saying that if we were to rewind the tape (pardon the old metaphor) and go all the way back to the garden, Adam and Eve would probably look a lot more like David than like the critics who write harsh words about him and his artistry. It might shock you to hear me say this but I will say it anyway: David, in his innocence, is a lot more Christ-like in the way he lavishes generosity on others than a lot of church-going people I know. It’s a thought to mull over for a while.

“From the mouths of babies,” the Bible says. Then why not from the life of a 65 year old man who learned — or stumbled upon — what it is like to live like a child?

“Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous.” (2 Corinthians 9:11).

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

 

Last week we started a new series at Grace titled “Taking Inventory.” This Sunday we will continue it by looking at how Paul dealt with a group of people who needed to strengthen their grip on generosity.

Those who are close to me know that I have never been into the whole New Year’s resolutions thing. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, just that I have never been a practitioner. The grind for me has to be daily, purposeful, 24 hours at a time, one building block after another.

Now, before you jump to conclusions, let me say that I am also a big planner and like the rest of you I get frustrated when a goal goes unrealized or the grind grinds endlessly.

In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul dealt with a group of people who started a project with a bang but were on the verge of ending it with a big yawn. The project had to do with the noble task of collecting offerings for the saints in Jerusalem who for various reasons had been impoverished within a few years after the birth of the Church.

Paul made an impassioned plea for the Gentile believers to step up to the plate and help alleviate the abject needs of God’s people in Jerusalem. The church in Corinth immediately jumped onto the band wagon, but now it’s been a year, they were immersed in never ending controversies, and the project was languishing. So what do you do when the people lose the early enthusiasm for generosity in the work of God?

First, you don’t dictate. Paul is so skillful in saying he is not commanding the people to give, even if he is strongly encouraging them to do so. Generosity cannot be ordered. If it’s not voluntary, it’s not acceptable by God.

Secondly, you give perspective. Paul said he used the example of the Corinthians’ early enthusiasm to encourage other Gentile Christians to do the same and now that those other Gentiles had excelled in their gift, he was concerned that if the Corinthians didn’t finish their project, he (and especially they) would be terribly ashamed of the situation.

Thirdly, you draw the big picture. In other words, you go to the bottom line, the first cause, the raison d’être. And so we have it: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9.

I can’t read these words without crying. Generosity is rooted in, motivated by, and delivered through the incarnation of Christ, His death on the cross and the resurrection that took place on the third day. God’s divestiture of His Son is the only reason I need to lavish generosity on others. I can’t even be saved if I don’t get the impact of this amazing truth.

So make this the year of generosity and finish the work of grace which God has already started in you by focusing more on others than on yourself in 2017.

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

millers

Rob & Rayonna Miller

Walking into my favorite coffee hangout place in Lititz I noticed that one of the employees was leaving the store. She looked upset. No wonder. She had a sling over her shoulder and seemed to be in a lot of pain. I tried to say something but she was having none of it.

A few days later she saw me in the store and apologized for being “rude” to me. I knew that, like me, she rode a motorcycle and I had heard in that previous exchange the clang of metal and the crushing of bones. I had been there. The canticle of a cracked clavicle. Ouch! She was trying to come back to work too soon. My gesture of mercy came at the wrong time. Even compassion has to be timed right!

“No need to apologize,” I said, then I was right back to the business of mercy. “Is there anything I can do to help?” She said, “Not really.” I asked where the bike was. She said, “Still in the parking lot of Rita’s ice cream. They’ve been nice enough to let me park there. I don’t have a way to get it to my house.”

Long story short. I offered to help. She said, “Are you sure? How?” I said, “Don’t worry. I have friends in low places.” One phone call was all it took and early Saturday morning, the very next day, my friend David Rice joined me in the parking lot of Rita’s ice cream. He brought his trailer and we loaded the little blue Kawasaki into it. Mission accomplished.

My friend was totally flabbergasted that I would offer to help. “So, you have friends in low places, uh?”, she would say later. And I explained it to her. I don’t have a lot of friends in high places, unless of course you’re talking about the Big Guy way up in heaven’s penthouse. But I have lots of friends in ‘low places.’ The ones who get under the hood of cars, get their hands dirty with oil, climb roofs, enter crevasses, bake a million cookies, due the heavy lifting, hold babies, cry with strangers, etc., etc. These friends, as far as I am concerned, give me reasons not to lose hope in humanity.

Rob Miller is one of those friends in “low places.” He drives a truck for a milk company. He was one of my go-to persons when I lived in Ohio and we had to put our hands to the plow on behalf of “the least of these.” I saw this man show up after a hard shift at work and help load trucks with food destined to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I saw this man in action in Africa — holding little baby orphans and crying over the deplorable conditions under which they lived. I was there when he got underneath cars of people he didn’t know to provide free oil change to people in our community. And the best part — Rob never cared about receiving praise. He always pointed back to Jesus. He was a “friend in low places” who also would rather not be seen. (The invisible friend in low places, who could ask for more? Thanks, Rob!)

Then Rob married Rayonna, another long time friend whose heart bursts generosity with every throbbing artery. Now I knew Rob was doomed. I mean in a good way. In a “watch out NASA, train your satellites. There will be an explosive combustion of compassion visible from outer space at 40.720200 latitude and -81.874237 longitude” kind of way.

Rob and Rayonna prayed that this Christmas more than ever their hearts would reflect the eternal values of God’s Kingdom, not the ephemeral value of material things. I will let Rayonna tell the rest of the story from here. Don’t quit now. Your heart is about to be warmed in a strange way:

This is the story of Cheri and her “friends in low places.”

“I met Cheri through my friend Kelly. I friend-requested her on FB, not knowing what to expect. I learned quickly that Cheri is a single mom with a very, very full plate, raising three boys on her own.

One day I asked Cheri what I could specifically pray for her. She laughed and said, “Pray for a van.” You see, her 18 year old son has a condition that in the event he would have an episode in the car, it could become very dangerous for Cheri driving. I know she thought I was completely crazy but I started praying. I prayed for a van for her but more importantly I prayed that Cheri would see and feel the love Jesus has for her.

About three weeks after I started praying for her, Rob and I were hanging out with some friends. I picked up my phone and my friend Kim had texted me, “Hey, do you know anyone who could be blessed with a mini van?” Seriously, I almost fainted.

I told Kim my story and she explained that her friends were buying a new van and rather than trade theirs in, they wanted to bless someone.

After weeks of praying that God would orchestrate the delivery of the van, and that His will would be done, yesterday it happened.

cheri-vancheri-ohio-dmv

But the story does not end there. Another one of my besties, Lena, texted me the night before and asked me, as she often does, “Tell me the best part of your day.” I explained to her, in confidence, what was about to happen. Lena, who owns her own clothing line wanted in on it. She wanted to deck Cheri out in some new clothes and jewelry. Also, our friend, Barb, didn’t hesitate to jump on board to offer Cheri a whole new look. I emailed Mark at Pro-Touch, in Wooster, and he offered to do a complete detailing on the van, inside and out!

Cheri had no idea. I told her I had a little Christmas present to drop off to her to make sure she was home.

Not only did God answer our prayer for a van, a really nice one, completely free of any payments for her, she also got to see Jesus in action.

cheri-farmhouse-frockscheri-friend-1cheri-friend-2

I picked her up, we headed to the title office, another friend covered all the fees and yet another covered insurance. Then down to the salon, Cheri hadn’t had her hair cut in five years (that’s what happens when you put others before yourself!) Finally, off to Farmhouse Frocks for her pick of fabulous clothes and a photo shoot. Cheri came home with new hair, make up, jewelry, hair products, clothes, a new van for her family and most importantly several new friends.” (Rayonna Miller, published with permission.)cheri-friend-3

Rayonna goes on to say that Cheri was able to clearly see that God is still in the business of doing miracles today. And may I add something? Cheri also experienced firsthand how God blesses Christ’s other friends through our “friends in low places.”

cheri-rayonna

Rob and Rayonna would be terribly embarrassed to be thought of as some kind of heroes. They would just say that they are mere instruments in God’s hands, doing the best they can to live like Christ in a world where pain often cries out on our streets. They would say they often get things wrong, but like those Japanese dolls that never stay down, they always get up and try again. And if I had to guess, I would say that if there is a “secret” is that they are always up to to engage in some kind of a “spur of the moment” conspiracy of kindness, a la Proverbs 14:22 (“devise to do good.”) They plunge into it with gusto and trust God with the results. And the world is much better for people like them.

cheri

The “New” Cheri

My guess is that every follower of Christ has the potential of being a “friend in low places” to someone. This time of the year, more than any other, is the ideal time to do something tangible, acting like the hands and feet of Jesus to someone in need. And the reason to do it shouldn’t be solely because people are in need; it should be first and foremost because we love Jesus and are indebted to Him — and He expects us to live this way. No other motivation needed.

“… and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10).

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade
Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

God’s assessment of people and situations often is diametrically opposed to ours. Of John, for example, it was said: “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.” (Luke 1:14-15).

Now, if you are John’s parents, maybe you’re thinking: “Prodigious child, learns to walk before 7 months, speaks six languages by grade 8, star of the football team, yearly gold medal in math and speech meets, consistent champion in the science fair, number 1 in his class in High School, class valedictorian in college, Harvard-educated brain surgeon, a successful practice, married to a beautiful woman, three children, all the while providing for you through your old age.”

Instead, what they got was more like: “Fiercely independent boy, keeps running away to the desert, anti-social, leaves home at an early age to live out in the wilderness, eccentric dresser, likes to eat insects with honey, comes out to the city to infuriate the reigning monarch, preaches about an utopian kingdom, calls religious people dangerous serpents, runs around with another dreamer called Jesus, ends up with his head on a silver platter because he had a run in with the wrong woman.”

What joy is there in any of this? How can you be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth and fail to discern danger in the form of a powerful woman? And “great in the sight. of the Lord?” No way!

But that’s only because we don’t get God. The joy was in the fact that 400 years of silence had been broken. God had spoken again and the message was about the fulfillment of the promise regarding the coming of the Messiah! This was joyful news indeed!

One of the marks of the Holy Spirit upon John’s ministry, by the way, is exactly that after perceiving danger, he did not back away from calling people to repentance, which was the mission he received from God (see Luke 1:16). Throughout the history of the Church people who spoke righteousness have often lost their lives. Or positions. Or power. Or prestige. Or money. But when they are filled with the Spirit, they are as unmoved as John was. John was a preacher of righteousness and repentance, something not too many people are willing to sign up for. John didn’t. He was chosen.

And for the record, John was great “in the sight of God.” That was the only examiner he needed to please. Yes, he lost his life at the hand of a cowardly man and in a violent way, but God didn’t just say, “Great job, John.” He said, “You are great.” Hearing that makes it all worth losing one’s head any day.

May God grant us all the ability to see things from His perspective and to live in light of that insight. Zechariah and Elizabeth did. So did John.

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA


In studying for the sermon this week I was reminded that one of the pictures the biblical writers paint to depict darkness is that of a night without the possibility of dawn. 

The picture is cogent, especially considering that these ancient texts were written before the invention of artificial light, the time when people had to rely entirely on the light provided by the sun. For them, the idea of not seeing the sun for a prolonged period of time could be terrifying, in addition to being impractical, since it would incapacitate people from engaging in even the most trivial of tasks. 

So, when Isaiah speaks (chapter 9) about people walking in darkness, he uses that picture, alluding to the kind of night with no sunrise in sight, but it’s only a picture. What’s behind the metaphor is the reference to a period of utter desolation resulting from punishment by God due to the apostasy and rebellion on the part of His people. The darkness in that case is so thick that no one can imagine cutting through it and emerging on the other side. It is truly a night without hope of rising.

In our lives we sometimes are afflicted by a thick cloud of dark matter that threatens to devour us. Whether it’s divine retribution or simply the burdens of humanity, there is no denying that in those times we feel that we are about to succumb under the weight of sorrow. For some, it is depression, something people in the 18th century called “melancholy.” For others, it is the loss of a loved one, the open wounds of sexual abuse, the sting of rejection, the dart of betrayal, the sharp fangs of estrangement or the revolt of injustice. 

Darkness comes in all shapes and shades. The only constant is our poor soul, breaking like the timber of a ship beaten by violent waves. Some people call this “the dark night of the soul,” but a friend prefers to call it a “funk.” I like “funk,” except it almost makes what I am describing here sound like a cool thing, which it could never be. 

I felt somewhat like that yesterday when I heard the news of what was then thought to be an “active shooter situation” on the campus of Ohio State University. Except, that’s not how I heard the news because when I saw it flash through my phone only one thing mattered to me — where exactly is my niece? Soon, I heard from my terrified sister that my niece, a graduate student at OSU, was holed up in a lab somewhere on campus. 

Though only a couple of hours went by, our vigil felt like a dark night with no end. I was at the dentist, being evaluated for an abscessed tooth, the only time in the last few days when I was able to forget the physical pain — and I was not even numbed. 

These are the times when more than ever you keep repeating in your head: “she’s going to be okay.” And you pray the most “selfish” prayers ever invented. You ask God to end the agony and you feel ashamed that when it’s all said and done and you are finally able to connect with your niece, her emotive tone intuits a gentle: “don’t forget to pray for those who were injured.” You are embarrassed because you almost forgot about “the others.” Like a camera zoomed in on the subject of your picture, you open the lens up and suddenly realize there are others there that you were blurring the whole time. It is then that you realize that love may not be blind but it is definitely nearsighted. 

That was yesterday. Today was a different kind of “funk.” I woke up to the news that a plane carrying an entire professional soccer team from Brazil had crashed near Medellín, Colombia. 

The story would have been tragic regardless, but this one hurts like no other because it appears to give ammunition to those who posit the existence of an anti-hero, kill-joy, sadistic kind of a god (small “g”). 

Here you have a team made up of a bunch of young men that this year had ascended to the first division, the elite of football in Brazil, for the first time ever, a small team from a small town whose stadium only seats about 20,000. Against all odds, they were runners up in the national league, going against some of the richest and most popular teams in the nation. Not only that, they managed to win against two of the toughest teams in Argentina to advance to the final game of the South American Cup, which was going to be played in two days in Colombia. To call them the “Cinderella” team would not even come close. They were the Cinderella, the Maria turned Mrs. Von Trapp, the David against Goliath and the Joanne of Ark (minus the butchering by the British), all combined into an epic story of meteoric rise to glory without any hint from anyone that this was about to happen. These guys make the Trump election a mere yawn. They were the real “November surprise.”

But in an instant their feat and their dreams met the unforgiving hardness of the cold mountain. The plane crashed and our hearts with it. Young men, they were, in the rush of triumph, dreaming of millions of dollars through contracts in Europe somewhere. Or maybe just of a quite life with family. Many of them left young children. One had just found out he was going to be a daddy a couple of days before he got on that plane. Perhaps some of them just wanted to live the moment and soon go back to enjoying their families again. They knew that glory is so ephemeral. But did they know to what degree?

Back to the sadistic “god” (small “g”) idea. Five people, apparently, were found alive. One was a goalie. His family got wind that he was alive, but later on they found out he died in the hospital. Another goalie had to have a leg amputated and a defense player suffered spinal injuries that may render him paraplegic for the rest of his life. These are just the stories I heard, the ones that were plastered in the headlines. I am not brave enough to read about the others’ personal stories right now, including the journalists and family members who were onboard. Will do that after the shock subsides some. 

Against the sadistic “god” (small “g”) idea. Two players were injured. They couldn’t fly with the rest of the team. They thought perhaps that they were missing the opportunity of a lifetime. Instead, they gained a lifetime. But, if you insist, you may question the goodness of this fortuitous event for it is also possible that they might live with “survivor’s guilt” for the rest of their lives. 
So we are left to wonder: what purpose do these tragedies serve? To remind us of the brevity of life? But this could be accomplished without the loss of life, I am sure. To bring some closer to God? I’m sure, but perhaps some didn’t want to get that close… yet. The reality is that with my feeble mind I can’t conceive a logical scenario that would justify these horrific events, but this does not mean that I am blaming God (capital “G”) nor that I am denying that there is a purpose in this kind of suffering. By faith, I must accept that there is but I can’t spell it right now. Perhaps later, but I may never truly know while sojourning here. So, I will choose to suspend judgment because though my last name is Trindade, I am pretty sure there is no vacancy in the Trinity. 

Ah, and I also know that despite all appearances no darkness remains forever. In Genesis 1, God pierced the darkness with His word, “Let there be light!” Going back to where I started, in Isaiah 9 the darkness is broken with the appearance of a “great light,” a reference to the coming of the Messiah. 
It was 9:10 pm EST in Lititz, PA, when I started writing this post. Just for kicks, I checked. It was: 

5:10 pm same day Fairbanks, Alaska 

1:10 pm next day in Melbourne, Australia 

5:10 am next day in Krasnodar, Russia

4:10 pm same day in Waimea, Hawaii

8:40 am next day in Yangon, Myanmar (yeah, they have that weird half an hour thing going on for them)

3:10 pm next day in South Pole, Antarctica

2:10 am next day in London

12:10 pm next day Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea…

I know that’s not profound, but as I looked at the list above a thought came to me: with the precision of a clock, light is piercing darkness somewhere in the world right now. And this happens every day, without us having to work for it. This tells me that despite the appearance, ultimately darkness cannot win. Some day the light of the Son of God will shine brightly on every corner of the universe and that is the hope that baby of Bethlehem brought the world on Christmas night. 

Sometimes, what helps me rise the next day after a day of tremendous sorrow is the thought that Christmas is happening in a symbolic way every time the glorious light of morning rises. It’s a perennial reminder that whether personally or cosmically the dark night of the soul will some day come to beautiful end, (capital “E.”)

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA