“We always have time for the things we put first.” Anon
We were just a year in Brazil when we left language school and moved to Rio Preto. This city is a day’s travel from São Paulo but there in the interior I learned something about the use of time. It is this; we can accomplish so much when we put our minds to it. I had never thought much about the quote above till Doris and I with our baby daughter Monica moved to Rio Preto.
There we became good friends with the pastor and lay people of the local Presbyterian Church. That is a great story of how some of the young people gave us a hand in establishing more than one congregation. Those wonderful people came across the city on Sunday afternoons to teach children Bible stories in our little rented hall. Now back to the incident I have in mind for to-day.
Just across a shallow valley from their church and new section of the city was being built up with poor homes. They decided to begin a weeknight service there and they would use the home of one of their members. If you should step into this home you would notice that there was no ceiling and you could see the slits of light coming in between the roofing tiles. The floor was made of rough bricks laid in the dirt with a wash of concrete filling all the joints. Quite obviously this room served as a kitchen for in one corner was as brick stove with a chimney and beside it a rickety cupboard that held utensils, dishes and food. A table, a few chairs and a well-worn sofa completed the ensemble of this room; it was here every social event happened in this home.
This family had invited their neighbours in for religious services and the man of this home was chosen to be the leader for the group. But how could this be possible? He could neither read nor write. How could he explain the teachings of Jesus when he could not open those pages and make sense of them? This is how he did it. Since his wife could read she would find the part in the Bible in which he was interested in using as basis for his “palestra” talk. Then she would read it again and again to him till he understood the truth of that passage; he was then prepared.
As I look back on those days and that man, something else comes to mind. He felt that through his church he had been given a divine trust to conduct religious services. For him this was not some obligation placed on his shoulders for he had received a heavenly calling. Not being able to read or write did not provide an opportunity for escape. From what I recall of those days is that this lay leader never was a Billy Graham but in any case a congregation was created in this poor “bairo.” He blessed his friends and neighbours by using the abilities he had.
Now for another story that sticks in my mind from this same “bairro.” I was walking one day there alone along a dirt street in this sparsely built-up area when a little dog began to follow me. I never worried about her for her belly hung low with unborn pups; I could not think of any danger for she was just able to waddle along. But she grabbed my ankle just above my shoe and then quickly turned away to struggle along in her campaign of protecting her city. The lesson once again: the little mongrel put her task of protection ahead of her own struggles. The little dog preached a sermon—use your time and energy wisely.
It is true isn’t it that we spend our time on what we consider valuable, the things we put first in life? This treasured lesson I picked up from this uneducated man and this little dog. They understood that there were values so much more important than any of their abilities or lack of abilities.
So I have to ask myself this question, a powerful question that comes from this little story. What are the values that I now live by? What do I put first in life? How and where do I spend my energy and money? And are they eternal values and will they be important to me 100 years from now? Or longer? Am I obeying the counsel of Jesus to “lay up treasures in heaven?”