Every Christian’s Little Pentecost

“Baptized into Christ”

On May 23rd, 2020, something extraordinary happened that would change my life and the life of my family forever. On that day, at our house in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, there was a “little Pentecost”. It was an amazing, astonishing, forever life-changing experience! There were no mighty rushing winds that day, surprisingly, as it did happen to be the middle of the Hurricane season. Nor was there any speaking in Spanish “as though it were my own native language,” as the baby’s doctor happened to speak English. But there was this most wonderful promise that our gracious Lord has attached to the Sacrament of Holy Baptism:

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A Bold Confession

Photo Credit: thejaggedword.com

On this day in the year 1530, the Lutheran princes of the Holy Roman Empire risked everything in order to testify to the Gospel of Jesus Christ before the Emperor at Augsburg. When the Emperor demanded these men to outlaw the preaching of Lutheran sermons in their lands, to make it illegal to read the Bible in German, and to attend the Corpus Christi festival, Prince George Margrave of Brandenburg stepped forward and said, “we will not, my lord.” “You will!” – the Emperor fires back – “or you will suffer my sword.” 

The Most Beautiful Mask

As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you. – Isaiah 66:13  

If there´s one thing I´ve learned these past two months of pandemic, it’s that it is virtually impossible to make a mask look good. Unless, of course, you are my beautiful bride.

She’d most likely disagree with me on this. As a matter of fact, she hasn’t put a single mask on herself these past two months. In order to keep baby and momma safe from COVID, I’ve been the only one going out for basic necessities. But, of all the masks I’ve seen these past two months (and there have been some creative ones), by far the most beautiful one I’ve seen is the hot, uncomfortable, 39 ½ week-pregnant one at my house. 

You see, my wonderful wife is herself THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MASK. Here’s what I mean:

Martin Luther liked to use the image of a mask to talk about how God is at work in this world. God does His work “hiding behind” the ordinary social functions and stations of life. God gives us our daily bread, for example, not by raining it down from heaven, but through the work of farmers, grocers, and Uber drivers. Each of these vocations are masks that God wears to graciously provide for His people. In the same way, doctors, nurses, and other medical care professionals are the masks God wears to heal us. Police officers, soldiers, and lawmakers are masks God wears to keep us from all harm and danger.

Mommies are the mask God wears as He brings forth new life into the world. Hiding behind my wife’s pregnant body, God is at graciously at work to prepare, preserve and protect His miraculous gift of life. When I see her waddle around with her watermelon, I see God at work knitting our baby boy together in her womb. (Psalm 139:13) It is not always enjoyable. Her ankles are getting pretty swollen. She can’t sleep on her back. Yet she does not complain. She gladly sacrifices her body and her comfort for our family, and it is the most breathtaking, beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. 

Mommies are the mask God wears as He nurtures and cares for His little ones. Hiding behind my wife, God is graciously at work to feed and nourish new life, like no one else can! There’s a popular phrase in many Spanish-speaking countries that’s used to honor moms on their special day: madre solo hay una. The gist is, “you only have one mom!”. There really is no one else like her. There’s no one else who can actually feed you from her own body. There’s no one like mommy to make an owie feel better, to comfort you when your sad, or pick up the pieces when you make a huge mess. 

When the baby cries in the middle of the night or our six-year old skids her knee in the front yard, I would love nothing more than to help. But I can’t. The kids don’t want me. They only want mommy! Without fail, and without complaining, my self-less, strong, devoted wife, lovingly cares for our children.

I’ve seen a lot of masks the past two months, but the one that God wears to care for my children, is by far the most beautiful one.

It’s no wonder God uses motherhood to teach us about Himself:

As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you. –Isaiah 66:13 

Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. – Isaiah 49:15 

Happy Mother’s Day! 

A Sure and Certain Future

The recent string of earthquakes is just one more reason for Puerto Ricans to pack their bags. Photo: Johanna Heidorn

A couple of days ago Pastors Neuendorf, Maita, and I went to visit a member of la Iglesia Luterana Fuente de Vida in Ponce. Like so many others on the south side of the island, he had been sleeping outside of his home in a cardboard box since the earthquakes began a couple of weeks ago.

Sleeping in Heavenly Peace

Some members of la Iglesia Luterana Fuente de Vida in Ponce sharing the peace that passes all understanding with the refugees at the biggest camp in Ponce. Photo: LCMS Disaster Response

Just a couple of weeks ago we were singing Silent Night as part of our Christmas celebration. But ever since the Three Kings Day Earthquake, the idea of sleeping in peace in Puerto Rico has become nothing but a daydream.

Ever since that first major quake, the southwest part of Puerto Rico hasn’t really stop shaking, with literally 100s of aftershocks and subsequent earthquakes, some even bigger than the first. Instead of being a source of great joy, the arrival of “the Three Kings” this year has meant nothing but nights of insomnia, worry, fear and anxiety for many, but especially for the thousands of Puerto Ricans who are sleeping in emergency shelters, in their cars, or the driveways of their homes.

Dead Man Standing

The body of Angel Pantoja Medina, “the dead man standing,” being mourned in his mother’s home. Photo: mbcnews.com

There’s a rising trend in Puerto Rico: funeral homes posing the dead like they’re still alive.  In these “outside of the box” funerals, instead of having the deceased lying in a coffin, families are having their loved ones embalmed and then posed to depict scenes from their life. It all started with the now famous case of the “dead man standing” (el muerto para’o), a young man who was mourned by his relatives not laying down in a coffin, but propped upright in his mother’s home, wearing his favorite shirt, sunglasses and cap.

How to Prepare for a Storm

Ready for “Boriquén”.

Yesterday my family celebrated one year of missionary service in Puerto Rico. After five years of service in Peru, and then four years of pastoral formation at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, we considered ourselves relatively prepared for our work here. We were nervous and excited as we hopped on the plane with our one-way ticket to the Island of Enchantment, our ten military-grade duffle bags and our three little ones in tow, but we were ready to weather the storms together, by God’s grace.

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Free Indeed

Today Puerto Rico celebrates the abolition of slavery.  Slavery is a terrible, ugly thing no matter where you go. And here in Puerto Rico was no exception. The slaves were purchased as property and branded on the forehead with a hot iron to mark them as such. They were forced to convert to Catholicism. Forced to learn Spanish. Forced to work long, hard, hot days, doing back breaking work on the sugar cane plantations. 

Monument to the Abolition of Slavery in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Photo: encirclephotos.com
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Our True Father

Puerto Ricans speak a “sancochified” Spanish that reflects the rich cultural and ethnic mixture that makes up their identity (“sancocho” is a thick soup with a lot of yummy things mixed in). Photo: http://www.indicepr.com

It’s been a fun challenge adjusting to Puerto Rican Spanish. One thing that has taken some getting used to is being called “daddy” by a complete stranger. In many Spanish speaking countries, it’s not unusual to hear a wife calling her husband papi (“daddy”), or a husband calling his wife mami (“mommy”). But here in Puerto Rico, these terms of affection are not limited to your significant other. 

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