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HOW CAN WE BE SO SURE?Some have asked, and I'm sure many more have wondered, how it is that Pauline and I can be so sure that what we are doing here in Guatemala is of the Lord.
by Alan Slater
Missionary to Guatemala.
Before arriving in Canada in 1981, we as a family had enjoyed serving the Lord as "tent maker" type missionaries in Africa, Papua New Guinea and Ecuador. We had been sent out in 1967 by the Assemblies of God of Great Britain under a self supporting missionary program known as "Lifeline".
During these exciting years of service Pauline and I had come to recognize the Lord's gentle voice of guidance and direction and knew that one day, even though we were happily in harness on staff at the Mill Woods Pentecostal Assembly, Edmonton, we would once again venture out by faith in new challenges abroad.
I am a machinist by trade and Pauline an administrative secretary, and though busy in kingdom activity, we had always felt a quiet constant pull, back to missionary service. But before any such serious consideration could be discussed, a priority existed, that our children Simon and Tracy be finished with their education and able to stand on their own two feet.
As this point in time was drawing closer to reality, our friends Cary & Karen Goshinmon paid us a visit during their first home assignment from their ministry of heading up the work of Child Care Plus in Guatemala.
After sharing a meal together, Cary began to talk about his vision. Thirteen Child Care Plus & Latin American Child Care schools existed with several thousand children attending. All from desperate economic circumstances and all with a very slim chance of competing in the workplace after graduating from these Christian schools. The glaring need that Cary had identified was for a quality, vocational training centre. A place where these promising young students, many of whom owned Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, could be sponsored through a three year trade or career course. This would put them in a position to not only support themselves, but also strengthen their communities and their churches. Churches with that same Divine injunction upon them to send out missionaries to the uttermost parts of the earth.
Cary & Karen could not have known what had been brewing in our hearts over many years. Pauline & I had a dream that we believe had been placed in our hearts by the blessed Holy Spirit, to somehow be involved in a missions endeavour where it would be possible to use both the spiritual preparation that we had received as well as our practical experience, presently resting on the shelf, so to speak.
We earnestly sought the Lord for His assurance that this was what He wanted us to do, and having received this assurance, the transition took one year to where we found ourselves as temporary residents of Guatemala, learning to speak the Spanish language. By 1996 we were already negotiating with the government for a parcel of land which had been designated for school use. What we couldn't know at the time was that 20 years earlier when the land was developed and designated, an earthquake had ravaged the country and much of the regular bureaucratic process had been left incomplete.
At the time of the writing of this report, the unbelievably long drawn out legal process is at an end for us. We have finally been given, in the name of "Las Asambleas de Dios de Guatemala", the thirty years, renewable, "usufruct" - which here is equal to the state giving us title to the land for thirty years renewable. We praise our miracle working God for His works and His ways.
But to come back to the question; What has kept us filled with faith and so sure that in spite of the many obstacles to the fulfilment of this dream, this is the work of God?
To answer this I must go back to December 1996. My father was visiting from England also our daughter Tracy from Canada. We decided to attend a church in the city where we were able to get simultaneous translation for those who didn't understand Spanish. Earlier that week, we had had our car stolen and had also learned that the Ministry of Education had lost our paperwork, processing the land acquisition. We used a school bus to get to church. I was feeling particularly down that day.
Before I tell you what happened in that service, I want to say that on this day, a series of Divine communications began that have bolstered and strengthened our faith time and time again to where if we should begin to question whether or not this is God's work, we would be the worst examples of modern day doubting Thomas' out there for all to see.
Judge for yourselves as I describe what has happened.
Not knowing the times of the service, we arrived a little late. The congregation of about one thousand were on their feet worshipping the Lord. My father and Tracy had their headphones on as a holy quiet fell on the gathering. We had slipped in at the back and had been enjoying the beautiful Spanish language worship but we too bowed our heads and waited. A lady at the front of the auditorium began speaking. She had the microphone and was now giving an inspired utterance of encouragement. She was describing the four visitors at the back. Vividly she described me - the one with the beard, glasses, beige pants, white shirt, grey hair... Trust me, I was paying close attention. What Pauline and I were hearing in Spanish, our family were hearing in English. It went something like this: "I have seen the trouble that has come upon you. I know the great work you have come here to do. I will supply all that is needed. This is My work. I am pleased with your quiet way of worship".
I didn't hear much of what happened in the remainder of the service. I know all four of us were quite emotionally charged and filled with wonder at what God had just done. I never did see the lady God used to speak to us. But I am so grateful that God would deign to speak to me in such a direct way. Looking back now, I can see that we would need a clear encouragement from on high to help us face the difficult and frustrating road ahead. But that's not all, there's more!
In January of 1999, I went on a personal retreat in order to be alone with God and prepare my heart for our upcoming furlough. I arrived at the rustic retreat centre "La Estancia" - "The Place" on Monday and immediately began a planned regimen of prayer, study and sermon preparation.
Beginning with my usual daily devotions followed by a walk through a wooded area in prayer and praise, I then spent time in study and preparation, filling the day with rich fellowship with the Lord. Tuesday's devotional reading was Deuteronomy 28. I began to take special interest with verse eight.
"The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land He is giving you".Now I know this is a direct reference to the land of Israel yet the principle essence of the promise to me at the time was showing me that God owns everything and can just as easily give land in Guatemala as He can and did in ancient Israel. Then when I read down to verses twelve and thirteen, I was unable to read on for quite some time. I was strongly drawn to these two verses as they were presenting me with excitement and a special inner thrill of hope. Again I was aware of their historic and specific significance to God's chosen people, but as I read them repeatedly, I looked up to heaven, on my knees before the God who made these promises and said, "Oh God, what a guy wouldn't do for a promise like that!" Then I continued through the rest of the chapter, which spells out the consequences of disobedience. The rest of that day was good and productive but nothing spectacular took place. The next morning was Wednesday. The middle of the time allotted for the retreat. I began the day with my devotions and a large cup of tea! Following a time of prayer and a little reminder to the Lord that we were already halfway through our special time together, I began to get back into my scripture reading. I was enjoying this quiet time in the Word when I heard a knock at the window. I remember feeling annoyed at the intrusion. After all, I had come to this place in order to be alone with God and to perhaps hear His still small voice. But instead, I was hearing the caretaker's voice quietly calling "Hermano Alan, Hermano Alan" I swallowed my annoyance and invited Carlos to come in. Carlos is a quiet, humble Christian man of Mayan origins. He lives with his growing family at the retreat centre. I had spent several personal retreats out there prior to this one and he knew I preferred to be left alone. Nevertheless, here he was, standing in front of me with his well worn Bible in hand and busily explaining to me, almost apologetically that the Lord had given him a verse of scripture for me that morning. I said, "Sure Carlos, what is it?". While all the time thinking the sooner he's done, the sooner I can get back to seeking the face of God. He said (in Spanish)...
Deuteronomy 28:13 "The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom".As he began giving this scripture, I was immediately aware of what I had said to God the day before. "Oh God, what a guy wouldn't do with a promise like that". I began to sob, almost uncontrollably as I tried to explain to Carlos what had just happened. The sense of God's manifested presence is an awesome feeling, but there is also a distinct kind of fear. I believe it's the uncommon awareness of "The Holy". I sensed it many years ago when first I received the infilling of the Holy Ghost. I've sensed it on several other very special occasions through the years. I sensed it that Sunday morning in the Guatemalan church where no-one knew me but God.
Carlos left the little room satisfied that he had been obedient to his Master. I continued to sob.
Still heaving and trembling from the emotion of what had just happened, I made my way to the wooded area in order to give vent to the praise and worship of Him who is so worthy. I also knew that I needed to press in on sermon preparation as we were to leave for Canada the following week.
The text I was working on was Luke 11:9 & 10. It's where Jesus is assuring His disciples that they are authorized and encouraged to ask, seek and knock when they come to the Father. We had recently got the preliminary design work completed and I was aware that it would require at least one million dollars to complete just the building alone. I remember looking up through the trees into the beautiful blue sky and saying "Oh God, this is Your work, but how are You going to supply all that we need to do the job?" ...
Immediately I heard a knocking noise. It sounded like someone was knocking on a door. I was out in the woods! I continued to look around, trying to follow the noise. Then I saw it. About 30 feet away from me, a bird was knocking it's beak against the side of an old tree. It was especially strange because this bird was not a woodpecker - it was a magpie. I was fascinated by this unusual sight and as I pondered what was happening, I heard a clear voice speaking into my mind that said, "Just keep on knocking, the stuff's in there!" I was again trembling with Holy fear. God had never spoken into my mind like this before. Everything was just the same all around me, but now I felt like I had entered another realm. I turned my head from the magpie and saw the usual scene across the ravine. Several cows were grazing on the hillside across from where I sat and as I looked at them the Lord said, "Do you see those cows, I own them and the cattle on a thousand hills are Mine. And the wealth in every mine belongs to Me". To my recollection God had never answered a question so quickly. I was now scared, filled with awe and joy all at the same time. And all I could do was sob and thank Him over & over again.
With several sermons in hand and both Pauline & I ready with good testimonies of God's great goodness to us in Guatemala, we left for Canada. We knew that the Lord would be with us, but we could never have imagined all the wonderful assurances the Lord had in store for us as we traversed across our beautiful country. We experienced many words of encouragement communicated through the gifts of the Spirit, but four stand out as being particularly dramatic in that they referred directly to the enormity and the fallout of blessing that the William Cornelius Vocational Training Centre will have on Guatemala and beyond. Again, you be the judge.
Only one of the four people delivering these divine communiqués had any knowledge of who we were, prior to our visit to their respective churches.
I begin with a detailed vision that the Lord gave to a member of our home church, Mill Woods Pentecostal Assembly in Edmonton. Pauline and I only learned about this several weeks later, due to the fact that the vision was given in two parts and only after the second part was given did it make sense. It was given to us in written form by the person who received it. He described it in the following way. His words:
"When you were giving your report on Guatemala I believe God gave me a vision. It happened after you had finished and just after Pastor Gary said to pray specifically for the Slaters. I hadn't received the full interpretation until Camp time.On another occasion after speaking at Pastor Ken Bombay's church a lady came to Pauline and I at the end of the service and gave us this hand written note complete with an enthusiastic explanation. It reads:
Dear Pauline & Alan Slater,Then following a service in Oakville, Ontario we were given another hand written prophetic word. It reads:
August 31. Intercessors Group: Prophetic word for Alan & Pauline Slater.Shortly before returning to Guatemala, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks with my father in England. I visited our home church, where as a teenager I had attended and where Pauline and I had been sent out some 37 years earlier. Again, as with the church mentioned in Guatemala, we were enjoying a vigorous praise and worship time, when a young man motioned to the Pastor that he had a word from the Lord. He was invited to step forward at which time he began to
describe a work that God is going to do - that will bring a great harvest.There wasn't a lot of detail. It was more a prophetic testimony
to God's wondrous power and glory in His work at extending His kingdom.The young man shared what the Lord was giving to him with great enthusiasm and it was both fascinating and exciting to hear it. Then he stopped talking and gazed around the auditorium. His eyes eventually settled on mine and he yelled,
"This is for you isn't it? This is what God is doing through your ministry!"I was once again awestruck and humbled at the way the Lord had chosen to reassure me of His ownership of this Guatemalan project. I simply nodded in response to the young man's suggestion and bowed my head in gratitude to the Master.
We returned to Guatemala in October 1999 to continue the work of assembling the necessary components required to set up a Christian orientated technical school. We soon found that this wasn't going to be a straight forward process. We have faced obstacles from all sides. Many I believe coming from the enemy of our souls - designed to discourage and stop us from accomplishing our goals. But how can we doubt the will of God in this? How dare we question whether or not this is right.
There are other ways that the Lord has shown us that this is His work and that He is organizing it. The Lord has provided our support - first through the P.A.O.C. E.R.D.O. department - then through the P.A.O.C. Missions Link. All our monthly bills for the project have been covered through the faithful ongoing support of our friends at the Mill Woods Pentecostal Assembly. We were blessed with a team of engineers from the U.S.A. who came and prepared a building design. The Lord then gave us a young engineering couple from this team, Todd & Shana Davis who are still working with us today. The Lord provided the help and assistance of Hector & Ruth Aragon P.A.O.C. Hector has been vital in helping us with translation and paperwork. After coming on a work team from our home church, John Le Dressay felt called to return to help with the construction work. He is skilled in concrete work and carpentry. He returned with Tracy his wife and their two youngest children. The Lord has also been very kind toward us, in giving to us, our secretary Edna de Estrada. She is also secretary to Cary Goshinmon, helping in the oversight of the Child Care Plus ministry here in Guatemala.
Pauline and I could not do this work alone. And God in His wisdom has put together this team of dedicated and committed workers, all skilled in different ways, to work together with each other, and with the excellent volunteer work teams coming down from Canada, and most recently from U.S.A. to complete the task He has assigned us to do.
Now to come back to the question, "How can you be so sure that what you are doing is God's work"?
This should be sufficient testimony to answer that. The Lord is as equally involved in showing forth His Glory in the way He is providing for all our needs. He will not allow us to beg for funding. We know that we have a responsibility to make the need known to the Lord's people and we will provide any information in this regard to all who wish to enquire. But God is very particular and jealous as to how this project is to be financed.
Apparently it is going to come out of His "storehouses". Only the keepers of these storehouses actually know where these provisions are. That's fine by us.
We know that we know, that this is the work of God!