Blessings to you in this new year! Thank you for your Christmas and New Year greetings and for your faithful support of my ministry.
The new school year begins at the Universidad Bíblica Latinoamericana this Monday, February 4, so we are busy preparing to welcome back returning students and receive new ones. We are already hosting our third US team for the year: one group worked on the construction of the new student apartments, another is planting day lilies in the gardens, and a third took intensive courses on Latin America, Bible and theology, which I helped translate.
I am preparing a new course on Religions of the World. As I study Islam, which means “submission”, I am reminded of the remarkable story of Frank Laubach, who worked with Muslims in the Philippines and was so struck by their devotion that he began to practice the presence of God continuously, a story published in Letters by a Modern Mystic and The Game with Minutes. I was recently speaking to a Muslim from Morocco, and he explained that Muslims pray five times a day, and in Morocco, when the call to prayer is heard, everyone—in schools, businesses and homes, stops what they are doing and prays, going to the mosque if possible, and if not, laying out their prayer rug where they are.
I’ve been trying to imagine such a thing in our task-oriented society: to actually stop the “important” things we are engaged in to publicly recognize that our work and our very existence depend upon God’s life-giving grace. Of course, this was the pattern of life for Jesus and the early Christians: there are frequent references in the New Testament to stopping for the hour of prayer or going to the Temple for the hour of prayer. But today it seems unimaginable to live with that kind of rhythm. I find myself challenged by my Muslim friends to a deeper, more continuous communication with God.
One of my new responsibilities for this year is the Committee for Community Wellbeing. This involves orientation for new students, resolving conflicts, helping students solve practical issues, etc. But one area that I would like to include in this role is to encourage more opportunities for the students to pray together. It is all too easy to get absorbed in the very demanding studies and let their spiritual health suffer.
May this new year bring for you a deeper connection with our God who is our source of life and joy.
Together with you in ministry,