When I was a teenager, the most popular show on television was the A-Team. The leader of this band of plucky former special forces misfits was Hannibal. In every episode, as the team helped rescue the underdog from the corrupt bigwig before they escaped the military police again, Hannibal, with a cigar hanging out of his mouth, would say, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
As a person who thrives on order and organization, I add my hearty amen to Hannibal. Unfortunately, things fall apart. It is just a reality of life in a fallen world. Things tend to go from order to disorder, a principle in physics called entropy. In the words of Robert Burns, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
That has certainly been my experience in preparing for my trip to the Dominican Republic to begin training with our very first group of Spanish speaking pastors. For several weeks leading up to the trip, I was convinced my name had been changed to Murphy, as everything that could go wrong did go wrong. We had to move the training location twice, the curriculum did not get translated into Spanish until a couple of days before I left for the trip, and our transportation for the training failed to materialize. On top of that, we had no idea who was coming to the training, if anyone. I have planned a good number of these kinds of trips but never have I experienced the sheer number of logistical complications and outright absurdities this trip presented.
Needless to say, when our team arrived in Punta Cana on Monday–which would serve as command central for our time here–I was a ball of nerves. However, the warmth of the Caribbean sun, the stunning turquoise waters of the Atlantic, and the verdant hillsides flowing down gently into rolling farmland inhabited by cattle and horses helped to calm my troubled soul. That is, until Monday night.
Upon speaking to our organizer on Monday night he informed me that the training location had been moved once again from Punta Cana. Now we would be doing the training in El Ceibo, a town located about a two-hour drive from Punta Cana. Oh, and the best part is no transportation had been secured to get us there. We were literally flying by the seat of our pants.
After a fitful night’s sleep and quite a bit of desperate prayer, we were up early for breakfast and ready to begin our training, if we could figure out how to get there. Fortunately, the Lord sent us a very helpful bellboy at our hotel who secured us a transport to and from El Ceibo each day. When we arrived at the training location, we had another surprise waiting for us. We had been preparing to train Spanish speaking pastors. However, French, Creole, and Spanish speaking pastors were in attendance. The only problem is that the curriculum was in Spanish!
In addition to the language issue, the church in which the training was held consisted of a small, cramped room with a tin roof, a concrete floor and a whole lot of humidity. We muddled through the first day and did the best we could. Only God knows if we were effective or not.
By the second day, more pastors arrived, and things finally began to straighten out. As the day wore on, I finally began to feel we were getting into the groove. One of the telltale signs that pastors are understanding the content is when they break into loud and intense discussions among themselves. While to the outsider it may seem like chaos, to the teacher it is a sweet refrain because it means they are engaging in the learning process.
Today (Thursday), was the best day of training yet. While the room seemed to get smaller and more cramped each day, nevertheless, the pastors were attentive and responsive and broke out into applause at various intervals throughout the training indicating their sense of encouragement and affirmation of the teaching they received. It is obvious that the Lord purposed for these pastors in El Ceibo to receive our training and not any of the former locations we had intended.
As we wrapped up the training and said goodbye to our new Haitian, Creole, and Dominican friends, and began the two-hour ride back to command central, I was reminded that, yes, things fall apart. But when things fall apart, God remains faithful. When things fall apart, we don’t have to because God is in control. Our best laid plans may go awry, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.
That’s it for now. Adios from the Dominican Republic!