The day after the thatching event, I had the privilege of seeing a beautiful expression of appreciation. Even though we are to serve the Lord and not men, it is an encouragement to God's weary servants when someone recognizes their labors and shows sincere gratitude!
Bro. Bernaldino, Clifford's father, has been the pastor of the church in San Jose for many years, probably more than 20, although we are still trying to confirm the length. He has often been unwell, especially in the last few years, but he still faithfully goes to hold services. He is a quiet humble man who has won the respect of many.
Bro. Bernaldino has seven sons and one daughter ranging in age from 34 to 12. Clifford got his older brothers together and suggest the idea of a appreciation service for their dad. They all jumped on board the idea and set the date for the 22nd of January, hoping to completely surprise their dad. Bro. Bernaldino ended up inviting several of his sons and some others to help thatch a house on the 22nd, which pushed the service until the 23rd, but actually aided their secrecy: now they all had an excuse to be in the village that weekend.
They each contributed to make the day special, purchasing groceries to feed the entire congregation. I got to help with the work a little, and the whole process was a delight. All the brothers and sisters-in-law worked together to accomplish the task, fixing over 200 plates of food. They even secretly "stole" one of their mom's dresses to use as a pattern for a new dress for the occasion.
In spite of the great difficulty to keep a secret in a village, especially since many invitations were sent out, and in spite of Bro. Bernaldino and his wife wondering why all their kids kept disappearing, and in spite of their grandma almost giving it away, they managed to completely surprise them! It was so fun to see!
The family completely ran the service, sharing testimonies of thanks, singing songs, and inviting others to join as well. Clifford preached his first sermon in honor of the occasion. The joy on their parents' faces was heartwarming. The congregation brought gifts and shared testimonies as well, and everyone went home well fed.
For me, the most touching part was after the service at Bro. Bernaldino's house... hearing the two of them express their surprise and delight over and over, and the sons and daughter excitedly share how they kept the secret, was priceless. So was the excitement of Bro. Bernaldino and his wife over their gifts. They acted like newly weds! They were married before traditions had changed much here, so they didn't have the outpouring of gifts at their wedding that is common now. They really live very humbly with very little. And really, they weren't given LOTS of gifts, but the ones they did receive brought them great joy.
I came away that evening blessed from witnessing the expression of love and the resulting joy. I wish every day could be like that! But... we will have eternity to rejoice in the love of our Savior and rejoice in His presence! I think that will be more than enough to make up for the trials on this earth!
Wouldn't it be nice if something like that could be done for each pastor who has been serving for many years?