Two of the ministries most of our groups do when they come down is food bags (they hand out bags full of staple foods that will last a family 2 weeks) and house building. While my group was here in December they handed out food bags in a poor village call Isopo. It was a new village for us to be working in and doesn't get a lot of help. So we went out early on a Sunday morning and did church with the people. Afterward we were planning to hand out food bags. The pastor (whom I met with days before) had told me there would be 60 families in need of food and he would take care of handing out the tickets to those that needed it. The morning came and as church was over he told those who had a ticket to stay in the church until everyone else had cleared out. The plan was they would then file out and we would give them a bag. As I sat in the bed of the truck watching the dirty hungry faces of those who would not be receiving a bag that day leave the church I got more and more sick. Then I watched as the pastor walked up to Jen (who was handing the bags to the people) and informed her he would take the first bag. I couldn't have been more proud of her as she politely refused his request and gently reminded the man that a shepherd tends to his flock first and foremost. After words were exchanged the pastor walked off.
If I felt frustrated then the news I heard yesterday left me rigid. Through word of mouth Dorian found out that same pastor charged those people for the ticket to get a food bag. So yesterday Dorian, Richard, (the pastor in Ojojona) and Marc set out for Isopo to ask around and see how much truth there was to the story. They came back ready to confirm the accusation. The preacher had gone door to door offering up a ticket and those who could pay got one. Those who didn't went without. What is worse those poor people had no idea that this was in any way out of the norm. They simply believed that 75 Lemps was what it took to get a food bag.
It isn't the first time people have taken advantage of the situation. I suppose it goes on here as much as in the states....pastors are no exception in either location. It fires me up that they carry the name of leader, pastor, shepherd.....and then so poorly represent the title. This pastor deprived people who were in desperate need of food; of a bag that could have fed them for days. More than that he led them to believe that we were their to give their village a gift but that gift came with a price. That goes against every message we are trying to portray to them. The thought that his actions may have led even one of them to believe that God's gift comes with a price makes me sick. So I pray that this man changes his devious ways and learns to tend to his flock in the way God intended. I pray for his heart as well as the heart of those we encountered that day...those who got a bag and those who stood watching.