Monday, July 1, 2019

The Missive ~ Spring 2019

Hello friends,

Stuart continues to work with CompassionLink - an International Ministry with AGWM, as I (Wendy) prepare for my final year as Missionary in Residence at Evangel University,

Just recently, CompassionLink welcomed golfers and guests to a complimentary steak dinner on the eve of its annual Golf Classic. Specialty items from around the world helped to raise funds in a silent auction and exceptional door prizes surprised a few grateful attendees.

Donna Barrett, general secretary of the Assemblies of God, encourages donors at the CompassionLink golf classic.

CompassionLink partners with AGWM missionaries and the communities they serve to find and use locally available resources to create spiritually, physically, and emotionally healthier communities. In preparation, the CompassionLink team customizes seminars, clinics, and projects to adapt to unique environments.

For example, in our last newsletter, I described the aquaponics process of siphoning off fish waste to fertilize and grow vegetables - a sustainable project to feed a family or a village. As you can see (below), the hydroponically grown buttercrunch lettuce that Stuart planted weeks ago thrives in the greenhouse at CompassionLink.

Buttercrunch lettuce thrives in the CompassionLink greenhouse.

As handyman Scott looks on (and as I teased on social media), Stuart and MSU intern Marcus show off their current project - a rocket stove! This highly efficient stove requires much less fuel – imagine only needing small branches or twigs to cook a meal – while significantly reducing smoke to allow a healthier living environment. Materials used to make the stove can be found almost anywhere in the world which makes this a wise and sustainable option.

Stuart and company build a rocket stove

These are just a few of the many unique ways CompassionLink serves the world.

School’s out for summer, but as Missionary in Residence at Evangel University the fall semester promises two (very) full classes in New Testament Literature and Introduction to Intercultural Ministries. As faculty advisor of World Changers Missions Fellowship, I look forward to a great year promoting missions and mentoring the next generation of global workers. 

Even better than building rocket stoves and tweaking lectures, Stuart and I will celebrate with family and friends at the wedding of (our son) Wesley and Katie (Lafon) in July. Then we are off to General Council and Together '19 in August.

Wesley and Katie

Thanks, friends, for your faithful support. See you soon!

Stuart & Wendy

Stuart and I visited my family in Connecticut recently to celebrate my dad's 80th birthday.

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Monday, June 3, 2019

How Fortunate We Are

Recently, I visited with a kind and dedicated professional in her office. Before we got down to business, we chatted a bit as people like to do (well, as extroverts like to do, and as introverts loathe to do). Realizing that I am a global worker, she mentioned she had been on a few short-term, cross-cultural trips. The small-talk portion of our meeting ended when she related to me how she wanted to eventually bring her young son on a cross-cultural trip so that he could know how fortunate he is.

“So, he could know how fortunate he is.” I smiled weakly as her words hung between us. I wish I had the presence of mind in that moment to ask her to finish that thought. But thanks to newfound allergies, my congested and scratchy-throated self could only offer her one of those I’m-just-going-to-smile-at-you-weirdly-and-not-comment-because-you-seem-like-a-nice-person-but-what-you-just-said-sounded-a-bit-odd-to-me looks.

My untimely loss for words led to a momentary silence and an awkward segue before we proceeded to talk about other things. Yet, if I could go back and grab those words out of the air, I would ask her to finish her thought, “How fortunate he is … to what?”

How would you respond?

I imagine we might say things like: “I want my son to know how fortunate he is to live in the US.” “I want my daughter to know how fortunate she is to want for nothing.” “I want my children to know how fortunate they are to have nice things.”

But what does our responses say about what we value? Or what we think God values? 

I propose that wanting to participate in a cross-cultural trip so that we can know how fortunate we are, is a rather unfortunate reason to go and often an unfortunate by-product of going. Many short-term trip participants return home with the guilt-induced revelation, “We don’t know how good we have it here,” while the rest of us applaud their enlightened view. But I dare say, we are missing something quite profound about cross-cultural trips if we come back with the flawed notion, we are more fortunate than everyone else in the world because of what we have (or what we know, or whatever). 

I appreciate the professional I chatted with. I believe her genuine concern and generous spirit make her the effective professional that she is. I appreciate she wanted her son to learn gratitude (for I trust that is what she meant and probably would have clarified if I gave her the chance). But I don’t believe we nurture gratitude through comparison. I believe comparison nurtures something far less virtuous.

Comparison focuses on what I have and what (I perceive) you don’t have. And feeling fortunate for what I have (and what you don’t) and assuming what I have is better (and what you have is not) isn’t gratitude. It’s pride. Likewise, “We don’t know how good we have it here,” isn’t a testimony. It’s a confession. An unwitting acknowledgement that we think our stuff (our know-how, our whatever) is superior.

Here’s the thing, going on a cross-cultural trip isn’t about being the sole provider or even the better provider of material resources (or knowledge, or whatever) to the people we meet wherever we travel. It’s about, at least in part, humbly showing up with what we have to offer, truly valuing what other people have to offer, and intentionally learning from the other how we can work together for the glory of God. Gratitude playing an essential role in that whole dynamic.

I believe we can nurture gratitude wherever we go, when we pause to appreciate God’s grace wherever we find it. And let me tell you, we can find God’s grace everywhere, for God is everywhere. The next time you travel to a foreign land (or down the street, for that matter) I challenge you to ask yourself a few questions. Ask yourself if you can see the face of God in the people you pass; if you can feel the presence of God in the hands you grasp; if you can discern the voice of God in the languages you hear. Because if you can, you are fortunate indeed.

And for that, we can be truly grateful.

Our family walking near the Zócalo in Ciudad de México 2012.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Missive ~ Winter 2019

 Some wonder if something fishy is going on when world missionaries are approved for temporary assignment stateside. They may be right. While I (Wendy) spend most days at Evangel University, a different kind of school occupies Stuart's time and energy as he volunteers full-time with AGWM International Ministries at CompassionLink.

CompassionLink engages in numerous projects year-round, but a school of Tilapia currently occupies their attention. The team is raising about 100 Tilapia and siphoning off the fish waste to feed growing vegetables. The plants filter the water which then returns to the fish tank squeaky clean in a hydroponic circle of life.

The CompassionLink team takes a project like this and teaches missionaries and other partners how to adapt and use it in their ministry contexts to promote health and sustainability in communities worldwide. So, if you think something fishy is going on in Springfield, look no further than the Tilapia.

Stuart wants you to know, this is just one of the many unique ways CompassionLink serves the world. Please check out their link here to see more.

As Missionary in Residence at Evangel University this year, I have the unique privilege to train, educate, and mentor our next generation of missionaries. Whether it's in the classroom or as the faculty adviser to World Changers Missions Fellowship, God has opened doors for deep conversations with students not available elsewhere. I trust you would be proud of the questions our young people are pondering and the ways they are serving now to prepare for a life of intercultural ministry later.

World Changers hosted Global Impact week at Evangel University just recently and brought students and missionaries together for a meaningful week of personal interactions and heartfelt challenges.

Many thanks to the Pipeline Team, Dave Ellis (Regional Director LAC), Dick & Cynthia Nicholson (former Regional Directors LAC), and missionary colleagues from every region serving with AGWM and US Missions for their help and service.

Stuart and I give thanks to you as well, friends. It's been 15 years since AGWM commissioned us as missionaries and you have faithfully supported us throughout the journey. We are grateful, and we are truly blessed.

Stuart & Wendy

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Mexico City Missive ~ Fall 2018

More than just lectures, papers, and exams filled our first semester as Missionaries in Residence at Evangel University. Stuart and I enjoyed our involvement with the WorldChangers Missions Club including Meal with a Missionary (with John and Dina Musacchio) and the annual Bonfire (with students, missionaries, and s'mores galore).

A wonderful Secret Church experience (with Paul & Lana Duda) and a Christmas party (not complete without little piñatas) rounded out our end of semester activities.

However, our responsibilities didn’t end there. Stuart and I also mentor two Evangel students headed abroad next summer as part of their EU studies. (Evangel University requires cross-culture experience for every student - whatever their major might be!)

Much more to come in the spring (including Global Impact week). But before we go, here's another update on the Teen ChallengeMexico project. Along with other improvements, your generosity has beautified the bedrooms with new mattresses, pillows, and bedspreads. ¡Gracias a todos!

Grace and peace,
Stuart & Wendy

Monday, August 6, 2018

Mexico City Missive ~ Summer 2018

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:18-20

Dear friends,

Did you know missionaries receive lots of fan mail? Well, maybe not fan mail, exactly. But we often receive notes of encouragement, holiday cards, and a few inquiries that get us thinking. A few years back, an inquiring mind asked how our ministry focus aligned with God’s purpose. Granted, I may not remember exactly how the sender worded the question, I do remember answering it more or less this way. No matter where Stuart and I are in the world, Jesus’ command to make disciples remains at the center of who we are and what we do.

In Jamaica, making disciples looked like caring for 40 precious children and teenagers at our children’s home. It also looked like teaching at the Assemblies of God Bible College and developing a mentorship program between those two entities.

In Mexico City, making disciples looked like teaching at Anna Sanders Seminary and preaching in our home church and other venues during our first term, and focusing our efforts at Teen Challenge Mexico during our second term.

Suffice it to say, following the call to make disciples has afforded Stuart and I the privilege to love, serve, and minister with many wonderful people in God’s wonderfully diverse world.

Just recently, the Executive Committee of World Missions granted Stuart and I approval for a short-term assignment as Missionaries in Residence (MIR) at Evangel University. This opportunity would not have happened without you. Your support over these last three terms of service (15 years!) gives us the perspective and the experience we need to inspire students in their God-given vocation and help them find their place in his Great Commission. In other words, Stuart and I will continue the process you began in your homes and churches to make educated, responsible, Spirit-led disciples to go and do likewise.

I’ve barely given you a glimpse of all the responsibilities required as a MIR. But as the year progresses, I trust you’ll be impressed with the partnership of Assemblies of God World Missions and our Assemblies of God learning institutions to provide missionary educators to create vision, promote missions, and provide your students guidance as they discover God’s call on their lives.

As I mentioned, the MIR is a short-term assignment (for the 2018-2020 academic years). Then Stuart and I will eagerly return to the field by God’s grace and your continued support. Please know, we need you just as much now as ever. Transitions are never easy. We’ve already hit a few snags that hopefully will turn out to be nothing more than inconveniences. As for now, please pray for us as we settle into a new home and into all our new responsibilities.

Grace and peace,

~ Stuart & Wendy Brown

We met the challenge! A few weeks ago, we challenged our supporters to help us give a generous offering to Teen Challenge Mexico to repair, replace, and upgrade some worn out items at their facility. In fact, you more than met the challenge and so we made these guys, as well as the directors of Reto a la Juventud, very happy. 
Thanks everyone. You're the best!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

We're up to the challenge!

Teen Challenge directors, Gamaliel and Alejandra Cerda, have guided numerous adult and young men from drug and alcohol addiction through a proven, well-structured, faith-based program. Graduates of Teen Challenge Mexico (Reto a la Juventudleave with their dignity recovered and the strength required to take control of their lives to reintegrate with their family, or form a family free of addictions.

Stuart and I have had the privilege to serve Teen Challenge Mexico these last few years to witness such miracles.

As you can imagine, housing, feeding, and training upwards of 20 men takes it toll on the facilities. And for Teen Challenge Mexico, many of their basic necessities have worn out and need replacement or repair.

This is where you and I come in. Gamaliel and Alejandra have submitted a short list of basic necessities that need replacing (like pillows and bedspreads), a few high end repairs (of a refrigerator and freezer), and wish list to upgrade their kitchen (like an industrial blender).

Expenses total a modest $3000. With your help and generosity, we believe we are up to the challenge of raising this amount quickly and get the funds into their hands as soon as possible.

Just follow this giving link and these simple steps:
1. Choose the amount of your offering
2. Click on class 40 in the drop down box
3. Write Teen Challenge in the comment box
4. Press Give Now

Easy Peasy.
Please note, offerings exceeding the expected amount will joyously be given to Teen Challenge.

Thanks for your help!

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward. Matthew 10:42

Y quien dé siquiera un vaso de agua fresca a uno de estos pequeños por tratarse de uno de mis discípulos, les aseguro que no perderá su recompensa. Mateo 10:42

Mexico City Missive ~ We're up to the challenge

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Monday, February 5, 2018

Mexico City Missive ~ winter 2018

Here's a snippet of our life and ministry in Mexico City for the second half of the year, 2017.

Teen Challenge Mexico, or as we know it Reto a la Juventud, provides Stuart and I opportunities to preach throughout the year as we did in the month of July. Likewise, I continue to teach English classes on Saturdays and Stuart enjoys his weekly round of futbol with the guys.

As we are able, Stuart and I also visit other Asambleas in Mexico City. In August, we worshipped with Pastors Cristobal (right) and Lourdes at Rios de Agua Viva when they invited our area director, Paul Kazim (center), to preach. I chose this delightful photo for obvious reasons.

September began happily enough with a dinner invite from Teen Challenge directors, Gamaliel and Alejandra at their home and Independence Day celebrations with our Reto family. Yet on the 19th, the anniversary of Mexico City's devastating earthquake of 1985, Mexico City rocked again from a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that left hundreds dead, thousands wounded, and many thousands more homeless. (I wrote more about it here in a previous newsletter.)

Relief efforts began immediately by the good people of Mexico as neighbors went door to door looking for volunteers and donations. Stuart and I, because of your generosity, dropped off supplies at collection sites with our trusty Speed the Light vehicle.  Well into October and beyond, Mexico City's resiliency remains strong as they continue the slow process of recovery and rebuilding.

Once again, in November, I had the privilege to speak to some of Mexico City's finest leaders at our monthly ministers breakfast for women. Although I spoke on the strength and courage of Esther, these courageous women of God shared stories that rivaled any biblical character.

In December, Stuart and I enjoyed a visit with all our kids - Olivia, Wesley, and Sophia as they came to Mexico City for the holidays. This new year looks bright with opportunity as both our daughters are set to graduate in May. Olivia from Duke Divinity with a master's degree in Theological Studies, and Sophia from Evangel University with a bachelor's degree in Communications. 

Stuart & Wendy

Monday, December 18, 2017

Mexico City Missive ~ Christmas 2017

[King Herod] called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’” Matthew 2:4-6
Bethlehem, the birthplace of king David becomes the birthplace of the Christ, Israel's promised king and shepherd. When the reigning king, Herod, receives confirmation of the Messiah's birth, he seeks to harm the vulnerable, humble child of Bethlehem. An angelic warning sends Mary and Joseph fleeing from Bethlehem to Egypt as refugees until word of the dubious king's death brings them back to Israel and the city of Nazareth. From here, the one born in the “house of bread” grows up under the care of his earthly parents until he is ready to go out into the world, offer himself, and feed hungry souls.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.” John 6:32-34
Intrigued by the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, the crowd desires to perform the works of God, too. Instead, Jesus calls them to believe. Still the crowd demands a miraculous sign, after all, even Moses gave them bread in the wilderness. Yet, unbeknownst to them, bread from heaven has already descended again from the Father's hand in the form of his Son, Jesus; the true bread from heaven. The bread that gives life to the world. “Give us that bread,” the crowd demands. And so Jesus does.
He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19
From the “house of bread” to the Last Supper and beyond the true bread from heaven gives life to those who receive. As we remember the babe born in Bethlehem this holiday season, let's venture out into the world, offer ourselves, and generously share the bread of life with a hungry world.
Wishing you joy and peace, always.

Stuart & Wendy Brown

Monday, December 4, 2017

A different kind of Advent

After the earthquake on September 19, thousands in our city had to abandon their residences. This apartment building, right across the street from our neighborhood, left more than a few people homeless. In fact, many who left this building have been camping out in the park behind it.

This past weekend, 2 1/2 months after the quake, workers scaled the building and began tearing down the upper portion with sledge hammers. Today, some heavy duty machinery continued the work.

Please continue to pray for Mexico City. Many buildings in our area remain uninhabitable but have yet to be demolished (or repaired). Which equates to thousands of residents unable to return to their homes or their businesses. A sad state of affairs especially at this time of year.

Yesterday began the season of Advent - the season of waiting and hoping. We light our advent candles in patient but hopeful longing for the light of the world to shine in our midst. We make ready our hearts in hopeful anticipation to welcome the Christ child into our homes. But for many in our city, it'll be a different kind of Advent. A different season of longing.

As we prepare for the holidays in the days and weeks to come, will you join us as we remember in prayer and serve our displaced neighbors who also wait and hope for a brighter future and a secure home?

Almighty God, give all of us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.*

*Tickle, Phyllis. Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from The Divine Hours (p. 10). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Who we are together

Rejection hurts. It's meant to hurt. It serves to silence and disable by disheartening the rejected. A fierce weapon in the arsenal of the proud and the privileged, rejection manifests its full power when believed and embraced by its intended targets.

Arrows of rejection pierce and wound. If not quickly removed and the wound properly cleansed with truth, an infection of false identity seeps into the soul. No matter how diligent the warrior, after relentless assaults one can tire of deflection and become vulnerable. Vulnerable to the acceptance of a lie. Vulnerable against an inauthentic or incomplete identity.

So then, believers, Who are we? What is our true and shared and God-given identity?

image from pixabay

We are living stones brought together by God. Joined with the true cornerstone to build a spiritual home together. Anointed together through the mediation of Jesus Christ. United to serve together as priests under the great high priest. That is who we are. Women and men together. Living and learning as priests together. Building a home as we serve together.

Once we had no identity. But now, God has given us, women and men, our true and shared and God-given identity to serve together with a common purpose. We are priests. We belong to God. Called out from the darkness into the light to manifest the goodness of God. 


Monday, November 13, 2017

Esther: It's tough being a woman

I gave the following devotional to a gathering of courageous women of God at a ministers breakfast, recently.

Esther is a wonderful story full of intrigue and reversals, despicable characters and unlikely heroes. And although within its pages a man chooses a woman to become his queen, we must refrain from thinking Esther's story is a romantic tale. For the king in question selects his queen based on selfish reasons and not for the sake of love. Yet Esther's story clearly speaks to us of profound love – God's love for his people and his commitment toward them.

Interestingly enough, the book which bears her name begins without any mention of Esther nor of the Jews, the very people God calls her to save. Quite the contrary, the book begins with the story of a pagan king named Xerxes trying to impress his nobles, his officials, and all the military officers of Persia and Media by throwing them a great banquet. A banquet that lasts for 180 days. (History tells us Xerxes planned a military excursion and he pined for the support of all his political friends.)

Xerxes follows up with another banquet for all the people in the fortress of Susa. A banquet in a lavishly decorated hall where the guests were given vasts quantities of wine and food. Xerxes holds nothing back from his guests. So much so, he even offers them his Queen. After seven days of feasting and drinking, Xerxes makes a disastrous request. In his inebriated state, he tells his eunuchs to bring Queen Vashti to him to parade her around his drunken guests.

From the very first chapter of the book, the narrator gives us a crystal clear understanding of King Xerxes character and temperament. A man willing to put his Queen in a vulnerable position, commanding her to parade herself in front of men who have indulged themselves without limits for seven days solely for their pleasure and for Xerxe's own selfish ends. But then Vashti does what no one expects. She refuses the King's inappropriate request. And in a fit of rage, he banishes her.

That fateful day, Xerxes could have never imagined that his ill-conceived request would set off a chain of events that would culminate in the deliverance of God's people. Yet here begins the story of Esther.

A table decoration with an unintended selfie.

As we've already noted, the story of Esther includes a wide variety of interesting characters, including powerful leaders and vulnerable subjects. However, as the story unfolds we soon realize that the true leader in the story is not necessarily the man with all the power, resources, and prestige. On the contrary, in the book of Esther the true leader emerges from obscurity – a lowly woman forcibly removed from her home and then hidden within the royal palace – one who enjoyed none of the advantages of her male counterpart.

God, too, remains hidden within the pages of Esther's story. Throughout the entire book, never once do we hear his name mentioned. Unlike Xerxes who preferred the spotlight and desired celebrity – God never calls attention to himself. Nor does God perform any attention-seeking miracles. He doesn't part the red sea, feed five thousand people, nor heal even a single blind man. Throughout Esther's story, God remains cleverly behind the scenes. Hidden, but never absent.

Likewise, Esther chooses obscurity over prominence. Surely, the safest course of action for a woman in her day. Have we not already witnessed what happened to women who sought autonomy and spoke their mind? They were banished. It was tough being a woman in Esther's day. No matter who you were or where you lived, if you were a woman, you were vulnerable. If a queen in the royal court received no protection from the selfish whims of powerful men, how safe would a lowly, Jewish woman be in a pagan household?

In Vashti and Esther's world, men like Xerxes often wielded their power selfishly, indiscriminately, and impulsively. Personal agendas took precedence over their subjects well-being. After Xerxes banished the Queen, his personal attendants suggested that he send out agents in each province to find the most beautiful women and bring them into the royal harem. Xerxes had a harem full of women already. But in order to look powerful and authoritative, Xerxes took the most beautiful women away from their families – without consideration of their hopes or their dreams - and brought them to his harem. Esther was one of these women gathered in the raid. She had no choice in the matter. 

Women face unique challenges in our world. They always have. The story of Esther, as well as the stories of Ruth and Hannah, Abigail and Michal, Elizabeth and Lydia prove this point. It's tough being a woman. But as women, we can better appreciate the difficulties these women encountered and the hostile environment they lived in, because although times have changed, some things have not. And although all these women faced enormous disadvantages, they also shared one great advantage – God remained by their side. Sometimes hidden. But never absent. 

We share that advantage with them. 

How did Esther become a savior to her people? How did she survive and thrive despite a persistent enemy, manipulative leaders, and a hostile cultural environment? This is how: Esther relied on the Spirit's guidance, she used the brains that God gave her, she asked for help from trustworthy people, and she planned meticulously and waited patiently before she acted.

Women of God, we belong to a sisterhood of courageous women that began with the creation of Eve. A sisterhood that includes the likes of Queen Esther, Judge Deborah, the prophet Miriam, the apostle Junia, and the teacher Priscilla. A fellowship of women that includes every sister in this gathering, all woman in your church, and every woman around the world. We may have never met, but we are all connected – by our shared stories, experiences, and most of all by the Spirit of God.

Therefore, sisters, let's not make life more difficult for each other. Rather let's bear one another's burdens and treat the wounded among us with compassion. Let's be generous in our love, in our prayers, and in our words. Let's endeavor to listen better and encourage more. Like Esther, we may feel hidden and insecure. But God is with us and among us. Hidden, but never absent.

Yes, it's tough being a woman. But together we are a force to be reckoned with. 

These questions prompted a courageous telling of events from the lives of the women who attended that day.

Ester: Es difícil ser una mujer

Valientes líderes de la Ciudad de México

Ester es una historia maravillosa llena de intriga y de reversos, personajes despreciables y héroes improbables. Y aunque dentro de sus páginas un hombre elige a una mujer para que se convierta en su reina, debemos abstenernos de pensar que la historia de Ester es una historia romántica. Porque el rey en cuestión eligió a su reina por razones exclusivamente egoístas y no por amor. Sin embargo, la historia de Ester es sobre un amor profundo: el amor de Dios por su pueblo y su compromiso con ellos.

Curiosamente, aunque la historia es sobre Ester y cómo ella salva al pueblo de Dios, el libro comienza sin ninguna mención de Ester ni ninguna mención de los judíos. Muy por el contrario, el libro de Ester comienza con un rey pagano llamado Asuero que trata de impresionar a sus nobles y sus funcionarios y a todos los oficiales militares de Persia y Media, dándoles un gran banquete. Un banquete que duró ciento ochenta días. La historia nos dice que Asuero planeó una excursión militar y que necesitaba el apoyo de todos sus amigos políticos.

Entonces Asuero da otro banquete para todas las personas en la fortaleza de Susa. La Biblia describe una sala profusamente decorada donde los invitados reciben cantidades enormes de vino y comida. De hecho, el narrador hace un punto para decirnos que Asuero no puso restricciones a sus invitados. Él les dio todo lo que quisieron. Fue tan "generoso", que incluso les ofreció a su reina. Después de siete días de festejar y beber, Asuero estaba "alegre del vino." En otras palabras, estaba bastante borracho. Y en su estado ebrio, el Rey le dice a sus eunucos que le traigan a la Reina Vasti para que la pase delante de sus invitados ebrios. Asuero usó su riqueza, su comida, su vino para impresionar a sus invitados, y ahora Asuero quiere usar la belleza de Vasti para influir en ellos también.

En este capítulo, el narrador nos da una comprensión muy clara del carácter y el temperamento del Rey Asuero. Asuero estaba dispuesto a poner a su reina en una posición muy vulnerable por desfilarse frente a hombres que han estado bebiendo sin parar durante 7 días. Los hombres que se han entregado sin límites, ahora tendrán una mujer muy hermosa desfilada frente a ellos para su placer. Así que sin pensar en sus necesidades, sin pensar en su seguridad, Asuero quiere usar a la Reina por sus propias razones egoístas. Y Vasti se niega.

Ese fatídico día, Asuero nunca podría haber imaginado que su solicitud mal concebida podría iniciar una cadena de eventos que culminaría en la liberación del pueblo de Dios. Pero ahora, la historia de Ester comienza.

Como ya lo hemos señalado, la historia de Ester incluye una gran variedad de personajes interesantes, incluyendo a líderes poderosos y sujetos vulnerables. Sin embargo, a medida que la historia se desarrolla, pronto nos damos cuenta de que el verdadero líder en la historia no es necesariamente el hombre con todo el poder y el prestigio. Por el contrario, en este cuento, el verdadero líder emerge de la oscuridad: una mujer humilde sacada a la fuerza de su casa y luego escondida en el palacio real, que no disfrutaba de ninguna de las ventajas de su homólogo masculino.

Dios también permanece escondido en las páginas de la historia de Ester. A lo largo de todo el libro, el nombre de Dios nunca se menciona. A diferencia de Asuero, que prefería el centro de atención y quería que todos supieran su nombre, Dios nunca llama la atención sobre sí mismo. En el libro de Ester, Dios no realiza milagros. Él no separa el mar rojo ni alimenta a cinco mil personas con unos pocos panes y peces. Él ni siquiera cura a un ciego. A lo largo de la historia de Ester, Dios permanece detrás de las escenas. Escondido pero no ausente.

Del mismo modo, Ester eligió la oscuridad sobre la prominencia. Para Ester, ese era el curso de acción más seguro para una mujer en su época. Sabemos lo que les sucedía a las mujeres que decían lo que pensaban, ¿no? Eran desterradas. Era difícil ser una mujer en los días de Ester. No importa quién era o dónde vivía: si era mujer, era vulnerable. Si una reina en la corte real no estuviera a salvo de los caprichos egoístas de los hombres poderosos, ¿qué tan seguro sería para una mujer judía humilde en una casa pagana?

En el mundo donde Vasti y Ester vivían, los hombres como Asuero a menudo ejercían su poder egoísta, indiscriminadamente e impulsivamente. Las agendas personales tuvieron prioridad sobre el bienestar de sus sujetos. Después de que Asuero desterró a la Reina, sus asistentes personales sugirieron que enviara agentes en cada provincia para encontrar a las mujeres más bellas y traerlas al harén real. Asuero ya tenía un harén lleno de mujeres. Pero para parecer poderoso y autoritario, Asuero se llevó a las mujeres más bellas de sus familias, sin tener en cuenta sus esperanzas o sus sueños, y las llevó a su harén.

Ester fue una de estas mujeres reunidas en la redada. Ester no tuvo otra opción en el asunto. Solo puedo imaginar lo que Ester y esas otras mujeres sintieron en ese momento. Y aunque Dios pudo haber parecido escondido a Ester, y a todos los judíos en ese momento, no estaba ausente ni ignorante de su difícil situación.

Las mujeres enfrentan desafíos únicos en nuestro mundo. Ellas siempre las tienen. La historia de Ester, así como las historias de Rut y Ana, Abigail y Mical, Elisabet y Lidia prueban este punto. Es difícil ser una mujer. Y como somos mujeres, podemos imaginarnos mejor las dificultades que ellas enfrentaron y los entornos hostiles en que vivían porque, aunque los tiempos han cambiado, algunas cosas no han cambiado. Y aunque todas estas mujeres enfrentaron enormes desventajas, también tenían una gran ventaja: Dios estaba de su lado. Compartimos esa ventaja. Y tenemos una a otra.

¿Cómo se convirtió Ester en un salvador para su pueblo? ¿Cómo sobrevivió y prosperó a pesar de un enemigo persistente, líderes manipuladores y un ambiente cultural hostil? Así es como: Ester confió en la guía del Espíritu, usó el cerebro que Dios le dio, pidió ayuda de personas confiables, y ella planeó meticulosamente y esperó pacientemente antes de actuar.

Mujeres de Dios, pertenecemos a una comunidad de mujeres valientes que comenzó con la creación de Eva. Una hermandad que incluye a personas como la reina Ester, la juez Débora, la profeta María, la apóstol Junia y la maestra Priscila. Una comunidad de mujeres que incluye a todas las hermanas de esta reunión, a todas las mujeres de su iglesia, y a todas las mujeres de todo el mundo de las que todavía tenemos que conocer. Pero todos estamos conectados por nuestras historias, experiencias y, sobre todo, por el Espíritu de Dios.

Mujeres de Dios, porque la vida ya es lo suficientemente dificil para nosotras, seamos muy amables unas con otras. Aligeremos mutuamente las cargas y atendamos a los heridos entre nosotras con compasión. Seamos generosas en nuestro amor, en nuestras oraciones, y en nuestras palabras. Intentemos escuchar mejor y alentar más. Al igual que Ester, podemos sentirnos escondidas e inseguras. Pero Dios está con nosotras y entre nosotras. Sí, es difícil ser una mujer. Pero juntas somos una fuerza a tener en cuenta.