Panel Presentation: Witness in our Lives
Emma Espinoza de Vichezis a pastor and the clerk of El Salvador Yearly Meeting. She also teaches at the Friends school in San Ignacio. Emma is married with two grown daughters and one granddaughter.
I would like to thank God and the World Committee for the privilege of having the opportunity to speak to this theme today. The honor and glory are all for God.
Acts 1:8 says:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
What I hope to share with you this morning, with God’s help, may be unknown to some of you, and for others may be part of your identity. I hope to glorify God and also give witness to what God has done in my own life.
We do really live in a changing world, and we ourselves are changing, but there is someone very special who said “I the Lord do not change.” (Malachi 3:6). He is the almighty God. The writer to the Hebrews affirms this when he says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8) Jesus Christ is God.
This is a hymn that truly blesses my soul, and I will attempt to sing the first chorus and the first verse:
Times and ages change
Flowers will wither,
But there is only one who is unchanging,
Christ will never change.
Christ will never change.
All will pass.
The years like fast rivers will flow,
Life like a shining dream will go,
But keep this certain truth,
Christ will never change.
This marvelous being who does not change asks you and me to be witnesses to him. How can we achieve this?
The first step needed is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. John 1:12 says: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
Another important aspect of this is that “the blood of Jesus, his son, purifies us from all sin.” (I John 1:7b). No matter one’s spiritual condition, God gives us new hearts. We only need to open our hearts to him. (Rev. 3: 20).
The second step is to experience of the fullness of the Spirit. Jesus Christ, after his crucifixion and resurrection, but before the ascension, asked his disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they had been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. They knew Jesus and had followed him, but Jesus knew them and knew that this experience was necessary so they could be faithful witnesses to Him. For example, Peter promised Jesus that if it were necessary, he would follow Him even to unto death; but when the master was arrested, Peter did follow Him, but only at a distance, and even denied Him. Then, after the experience with the Spirit, Peter was pressured and threatened so he would not speak any more in the name of Jesus. He answered them with authority:
Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:19 & 20).
What made the difference? The power of the Spirit.
Another example is that of John, when he was traveling with Jesus, and the Samaritans did not welcome him. James and John said, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” (Luke 9:54). The were angry and vengeful. Yet later John himself wrote, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love … If anyone says, ’1 love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.” (I John 4: 8 & 20)
What made the difference? The power of the Spirit. To be faithful witnesses to God in a changing world, we need this experience.
The third step is: To serve God faithfully, we need to live in the Spirit. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21) The apostle Paul confirms this when he says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22, 23)
This makes us different from others. In a world full of hate, resentment and bitterness, we can have, and give, love. In the midst of suffering there can be joy and peace in our hearts.
I would also like to share a little experience with you. I have heard so much about the difficulties so many of our Friends had to come to New Zealand. I have my story, too. On December 22 my husband and daughter and I traveled to the capital of Guatemala in order to apply for a visa. There is no British Embassy in El Salvador and we thought it would be a good date to travel as a family. We arrived at the capital of Guatemala at ten in the morning. We spent about two hours in the Embassy. My husband left the car in a parking lot where there were a lot of lovely new cars, not like our little old car. But to our surprise, when we returned to the lot, the car wasn’t there. The beginning of a sad story. Our personal things were gone. My husband had been carrying paper work for the Ministry of Education. We were just at the beginning of our Yearly Meeting and I’m the Clerk, and I had been carrying a folder with the paper work for the sessions.
The following day, after obtaining my visa, my daughter and I returned by bus. My husband stayed another day in Guatemala to see if the car would be found. I arrived home on the 24th of December. The young people at Church were very enthusiastic in getting ready for Christmas and I had to prepare my Christmas sermon. But my heart was sad. I spent the time reading and praying and writing, and also a time crying with a lot of questions. “Lord, tonight I have to preach a message of good news and great joy. But I’m sad.” But God spoke to my heart. In Habakuk 3:17-19 he says:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.
And I was able to say “I love you, Lord.” And there was great joy in my heart that I could love Him and serve Him.
Let me finish by saying: God is faithful, and he wants you and me to be his faithful witnesses and to serve him.
Let us seek an ever-deeper experience, and let us give Him our best. This will bring blessings for the present and for eternity. In the final days God will tell us;
Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!