I was informed today that many Puerto Ricans refer to God as Papa Dios. As you have guessed, this is the same as referring to God as the Father, as a father, yet it has a more personal connotation to it. It's putting God at the most personal father figure, and by calling God "Papa Dios," it is saying that God is your personal father, who will take care of you and love you and be everything a father is to his child. My life here in Puerto Rico, as short as it has been, has been nothing but God telling me that he truly is my Papa Dios.
Today's church sermon was about Jonah. I have heard the story of Jonah a hundred times, however today I seemed to hear it differently. In Jonah 1:1 it says that the "word of the Lord came to Jonah." This is when God commanded him to go to Ninevah, and he didn't do what God said, yet he listened. Jonah listened to God. How often do I listen, I mean really listen to God? How often do I make the point to actually sit down with God and listen to him to hear what he wants to tell me? Do I want to hear what God truly wants to tell me? Jonah ran away from God, and 1:4 says "God sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose..." God sent the storm. Sometimes storms are a good things. They hurt, they are painful and confusing, but there are times when God needs us to be in a storm. Why? When we are in a storm we need God. That is when God draws us close to him as the only one who can save us. After Jonah was thrown overboard, verse 17 says "But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah..." God PROVIDED a fish. This fish saved Jonah's life. He would've drowned without it and God knew that. Yes it was smelly, disgusting, and dark, yet he was rescued from the storm. Not only that, but when you are all by yourself inside a whale, who else are you going to turn to but to God? God isolated him so that Jonah was forced to face God. After this Jonah understood, and he turned to God in prayer. His prayer was full of distress, yet it was also full of praise and recognition of who God is. Actually, the whole prayer is quoted from the Psalms. After his prayer, it was over. The storm was over, the smelly fish was over, and his troubles were over for the time being. Does this mean all we have to do is pray and God will take our hardships away immediately? No. If, however, we run to God and seek him as our Papa Dios, this storm will end. No storm lasts forever.
I can honestly say that this sermon struck me more than I expected it to. I sat in church so overwhelmed with emotion, knowing that God was talking to me. Have I been running away from him? Not entirely, however without going into much detail, the past couple of years have been rough on our relationship. I've been in a storm and I haven't known what to do about it. Today I felt Papa Dios just letting me know that my storm is finally over. Everything that I have been upset about, begging God for, pleading with God to show me and give me for so long, he has poured over and over me since the day I arrived here in Puerto Rico. I cannot even begin to list all of the incredible blessings and I don't deserve them. After talking to some of my friends about this here today, asking why God would give me all of this at once, the only answer that we could come up with is grace. For the first time, maybe ever, I understand what the phrase "grace pouring over me" means. Sitting in church this morning I felt God's love, his blessings, his provisions, his responses to my many doubts and questions, all just pouring over me in a way I could not explain. That's an incredible (and emotional) experience. This is Papa Dios.
By the way I am in an apartment. A family that is involved in the church and school has an apartment above their house that they are renting out for me. Here is one blessing that I am excited to explain. This family has offered me this apartment that is completely furnished, has all kitchen supplies and appliances that I need, has light and water included in the price, has internet and cable included, and is very close to the school and many of the teachers in the school. It is absolutely everything that I was looking for but wasn't expecting to get, and at a price $100 cheaper a month than other apartments I was willing to settle with. This family just met me and they wanted to help me out so much they offered it to me. Not only that, there is a car that I will be able to use until I can save up money to buy one here. The real blessing in all of this is the family. They are a very godly, warm, helpful family. Today the father, whom I haven't spoken to before, pulls me aside at church to tell me that I am not a tenant, I am his family now. Even my friends here are overwhelmed with how much of a blessing this is. My gratitude for this family and for God is beyond words at this point.
Many people, including myself, use the term "blessing" in a tone that almost sounds cheesy. Since I have been here, though, I truly understand what it means. When it comes from Papa Dios, it takes on a whole new meaning. All of my needs are provided. I cannot think of one single thing I am in need of right now. All financial and daily living needs are provided. All classroom needs have been provided. I have a church in which the Spirit is working so strongly and a community of friends that I will be working and serving with in true fellowship.
Papa Dios es bueno. Papa Dios es amor.
Puerto Rico Fun Fact: The highest grossing Borders bookstore is located in Puerto Rico. Or was, as Borders is about to be non-existent :(