“to grant to those who mourn in Zion — to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3 (ESV)
When we pulled up to the school with our team, we were met with the sweetest sound a ChildHope missionary can hear — our students worshiping! Even better, it was sincere and vibrant. Smiles and exuberance were everywhere. It was so different from what we had known of this tough jungle-town project, even in the recent past, that I frankly questioned it. Despair is a constant enemy in this part of Peru. The neighborhood where our ChildHope school sits is plagued by violence, theft, and desperate poverty. Our past visits had often left us more worried than encouraged. Maybe it was just the handsome new youth leader who was inspiring the exuberance and we were just hearing a release of energy.
The retreat began and the worshipful spirit continued. Then testimonies began to flow. A group of boys who had been involved in gang activity had given their lives to Jesus and it had changed everything. The worship continued, and I was a believer! By the end of the retreat, 13 children had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit — the first receiving spontaneously, without anyone laying a hand on her.
Despite all we believe about the power of the Holy Spirit to transform our lives, the seemingly endless problems that plague the poor can overwhelm our faith and grow despair. But the same Spirit who inhabits our praise lives in that of these children, and the story is yet to be told what these young “oaks of righteousness” will accomplish and how they will display His splendor.
Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.