I'm not much of a night owl. If I stay awake past midnight, my eyes glaze over, and I go catatonic. If I start a movie after 9:00 p.m., consider it a novelty if I make it past the opening credits. It was these nocturnal tendencies that earned me the nickname Pillow. So, if there is one event here in Brazil that I attempt to dodge at all costs, it is the eventual Vigilia service. Literally translated "the night watch," a Vigilia is a prayer vigil that usually runs from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. the next day. So, when a friend of mine asked Carol and I to help lead one such vigilia a few weeks ago, I would be lying if I had said that I was excited for the chance to serve.
My friend had planned for a large turnout, so I prepared a sermon on the Lord´s prayer. However, when only ten people showed up, we ditched the sermon in favor of an interactive study. I was delighted, not merely because it kept the night more lively, but also because it allowed each person to contribute to the evening from his or her own personal experiences with God. Carol and I were particularly marked by the story and thoughts of one young woman named "Adriana". In her early twenties, Adriana is one of the worship leaders in the church. While her mom and sister are believers, her father is an alcoholic who steers clear of all things church-related. When he´s drunk, he's not a violent man, but he is loud and obnoxious. His antics draw stares from the neighbors and make the family members want to hide their faces. But, Adriana is not bitter, nor is she self-deceived. From her words, you can see that she recognizes in God a Father that is able to restore her own. In her eyes, God doesn't have to prove His goodness by transforming her dad. To Adriana, God is good a priori, and she asks this good God to reveal Himself to her father. In this way, her songs of praise are not some underhanded attempt to manipulate God into doing her will. Instead, they are a light that shines in the midst of real darkness. I cannot say that we stumbled upon any amazing insights through our study of the Lord's prayer that night. However, I can affirm that the hope that pulsed through that vigilia was able to keep this Pillow awake for a night. My wife, who I feel led to throw under the bus, cannot claim the same.