Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways,
As if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
They ask of me righteous judgments;
They delight to draw near to God.
'Why have we fasted, and You see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and You take no knowledge of it?'
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?
(we should not)
"Is not this the fast that I choose:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the straps of the yoke,
To let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into your house;
When you see the naked, to cover him,
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
THEN shall your light break forth like the dawn,
And your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
THEN you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.'
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing finger, and speaking wickedness,
If you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong;
And you shall be like a watered garden,
Like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.
"If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day to the Lord honorable;
If you honor it, not going your own ways,
Or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly,
Then you shall take delight in the Lord,
And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken."
Monday, April 11, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
You cannot show the preciousness of a person by being happy with his gifts. Ingratitude will certainly prove that the giver is not loved, but gratitude for gifts does not prove that the giver is precious. What proves that the giver is precious is the glad-hearted readiness to leave all his gifts to be with him. This is why suffering is so central in the mission of the church. The goal of our mission is that people from all the nations worship the true God. But worship means cherishing the preciousness of God above all else, including life itself. It will be difficult to bring the nations to love God from a lifestyle that communicates a love of things. Therefore, God ordains in the lives of his messengers that suffering severs our bondage to the world. When joy and love survive this severing, we are fit to say to the nations with authenticity and power: Hope in God.
-Piper "Let the Nations Be Glad"
Saturday, November 20, 2010
The over-arching theme of this chapter is that the American Dream teaches us to rely upon our own power, when we ought to rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit. But the American dream isn’t all bad; it teaches us to be hard-working and successful, and use the talents God has innately put in us. So that is good. However, there is a dangerous temptation to begin thinking that our greatest asset is our own ability.
James Truslow Adams is credited with coining the phrase, “American dream,” and spoke of it like this: “a dream…in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are.”
So is there anything wrong with this picture? Certainly hard work and high aspirations are not bad, and the freedom to pursue our goals is something we should celebrate. Scripture explicitly commends all these things. But underlying this American dream are a dangerous assumption that, if we are not cautious, we will unknowingly accept and a deadly goal that, if we are not careful, we will ultimately achieve.
The “dangerous assumption” is the belief that our greatest asset is our own ability. How many times are people in America encouraged to believe in themselves? Definitely in most high school graduation speeches. It’s easy for us as Christians to say, “No, of course I don’t assume that. God is my greatest asset and source.” But do we really live in that belief? I know I don’t as much as I should. Do we live in our own security or are we truly dependent on God for our needs?
The “deadly goal” is death, which is what we achieve when we pursue our own desires through our own power. And under these circumstances, we will always attribute our accomplishments to our own glory. When we achieve our goals through our own power, we don’t attribute glory to the Father. In Adams’s words, we will be “recognized by others for what [we] are.” Platt: “This, after all, is the goal of the American dream: to make much of ourselves. But here the gospel and the American dream are clearly and ultimately antithetical to each other.” In the gospel, we are confronted with our complete inability to accomplish anything of value without Christ.
God actually delights in our inability and is always showing us through numerous examples in Scripture and in our own lives, our need for Him. Why? To make His name great! In the story of the battle for Jericho, God chooses a strategy through which only He could get the glory. Platt: “This is how God works. He puts his people in positions where they are desperate for his power, and then he shows his provision in ways that display his greatness.”
But it’s not just during the week that we struggle with ignorance of our dependence upon the power of God. I would say that the majority of churches significantly struggle with an American dream mentality in how they approach their programs. They structure their methods and programs in ways that emphasize their own ability and ingenuity.
Consider what it takes for successful businessmen and businesswomen, effective entrepreneurs and hardworking associates, shrewd retirees and idealistic students to combine forces with a creative pastor to grow a ‘successful church’ today. Clearly, it doesn’t require the power of God to draw a crowd in our culture. A few key elements that we can manufacture will suffice.
First, we need a good performance. In an entertainment-driven culture, we need someone who can captivate the crowds. If we don’t have a charismatic communicator, we are doomed. So even if we have to show him on a video screen, we must have a good preacher. It’s even better if he has an accomplished worship leader with a strong band at his side…
Anyways. I think it’s good to be relevant to our culture, but when it leaves behind the power of God, even in the planning of the programs, then it’s crap. We ought to diligently seek the direction of God through prayer in everything that the church does. Not relying on the next new strategy or “next big thing” to keep us relevant, but relying on God’s power to do something great despite our weaknesses. Relying on the power of the gospel; living in genuine love, which draws the hopeless to the hope we have in Christ.
But what is strangely lacking in the picture of performances, personalities, programs, and professionals is desperation for the power of God. God’s power is at best an add-on to our strategies. I am frightened by the reality that the church I lead can carry on most of our activities smoothly, efficiently, even successfully, never realizing that the Holy Spirit of God is virtually absent from the picture. We can so easily deceive ourselves, mistaking the presence of physical bodies in a crowd for the existence of spiritual life in a community.
The reality is that it doesn’t matter how many resources the church has. The church I lead could have all the man-made resources that one could imagine, but apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, such a church will do nothing of significance for the glory of God. In fact, I believe the opposite is true. The church I lead could have the least gifted people, the least talented people, the fewest leaders, and the least money, and this church under the power of the Holy Spirit could still shake the nations for his glory.
Just look at all the stories in Acts where God powerfully uses His followers who are completely desperate for Him. Acts 2:41 says, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about 3,000 souls.” 3,000… and notice the language, “were added”. Who added them? God.
I pray that God will continue reminding us of our dependence upon Him, and help us to live in that reality.
Monday, September 20, 2010
I’m not bringing money into the picture just for the added effect, but because it really does have a strong influence in living out our faith. People place their money into what they value. Now that doesn’t mean having expensive possessions is wrong. We just ought to seek to use our money in the best way that God intends for it. Not for our comfort or security. Although those might not be mutually exclusive. It’s hard, because as I’m writing this, I’m kind of rationalizing and picking my words carefully to soften the blow (primarily for myself). But really, all that we have received is a blessing from God, and ought to be used for God’s heart, for HIS kingdom, not our own agenda. EVERY penny. Because He is worth it all. He is that treasure in the field worth selling everything for. Because really, when you think about it, you aren’t losing anything but gaining everything. For those who like money analogies… think of investments. If there was an investment that we knew without a doubt would end in a significant net gain (actually an infinite net gain), wouldn’t we put everything we have into it? And knowing that we’ll gain in the end, won’t we gladly put up with all the bad times?
We must see the worth of knowing Jesus. If we truly get a glimpse of that, then all else in the this world will “grow strangely dim” in comparison. Paul says, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…” (Phil 3:8-9)
In Luke 9:57, Jesus’ demands were too difficult for some potential followers (cost of homelessness and leaving family). Even turning back for a moment before following Jesus to say goodbye to family or bury a father was not complete obedience. And there are more examples in Luke 14:26-33 and Mark 10:17-21 where Jesus says things that sound extreme. We have to be careful, or else we’ll find ourselves rationalizing those statements away. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a great chapter about those passages in Ch. 3 of The Cost of Discipleship. I’m going to include a big section of it here, just because it articulates so well one of the overarching themes of Platt’s book.
When he was challenged by Jesus to accept a life of voluntary poverty, the rich young man (Mark 10:17) knew he was faced with the simple alternative of obedience or disobedience. When Levi was called from the receipt of custom and Peter from his nets, there was no doubt that Jesus meant business. Both of them were to leave everything and follow. Again, when Peter was called to walk on the rolling sea, he had to get up and risk his life. Only one thing was required in each case – to rely on Christ’s word, and cling to it as offering greater security than all the securities in the world. The forces which tried to interpose themselves between the word of Jesus and the response of obedience were as formidable then as they are today. Reason and conscience, responsibility and piety all stood in the way, and even the law and “scriptural authority” itself were obstacles which pretended to defend them from going to the extremes of antinomianism and “enthusiasms.” But the call of Jesus made short work of all these barriers, and created obedience. That call was the Word of God himself, and all that it required was single-minded obedience.
If, as we read our Bibles, we heard Jesus speaking to us in this way today we should probably try to argue ourselves out of it like this: “It is true that the demand of Jesus is definite enough, but I have to remember that he never expects us to take his commands legalistically. What he really wants me to have is faith. But my faith is not necessarily tied up with riches or poverty or anything of the kind. We may be both poor and rich in the spirit. It is not important that I should have no possessions, but if I do I must keep them as though I had them not, in other words I must cultivate a spirit of inward detachment, so that my heart is not in my possessions.” Jesus may have said: “Sell thy goods,” but he meant: “Do not let it be a matter of consequence to you that you have outward prosperity; rather keep your goods quietly, having them as if you had them not. Let not your heart be in your goods.” – We are excusing ourselves from single-minded obedience to the word of Jesus on the pretext of legalism and a supposed preference for an obedience “in faith.” The difference between ourselves and the rich young man is that he was not allowed to solace his regrets by saying: “Never mind what Jesus says, I can still hold on to my riches, but in a spirit of inner detachment. Despite my inadequacy I can take comfort in the thought that God has forgiven me my sins and can have fellowship with Christ in faith.” But no, he went away sorrowful. Because he would not obey, he could not believe…
He goes on to explain the importance of faith. It’s not what man does that matters; it’s his faith in Jesus. But throughout the entire Bible, we see faith exhibited by man’s works (Abraham being one example). In the examples of Luke 9 and Mark 10, Jesus’ calls to these men put them in situations where they would require real faith to obey.
And while the cost of discipleship is certainly high, the cost of non-discipleship is even higher. Because when we shrink back from obedience in faith to Christ, the people around us who don’t know the worth of Christ continue to be left in the dark. “The price is certainly high for people who don’t know Christ and who live in a world where Christians shrink back from self-denying faith and settle into self-indulging faith. While Christians choose to spend their lives fulfilling the American dream instead of giving their lives to proclaiming the kingdom of God, literally billions in need of the gospel remain in the dark” (Platt 14).
The gospel should not just prompt reflection, but a response. We must commit to believe Jesus when he says that he is the greatest treasure and security. And we must commit to obey. Say yes to the words of Jesus before we even hear them.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Radical – Chapter 1
Jesus demands everything from us. This isn’t extreme or radical Christianity; this IS Christianity. I’m sure most followers of Christ would agree with that statement. The big disagreements occur when asking, “What does that look like?” Are we to give all our money and material things away? That is obviously not the solution in and of itself.
In Chapter 1, David Platt introduces the demands of Jesus, and the infinite value in pursuing him. “I [Platt] invite you to join the journey with me. I do not claim to have all the answers. If anything, I have more questions than answers. But if Jesus is who he said he is, and if his promises are as rewarding as the Bible claims they are, then we may discover that satisfaction in our lives and success in the church are not found in what our culture deems most important but in radical abandonment to Jesus.”
His first point contrasts the goals of typical and affluent American churches with the goals apparent in Jesus’ life. Jesus spent most of his time with only 12 men, and really had only around 120 followers when he left this earth. So how are we to reconcile that with the huge churches we have today? If Jesus was interested in numbers, he would’ve had many more followers. Instead, he actually turned people away by the things he said.
In John 6:53, when there was a large crowd, Jesus began talking about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Not exactly something that would say to attract new followers. So after the end of that speech all the people went away, except for the twelve (Jn 6:60,66). “Jesus apparently wasn’t interested in marketing himself to the masses. His invitations to potential followers were clearly more costly than the crowds were ready to accept, and he seemed to be okay with that.”
In many other parts of the world, the requirements of following Christ can be much greater. Christians in Asia face persecution and death, as opposed to here, where we may face occasional ridicule if we really abandon ourselves. So the demands of the gospel are clearly greater there than they are here. But is that totally good for us? I don’t think so. Yes we are fortunate to live without extreme persecution, but with that comes an increasingly subtle (but powerful) temptation to live for the world and our own pleasures. The cost of discipleship then becomes dangerously cloudy. Instead of denying our life for Christ, we begin to think we can get by with only denying parts of ourselves. The huge temptation is to make much of ourselves, and less of God. The American dream prizes self-promotion and self-success, while the words of Jesus actually tell us to crucify ourselves. So how can we reconcile Jesus’ demands with our culture of self-promotion? We can’t. Jesus makes the cost of discipleship abundantly clear over and over again in the gospels.
Monday, August 2, 2010
So in an effort to keep thinking about this stuff, I'm going to read the book again. And take notes this time around. I'll post the highlights and thoughts about it on this blog after each chapter. And I'll try to go through at least one chapter a week. We'll see how it goes. Please feel free to discuss stuff in the comments below any of these posts.
Friday, July 16, 2010
We flew into San Pedro Sula close to lunch time and were picked up by Jim, and Henry and Cindy Lowman. Then we went to a Wendy’s in El Progresso for lunch and watched some of the Netherlands/Uruguay game. After that we rode in the van for 4 hours into the mountains to the Lowman’s home, which they call “the farm”. It’s located outside of La Esperanza in Yamaranguila. On the way there we stopped at a big roadside fruit stand and looked around at the bananas and pineapple. After that we stopped at a touristy place with a butterfly greenhouse and big 3-story treehouse. Once at the Lowman’s, we settled in and had dinner and orientation. Each morning before breakfast we had personal time with God. I went outside their home and sat along their back wall. Those were good, cool mornings.
We prayed and prepared for the trip out to Lenca village called Santa Maria. We also organized all the medical supplies we would be taking. Some people went to La Esperanza to gather more supplies. Later in the day, we all went to the “invasion” in La Esperanza, which is a neighborhood where a lot of people who had no place to live were given land by the government. It’s like the slum of La Esperanza. When we arrived we began walking down the dirt road between the homes and the children came out to be with us. That was our first ministry of the trip, and it was amazing. Many better homes had been built for them by the missionaries, but many were still basically made out of scrap metal and wood. Some of us helped a kid carry bricks to their backyard, and we also raced while giving kids piggy-back rides as we went to their soccer field. Their goals were made out of wooden limbs. Some of the boys were playing marbles in the dirt. Many of the girls got their fingernails painted by the women in our group. And most of the guys played soccer with the boys. It was a lot of fun playing soccer with them. There were a bunch of puddles in the bumpy field, which made playing a little interesting. One little boy’s name was Isaiah, and he was one of the stars on my team. Another boy, who was probably between 9-13 was on the other team and his name was something like Ochla or Othla. He was pretty good, and he played hard, and a bit dirty when someone took the ball away from him. He tried to trip me when I took it away J I could tell he was a little mischievous, which isn’t too surprising from an older kid. Kristy was holding some boots for someone, and he wanted to take them. I got to talk with him some and had somewhat of a connection with him. I told him I didn’t speak much Spanish when he said something that I didn’t understand. Haha, then he started teasing me and trying to confuse my color vocab. But I’ve got my colors down, so he couldn’t fool me then. Although he did get me when I asked him his age. He said cincuenta, which I at first thought meant 15. Then after Luis laughed, I knew I had been fooled. Cincuenta means 50. Anyways, I think he liked me. When we were getting ready to leave, I told him goodbye. Before we left though, there were a few kids on the back of one of our pickup trucks. They kept saying something about not being able to be pulled off the back of the truck, which was some kind of challenge. So I lifted one of them up off the truck and spun him around and flipped him upside down. The whole time giggling and laughing our heads off. That might’ve been my favorite moment of the trip. I don’t know if I’ve ever had so much joy while playing with kids. There’s such joy in many of these kids and their smiles are so contagious! There was small boy too that I carried to his house. He liked playing with my “barba”.
After breakfast, we packed everything into the vehicles and drove for a couple hours farther out into the mountains to a town called Monte Verde. This was where we stopped to have lunch and then begin our 2.5-5 hour hike to Santa Maria (a Lenca Indian village without roads or electricity). Initially, the trail was a dirt road, but it quickly turned into a narrow trail with steep uphill and downhill slopes. Halfway there, it began pouring down rain, which made the muddy and steep trails crazy. It was a lot of fun though. Most everyone got soaked. And my backpack on the mule got soaked as well with my clothes in it and my Bible. But we just had to tolerate wet clothes for a couple days. When we got to the school, we set up our stuff and changed into clean, wet clothes. Then we ate some dinner and went to bed.
We split into groups and did a medical and dental clinic and construction project. During our stay in Santa Maria, there were always kids at the school watching us and we played with them whenever we weren’t working on construction or clinics. I worked on the construction project. There was a family living down the hill from the school that lived in a house made from clay and wooden limbs with a dirt floor. Our project was to help them build a new home on an existing concrete slab. First we shoveled two piles of dirt onto the concrete slab. Then we removed the big rocks and mixed in a bag of lime. Pastor Jorge and I worked on one pile together. It was hard work mixing the lime, dirt, and water together. After making a weak concrete for the mortar, we helped carry adobe blocks (dried mud and straw) from a nearby house over to the site along a grueling muddy path. That was the most difficult job of the trip. It really was very difficult to carry them one at a time up and down the steep hills to the site. I was exhausted just after the first one. All the homes were connected by windy, steep, and muddy paths sometimes less than a foot wide (much different than the roads we’re used to). I fell many times. It really takes skill and experience to hike around without slipping. It was a piece of cake for the Lencas though. They made the brick-carrying and hiking look easy. The men would carry them on a shoulder or their back and the women would have a satchel looped across their forehead and over their shoulders to their back, where the brick would be. I carried one before lunch, and one after lunch, and then we made a relay system which was a little easier. But we only did that for one block. When we were bringing blocks back to the site, Pastor Jorge, Bernardo, and a few other guys were working on laying the blocks and mortar on the concrete and making very sure that they were level. I was very impressed with how hard Jorge worked. It seemed as if he was building his own house, with the care that he had. Later that night when we were sharing, he shared about how he asks God for strength and he reminds himself that he is working out of his love for God. He was really encouraging to me.
We also played soccer with the locals that afternoon. Gringos versus Lencas. Usually the Lencas win, however, we beat them 4-0. I’m pretty sure it was because we had two really good Honduran guys on our team though. That was a lot of fun.
A small portion of our group hiked to Agua Caliente, a nearby village, while the rest of the group worked on construction or washed lice out of girls’ hair. In Agua Caliente we installed a bio-sand water filter in Bernardo’s house, and one in a church. Bernardo’s house was a single room with a concrete floor, two beds, and a stove. His wife made a cup of coffee for Jose, which was interesting to watch. Before then, I hadn’t realized how much coffee Hondurans actually drink. That’s pretty cool. I thought they just grew it and exported it. The locals roast the beans over the fire and then put the grounds in a small cloth pouch. And then they hold it over the cup and pour hot water through it. That’s all you really need to make decent coffee.
After we finished installing the filter in Bernardo’s house, we went to the church where Carlos currently lives. He works with the Lowman’s and wants to be a FIFA trainer in the Middle East to share the gospel. The hike out to Agua Caliente took around an hour and was pretty exhausting. Like the hike out to Santa Maria, the trail was either steep uphill or steep downhill the entire time. A lot of the geography in Honduras actually reminds me of the foothills in Colorado. No snowy peaks, but much larger hills than the Ozarks. Even the trees look similar. The things that throw you off and make you realize you’re not in Colorado are all the banana trees, pineapple, sugar cane, and coffee. Anyways, during all the hikes, we used mules to carry our luggage and heavy stuff. But the thing to remember about hiking near mules is to keep a good 15 feet between you and them if they’re in front of you. They fart. All the time.
Finally, we played a second game of soccer with the locals. But it had been pouring rain beforehand, so the field and trails up to the field were soaked and muddy. It was still really fun, slipping around and trying to see the other side of the field through the fog. We got soaked as rain poured down again during the game. We won that game as well, but it was much closer (2-1).
We began hiking back to the van right after breakfast. The hike seemed much easier and quicker than the hike in, since it wasn’t pouring down rain. This time it took us 2.5 hours. Once we got back, we ate lunch and drove back to “the farm”. When we arrived, it was time for the local youth to gather and have worship and a message. So we participated in that, which was at the farm. All the kids that come to that are sponsored by the missionaries to continue in their education beyond 6th grade. The government only pays for their education up until that point. That is a major ministry that the Lowman’s participate in. One girl, Dunia, is trying to get the Walton scholarship to come to John Brown University. Pray that she gets that. That would be awesome.
After youth group, we all ate a nice fried chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and corn. It was so good. Then we had a meeting and packed our stuff for the drive out the next day to the beach by the airport.
Right after breakfast, we left for the beach. But before arriving, we stopped for some lunch at a touristy place with pizza. I bought a mug , pencil holder, and cool pepsi bottle from there. Shortly after that, we came to the hotel at the beach and had the rest of the afternoon to relax and swim around. It was a lot of fun (I always say that, don’t I? Maybe I should say it was beyond enjoyment). Then we ate dinner at a cool restaurant and debriefed about the trip afterwards.
We left early after breakfast for the airport in San Pedro Sula, said our goodbyes, and flew back to the States. The end.
At the beginning of the mission trip, we prayed a lot for unity among the team, and I was really encouraged to see all the team and missions staff become really close. It was awesome!
I was expecting to be overwhelmed by poverty and disease like the pictures you see. Just like the stories you hear of people being radically impacted. But I wasn’t overwhelmed. I’m not sure why, but I think I already had an awareness and compassion for it before the trip. However, I noticed through the week that my view of the material poverty there changed. Initially, my sympathy went out to many of them because of their lack of material things and the comforts that we enjoy. But towards the end of my time, I began to notice that they don’t need most of the material conveniences we have. There are improvements that they need in their life to keep them healthy, such as good drinking water, concrete floors, and sanitation. But other than that, most conveniences that we have would just be changing their culture and way of life and be making their life less simple. Many of the disorganized homes we passed along the road didn’t need much change. In the eyes of many Hondurans, those would be nice homes. And they would be very comfortable living there. I was aware of this separation between Westernization and needed change before the trip, but didn’t have any practical applications or visualizations until now. This is a point in which helping can hurt if we try to fix more than is really needed. Just because we don’t feel at home in a house without air conditioning, doesn’t mean that they feel the same way. At what point are we just turning them into greedy Americans who are consumed with comfort? We need to spend time in the culture and begin feeling comfortable there before making judgments about what are the appropriate improvements to make.
After arriving in Santa Maria the first night, the awareness of the parasites, diseases, and mosquitoes in the area was a bit unsettling. But it didn’t take long to acclimate (give in to the dirt) and become comfortable there. We stayed in a few different buildings with concrete walls and floors that are used for school there. The people living in the nearby huts seemed to be pretty healthy by outward appearance. They eat less food than we do, which I think influences their small stature. I’m sure, at times, they struggle to get enough food each day.
I loved being around the kids there. All the kids were amazing and so cute. They loved to smile and were such a joy to play with, and tickle. I would’ve loved to spend more time with them. Those were my favorite moments of the trip. And they’re all so small! One kid, named Pancho (Bernardo’s son), was 7 years old and looked like he was no more than 4! Another kid, Juan, always had the biggest grin on his face. His friend, Noel, and another kid, Isayes, were enjoying my tongue-clicking and were trying unsuccessfully to mimic it.
Towards the end of the last day in Santa Maria, I was beginning to get a little discouraged. I felt as if I hadn’t done enough to show the Lenca people the love of God. What I thought was lacking were good friendships. I really believe that relationships are key to a full display of the gospel, and that is something that is so hard to develop in only three days and with a limited knowledge of Spanish. Developing good friendships is one of my strengths and is something I really value. So when all the physical needs are getting met but no real friendships have the chance to develop, I feel like there’s much more that could be done to show them the love of Christ. Also, the week after we left, another team was coming in to finish the construction project. So yet another mass of gringos coming to smile at the people, ask them their names, and tickle their kids. Ok, I know that God can use that. I feel that during my time there, real connections with the people were made. And I trust that God did receive glory during our time there as we sought to join Him in the work He has already begun among them.
This also inspires me to learn a lot more Spanish. I’d like to return sometime, and when I do, be able to build stronger friendships. So hopefully I can eliminate the language barrier and spend a longer period of time with them. I also decided that Spanish is a beautiful language. I was listening to the staff at the farm pray in Spanish, and it was very beautiful. They weren’t speaking so fast that I couldn’t differentiate the words, and there almost seemed to be a rhythm to it.
During that last day when I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t doing enough, I decided that I would give away all the extra clothes that I wouldn’t have to have on the way back. Why should I keep them? They need them much more than I do. I was going to do that until that night when Henry talked to us all about that very subject. He told us that many of the people in Santa Maria have become beggars because of the all the stuff given to them. So that whenever a group comes into the village, the villagers immediately get excited and focused on the clothes they may get, rather than being open to building relationships. The book, When Helping Hurts, discusses all this really well. It seems to be a popular book right now, because I keep hearing from different random people about it. I’m reading it too, but haven’t picked it up in awhile. So anyways. When I was getting ready for bed that night, one of the villagers was hanging out at the door of our building. His name was Armando, and I think he was kind of close to my age. I had just caught a moth that was flying around my headlamp and was taking it outside. In attempt to make conversation, I asked him what the moth I was holding was called in Spanish. He smiled and told me, but I’ve since forgot. Then he asked me if I had shoes I could give him. “Un momento,” I said. So I went and talked with Ryan, one of our team leaders. He suggested that I talk with Henry. So I explained the situation with Henry, and how I really didn’t need that pair of shoes anyways. He told me to tell Armando to come back in the morning and talk with him. So I had Ryan translate that for Armando, and went to bed. I prayed about it before bed and came to the conclusion that I should probably not give the shoes to him, but also tell him why. Why we aren’t more blessed than them. Because it’s not the material things like shoes or clothes that define being blessed. It’s knowing Jesus. And we’re not there to be their providers, but to build friendships as equals. But Armando never showed up in the morning. I wish he had.
One expectation I had going into the trip was to receive a clearer picture of my purpose in missions. I’m not exactly sure that I got what I wanted. It still seems unclear where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing. But I’ve realized that we don’t need a clear call to bring the gospel to the needy. It’s the duty of every Christian. One thing I’m sure about from this trip though is that I’ll be deeply involved in missions and will be a part of going to the mission field on a regular basis if not long-term. I’ve been reading a new book called Radical, by David Platt, and it’s been revolutionizing my thoughts on following Christ and contrasting it with the American dream. For those of you already reading it, Chapter 8 is one of my favorite chapters.
God places us where we are now and commands us to serve Him and spread His love to those who need it around us. We are to bloom where He plants us and through the opportunities He gives us. Honduras was an opportunity given to me to glorify Him and I believe He still wants us to continue spreading His glory in Honduras. This isn’t just a week-long bloom. Cheezy phrase, I know. He provided over the amount I needed to go, and I think He may want me to continue serving Honduras, simply because He granted me the opportunity to serve and love those people and learn their needs. This is something Charlie has been sharing with me too. I know that God would be glorified if I went there and shared His love with them. Is that all I need to consider? I guess the other question that I ask is whether or not God would be even more glorified if I went elsewhere. But that may or may not be a question that needs to be asked if we just take the opportunity God has already presented us with and run with it. If He wants us to glorify Him elsewhere, then He will direct us there as we begin to run towards His glory in Honduras. And now as He’s placed me in Tulsa to finish up a master’s degree, I need to serve Him here in whatever way I can and use my experiences in Honduras for the present.