Thursday, November 3, 2016

Giving it all up

     Can you think of one thing that you are very attached to emotionally? Maybe it is a family member, something that your great-great-grandfather gave to you, or a current job. So many times we hear that we must be willing to give up everything for God. That makes sense when it is something that obviously comes from the world. How can God be living in us when we are crowding Him out with things of the flesh? But have you ever thought about what if God calls you to give up something that is useful in your ministry work? Maybe you have a truck that is used every day to take sick people to the clinic, but God calls you to give it up. Perhaps, that college degree that could be used to teach others something specific must be put aside so that God can use you another way. What if He asked you to give up some of your missionary family? Recently, God taught me a good lesson about giving up what is not even really mine.
            Every class session the students are required to participate in a weekend-long survival campout. This usually happens in the bush where the students can have access to all the natural resources available. Due to many unforeseen circumstances, plans had to be changed this time and the campout was to take place at our lagoon-front piece of property in Honey Camp. Of the many changes that had to be made, the hardest to plan was the transportation issue. Normally, the staff members can travel quickly and freely between the campsite and home. However, even though distance wise the property is not far, the time to travel there is much longer. Friday morning the students headed out bright and early for their weekend retreat: the staff to join in the afternoon.
            Everything was going well until I realized that my missionary family had not arrived. They should have arrived around 5:30 pm and it was almost 6:30 pm by now. I figured that they had gone right at the fork in the road instead of left. This isn’t a big problem considering the road is a loop: just wait until they come full circle. But they were taking a really long time. I called back to home base and checked to make sure they had left. Sure enough, they should have been at camp already. The guys jumped into the truck to go look for them since it was getting dark and might be a little difficult to find our property on the lagoon. When news returned that they had not been found on the loop road, we started thinking about where they could have possibly gone. The guys went back out to check on the few roads that forked off the loop, but only to return with nothing. Panic was not setting in, just a bit of worry and confusion. My dad doesn’t get lost easily. He knows how to get to our property. Mom would have told someone if something was wrong. Despite all of the signs, we kept looking in hopes of finding them stuck on the side of the road or with a flat tire. I tried to call but all I heard was, “I’m sorry but the person you are trying to reach is not available at this time.” As the hours passed things started to seem more abnormal. By 10 pm I was starting to feel desperate. With all the stress of being in charge of the weekend, the lack of sleep due to all the preparation changes, and the desperation of knowing they had been literally minutes away yet did not arrive pushed me over the edge. My emotions burst open like an uncontrollable storm. Before midnight struck we had two of our local pastors, friends from phone companies, the police, the embassy, and many other friends involved in the search. It is not as bad as you think. Just go to sleep because you cannot control yourself right now. But I can’t sleep right now with this type of stress. What if…? What if…? And again my tears flowed freely. My body began to shake while everything seemed to be turning from bad to worse. My missionary sisters hugged me and held me to calm me down. They repeated God’s promises, sang songs, and prayed for deliverance for the lost company. God, why should I need to give up my family? They help people all over the world to be able to continue to do mission work. They are serving You in so many ways. They are Your missionaries. And that is when it hit me like a strike of lightning in the middle of that storm: They are Your missionaries not mine. In that moment I had to decide to give them up and submit it all to God. Perhaps, although my finite mind could not understand how, God had a bigger plan for their lives. A calm gently started to flow over me as I held onto God’s presence. Maybe I would never see them again, but only in earthly terms. That resurrection day will be all the sweeter as I see more loved ones lifted up to Jesus, the One who conquered death. That night gave very little sleep, but it did give an assurance that God’s angels were encamped around us. The next afternoon, tears once more fell as I got to hug those that I had considered lost.
            Can we really give up anything in this life? Do we actually own any item in this world? Or have we been loaned all of these many things from an infinitely loving God? Take care of what has been placed in your care, but also be ready to return it whenever God calls. It will never be a loss. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

One Man's Trash


            There is a saying that says, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” I, personally, find this to be applicable to my life. Most days, for class preparation, I can be found looking through the workshop garbage pit. Believe it or not, you really can find some treasures there! I prefer to think that the stuff I use from the dump is hidden treasure: so hidden that most people throw it away without even knowing what they have. Have you ever thought that maybe some people view certain humans in light of this saying?
I recently joined a group from MOVE that goes to visit a ranch in the village every Tuesday evening. At the ranch, the different families come out to have worship and learn more about the Bible. Most of them cannot read, none have much money, the majority of the kids do not have properly fitting clothes, but they do have something else: a desire to know Jesus. A few Sabbaths ago, we had an evening worship at the ranch with this family. With the families from the ranch and the few church members that came from the local churches, we had a total of 32 kids and 25 adults! The adults did a Bible study while the kids enjoyed a plethora of activities. We sang, played games, listened to stories, and did crafts together. The craft was one of those “one man’s trash another man’s treasure” deals. We took an oat canister, cut it in half, and glued paper on it. (One little girl loved it so much that, the following Tuesday, when I was at the ranch, she told me, with much pride, about her precious treasure.)  It was a great blessing to see so many people praising God’s name at the close of a wonderful Sabbath.

To be 100% honest, I sometimes feel like I fall into the category of “one man’s trash.” This is the result of sin in my life. Satan likes to pester those who have fallen into sin by tricking them into believing that the Savior has no interest in them because of the transgression. He uses the guilt factor to convince us that we are not worth anything and it would be better to give up to defeat and fall into his ranks. Unfortunately, many people fall into this trap and never come out of it. They believe that they cannot return to church because of a wrongdoing. They fear the shame of being found out as a sinner by a brother in the congregation. However, this is exactly the work that Jesus came to the earth to do: dig through this big trash pit of an earth to find His treasures. He only creates treasures. Sometimes those treasures get stains and a little damage, but that never means they become trash. “As you see the enormity of sin, as you see yourself as you really are, do not give up to despair. It was sinners that Christ came to save.” (Finding Peace Within 28) Never give up!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

My Mission



            I recently arrived back home (Belize) from a month and a half in the USA. What relief I feel every time I come back from traveling and can sleep in my own bed; I think this is a common feeling among travelers. It really is a delight to be in a place with my other family. However, part of me sometimes wonders if I am making the right decision with my life. I know that not everyone agrees with the choice I have made to serve as a missionary, but I cannot help but continue doing this work. Every person is born into God’s kingdom as a missionary (that includes you and me). There is, however, different jobs that God calls us to do in His service. Some He calls to be doctors, others dentists, others teachers and administrators, and even some others to be mechanics. After saying that, I want to say that I am privileged to be none of the above. I can’t even really describe what I do in a single job description. Certain days, I have to be the nurse. Some days I end up being the mechanic (not much gets fixed those days). Other days I feel like a mom. I don’t think a single day goes by that I don’t do something for which I am under qualified. But that is the beauty of it all: God uses the under qualified to do His work just as much as the qualified. This may be a stumbling block for some who firmly believe in organized education, but I think that God’s training can be received in many other places. So, you may be asking, what is my real mission? Teach. He is asking me to teach people about His love for them. Whether I do that while putting a Band-Aid on a student’s arm, or buying 80 bags of cement, or cutting the grass, He is beckoning me to do it all in His love. Oddly enough, I am not the only one He has called to do this. Remember how everyone is born as a missionary into God’s kingdom, and He sends this message to all of His missionaries. So if you are studying medicine, working on a farm, taking care of others, or stocking the shelves at a grocery store, God is calling you to do it for love. I pray that whatever mission field you have been called to you can remember the purpose and mission. Do not be discouraged by the devil’s lies. God has called you to a special mission and He will not let you fall out of His loving arms.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Mission Trip Miracles

            Every set of classes here at MOVE ends with a student-led mission trip to the Mayan villages in the southern part of Belize. This classes’ trip was very memorable. The trip ended up being cut a day short so that we could spend more time with some visiting family members from North Dakota.  We loaded up the bus and left home at 4:00 am Tuesday morning. Despite the rainy spells, all was going well. That is, it was going well until about 9:00 am. The bus had no more power to make it up and down the mountains. We pulled over on the side of the road to see the damage. The guys worked on the bus for about an hour before we pulled out. However, it was only about two miles before we stopped again: no power. Unfortunately, this time the work wasn’t going to be just one hour. The fuel pump had to be removed and worked on before we could move. The first time Rubén took the pump out, he finished the work in nine hours. This time, he was able to do the whole process in less than three hours! We were finally able to get back on the road and head south. 13 hours after leaving MOVE we arrived in San Jose. The last nine miles of the trip took an hour and a half because of the condition of the road.
            All week the students had planned activities for reaching out to the Mayan people. I truly felt like we were blessed with having knowledge above our own capacity because we fixed things we never knew how to fix before. We truly saw what God is willing to do for those who are willing even if unskilled. Much to our dismay, it rained everyday. Nevertheless, we continued as much as possible. Walking, working, and living in the rain are uncomfortable. However, there was a problem much greater than temporary comforts: the rain causes the river to rise. The original plan was to leave Sunday at 4:00 am from San Jose to return home. The guys went Sunday morning to check the condition of the road out only to find that a bridge was completely underwater. With waist deep rushing water, there would be no way to cross the bridge. (There is a road that goes out the other way from the village and connects to the main road. Instead of 9 miles to the main road it is only 2 miles to the main road. However, the road does not have bridges to cross over the creeks and is therefore unusable for vehicles.) Sunday was quite challenging for many people due to the fact that we did not know if or when we would be leaving. If the call came to leave, it would have to be an immediate decision with little time to get ready. The day passed without news of a trip home. Some cried while others rejoiced at the chance to stay longer.
            Monday morning was met with new hopes. Although we were running low on food, God continued to provide. Certain students had decided to embrace the situation and make the best of what time they could spend in the village. A number of us started going from house to house to visit. As we were walking back to camp to retrieve some items, a man drove by us and asked if we were going to be leaving. He had just crossed the bridge and was immediately leaving before more rain came. We practically ran up the hill with excitement. The guys decided that it was a now or never chance to leave. They blew the bus horn as the signal that all MOVE members needed to return to camp and pack up. (Afterwards we joked about how we felt like the children of Israel who we always a moments’ notice away from fleeing.) The whole camp area was torn down, cleaned up, and packed in less than one hour.
            The cleanup was fast, but since the road was still a terrible mess, we would not be driving fast. Prayers and hymns were going up constantly as we passed over holes and mud. Finally, we arrived at the flooded bridge. The water had definitely gone down, but there was still doubt. The passengers had to stay on the bus so that it would have enough weight. This was scary because that also meant that if the current were too strong, all the passengers would be swept downstream as well. The time was ticking to make a decision. The rain clouds looked as if they could burst open at any time leaving us stranded on the wrong side. With some holes newly refilled, Jeff barreled into the rushing water with Ruben fast behind in the grey truck. Tears of joy were cried as the rain began to fall just minuets after we crossed.

            God is faithful to us. Sometimes we don’t always understand God’s timing, but we can trust that He knows best. Maybe we needed to be in San Jose just one extra day so that one person could come to know God. Maybe the man from the village getting a ride out in the bus felt God’s presence and therefore wanted to know more about our all-powerful Protector. Maybe we won’t ever know on this side of heaven the reason why, but we can be certain that God was with us all the way.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

If Only I Could

               I recently read an online article about the feelings that those back home have when a close friend or family members moves to a far away country. It described feelings of dejection and aloneness. Maybe even implying that the one who moved away did not care much for those “back home.” I have been thinking a lot about that article and how I believe it to be true, but only half of the story. Because, what people may not realize is that those who have gone far from home have similar feelings. It hurts to think that I am not going to be there to see my niece until she is almost one year old. I feel like a bad friend when I am unable to go to a dear friend’s wedding. I wonder if I seem like a stranger to some of my best friends when I haven’t seen them in months or years. I am torn to imagine that maybe I am going to miss the last family reunion that my grandparents will attend. It is not that I don’t want to be a part of those things; rather it is if only I could be a part of all of them. However, I feel that God has given me a call to serve Him in a place that happens to be far from where I was. And I am learning to trust that He has a wise plan for my future and would not lead me so if He felt there was a better way. It would be easy for me to move back home, find a “normal job”, and attend all those specials events. Life as a missionary is by no means easy. Learning who you are and figuring out all your faults is not very comfortable. Trying to live with others who are going through the same process makes it even more complicated. But through it all, I am glad that God is refining me. Sometimes I wish that a piece of the birthday cake could be saved for me in the freezer, and when I come home the next time I can eat it and look at pictures and hear stories about how it all happened. Sometimes I wish that I could teleport myself to my grandparents’ house for family reunion so that I could see my whole family together once again. Sometimes, I wish that I had unlimited Internet so that I could at least video Skype with all my friends and family back home. Reality doesn’t always fulfill my wishes, but I understand better all the time how God seems to work out everything in His perfect timing. So when I cannot be there on your special day, please remember that I am thinking of you and praying that God gives you success in whatever you may do for Him.