Archives for July 2012

To Whom Much is Given – Day 6 in Honduras

While riding the bus today in Honduras, we passed house after house  – cinder blocks with tin roofs, barred windows and doors, with fortress-like fences surrounding them.  As we stood at our final church plant waiting to board the bus this afternoon, I asked my friend, Amber…

“Do you ever wonder why we were born in America, and they [gesturing to a family across the road] were born here? Why we have opportunities and privileges that these people and their children will never know?

We both wonder.

Such questions have plagued me since my first visit to Honduras in 2007.  When I  see their faces, homes, and struggles, I feel overwhelmed, burdened, and guilty.

Overwhelmed because I can’t help them all.

Burdened to help them all.

Guilty because I have so much, and they have so little.  Guilty because I live in place that affords me so many advantages, and they don’t.

Then, God grabs my heart and says, “They are content in me, Sarah…I am enough for them.  That’s why I tell you to go into all the world and share the gospel, so they can know me.”

All week I have fought this guilt over my “advantages,” arguing with myself about the “fairness” of where we are born and in what time.  Even though I serve a God who is (thankfully) not “fair” definition our human sense of fairness, I still wonder and struggle.

As I fretted over this and my “American” guilt, part of a verse from Luke 12 kept popping in my head:  From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.  Luke 12:48

While locating the verse, I read all of Luke 12, which includes the parable of the rich fool, an admonition not to worry, and a call to watchfulness.

Verses  22-34 spoke directly to me:

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them.And how much more valuable you are than birds!25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendorwas dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Fatherknows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom,and these things will be given to you as well.

I know this is true.  I have read this passage multiple times, and I have heard sermons centering on it.  But, tonight I saw it differently.

This week I have seen this passage reflected in the lives of Hondurans we have served.

They seek his kingdom first.  Their love for and thankfulness to Him (and to us for helping them as His servants) is evident.  By my “American” standards, they had little.  But, by God’s kingdom standards, they have it all – Him – all we need.   They have no reason to worry, for He clothes and feeds them just as He promised.

While I feel convicted, I also feel the weight of my responsibility to these people and to all those in the world – whether in my neighborhood or in the banana plantations of Honduras.

To share the gospel with them.

The passage in Luke continues.

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor.Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 Where my treasure is, my heart will be also.

If you’ve been in church much, you’ve heard these passages before.  But, I hope you will stop and pray, reflecting on…

What am I building in this world?  What is my treasure?  Does my life reflect my desire to see all people come to him?  I am more worried about my furniture selections than my sister across the globe who hasn’t heard the gospel?  Why am I worried?

There’s no way around it.  In America, we’ve been given much; therefore, much is expected.

I have no idea what this means for me in the long term.  I can’t answer all the questions I have been asking, but I rest knowing He knows.  I rest knowing He’s commanded me to not worry, to seek is kingdom first (not second behind my family or church or whatever), and to be a good steward of the “much” He’s given me.

Unexplainable – Day 2 in Honduras

Unexplainable.

I can’t even articulate yesterday in Honduras.  I stood in awe as 11 pastors and their families stood in a dining room with hands raised to heaven.

I listened as they prayed to their Creator.  All voices lifting to Him at once.

I couldn’t understand most of what was said.  But, that’s the awesomeness of people gathered in His name.  I could feel and see their hearts bursting with love and thankfulness to their Savior.

God was present.

For those who don’t know about our mission in Honduras, we’re distributing clothing, toiletries, and beans in villages near San Manuel, Cortez. Our church family and Wal-mart donated these goods, which were then packed into a tractor-trailer size container and shipped to Honduras.

Saul, a pastor living at Faith Home, leads a group of pastors who planted churches in their villages (These are the pastors with whom we worshipped yesterday.)  Each day this week, we will visit two villages distributing the items to members of those churches.

In the village, each family gets a ticket.  The families form a line and members of the mission team take them through the distribution area. Picture a free yard sale where someone helps you shop, making sure you get the correct sizes.

Today, we will visit Emanuel and El Barro.  Please pray for these villages and our team.

I can’t wait to see what God has in store for His people today!

 

Other Posts

Does Helping Hurt? – Day 1 in Honduras

Does Helping Hurt? – Day 1 in Honduras

I am in Honduras this week at Faith Home – a place for orphaned Honduran children to live with a family, growing in faith and stature.

Our team of 17 will serve the families of Faith Home and those in the surrounding villages by giving them clothing, toiletries, rice, and beans.

As we traveled yesterday, I talked with people from other mission teams.  (All those matching shirts made the mission teams obvious:).  Jamaica, Mongolia, and, Honduras were just a few of the destinations.

Sitting in the Houston airport I felt my attitude going south both literally and figuratively.  Anxious to get to Honduras because I feel called by God to this country and these people, but wondering about mission work and money spent on travel.

I started doing the math.

Our team of 17 (at $1,350 each).  The team going to Jamaica (21 at a similar price).  Two other teams arrived in Honduras with us. That’s a LOT of travel dollars.

Instead of spending about $50,000 on travel, why didn’t we send the money to the locals and allow them to purchase and distribute these needed items?

I knew immediately this attitude was coming from some recent reading.  After reading The Gospel Coalition’s blog on short-term missions, I read When Helping Hurts.  Both of these pieces provide convincing evidence in response to this question:

Can “helping” in another country actually “hurt” the country and its people?

“I have seen with my own eyes or know of houses in Latin America that have been painted 20 times by 20 different short-term teams; fake orphanages in Uganda erected to get Westerners to give money; internet centers in India whose primary purpose is to ask Westerners for money; children in African countries purposefully mutilated by their parents so they would solicit sympathy while they beg; a New England-style church built by a Western team in Cameroon that is never used except when the team comes to visit; and slums filled with big-screen TVs and cell phone towers.”

And, THAT is just the opening quote of the blog.

Someone anonymously paid for my trip to Honduras.  Am I being a good steward of his/her donation?   Should I have stayed at home and sent that $1,300 to purchase rice and beans for more Hondurans?

While that may seem like a simple “yes” after reading the Gospel Coalition’s blog or a book like When Helping Hurts, answers and God’s ways are never that simple.

Sure, we can discuss economics; in fact, that’s wise.  We certainly must steward God’s money well.  However, I often find when we view God’s work through the lens of business and economics, we lose sight of Him.

We simply need to follow.

Last night at our welcome meeting, our host said that he often hears people say it’s a waste of money to come as a short-term missionary.  It’s more cost effective to send the money.  He continued by saying that’s simply not true.  We never know what connection is made or lesson is learned that might change the missionary’s life or the lives of local people.

God does not work in a box that we’ve created (otherwise known as culture).  He can and will work in and through all the short -term missionaries I met yesterday and serve with today in ways that I cannot fathom.

He is a sovereign God, “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” in Mark 16:15 and then in Matthew 28: 19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

What will God do in and through those on mission trips in Honduras and other countries this week?  I have no idea.  As the pastor, Saul, said to us last night, “Have hearts open to his work this week.”  I pray my heart is open, ready, and willing.

I see the long-term impact of the mission work we are doing here.  (More on that work tomorrow.)

Our team t-shirt has this verse on the back:

“Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed.  For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told.” Habakkuk 1:5

Where ever you are in the world today, whatever work God has for you, simply follow his call to spread the gospel.  Leave it to God to do something in your day, in your life, and in the lives of others that is unbelievable.

Don’t box God in.  His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8).  We don’t see the full tapestry because we are only one thread.  But, all the threads are essential – including you!

What is Family Ministry?

Today, I am contributing to the Family Ministry Blog Tour.  Each day a different blogger answers the question, “What is Family Ministry?”  This is my post.

Families are busy:  baseball, soccer, dance, art camp, Awana, VBS, bus trip, tennis, and on and on.  Kids are overbooked and parents are stressed out.

As parents strive to keep up and give their kiddos every opportunity available, quality time suffers.  Marriages suffer.  Parent-child relationships suffer.

Most families are completely unaware of this “suffering.”  Letting family priorities slip is a slow fade.  One missed family dinner here and one missed family birthday party there.  No big deal.  Junior had a game.  We got home from practice late.

After all, the activities are fun, the kiddos seem happy, and pride fills the parents.

Then, there’s an event – better known as the straw that broke the camel’s back.  The event forces your family to a screeching halt as mom and dad look at one another and ask, “How in the world did we get here?”

The family’s primary function is not to out do the neighbors.  The family’s function is not to present the perfect picture of the American Dream.  In fact, families who function this way are the families often left asking, “How in the world did we get here?”

Family ministry should equip families to understand that the family’s primary function is to love one another and increase the Kingdom.

God created marriage and family as a picture of the church and his love for his church.   He created the family to make Him famous, spreading the gospel throughout neighborhoods and the world.  While we often see this as the church’s “call” it is primarily the family’s call.

However, in order for parents to lead their families in this way, family ministry must help parents to understand that the spiritual development of their children is their responsibility.  While the church can help equip and support, ultimately, his/her parents must lay the child’s spiritual foundation. (Psalm 78; Acts 2: 38-39)

Indeed, God wants families to make Him famous.

But, in this crazy, busy world, how can mom and dad know how to equip their children?  What does a family who spreads the love of Christ and reaches others for Him look like?

Family ministry teaches and models the answers to these questions.

Family ministry teaches dad how to lead his family spiritually (1 Corinthians 11:13).

Family ministry teaches mom to support her husband and lead her children well (Proverbs 31).

Family ministry teaches biblical manhood, womanhood, and marriage, helping parents to understand their roles in their families and placing the responsibility of each child’s spiritual formation and growth on the parents’ shoulders – not the church’s staff.

So, even when it’s not popular or politically correct, family ministry encourages dad and mom to embrace God’s roles for them, leading their families to Christ and others to Christ.

Ultimately, family ministry builds strong families who share their faith and build His kingdom.

Share a Prayer

On Friday, June 29, 2012, a storm raged into the Mid Ohio Valley.  While we took cover at a friend’s house, trees were dropping like flies at our house.  We came home to no power, a downed tree, and three downed treetops.

We later learned the storm wove a destructive path through almost of all of West Virginia and surrounding states, leaving thousands without power (I still don’t have power).

Trees are down everywhere – on houses, cars, and roads.  Help is coming from across the nation.

It’s a real mess.

But, God is a work in the mess.  Isn’t that just like Him?

This morning I was listening to Mark Driscoll’s sermon Jesus Builds His Church.  Driscoll talked about praying for others.  He asked, “Why do you say to another person, ‘I am praying for you.’?  Why don’t you just stop and pray for them/with them right then?”

Why, indeed?

Throughout the storm’s aftermath, I’ve heard myself say or watched myself type that very sentence many times:  Praying for you!

As I spent some silent time with God after the sermon, I felt him saying…

What if those working diligently to restore power could see the prayers for them?

What if those injured in the storms could read prayers asking for healing?

What if those who simply want electric restored could know people would like to help them, feed them, give them a reprieve?

We need to share our prayers with and for one another.

Share a Prayer.

Simple, but encouraging.

So, I created a page on Facebook that I hope you’ll “Like” and invite your friends to like.

Most of all, I hope you’ll share a prayer, a need, or a praise on the page’s Wall – keeping us all connected and loving one another.

Mark 12:31  The second is this: “You shall love our neighbor as yourself.”  There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Today’s Q:  What are you praying for today?