I don't have much time right now, but I wanted to get some initial thoughts written. So, where do I begin? How about I tell you one story. The story of Esperanza & Carmello.
Esperanza and Carmello are married, with seven children and live in Limon, Honduras, a small, impoverished town, located about 7km from Choluteca. About a year ago, the family was living in a delapidated, makeshift shack. Carmello only has part-time construction work and in their prior living condition, Esperanza had no work. Then Esperanza met some men from the GCLA (Great Commission Latin America) church in Choluteca (Iglesia Gran Comision) and Esperanza had a powerful encounter with Jesus Christ.
Today, Esperanza and her family have a brand spankin new home, built with a concrete floor and cinder block walls. Approximately 15' x 15'. When our team arrived in Choluteca, Esperanza's family had been given not only a new home, but Esperanza had a full-time job at a tortilla factory (Tortillaria) that the church opened recently. The women who work there pump out 20-25,000 tortillas each day! We were given the honor of beginning the construction of a bathroom and kitchen for the family and we also built a green picket fence. A young man named Francisco, who lived down the road, told my friend Cellus and I, "That's the nicest fence I've seen around here."
For one week, my friends and I had the privilege of loving and serving this beautiful family. As we hugged Esperanza goodbye, her eyes filled with tears and then her face lit up with a smile. The joy that comes only from God oozed from her pores. The people in Esperanza's community have seen a difference and they've been asking questions. I'll tell more stories about them soon enough.
Starting with my first missions trip several years ago, there has been something beautiful and mysterious that has happened on that and each successive journey. I've become more closely tied to the friends that I serve with on those trips. I've seen God move to restore lives, reinstill hope, bring smiles to kids faces, magnify the name of His Son, unite diverse peoples and awaken exciting dreams that lie deep inside some. On man, whom we were helping to reconstruct his little inner city church in Memphis, TN, helped put it all into perspective: "You're my miracle." I don't take any credit for this. Major props to God.
So, when I had another opportunity--this time to help lead--to go on a short-term trip this spring break, I jumped at it. Matt and Lacey, a young couple in our church, went to Honduras last spring break and they had a vision to lead a team down there this year. So, after several months of team meetings, raising financial support and gathering donated items for Hondurans, we are all packed and ready to go. (okay, not packed yet...) I could tell you myriad cool stories from how God provided for us. (e.g., a huge financial gift that I got in the mail, virtually unsolicited from a Honduran woman in Chicago, whom I had met several months ago).
The plan is this: we'll begin construction of a home for a woman named, Esperanza, and her children, we'll be serving at a Malnutrition Clinic, two of our team members will be assessing the nutrition needs and training the mothers to feed their unhealthy children, we'll be helping out the local church with whatever needs they have and hopefully we'll be living out the good news of the kingdom of God through our words and actions.
I need to start packing! Now where's that sunscreen....
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
Those last three words hung over me like a fog that wouldn't lift. Their gravity pulled me in, deeper and deeper. Before, the words of this famous passage ran together as one lofty view of what true love is. It is what we should aspire to. It is the love that a husband and a wife should have for one another--at least it seems to always be read at weddings.
But those last three words. I just couldn't get them out of my head. "That's the love I have for you." That's what I sensed, deep in my gut. God's love never fails me. His love always finds me. A simple truth that constantly evades me, leaving me feeling helpless, feeling like I need to do something to earn his favor. That I need to have just the right amount of sorrow before he will remove my transgression from his memory.
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the further, nor any powers, neither heighth nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39
It defies logic, but I have to continually stand on this truth. Otherwise? I wouldn't be standing on much of anything.
So, the past two Sundays have given us pretty decent weather and I've enjoyed my Sabbath by taking some time to walk around my neighborhood and shoot some photos. Here is my latest photo set on Flickr. . . still working with a low-level digital camera, but it'll make me appreciate an SLR if I'm ever so spoiled.
Manning contends that to be a disciple of Jesus, to become like a little child, we must be willing to accept ourselves as ones who have little importance in comparison to our King. Only when we recognize our low position will we receive a "privileged place in the kingdom." This privilege comes not from us proving our importance, but from God's delight in us, simply becuase we have humbled ourselves as his children.
Talk about a counter-cultural position. Certainly unique from any other faith in our world.
In Luke 18, a rich young man comes to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Manning says that:
"It is no coincidence that Luke juxtaposes the passage of Jesus and the children immediately preceding the verses on the young aristocrat. Children contrast with the rich man simply because there is no question of their having yet been able to merit anything. Jesus' point is: there is nothing that any of us can do to inherit the kingdom. We must simply receive it like little children...The New Testament world was not sentimental about children and had no illusion about any pretended innate goodness in them...If they receive anything it can only be as a gift."
The poetry, wonder and truth of Psalm 96 resonated in my soul this morning:
1 Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Sing to the LORD, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
4 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.
9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of his [a] holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns."
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.
11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
12 let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;
13 they will sing before the LORD, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his truth.
"When Jesus tells us to become like little children, in order that we may enter the kingdom of God, he invites us to forget what lies behind."
There is a story of a Zen monk who was being chased by a ferocious tiger. He raced to the edge of a cliff, glanced back and saw the growling tiger about to spring. The monk spotted a rope dangling over the edge of the cliff. He grabbed it and began shinning down the side of the cliff out of the clutches of the tiger. Whew! Narrow escape. He stared down and saw a huge quarry of jagged rocks five hundred feet below. He looked up and saw the tiger poised atop the cliff with bared claws.
Just then, two mice crawled onto the rope and began to nibble at the rope. What to do?
The monk looked to the side and happened to see a strawberry within arm's reach growing out of the face of the cliff side. He plucked it, ate it, and exclaimed, "Yum-yum; that's the best strawberry I've ever tasted in my entire life!"