Saturday, August 31, 2013

One Year Later

In some ways it seems like yesterday and in others it seems like decades, but it was in fact one year ago today that we left behind what we knew as “home” to begin a new journey, four years in the making.

Looking back, I feel like we were just babies, taking our first steps.

We are different people now. In a lot of ways.

I sit here on the couch in a wooden house, listening to the sounds of the Jungle outside, realizing that this very place that we now call home wasn’t even on our radar back then.

There is a young family of Jagua Indians living in our guest room with their baby girl who almost died in that same room just a couple months back. We didn’t know that she, along with her Mama and Daddy, would fill our hearts and home when Richard first met her back in January. They are now the focus of our discipleship as we pour into them so they can pour into their people one day.

There’s a six year old girl sleeping in a bed right next to Elliott’s who, Lord willing, will one day carry our last name. We didn’t know that when God closed the door for us to move into the village that he would plant us right down the road from our future daughter. Her little eyes haveseen things no child should see and she asks the same questions over and over every day, just longing for reassurance and security. And we begin to walk this journey of adoption together, realizing this picture of the Gospel.

There’s a three-year-old boy, our first born, who is sleeping in that same room. His neck is swollen with Mumps right now and over the last year he’s had his fair share of illness, but boy is he a trooper, bringing life and laughter everywhere he goes. When we started this journey his was a pacifier addict, strutting around in Pampers. Now he sports batman undies and Daddy taught him how to use a machete. He speaks two languages and is learning his third, often correcting me along the way. The kid’s a beast.

There’s a squishy little 9.5 month old Brazilian who might just be the happiest child that God every created sleeping in our bedroom. She came to this country in my belly and, though she has no idea, played a huge role in our ministry here just in her birth. She wakes up with a smile and, on those almost-to-much-to-handle kinda days, her sweet smile offers a mini-vacation from the stress.

There’s a man asleep in our bed that he built with his own hands who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders every day, yet still finds time to play with his kids, read them bedtime stories, brush their teeth, and pray with them. So many times I watch in awe as he works in so many roles, all with the one goal of glorifying Christ.

And then there’s me. I look back at the person I was when we got on that airplane and I think, “I don’t even know that person any more!”

We are changed.

And we are changing.

The days are hard sometimes. You don’t anticipate the loneliness of the mission field. The sun is hot and the needs are many.  Sickness is prevalent and sleep can be hard to come by. Some people will criticize and others will be ungrateful.

I find, though, that when I stop looking around and start looking up, I begin to see a little more clearly that we aren’t the ones writing this story anyway. It’s a story that started way back before creation. We were born into a story already in progress and one that will continue to be written long after we are gone.

We are just the hands and feet at the end of a dead end street in a tiny town in a small region of a big country on a big planet doing the day to day of what God has called us to in order to make His name famous to the ends of the earth.

This past year has been full of tears, laughter, heartache, joy, sickness, health, loneliness, new friends, opportunities, and redirection. There has been frustration and anger, laughter and relief.

And it’s through all of this that we learn, as Paul says, to be content in whatsoever state we are in… and to become more like our Savior.

Thanks to all of you who have joined us in the journey. Through prayer, encouragement, visiting, and giving, you have been an intricate part of this story, too.

Thanks for walking this journey with us.

It truly is a beautiful one. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

This Serving Jesus Thing

“Because it’s uncomfortable and difficult and I don’t want to,” I said. That’s how I was feeling, so right or wrong I said it.

He just looked at me, knowingly, patiently.

It looked easier in the missionary biographies and blog posts, this serving Jesus thing. More adrenaline filled and more close the pages and fall asleep comfortably in your own bed at night after a nice relaxing meal with your family and maybe a good TV show or two.

But playing it out in real life has meant dying to myself and repenting of my selfish heart and opening up our home and being poured out every. single. day.

And now it meant opening up our home to this young couple because we felt—knew—that is what God was saying to do.

It was easy when they were just this young couple who had a baby in the middle of nowhere with nothing and I could just start a program and get some blankets and bottles donated.

It was a little harder when we had to stop our lives three times a day to bring him healthy, vitamin packed meals so that his body could stand a chance against this illness blackening his lungs.

It was more challenging still when the baby was hospitalized and multiple trips to the nearest city and the clinic didn’t seem to bring answers.

And try as I may to think of all the reasons why this isn’t a good idea, the truth is that it is a good idea and, in fact, it’s exactly what this discipleship thing is supposed to look like.

Sure, we can work to relieve their physical ailments and send them back to their tribes with healthy lungs and healed bodies. But isn’t that just treating the symptoms, not the illness?

So, we have taken them in under our own roof. For [at least] two months we will live in front of them, live with them, teach them, learn from them.

Become friends with them.

Because you expect a lot of things when you move your family to the Amazon jungle.

Bugs. Heat. Rain.

Somehow, though, you never anticipate the lonely. Our house is full of people all the time. All the time it’s full.

But there is still the loneliness of a new culture. No one who speaks your heart language. No one who understands your culture.

So some time ago I asked God for a friend.

And as I look into the eyes of this sixteen year old girl and mother of one, I realize what she must be going through. So far from her own culture, her own people, her own language with a baby to raise.

Just like me.

So we share. She tells her stories and I tell mine. Two different worlds coming together in our second languages. She’s ten years my junior and from a world more primitive than I have ever seen but there is this friendship that is being built.

I teach her to read, she teaches me to cook. I hold her baby and she holds mine.

And somewhere in there we both try to find common ground in this loneliness that comes from a foreign land.

That’s when it hits me that we are all foreigners in this land, but we are brothers and sisters in Christ. Then loneliness starts to fade and hope shines through.

And it’s two steps forward and one step back every day as I lay aside my preconceived ideas and let go of the cynicism that creeps into my heart and I lay down my pride and I allow myself to be the student and not just the teacher and I speak the truth in love, but also hear the truth with humility.

Then I realize that sometimes the answers to our prayers are found right smack dab in the middle of the uncomfortable and difficult.

And this serving Jesus thing starts to look just like it’s supposed to.

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