Monday, December 26, 2016

A Father for the Fatherless

I'll never forget the look on his face. It is a memory that has come to mind many times since that day over three years ago now. I watched as a man staggered around, finally collapsing to the ground in a heap of drunkeness and I glanced over to see the stare on Rafael's face. It wasn't what you might imagine to see on the face of a ten-year-old boy who just saw his father pass out right in front of the crowd of kids who had gathered together for a friend's birthday party.

It was a sort of blank stare with an odd grin. It wasn't a happy grin, though. (Is there a happy grin to be had when you witness this... again?) It was an embarrassed grin. He continued to watch as Rosa calmly called to her boys to carefully drag him from the road and place him in the grass where at least the risk of getting hit by a mototaxi was lessened.

I pulled Rafael in close and hugged his rigid body tight.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

On Being a Difference Maker

I remember as a kid I used to dream of making a difference in people’s lives. I wanted to go on big adventures and heal wounds and preach truth and love hard.

As I got older that desire only grew more and more as I would read the stories of our missionary forefathers. I craved that same resolve that they had to stand in front of the trials with that unshakable faith and face the enemy with boldness. I was one daydream away from skipping through fields of daisies with my Bible in hand and a whole slew of new converts hot on my heals.

Precious.

The hard looked so much easier back then when I could close the pages and roll over in my nice warm bed, clinging to the triumphant ending and dismissing the trials that led up to it.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Pray for Grace House

I sat across the living room from her and I felt like with each word coming out of her mouth, someone was placing another brick on my shoulders.

God brought her here and this journey has been devastating to all that I have ever known. For three years now, our life has been turned upside down.

She told the stories and I just kept thinking, “They’re still out there. All of the other littles are still out there.”

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Savage

I remember very vividly the first time I saw him.

Mariclene had been our breakfast visitor for a while and on occassion she would show up with one of her biological siblings so they could also devour eggs and bread, often their only real meal for the day.

He was butt. naked.

Every time he showed up. Naked.



His long, seemingly highlighted, curly hair reached his shoulders and he had this wild-eyed look on his face at all times. He was about two years old at the time and couldn’t say a single word. He always came toting his little broken riding toy. (And if another child tried to take said toy, screaming and grunting quickly ensued!)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Missionary Rehab

I sat alone in our new-to-us car and I banged my hands on the steering wheel and yelled at God that I was angry that this was happening. That I didn’t want this car or these plans or these good-byes.  I let Him know straight up that it was unfair because we had planned our life there in the Amazon. We sold all of our stuff four years ago, REMEMBER?! That was because the jungle was supposed to be our new forever home. Tears flowed to the point that my heart physically ached in my chest and my breath caught in my throat.

It was an ugly cry, y’all. I’m glad no one else was there because you can’t unsee that.

And I want to tell you that after that I was better. I really want to say that one good cry and BAM! the Holy Spirit washed me with a renewed confidence in His goodness and sovereignty and that I was suddenly a well-adapted protégé of our missionary forefathers, full of faith and trust in an all knowing, all sufficient God. {Insert Sunday morning fake smile here.}

Instead I’m in counseling because some days I. just. can’t.

It’s missionary rehab, if you will.

I sat in the parking lot before my first session and almost had a straight up panic attack. I was sniffing essential oils like an addict and texting Richard so that I didn’t talk myself out of it. “What kind of missionary needs counseling?” Right?

My first session was an hour and a half long. About an hour in, I paused after spilling the overview of our life for the last four years all over her in addition to filling a few tissues with snot and tears. I just sort of stared at her.

She calmly listened, handing me a new kleenex as needed. Bless her soul. She’s a good one.

Her words: “I think if I got down one of my books on traumatic life events from my shelf, you would be able to check nearly all of them off the list and then some. It’s a miracle of God that you and your family survived many of those situations independently, much less all of them. Rest in that truth that it’s ok to be in this place of fear, anxiety, and confusion. It’s not the end.”

My instinct was, “Don’t patronize me. You don’t know my life.”

Defensive.

But then I realized she wasn’t. (And I had in fact just shared with her much of my life... soooo she kinda did know my life...) The reason I was sitting in her office was because we’d gone through some legitimately traumatizing things and that was ok. There was healing and hope still.  Breath of fresh air.

I went back the following week and then the following three weeks and it’s been both painful and healing. Because something happens when we are honest about our pain and we talk through the trauma in light of Hope.

After the difficulties of our adoption and the isolation we experienced those first two years among other things, I developed an anxiety disorder that’s only increased in intensity since being Stateside. After all, you don’t get to leave the country for four years and maintain relationships the way they used to be, especially in a region with internet access comprable to that of 1999. Even more so relationships that were severed due to others’ lack of understanding of life there and differences in preference. Now I find myself in the city where I was born and raised with no close friendships.

It’s a very strange place to be.

The abrupt (to us) ending of our time overseas makes me feel much like Moses on the mountain staring at the Promised Land but not actually getting to enter it. We walked some deep, dark valleys and only in the last six months of our time there did we finally begin to see buds of fruit. A community of Believers uniting for the cause of Christ. Incredible, unexplicable things happening. Beautiful.

And then God said, “Move. You can’t stay here.”

And my heart feels the heaviness of leaving all that we have known and loved and pursued and sacrificed for, only to return to a wilderness of reverse culture shock and loneliness and not knowing even where to begin to share the incredible things that God has done and is doing there.

I went a solid two months without makeup because why? Tears are no respecters of mascara.

But there in that small room with the counselor who is an MK (missionary kid) herself, I can work through these emotions and she gives me perspective and hope.

My day to day is still very much a roller coaster of fear and anxiety. A simple decision at the grocery store can send me straight to the Cliff of Internal Meltdown (WHY ARE THERE SO MANY OPTIONS OF KETCHUP?!). Running into someone I knew in what feels like a previous life can make my heart pound so loud I can hear it louder than our conversation (WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO TALK ABOUT?!).

This is all new to me. But turns out that actually, it’s pretty standard if we read—truly read—through Scripture and even biographies of modern missions. Life is a series of planning our ways in faith and then holding them loosely. It’s a story of being human with all its inconsistencies and fears and doubts and short-sightedness and yet still trusting through it. And slowly but surely through each season that ultimately leads to surrender to Him in His perfect ways, we find ourselves more and more in His image. Our faith grows. Our trust in Him grows. We lose more of ourselves.

Elisabeth Elliot put it this way:

“There is no ongoing spiritual life without this process of letting go. At the precise point where we refuse, growth stops. If we hold tightly to anything given to us, unwilling to let it go when the time comes to let it go or unwilling to allow it to be used as the Giver means it to be used, we stunt the growth of the soul. It is easy to make a mistake here, “If God gave it to me,” we say, “its mine. I can do what I want with it.” No. The truth is that it is ours to thank Him for and ours to offer back to Him, ours to relinquish, ours to lose, ours to let go of – if we want to find our true selves, if we want real life, if our hearts are set on glory.”

So I figure if Elisabeth Elliot can say that, and she walked through some high flames, I can buckle down and trust that He really is that good and He is sovereign and I can throw to the wind like chaff from the wheat what others think and what fears may linger in my heart and I can lean hard into Him and trust that He’s never let us down and He sure isn’t going to start now. That His ways are truly higher than ours and I can not only rest in that but rejoice in that wholeheartedly as I look over the last four years and how it’s been proven true time and time again.


This process of letting go is so hard, but it’s also so. incredibly. beautiful.





Wednesday, July 13, 2016

That Time We Moved to Mexico

I love to write. It’s something God has gifted me with and I love to use it to share what He’s doing in and through His Body in the jungle. I’m passionate about it.

But something I’ve noticed in this social-media-saturated culture is that people are overwhelmed by media. Pictures, articles, words. They are all over our phones, tablets, computers, billboards, TVs.

It’s numbing.

So in keeping with my desire to always be transparent, I’ll be honest and say I feel so often like my words are useless. Like I’m sharing my passions... with a wall. And that can be disheartening. We’ve spent nearly four years of our lives doing some crazy awesome things on this beautiful journey that God has led us on. We can hardly believe the things God is doing and I want to share those with everyone and yet... not many people care.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Some people care deeply. And there are a few people who have consistently written us and encouraged us over the last four years and several have been faithful to pray and give. And we are so thankful because at times their words and prayers have been what God has used to sustain us. 

Loneliness has been a companion these last four years. But God has been faithful to use that for His glory and our good. We’ve seen Him build up a community of people in the jungle, nearly all locals, that we now call family.

Unfortunately, we’ve had many share their opinions on our lives from afar. Most of whom have never actually visited the work that God is doing in the jungle. They don’t know the names of our Brothers and Sisters laboring and sacrificing there. They don’t write or pray or give. They don’t know us. But they comment nonetheless, making judgment calls from afar.

And that’s ok. I’ve been guilty of the same in other peoples’ lives.  It’s hard to understand something you haven’t experienced. I pray that they can see, but maybe that’s not what God has. That’s ok, too.

While I’m slowly but surely losing the desire to try to get everyone to understand something that I can’t fully grasp—the fact that God’s ways are not ours and often our plans fall flat as we follow His leading instead—I feel like I owe it to those who have been on this journey with us to tell the story of how God is moving us.

In September we are moving to Mexico.

Ok. So the reality is, it’s actually Laredo, Texas, which is on the border of Mexico ("I can see Mexico from my house!"). But if you’ve ever been there, you know that it’s a lot more like Mexico than the US of A! 

This may seem really sudden to some of you. And in some ways it is. In other ways, however, God has had this transition in the works for quite some time. The last time we had genuinely considered that God was leading us this way was in 2014. God had closed doors to aviation in Brazil. We still felt very strongly that our calling was to use aviation as a means of spreading the Gospel when God put an aviation job offer for Laredo, TX in front of us. We prayed. We fasted. We sought godly counsel. And we decided that was the direction God was leading us. It would allow us to fund Grace House as well as the other ministries much more efficiently. So, we pursued it wholeheartedly {is there any other way to do it?}. Heck, we had even told several supporters and supporting churches about it. Then God slammed that door closed through Mariclene’s inability to immigrate to the US.

We were thoroughly confused to say the absolute least.

But after a brief period of disappointment and feeling totally perplexed, we hoped right back in the saddle again and saw God do some incredible things. Grace House roots grew deeper along with the relationships He had given us in Benjamin. We moved across the border into Colombia where Richard began avidly working towards opening an air ambulance. We got to know amazing people in Leticia, where God gave us new relationships and lives to speak into as well as some of our now closest friends. It was also during that time that The Donut Company was born.

To be honest, we were feeling quite settled! We laughed about the time we thought we were moving back Stateside and we began to plan what life would look like spending the rest of it right there in Leticia. The Air Ambulance had the potential to fund all of the work, employ locals, help meet physical needs, and fulfill our calling to use aviation as a tool for the Gospel. Boom. The whole package.

Then January 2016 rolled around and God closed the door to the air ambulance. And what’s more, we had really worked ourselves out of a job. Grace House is growing and we have seen truly incredible spiritual growth among the community of believers in the small town of Benjamin. Marcos and Josi continue to rock it with the young men in their discipleship program and we simply help fund their efforts and provide encouragement and support the Javari Project. The Donut Company is growing and totally operated by locals. Of course we were heavily involved in the day to day, but we had to come to the realization that, while we could continue to work hard with our brothers and sisters, we still felt like a part of our calling was being neglected. And certainly not through lack of effort! God had divinely opened and closed doors, leading us on a crazy adventure that we never imagined.

So we just began praying. Would God have us move to another country for mission aviation? Would he reopen a door in this region? We just didn’t feel led a specific way.

Fast-forward to February when we get the news that Mariclene’s immigration was finally approved after two and a half years of waiting. We were stoked! We made plans to travel to the States for her citizenship interview and stay for about two months to raise more funds for the crazy awesome things God was doing. So much is happening and there are so many needs, that the primary need was funds.

So we came to the US and in the first week must have said to one another at least a dozen times, “I never want to live here again!” It’s just this massive reverse-culture shock. It’s hard to explain until you experience it, but it’s very real. We were still praying that God would lead us if He had a new direction for our family in aviation but we were also counting down the days to our return to Leticia {home}.

That’s when the e-mail came late one evening from the same friend from two years back, the first communication about a job since that time.

“Would you still be interested in a job in Laredo?”

I knew the look on Richard’s face when he showed me the e-mail. I immediately pushed it off and told him I had no desire to even discuss that. Absolutely not. No.

But the reality was I already knew in my heart that it was time. We had been in regular contact with our ministry partners in Benjamin and Leticia and they were doing great! Not to say they weren’t passing through trials. They were. Some pretty serious ones in fact. But they were thriving in the peace of God. They were growing, discipling, reaching out, going above and beyond, loving, giving, serving.

And they didn’t need us in the day to day. Honestly, it was a blow to realize that. Don’t get me wrong, I totally rejoiced in it, too!

That’s the point after all, right? To disciple others who disciple others and so on.

Our dreams have actually come true.

But these are my people. They have walked through the valleys of darkness and suffered with us. We’ve cried and laughed together for going on four years. I wanted to be there, enjoying the fruits of our labor. After so many years of loneliness and isolation, we finally have a community that is on fire!

And now, it is time to move on to the next location.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve fought God on this one. I’ve cried until my heart physically aches and there aren’t any more tears. This is all my kids have known. This is all we have worked for for the last seven years, to love and reach the lost in the Amazon region.

So what does this mean now? Why would He take us from the Jungle to the Desert?

Well, I can assure you it’s not because we are wishy-washy as some accuse. It’s not because we don’t know what we really want as others have said. In fact, we could technically be flying in Brazil OR Colombia right now had we been willing to compromise some really strong convictions (but that’s another story). It isn’t because we couldn’t handle it. (Although, I will say that NO ONE can handle it. Absolutely no one. Only Christ in us and in others can sustain in such a difficult place.) No, it’s none of those things.

The reality is, our calling is apostolic in nature. That means that by nature we equip and move on, much like Paul did. We’ve seen that has been the course that God has led us on our whole life. (If that confuses you, join the club. We are learning this role.)

We’ve spent the last few months “rearranging” a bit with the Amazon Network. We are learning our new role in the Body as advocate for the jungle and we are praying hard and looking with anticipation as to what God has for us in Laredo.

One of the most beautiful things about it is that by us coming off of support, those funds can now go directly to the work in the jungle. Grace House, The Donut Company, the Javari Project can now be funded more efficiently which means there is more opportunity for growth. We’ve already seen new outreaches being launched from the network and more Brothers and Sisters join our family--your family.

It’s incredible how God works in the most organic of ways when we truly allow His Spirit to guide.

We want it to be clear that we are not leaving the network or the work there. We will continue to visit frequently and we have daily communication. We are advocates for our Brothers and Sisters there and continue to fund-raise and raise awareness. But now the funds will be liberated and we can start again in Laredo, trusting the Holy Spirit to lead us as we seek to serve the least of these there.

Pray for us all as we make this transition. We sold everything before we moved nearly four years ago so it’s very much like starting over physically as well as mentally. It’s a strange thing to be back in the city you grew up in and yet feel like you know no one. You miss a lot in four years and reverse culture shock is a doozie.

If you have questions, feel free to ask us. We have always strived to be transparent so we welcome feedback and dialogue.


Thank you to all of you who are walking this journey with us. We greatly appreciate each of you and we look forward to the adventures ahead!


This is not the end of the book, just a new chapter... I hope you’ll continue reading.




A little recap of our life for the last four years....


Thursday, June 16, 2016

When You Know You Aren't Called

I watched him as he focused so intently on those little circles on the page. His little hand moving slowly but surely.

It felt surreal. This is the same boy who I had little hope for. The one I wrote about just last year and the emptiness in his eyes. And yet here he was, in his little red “House Grace” shirt with a pencil in hand and dedication in his mind.

“How can this be?” I thought to myself. “How is it that God would allow us to do this thing? How is it that He would let us be a part of loving the least of these in this way?”

I remember vividly the conversation that I had with Richard when we began seeing so many needs for these littles running barefoot and wild in the streets every day. Back when they filled our living room every morning and we filled their bellies with eggs and bread and hugged them tight. Richard and I sat together and life was lonely and heavy and doors had already started closing to our aviation dreams and we were wondering what our role was here in the place after all. And I told him that these kids needed a safe place.

“We weren’t called to start a children’s home,” he said. And I knew that was true. After all, {confession} I mostly didn’t even like being around kids that weren’t my own.

And yet, there was still something. The weeks passed and still this lingering thing that there was something brewing in our hearts for these kids and while we weren’t called to run a children’s home, maybe we were in fact called to build one. To facilitate. To empower.

My mind wandered even further back. Back before we moved on the street that changed our lives. Before we saw these sweet faces and met Rosa and our life was forever altered. I was sitting in the kitchen of another missionary. We had only lived in Benjamin Constant for maybe two weeks and we had yet to look for a house. They had taken us in for the time being and were orienting us on the small town we now unexpectedly called home.

“There are a lot of abandoned kids here,” he told me. “Parents abuse or neglect their kids, but there is no where for them to go. No safe house or orphanage. If fact, there is a surprising high number considering it’s such a small town.”

“Listen up,” I remember distinctly hearing the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart.

It was almost audible. I think I may have even had a look of confusion on my face when I thought, “How in the WORLD does this apply to ME?”

He went on about this need and I listened. And something was nagging at my heart, telling me to remember this conversation.

And now, over three years later, I sit with a little boy as he practices writing letters for the first time. A boy who refuses to go to school and his mom doesn’t care if he eats or has clothes or studies. But here he is. At Grace House under Rosa’s daily care being loved and told that Jesus loves him. That He died for him. That there is hope for him.

I glanced up when I heard a boy call out, “Chico!” Chico looked up and three boys walked by laughing at him.

Chico hung his head and stopped writing.

“Hey, you’re doing great! I’m so proud of you. Look at this “o”! You’re really learning a lot,” I spoke truth over him.  I smiled at him. “You’ve got this.”

He sat up, just a little, and started writing again. He finished moments later and looked up at me with the sweetest grin to show me his work.

“Incredible.”

He scurried off to play and my heart swelled. There is Hope in this place. Hope for Chico and his big sister whose story would break your heart to pieces. There is Hope for every one of the forty plus kids that come through these doors every day. Jesus loves these kids and He has plans for their futures and we get to play a small part.

I know what that feels like, that moment when your peers laugh. They see what you’re doing and they scoff, “They don’t know what their doing! This thing can’t make it. They’re unqualified. They don’t know what they want. They need {insert whatever here that they seem to know that we don’t}.”

Sometimes it makes me want to do just like Chico, hang my head and stop for a while. Maybe they’re right. Maybe this whole thing will crumble apart. Can we really impact an entire town by reaching a few kids? Can we really overcome evil with good?

But the Holy Spirit whispers, “Hey, you’re doing great! I’m with you! This is My work. You get to be a part. Believe Me. You’ve got this because I’ve got you. You were called to this.”

So we put our hands back to the plow and we trust that He who is in us is greater than He who is in the world. And I see Richard, now so passionate about something we were "not called to do". And we know that He did call us to this, even if it was never in our pretty, laid-out plans. His ways are so much higher than our own. He has a purpose and even if we only reach one, that’s enough.

Join us. Join us as we love the least of these. Pray for their souls to know Christ. Pray for Rosa to have strength to endure the trials and faith to carry on, despite opposition. Pray for these volunteers that sacrifice their time and resources every week to love these kids and show them there is Hope and His name is Jesus. Pray for the kids’ lives to be impacted. Pray for the parents’ lives to be impacted. Pray for funds to come in. Pray for the Spirit to open hearts and eyes to the needs here so that they sacrifice and give.


Pray. Give. Believe with us that this little home can make a huge difference for His Kingdom, right here.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

His Kingdom, Right Here {Part 3}

I glanced up at his face while she told me about the boy that had hung himself just two days prior. He had the same look I’d seen before—one of resilience but also desperation. It’s a fierce kind of look that he seems to carry with him everywhere.

And how could you not bare that expression when you live in this reality of dark forces all around yet you yourself are full of Light? The contrast is harsh.

They’d invested in the young man who chose to take his own life after a fall-out with his wife. He had lived on their grounds like the dozens of other boys that they care for and invest in, including his own brother. They’d spoken Hope and Truth over him. And yet, the darkness prevailed.

It’s a heavy burden to carry and one that’s weight is exaggerated all the more when you find yourself isolated in the depths of the Amazon jungle.

She went on to tell me more about the six-year-old boy who rejoined their family after having been taken away from them by missionaries without their consent—the son of a witchdoctor, mysteriously entrusted to their care. She told me stories that give goosebumps. They’re the kind of stories that missionaries like to tell from the front of America’s air-conditioned church buildings. They make good fundraising material.

But it’s not so glamorous when it’s your reality, this kneeling down early in the morning to pray away the evil. There are 19 young men who live on their property with them. Each with their own story, their own past. Some are Christ-followers now. Others quite the opposite.  All of them hearing and experiencing the Love that surpasses tribal cultures and languages and myths and strongholds.

But not all of them experiencing the freedom that comes from knowing the True Healer, Father, Life-giver.

Little nine-month-old Sofia bounced in her lap as she continued to unload these burdens and my mind tried to reconcile all of the disparities of young men overcome by darkness with bouncing infants in all the innocence, wondering how Hope can prevail in all of this hopelessness.

And then it hits me that the Hope is sitting right in front of me. It is Josi, sitting with her daughter whom she will raise up to know Jesus as her Father. It is Marcos, with his hand on his son Lucas’s back, whom he will teach what it means to be a Christ-follower. It is little Tepi, learning from Marcos in the wee hours of the morning as they swing together in the hammock, speaking of the True Chief. 

It’s the day to day of hard prayers and hard Truth being spoken on their property on a little parcel of land in the midst of the jungle as they invest in the lives and futures of these young indigenous men who will go back to their tribes and communities, armed in the darkness with the True Light.

There is Hope. And it’s a Hope that prevails through the darkest of places and the pierces the coldest of hearts. It’s through the day in and day out. The bending and pouring out of lives spent for the broken. It's each of us investing in our own disciples, the children He has entrusted to us. It's the dying to of self and dreams and plans for the sake of the one. It's believing that He is True and His Love is worth the cost. 

It's building His Kingdom, right here. 




“The people who live in darkness 
have seen a great light, 
and for those living in the shadowland of death, 
light has dawned.”
Matthew 4.16





This is a multi-post series. See His Kingdom, Right Here {Part One} and {Part Two}.
Visit www.onthebeautifuljourney.com for more information on what God is doing through the Amazon Network. 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...