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A Crisis in Question, pt. 2

I remember the instant I knew I was in trouble. At church one evening before our trip, we had a team meeting. After I left, someone made the comment that we’d have to be ready to share our faith at a moments notice.

“I grew up doing that. I won’t have a problem.” My words dripped with arrogance.

It was true. Growing up as an OB (Officer’s Brat) in The Salvation Army, you get used to flexibility. I sang the alto part in my first duet at age 7. I stood kettles for the Army soon after that and each Sunday, we traipsed out to the street corner for what was called the “Open Air Meeting.” To a teenager, it was the “I’ll hide behind my horn in case my friends see me, Meeting.”

We’d march out with our instruments, gather in a circle and begin to play. The instruments were to attract attention. And it usually did. Both good and bad. Several times we listened to a drunk rant and rave. Sometimes, local children would make fun of us.

Then my dad would give a short gospel message, I might be called on to give my testimony or pray or even sing, and then we’d march back to the Army for the night meeting. If someone were interested, we’d invite them back to hear more about Jesus. It was impossible to be shy.

I also grew up giving gifts and time to poor people. I received a degree in Social Work at Asbury College. My whole life was filled up with service and testimony.

So when I heard we would visit people and share the gospel, secretly I thought, I’ll be good at that.

Fast forward to Sunday morning in Honduras. The building was to be dedicated. There would be many people attending and the place was packed. Again, the people worshipped and prayed with passion for a long time. Again, Lorenzo translated the message of the Lord for our pastor. It really was amazing.

After the service, the local ladies cooked for all of us. About 300. Over an open fire. The kids played, the adults ate together and talked. But, I couldn’t stop crying.

Why are we doing this? Why do we think we know anything? Are we really doing any good?

I retreated to my room. I flunked missions.

I tried to read a novel and couldn’t. I was drawn to God’s Word. David’s Psalms encouraged me. I asked the Lord to help me. “I flunked Missions 101, Lord. I know that you have answers. Please help me.”

I cried out to my Papa. And He answered with His Word.

Danielle Kreloff came into the room. We talked and I shared with her how weak I was. “I think the Lord wants me to share my weakness with the rest of the team,” I said.

That night on the porch, people shared one praise after another. I remained silent. There was a pause, like we were going to end. I knew that was my cue. So I shared my doubts and questions and that I’d flunked missions.

Mike Schadt encouraged me with God’s Word and then all of the team gathered round me to pray. Joe Tro led them. The scriptures he used were some of the very ones that the Lord had brought to mind. One of them was the father in Mark 9. He said, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”

Another passage the Lord brought to mind was in John 6. Currently, I’m writing a Bible study titled, “Bread of Life.” I’m stuck on day 10 that deals with the end of the bread of life discourse.

Jesus tells the people that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood or they will have no part of Him. Many who followed Jesus left at that point. Jesus turns to the tweleve and says, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”

Of course Peter responds. His response was my response. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

My crisis wasn’t over, but I knew where to look for answers.

More tomorrow.

A Crisis in Question, Pt. 1

On Saturday, I wrapped my ankle with an Ace bandage and got on the bus. We drove about a mile away. We were weighed down with sacks of snacks, water bottles, Christmas presents for the children and adults, props, and Gospel of John tracts.

The plan was to drop the team off at the bottom of a mountain, we would climb it, visit a village, visit another village and wind our way back to La Esperanza.

Except, that our bus driver wanted to come with us. We noticed a home slightly down the mountain and drove the bus there. We’d made arrangements to pay the inhabitants to watch it for us, and we would pick it up later.

Except the bus got stuck on the way down. Our team prayed a lot, and this was no exception. All of our strong men tried to pull the bus out, but had no success. Finally, we waved down a local with a truck and he towed the bus out.

The driver, Rene, who is a big part of our story, drove back to the church, and we marched up the mountain. There was a middle-aged woman and a young girl headed that way with some food, so we followed her.

I almost died. And, for 52 years old, I’m in pretty good shape. When I reached Tom at our first resting place, he was on all fours, trying to breathe. (Of course he was carrying about a 50 pound pack, mine was about 20.) People under 20 were fine, but the rest of us could have met Jesus and been okay with that.

The local woman and girl just stared at us.

We arrived at the village, and it was like a UNICEF infommercial. We walked in small groups down various footpaths to huts made of sticks and mud. When we approached with our Dum Dum suckers to entice the children, we saw movement. Half-dressed and dirty, the children peeked at us curiously. They were beautiful.

Basically, when we entered each footpath, it was as if we were standing in their living/family/dining/bed room. Most huts had an open fire just outside. Many women were either nursing young ones or cooking tortillas. There were a few men around, so I assumed many were working in the corn fields we’d passed on the mountains.

Beautiful roosters and chickens surrounded the yard, while mangy mutts weaved in and out of our sight. I thought of my puppy, Sam. I fed him the best dog food, and he even had toys. More toys than any child I saw.

After we invited them to a Celebracion de Navidad, we regrouped in an open section of the village. The program began. Diego, a believer from Jacksonville translated for us. We did a few skits, acted out the Christmas program, gave a few testimonies of how we had come to believe in Jesus, and then we handed out small presents for everyone. We marked their hands with a smiley face to show us who had received gifts.
That bothered me, and I refused to do it.

We did the same at the next village.

I was choking inside.

These were the thoughts that ran through my head: These people are so isolated. They will never leave here. They’ve probably been here for generations. They have no chance to have anything different.

Then I moved on to questions: What if there is sexual abuse in that small hut? Who would help them?

Then I accused God: Why did you create these people? Are you cruel? Are you good? Are you even there?

That night on the porch, everyone talked about how blessed they were to be involved. I was glad for them, but inside, I despaired.

Tag-Team-Testimonies

So I forgot that the first night in El Salvador, we dropped luggage off and ate dinner at La Esperanza. This is a church meaning planted by SOS missions. After that we travelled to a local village for an open air meeting. We set up plastic chairs on a narrow street lined with simple boxed homes. A man bought a rooster while we conducted our meeting, displayed it and entered his front door about ten feet from our meeting.

This was my first introduction to a worship service in Central America. I was struck by two things: their passion and their prayer. When we prayed, many fell to their knees and prayed aloud while the pastor also prayed. When they sang, everyone sang out,some on tune, some off, and the song lasted much longer than in America.

Joe Trofemuk spoke as a local man translated. Myriads of stars shone on our little meeting as the local man showed off his new rooster. It was a good night.

The next morning, I twisted my ankle, and we boarded a bus bound for Honduras. There was a caravan of two trucks and our bus. All together, we numbered about 30.

At first, it was your typical bus ride. People interacting, looking at the sites, getting to know each other. After a few hours, Rob Ozburn asked someone to share their testimony. Than we played testimony tag team. We told how the Lord reached into our lives and made us alive in Christ. Interspersed were songs like, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” “Mighty to Save,” and “Amazing Grace.”

One of the trucks broke down in a town. While the leaders figured out that situation, some of the team visited local people and gave out the gospel of John. A few team members witness to a 14-year-old-girl named Sarai. She goes home and brings her 18-year-old-sister, Alexandria. She asks what she should pray to God to be saved. They encourage her with scripture and KR prays out loud in Spanish.

They secure one truck to our other truck with A TREE BRANCH AND A JUMP ROPE. Then we continue along treacherous mountain roads. The testimonies and songs continue. After 30 minutes the trucks are pulled over since the branch-rope thing didn’t work. Eventually, we arrive in Honduras at about 8:30. A delicious dinner is waiting, and then it’s time for “the porch.”

I’ve been sick so sorry for the delay. I’ll cover the crisis soon. It began on Saturday as we visited remote villages. Today’s entry was from Friday.

POV

POV is discussed at length in the writing world. It stands for Point of View. It refers to how a writer presents a story. Who tells the story. For instance, in many classics, the POV is omniscient since the reader is able to know all of the characters thoughts and actions through the writer’s eyes.

There is also first person POV. The writer takes one character and views all outside activities through his or her eyes. Kind of like what I do when I write to you. Recently, writers use several POV’s like in The Left Behind Series. The reader knows whose POV it is by a division in the writing. For a few pages, you see the story through Buck’s eyes. Next, you might see it from Rayford’s POV.

That was running through my mind this morning as I drove. Being immersed in a different culture has made me contemplate my POV. It stems from a background of being a soldier and an officer’s kid in The Salvation Army, a Social Work graduate of Asbury University, a mid-westerner, a probation officer, wife, mother, daughter, caregiver, friend, Floridian, the list is endless. Perhaps the greatest influence outside of the Lord Jesus Christ is that I am an American. I realized that POV may affect me more than I know.

No POV is identical. Even if there are identical twins, they still have had different experiences. Therefore, their POV would be different.

As I was immersed into the culture of Central America, I viewed it entirely from my POV. And it wasn’t pretty. I had a self-serving, bad attitude, and doubted my Lord and Savior. I see now that it was my limited vision.

But still it was a vision. A thought process. So whose POV can we depend on? Who has the true POV. If no one does, than there are no absolutes.

I’m betting on God.

Fresh out of college, I worked as a probation officer for the Salvation Army. I noticed that my boss went to lunch whenever he wanted to and stayed away as long as he chose. Thus I came up with the saying, “God can go to lunch whenever He wants.”

I know this isn’t spiritual by any means, but it does express a profound thought. God answers to no one. He is the ultimate Boss, so it is His POV that I need to discover.

That is what I’m asking Him. I want to line up my POV with His.

Over the next several days, I’m going to present my POV along with others on our mission team and then try to line up with God’s POV. I find His POV in Scripture.

My next blog will discuss our five hour turned twelve hour bus ride. What we thought a mere inconvenience turned out to be a blessing.

See you tomorrow, friend.

Spiritual Warfare

I’ve always been a little skeptical of people who talk about a spiritual world that I can’t see or touch. I know scripture teaches it, but until recently, I’ve shied away from it.

Why?

I’ve never seen sound waves, yet people who wear glasses, and actually understand how a computer functions, assure me they are there. Most people believe in sound waves.

I cannot see the wind. I can see what it does, I can feel it. But it does not take on a physical form. I believe it is there. I even take action like throwing my chairs in the pool when I hear a hurricane is coming so they don’t fly through the air and hit my roof. (It’s a Florida thing.)

I cannot physically see wickedness, yet I see the wickedness of people by their actions. I read stories in the paper, and a shiver runs down my spine. It astounds me how cruel people can be to others.

So why is it so hard to believe that there is an unseen force that is pure evil. A devil. There I’ve said it. Satan. And that force is fighting an unseen force that is good. It’s the plot line of every great story.The Bible teaches it, I really don’t understand it, but I believe it. I believe I experienced it before and during this missions trip. (Does anyone know how to spell missions trip correctly?)

About a week before the trip, I was sick. Really ill. My throat felt as if someone had taken a knife to it. I could hardly get out of bed. I was dizzy. My daughter and her fiance came down for Thanksgiving and I hosted the meal at my house, but laid down much of the time. The annual Black Friday shopping spree with Sarah was impossible. She went with David. I was sad, but there was absolutely nothing I could do.

Then a few days before we left, while I was still weak, I became anxious. Not a normal kind of anxious. Those of you who know me, know that new situations do not bother me. I love adventure, as long as I can be in bed by 9. No, A dark heaviness settled over my spirit. I could hardly breathe.

I was anxious about my children. My mother. My dog, Sam. He became quite ill the night before we left. I felt terrible leaving him.

We got on the plane and I looked over at Tom. A number of wicked thoughts went through my mind. I won’t share them with you. There was no reason or basis for them, they were just there.

I arrived in El Salvador and we travelled to El Esperanza. It’s a newly planted church by SOS ministry. The name means hope. We settled in, and the trip began. I felt as if my body were there but my spirit was looking on. Surreal would be a good word. Normally, I am outgoing and friendly. People must have thought I was friendly, but my thoughts were not. There was an oppressive weight on my heart. I especially felt distant from my husband.

The next morning, Tom and I walked in the yard and I stepped in a hole. I heard two snaps and couldn’t walk. Sitting down on a low wall, I began to weep.

“Lord, why have you brought me this far to sprain my ankle and not be able to participate. Please heal me!” That was my cry. I knew I needed ice of some sort, but there was none. About an hour later, they found a few cubes for a small cold pack.

It was time for our five hour bus ride through Guatemala to Honduras. Only it took twelve. I’ll write more about that tomorrow. For today, I’d like to share a from Hebrews 12: 10-13. This comes from a prayer book written by Kenneth Boa titled, “Face to Face.”

Here is the passage:

“Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best, but you, O God, discipline us for our good, that we may share in Your holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful; later on, however, it produces the peaceable fruit of righteousness for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, let us strengthen our hands that are weary and our feeble knees, and make straight paths for our feet, so that what is lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”

This morning as I lay in bed, thinking about the trip, I felt a twinge in my ankle and realized that it never swelled up like it had the two times before when I sprained the same ankle. After visiting the hospital on both previous occasions, and being on crutches for several weeks, it had finally healed.

But this time I was able to walk to remote villages that challenged my faith about the goodness of God. So maybe God healed me. Maybe He desired for me to be challenged, to have a crisis of question.

More tomorrow.