Thursday, July 26, 2012

Southern Charm

Here I am, back in Shiroles in the comforts of my familiar room (and cot) and back to the simple lifestyle of the Bribri while engulfed by the beauty of nature that surrounds me. So much of me wishes I was here just to love and serve these people rather than having to lead short-term mission teams. I think this has been an incredible internship and opportunity, but I can’t help but think that this position is not what it’s all about. It’s an extremely busy, stressful position leading teams. It makes me realize how difficult it must be for long-term missionaries who take time away from their personal ministry to host such teams. I’ve been discouraged a few times by the pure exhaustion that comes from this position, and the realization that such a job calls for someone to work the entire day, every day, without any real down time. It’s been the hardest part for me. You know how you give your all during short-term mission trips? You have a set apart time to love and serve people, to follow this jam-packed schedule filled with work projects, kids club, worship, debrief etc. etc. Then you go back home, sleep for an entire day, and return to your normal routine? Well, as a summer staff – we don’t get that day of rest, and we give it our all week after week after week. After reflecting on this fact, I realized that it’s not missions necessarily that terrifies me, it’s working my life away that I fear the most. And honestly, that’s not the way God intended it to be. We fill our lives with busyness and often forget to be still and listen to the Lord. Then we turn around and ask for wisdom and direction and get frustrated when we don’t understand or see a clear cut picture. Anyway, I realize I’m straying off the beaten path. Point is: I’m ready to sit, be still, and listen to the Lord this week. I’ve allowed the Devil to discourage me in my passion for a life on the mission field (which should be all of our lives); but am realizing that it is the busyness I want to shy away from not the mission field itself.

Last week, we hosted In Focus Church of Georgia and two college graduates from Kentucky. If I could describe the week in one word it would be “fun.” The spirit of our group was so joyful and full of humor. For the first time, I felt like our group had the same sense of humor as me and my week was filled with just an incredible amount of laughter. Our teams rocked at making relationships with the community, they weren’t so wrapped up in the go-go-go mentality and were able to embrace the lax nature of the culture. We continued work on the church bathrooms (which seem to be nearing completion!), dug a gutter around the church sanctuary to prevent flooding from the typical downpours of the region, and continued work on the school computer lab. Reflecting on the week, I can’t quite pinpoint a specific quality that made me connect with this group but I just absolutely adored everyone! It might have been that they were gamers, and every night we ended in either a game of Mafia, four square, or an impromptu game. It made me think of my game nights back home and I absolutely enjoyed every minute of it! I especially connected with the female leader of the group, Barbara. When first meeting her I was intimidated by her strong personality and extreme sense of sarcasm; but as the days went on I had the opportunity to talk with Barbara about her life and hear her wisdom. She had been through a lot as a child and had spent a majority of her adult life far from God, but through a radical transformation of the Spirit she continues to seek to align her life towards a life of righteousness. I was really inspired by how much she continued to question and reflect on different issues, listening and learning, always eager to know more. I think a lot of times we think we have it all figured out, get stuck going through the motions, or close our ears off when God calls us to new things. It takes a strong woman of God to admit that she doesn’t have it all figured out yet, and to proclaim that she will continue to seek truth and grow closer with the Lord in the process.

I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve been through a lot of spiritual warfare while out here on the mission field. I had a passion for missions before this summer, but being here just makes me realize even more how truly important it is to pray for our brothers and sisters who are spreading the name of Christ on the field. Those who truly sacrifice all that they have to take up their cross and follow the Lord are the ones who the Devil is out to attack the most. It is not easy. I remember asking the Lord for tests and hardships so that He would break me of all that I cling to, that I would not consider anything my own, and would lay down my life for His namesake. Now, here I am – and there have been times that I question my ability to live on the field and have focused on my inadequacies; but I am continually reminded me that this is not my ministry, it is HIS. This is not about what I can or cannot do; it’s about what HE can do through me. There is always hope in despair and His presence in the midst of chaos. I was reading a piece of Joyce Myer's devotional and it really spoke to me. It talked about how it is good to acknowledge our weaknesses, but not to dwell on them - instead we must proclaim strength through His Name and His power.

I feel like this entry is sort of jumbled and I apologize if it may have been hard to follow, but I want to type out a prayer I wrote in my journal and the Scripture that the Lord specifically brought me to give you all a glimpse of what I'm feeling - and the faithfulness of the Lord in sustaining me through these experiences. Please continue to pray for our leadership team in Costa Rica as we prepare for our last two short-term mission teams, we will be hosting an adult team from Cumberland Fellowship this next week. Eric, the youth pastor of In Focus, gave us some good advice to finish off the summer. He reminded us "This may be your millionth time, but it will be the group's first time. So treat your last two teams with the same energy and enthusiasm as the first." I think he is absolutely right, and though our strength and energy is draining - we will continue to pray that the Lord will take over and make these last two weeks just as unforgettable as the first two. 

July 20, 2012

I will be quiet before You Lord. I will be still before You my God. Open my eyes to see the beauty of Your creation that surrounds me, open my eyes to hear your voice above all other noise. Lord, I long for Your presence, when you speak and act through me my soul is left joyful and longing for more of You. I will never understand Your ways or comprehend the vastness of Your majesty – I am brought down and bruised – but I find truth in your ways. In this life I will fail, I will be strayed in my selfishness; I will despise myself and this world. I will feel lost in hopelessness, and I will always fall short in bringing you glory. But I thank you precious Lord, that with every morning I get to wake up to Your wonderful, beautiful mercy. Why is grace extended to a peasant, so unworthy? How can you love me when I am unable to return the same incredible love and am tainted by the ways of this world? I’ll never know why or how – all I do know is the truth of Your undying love and faithfulness, I know of Your tests and promises that keep me in awe of your Majestic Being. Lord make me Your servant, use me for the sake of Your Kingdom. Shape and mold my heart, body, mind, and soul to be pleasing to You. Humble me to become a servant to all, give me life in Your ways. When all is lost I am found in You. When I am poor in this world, I am rich in Your Kingdom. Consume me Holy Spirit, may my life not just be filled with worthless thoughts or actions, may You extend my ways past more than talk. Lord, focus my eyes on You, turn my thoughts and actions to You – to our Love – to a transformation of all that I am. Remove all judgments or assumptions from my mind; build in me a heart that cherishes every aspect of Your creation that has form in this Earth. Lord continually break me of my personal plans and desires, align my mind and motivations to your own. Precious God I long for You, I am thirsty for more of You. Take over my life, be the light in the midst of darkness- both in this world and in my soul. Your ways are higher; lead me in a life of righteousness. Speak to me God, reveal Yourself to me within every moment of every day. Revive me with a burning fire in my Spirit – to follow You will all that I have, to sacrifice all that I cling to, to purify myself for Your intimate love – my Heavenly Prince. I will be quiet before You Lord. I will be still before You My God.

“In town after town the Holy Spirit testifies to me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of God’s grace” Acts 20:23-24

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