Sunday, July 15, 2012

Works Without Faith is Dead.

As I sit in a Caribbean smoothie shop in Cahuita, I can’t help but think how badly I needed just one afternoon on my own. I always knew we would have a jam packed schedule, and I had always thought I thrived off of busy-ness; but I’m realizing more and more just how introverted I truly am. I really do value my alone time and some of my most precious times with Jesus are in the confines of my room or in complete silence and meditation. When groups ask me what the most difficult part is of this job, I always say the lack of time. I recently discovered that learning how to be still in today’s society is one of the biggest challenges to walking in a life of righteousness. Even within the ministry, we pack our schedules with Bible studies, accountability partners, church services, volunteer work, Christian concerts, so on and so forth; and all of these things are great, but where do we draw the line? It’s one thing to be surrounded by Christian activities and friends; it’s another to dwell in His Holy Spirit. We can talk all we want about how much we love God- but if someone were to read our mind, how much do our thoughts (and actions) reflect Christ? If you’ve ever been in love, you know that you want to spend 24 hours a day with that special person. There is just never enough time that you can spend with them. So if we claim to love Jesus, why do we struggle in finding time alone with Him or talking with Him throughout our day? God isn’t supposed to be fit into our schedules; He is supposed to be THE schedule, to experience God’s true love we must learn to give our lives, including our routines, to Him. This has been a struggle for me, a tension between what “needs” to be done, and what I truly need- the presence of the Holy Spirit; because without that, what is the purpose of life or our work?

In the midst of this personal battle of mine, the Lord brought me a week filled with passionate prayer and worship to bring me back to His majesty. We hosted two groups this week: one an adult group from an Assemblies of God church in Chicago, the other a youth group from Grace Presbyterian church in Colorado. Talk about cross-cultural experiences! Cross-generational, cross-regional, cross-denominational; it was neat to see how all came together in unity to serve our one true God.  I had been excited from the beginning about our adult group, solely because we had had a lot of youth and I just knew I was going to be the learner rather than the teacher in this group. Since our group of adults also spoke Spanish, we were able to reach out to the community like we never had before. On Tuesday, we had a prayer walk through the community where we stopped at different locations in the village (ie. School, church, soccer field etc.) to pray over each area. We had the opportunity to pray over individual workers and homes, and I was brought to tears when we stopped at the home of our community partners, Sara and Victor, to shower them with prayer in the middle of their living room. We ended our walk at our main construction site, Pastor Indalecio’s church, where Pastor spoke to us. He told us how much he loved the way we were stopping work to pray over the community, how the balance of a word and deed Gospel is just not done enough. He touched on exactly what I had been praying about – that works without faith is dead. On Thursday, we held our first ever women’s ministry. It had been placed on the hearts of both Susie and I to start up this outreach. We were able to get together with the women of the community in the middle of the day when they are done with cooking and their husbands are still working at the plantain farms. We came together over coffee and sweet bread while we made friendship bracelets and sang songs of worship in Spanish and English. It was a really special time for me as I saw the vision that the Lord had given me play out in this community. 

Both teams worked hard to continue construction on the church bathrooms and floors, Pastor Jonathan’s house construction project, and the high school computer lab project. We even had a special painting project that three girls from the community came to us with through a letter. We paired the three Bribri girls with three girls from our group to complete it, and the day ended with a paint fight! Within all of the construction projects, both of our groups were incredible at forming relationships as they worked alongside those in the community. For me though, the overwhelming theme of the week was much more spiritual than usual and it was exactly what I needed.

The beautiful part of it all, was that for almost everyone in our group this week was their first international mission trip. Many came to me crying, overwhelmed by the poverty and guilted by their selfish blessings. During a night of debrief, I asked the group what their motivations and expectations were before coming on this trip. Some answers were honest- to get away from home; others were typical- to serve God, etc. but as they were sharing I realized that many were beginning to feel disgusted with the American abundance and overcome with honeymoon feelings of the humility of the Bribri. See, it’s good to feel a sort of compassion and humility when you come on a mission trip but that’s by no means what it is all about. They talked about how hard working the Bribri are, how accepting they are, and how they so easily accept love. But I twisted the situation on them, as I realized I am guilty of succumbing to the same feelings. Are the Bribri really that much more hard working and accepting than Americans? Or do we just come to mission trips with the open-mindedness and servant-heartedness necessary to see and value others the way we should see and value everyone? A mission trip is an allotted time that we have to accept those around us, to learn from others, to love and serve no matter what that means- but how does that translate to our lives back home? Are there not American women and men of all ages, of all salaries, of all professions who need Jesus just as desperately as those in third world countries? America may be rich in money, but we are poor in Spirit. Many claim Christianity as their lives reflect the world. Many drown in wealth and at the same time drown in depression. Many are blinded to think money and success bring life, when all it does is quicken death. Maybe, if we begin to live our lives the way we live them during our one-week mission trip than we will truly see ALL others as made in the image of Christ. Maybe, if we stop reserving church for Sundays and learn to give our ENTIRE lives away to the Lord then we will finally see transformation in our lives and the lives of others around us.

Whether we are in the church or out of it, passionate worshippers or silent meditators, professionals or laborers, Bribri or American – we are all in need of truth; we all need to learn how to give our lives away to find life in Jesus Christ. 

And every day, in the temple and from house to house, 
they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. 
Acts 5:42

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