Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dominican Republic, Day 5

In this world, I cannot think of too many things that are more refreshing than a cool rain on a hot summer's day. Things once wilted in the sun, people included, are reinvigorated and celebrate the grace showered upon them.

It has rained on us several afternoons here. It always seems to happen right as we're packing it in for the day. It restores our spirits and cools the environment around us. We actually got cold last night!

God's mercies rain down upon us just when we need them most. Like the rain, He restores our souls and reinvigorates our spirits. He washes away the defeats and failures of the past, leaving a fertile soil for His gospel to take root.

All praise be to God!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Dominican Republic, Day 4

There are 2 things in life that I will never get enough of: laughter and encouragement. One of them requires no translation as you can clearly see below.

Jody said, "You will not grow in maturity in your faith until you begin to practice, and embrace, encouraging another man. It is how we grow closer in our relationships to other men."

Satan knows the weak spot in my armor: self worth. On a daily, sometimes hourly basis, he is there whispering to me, "Sorry pal, you're just not good enough. You can't hack it. You're not useful in ministry. You're a failure as a father. You're a failure in life." It hamstrings me. It colors my interactions and opinions of others. It sets me to seeking approval in as many places as I can find it. It tempts me to give up.

The Bible tells us we were pursued by God even though we were His enemies. While we were dead in our sins, it was His joy to sacrifice Christ on the cross... HIS ONLY SON... that we may be found blameless in His sight. His full wrath was poured out on Christ who knew no iniquity, committed no sin... in order that I should be called a son of The Most High God.

As a father, I can tell you that I would be very challenged to even hurt my sons' feelings for anyone, for any reason. God sacrificed His Son in order that I should live. In light of that, should I continue to live my life listening to the voice that tells me I'm a complete screw up? Should I give audience to the voice that tells me I'm not desired by anyone, even God?

Or should I listen to the Holy Spirit who has been imparted to LIVE WITHIN ME, to guide me, to comfort me?

My prayer is that some day very soon that I will be able to listen and hear the Father's voice louder.

Galatians 4:4-7
"But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"
Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God."

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dominican Republic, Day 3

Sabbath. A day of rest. Why is it that I am amazed when God proves that He knows what He's doing?

Worshipped with Templo Biblico today. It was such a sweet time. Sang several familiar hymns in Spanish. I was completely moved to tears as I felt the Holy Spirit moving in the songs and desperate prayers of His people, my brothers and sisters.

We visited after. Rachel started this co-op as a means to offer the village women a way out of prostitution and other forms of oppression. We met one of the ladies who gathers materials and makes earrings.

After lunch, we jumped up in typical American fashion, ready to rush forward to the next item on the list. However Juan, our driver, motioned for us to sit and allow our food to digest, forcing us to slow down and rest a bit.

It really made many of us reflect on how independent and even completely rebellious, in the light of resting in God's sovereignty, we tend to be. So often, we are too quick to run and do when He is calling us to be still and wait. We equate busyness with obedience, it seems. Instead, we seem to think we can do it on our own power and volition. If we will it and work hard enough, God will give us rest after. That's so wrong.

Instead, we should rest in Him who is able to do mighty works through us. We wait until He makes us move. I honestly believe that too many times we get in the way with our own agendas that we miss out on the blessings that God wants to give us.

So today, we practiced rest. Some practiced better than others, but Juan would have it no other way... and praise God for it!

Dominican Republic, Day 2

Today, God allowed me to feel the weight of my own depravity. We walked through the batays of Poncho Mateo and Chichigua where I was overwhelmed by the abject poverty.

That God would ordain that I should live in the United States of America where one has drinkable water at the faucet, while these beautiful children live without many of our perceived necessities, seemed completely unfathomable to me. My heart broke that the villagers are dependent upon water trucks to fill a dirty sistern with water for cooking and washing clothes. Many do not have shoes. Some do not have clothes. I was filled with pity and grief, wanting desperately for them to have the life I live... only to be rebuked by the Holy Spirit.

You see, I'm not satisfied with my material wealth. Though by comparison I live like a king, my joy is not found in the car I drive, the clothes I wear, or the apartment I live in. Likewise, these villagers would not find joy in those things either. While life would be easier for these precious ones, no one has ever gone on the record to say they were tired of material wealth. It does not satisy. It is never enough.

True joy is found only in Jesus Christ. He is more precious than the finest silver, more costly than the purest gold. That became quite apparent to me as the children began to color in our coloring books and play basketball and soccer with us. With gleeful cries of "Caballito (horse)," they showed they were not there because we could give them money, toys, or other material possessions. No, they rejoiced in us as we got down in the dirt with them, shrugging off any preconceptions or prejudices we may have brought with us. They were willing to allow us the privilege of giving inexhaustible piggy back rides or playing silly games, ad nauseum.

God allowed us to share His unconditional love with a people group that has been cast aside and shunned and, moreover, we were joyfully loved in return.

Matthew 25:35-40
"For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, (O)to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'"

*Special thank you to the Muticultural Center - Palestine, for donating many articles of clothing and toys. They will be distributed by the local churches at the missionaries' request.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Dominican Republic, Day 1

I won't report the news. I won't bore you with details of narrowly making flights and what was left behind. Instead, I want this to glorify Christ.

Today, I felt joyful that I was embarking upon a journey with my family. My sister, Laura, was such a delight to visit with on all the flights. My brother, Michael, has got to be the wisest 16 year old I have ever met. I was overcome with such love for these people, though I barely know them.

What's more, I met Anne, Garrett, Katie, Robin, Cara, Miguel, Jenni, and Diego, Riley, and Jody. These are the staff members of Makarios who are hosting us this week. It was so refreshing to dine with them, laugh with them, and bring small slices of Austin to them. I am eagerly looking forward to getting to know them more over the next week.

This, I think, is what it means to be the Body of Christ. We love each other, unconditionally, though we may hardly know each other. We treat others as though they are more important than ourselves. We give as though nothing we have truly belongs to us, but to our Father in Heaven.

I have yet to see all of God's beauty that He has planned for us here. I can't wait to share more with you as the week progresses.

Romans 12:5
"so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another."