Monday, January 16, 2012

Deanna and part of our Mexico team

Before entering vocational ministry, I worked for over 20 years with people who have developmental disabilities. I saw a wide array of brokeness and need in that time. The enemy seeks to destroy families through varied means, including the issues surrounding this population. Subsequently, the majority of those I spent time with were from broken homes.

I have so many memories and stories from those years. Recently, I've found myself thinking about them. I have recieved word over the past two years that many of these people have passed away.

Working with them was so rewarding. Their outlook on life, though most had few resources and little to look forward to (from a worldly perspective), was amazing. They loved life and relationships! I learned much from them.

As a man, I have a mind that responds to most things visual. Sometimes that is good, and other times, not so much.

I didn't used to believe that television had an impact on my thoughts or actions. Then I spent a week or two period, fasting from all forms of media. I was amazed how much my thoughts and attitudes were more like my Saviors through that period. I just didn't realize how subtly sin can enter and become a part of my life.

Things we recognize as "the norm" in our culture can turn your heart from His, one beat at a time.

One of the adults I worked with, carried a dual diagnosis of mild retardation and mild mental illness.

She did not look like one who had a disability. She was capable of having fairly intelligent conversations. She had a very hard life and upbringing. Part of her conditioned response to adversity, was to flee. I learned this the hard way.

I was managing a wholesale greenhouse that was a part of a social service orgnanization, at the time. My employees each had developmental disabilities in one form or another.

This woman did not work for me for long. Her 'fight or flight' response was highly developed on the flight side.

One day, after our morning break, it came to my attention that she was missing. Her supervisor had an encounter with her where correction was necessary. This resulted in her decision to leave...unnoticed.

I made several calls and then began a search.

Honestly, I was deeply concerned for her safety. She was wise to the art of flirting, but was not capable of fully processing the potential negative outcomes.

In my search, I began to visit the kind of places she had a history of fleeing to.

I entered one bar or strip club after another. To say I was a fish out of water would be an understatement. The things I saw, even in those late morning and early afternoon hours, were shocking to me.

How quickly the owners were to perceive the necessity to get their "dancers" up and working, upon my entry. I must have looked like easy prey.

As quickly as I could, I introduced myself to those in charge and stated my business... "I am seeking a missing person."

One establishment after another turned out to be a dead end. I was amazed at how many of these places existed within walking distance of our facility. I had not ever really thought about that, I guess.

Finally, upon entering one club, I found her sitting at the bar, smoking a cigarette and nursing a cup of coffee. She seemed very content.

I casually entered into conversation with her, and ultimately convinced her to leave with me.

How often in our culture do we flee difficulties to camp out in places we feel more comfortable? How many of these places would shock those who know us "Christians?"

Darkness does not seek light, it wants to remain in darkness.

Illuminating the darkness is what our lives are to be about. We are not called to judge or put down those we interact with, rather to bring them truth in His timing and as He opens opportunities before us.

Sometimes the subtle ways we embrace sin ourselves, result in unexpected relations with the most unholy of moments.

He desires for us to recognize these, lay them at His feet, and to go forward responding to how He seeks us.

His love for us brings change to our condition, and causes an increase in our desire to be in His light.

Often, what is hideous in the dark, remains active yet unnoticed until light is added.

We must ask Him to illuminate the dark places we retreat to that often reside within us.

He is faithful! Our desires change as we yield to Him.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Posing with Evan in Mexico...

I have so often reflected on the story of Abraham and Isaac, as they built the altar of sacrifice together.

In earlier years, I thought it nearly impossible to comprehend... especially when viewing it through the lens of today's societal taboos, mores and norms.

Who could bind the arms and legs of their own child, hoist him atop an altar and raise the instrument of his death overhead, let alone actually take their life.

While my son was in the hospital and I entered his room, I daily saw a depiction of this story, and my soul would embrace it in ways I cannot find words to portray.

I drew comfort from it. I found discouragement in it.

It lingered.

I prayed.

It lingered more.

I continued to pray.

I still do.

I don't know that I will fully understand it's far reaching implications until I am able to sit down with Abraham and Isaac and reflect on that journey. I hope my son can be part of this discussion.

What I have understood from the story is that when we are called to sacrifice, God honors the attitude of our hearts, when that attitude is obedience. Through it, He blesses.

We will not always understand this in the moments of sacrifice. Sacrifice is usually accompanied by brokenness. It is vital that we cling to Him during these difficult hours/days/weeks/months/years.

In the story of Isaac, Abraham's obedience brought about great blessing. Isaac was spared due to his father's decision to do what God told him. His family was blessed for generations. And the generations would call him Father.

Not every story ends with lives spared. The consistent theme is glory and honor brought to God, and then blessing in sometimes intangible ways.

We are surrounded by those who suffer. Some because of their own poor decisions. Others at the imposition of another.

That God would send His only Son to die a hideous death is nearly incomprehensible. Yet we saw a depiction of this kind of willingness in Abraham and Isaac.

Blessing comes to each of us who call on the name of Jesus for Salvation, as a direct result of His unbelievable suffering.

When the whip found temporary grip amid His flesh, there was no relief. When the cross was thrust upon His back, there was a long road to death. When the hammer was lifted, there was no rescue. When the spikes severed nerves, no one held the soldier from pounding. When the spear was thrust, it emptied blood and water from His brokenness...

...and He gave it willingly. He suffered for our Salvation!

Perhaps we need to spend less time focusing on our perceptions of our own lack, and recognize that it cost Him, everything.

He now lives to intercede on your behalf and mine.

We may suffer for seasons, but His Salvation is eternal. He is worth it. Cling to Him, and He will hold and carry your burden.

Praise His Holy Name! Jesus!


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Our team in Mexico

Deanna and I just returned unscathed from a notorious border town between Texas and Mexico. What an incredible journey!

When our Lord calls us, He also makes a way for His will to be done. We had one of the best teams and trips we've ever experienced! Quite a blessing, during a time we celebrate the gift of the Christ child!!!

Our team was small, and there were concerns before we left. There were concerns while we were there. All were covered by your prayer and that of many others. We saw the hand of the Lord move in power as we saw many surrender their hearts to Him, and encouraged many believers.

There are so many stories of encounters of His divine intervention, that I could write for weeks about just them. I am amazed and thankful that I serve the Living God, who is most Holy!

We do need to pray for the church (call them PIB) we partner with, as our presence brings undue attention to them from the drug cartels. They are brave to allow us to come and serve, knowing they may fall under the scrutiny of those who intend harm for gain.

We did see the presence of these cartels. We also noted a tremendously beefed up military presence as federales were encountered everywhere we went. We are not a threat to them, as we are there to try and restore hope, where fear prevails.

We have seen a great decline in the number of people present in plazas, parks and other gathering places. Even those who reside in Mexico refuse to travel through this area, as it has become known for it's violence.

This would tend to make it seem foolish to travel there, especially with students. I struggled beforehand as I needed assurance that this WAS His will and the peace to go, in spite of the violence. He provided.

While we were there, violence broke out not far from where we were. I could even hear the sound of guns on occasion. However, I had no fear. He gave me complete peace in knowing, He was in control!

I suppose it is always easy to say this after the fact. But the truth is, those closest to me, know that beforehand, I struggled more with this trip than any I have led.

I was honestly surprised to have Him bless us so deeply. The students were amazing, their unity unequalled and our ministry anointed!

I feel as though I have received a fresh touch from our Savior, a Christmas gift of a very unique and enduring kind.

Our students entered with one purpose, share the Gospel, no matter the cost.

They did!

If there was a problem on this trip, it was reigning in their enthusiasm and channeling the uncommon energy. They wanted to share and didn't want anything to get in the way of it. I literally had students chasing people down at times, to be sure they heard about Jesus!

You KNOW who this reminds me of!

We saw many Salvations and many believers receive encouragement (including us)!

One of the young men on our team had served for two years in Belize when he wasn't a believer. He had been given everything as a child and even lived beachfront with an expensive car as a young adult. He was empty and broken, and went to Belize to serve and try to discover life's meaning.

He was confounded by a people who had nothing, but were so joyful. When he asked them why, they told him about Jesus. He began reading his Bible. He cried out to God and asked Him that if He was real, to send him a book in the mail that was more recent, depicting the life of a believer.

In two years, he never received any other books. BUT, the next day a book arrived in his's title, "I Would Die for You!" He surrendered his heart and his life to our Savior!

He is as passionate about Jesus as I've seen! He was such a blessing!

Another young man on our team became a believer just a few months ago. In fact, 5 months ago, he was in throes of death while on a recreational drug overdose at his school. All went black and he could not see anything. He knew he was dying. He cried out to God in that moment, to save him.

He did!

Right then and there life rushed back into him, and he has surrendered his life to serve. He was an amazing asset to our team. As we shared in a youth prison, his testimony was instrumental in 5 young men coming to Christ!

God does not make mistakes. He prepares those He calls whether or not they feel like they are. He uses their obedience to tear down walls and draw men and women to Himself.

I so humbled to serve. I thank God for His amazing provision, and this opportunity!

My attitude was not great going in, but I yielded it and my life to Him, and He blessed in incredible measure.

Praise God! From Him, blessings really do flow!