As we approach our first year living on the field as missionaries we realize we will soon enter a new season as I shared before. This has me thinking more as I go to CIAAD the boys prison, we prepare lunch on Saturdays and anything else that comes up. What prevents us from seeing success? What keeps us from trying things? Why do we tend to expect defeat and a lack of response?
Ultimately the question is about our own faith. Do we believe the Gospel can completely transform a person? It is easy to believe that a nice middle class person can accept and add Jesus to their life (though in a way it is more amazing). However when we hear a testimony of someone saved in prison or rise out of hard circumstance we consider it amazing.
We recently heard about a cousin of Melissa’s that had much stacked against her in life. She is now seeking God and expecting in faith to go on a missions trip to China. She is continuously seeing God provide as she seeks to please Him. Melissa herself should have wound up in a much different place based on the worlds standards. The truth is many people all of us know have seen God do great miracles of change.
The problem is we forget our own testimony. We don’t share it with others. We go to church to hear teaching and get smarter but we forget to share what God has done. We need doctrine but we need the balance of testimony. We need the passion that comes from seeing God change lives. We need to give opportunity for people to hear where we come from not just where we are.
I never want to quit worshiping and marveling at what God can do when he takes a sinner and turns them into His own child. I want to marvel no less at the subtle outward changes and deep unseen changes of the middle class than the drug addict. In the midst of marvel and worship I want to learn to expect the great, the impossible, I want to expect God. I want my faith to grow beyond setting my expectations low to avoid disappointment to having no expectations but excitement to see what God will do.
This last week at CIAAD we met a group of teenagers living in the prisons half way house. It is an exciting possibility in the midst of a sad reality. We also shared with a large group of younger boys. All desperate for us to pray for their families. Much less tough, showing the emotions of being separate from moms on their faces.
At lunch on Saturday, we fed men, women, and children from very desperate circumstances. I walked through the favela with Tim asking people to come to lunch. Angered that parents raise their kids to live that way. Melissa and I tried desperately to talk with a couple women and some kids. The kids went in to play, we still couldn’t get the women comfortable. In fact when I asked if Melissa could pray for them the one women looked frantic and told me if she didn’t pour anything on her head or do something strange. (The weirdness of so many churches in Brazil is several blog posts of material. I’ll just say I recently heard of chicken’s getting filled with the spirit, prophesying in tongues while the rooster interpreted. This was from a mainstream denomination.)
As Melissa and I approach the next 2 years as the time to switch from adjusting to culture and living as a missionary family to practicing ministry. The question becomes do we not just believe in God, believe the gospel can change a few lives or do we expect Jesus and His cross to transform communities? To transform family histories in the favela, the lives of boys in prison, our own hearts. Will we operate in duty and religion or with true expectant faith?
Do we, me, Melissa, my kids, you, my church truly believe that God can and will change lives. Our we going to move from belief and hope to great faith?