Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Not heroes just by the grace of God

Luke 9:23And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

Today I had the joy of building the frame for a new roof over a lady’s out door kitchen area. It was hot today but I enjoyed working removing the broken tiles and sticks that were currently up there. I enjoyed the joys on their faces when they looked at some of my American tools and couldn’t believe how fast they were. I enjoyed showing Fabio her son how to use a few things and what they were for. I enjoyed having him help. I was feeling good doing a job not only for free but where I bought a fair share of the materials for someone. I was thinking what  a joy it is to be a missionary. Then I decided to help her more and ask her about cleaning our house a couple times a month. She has nothing, doesn’t understand many things, I am building her a roof and my friend Roberto is sorting out her utilities. She responds by trying to gouge me for a quick buck on the cleaning. She looked at me like an American with too much money and shot me a price three times normal with a smile on her face. Not only was her price high she has no transportation and I would have to pick her up an take her home. Thanks lady , but no thanks.

On top of that frustration I am afraid I have high blood pressure and have long had hypoglycemia. I didn’t eat this morning because nothing here is quick or easy. I got overheated, lost some hearing in my left ear and felt dizzy. I worked to get to a stopping point. My shirt and shorts were so sweaty it looked like I had just jumped in the river. Without even a little exaggeration I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get myself home. I got my tools got in the car hoping to get to the house and have Melissa’s help.

When I was driving up I see the whole family walking and the baby not looking too good. She was in Melissa’s arms and when I asked what was going on, she was going to walk a half mile to the doctor because of something with Alannah’s eye. Keep in mind I am barely able to drive or think. Alannah has a hard time living here. I start to get a bit worried. She is covered in bug bites, so are we, she is constantly covered in heat rash and has trouble with asthma.

I got them in the car, drove to the house to grab water and a shirt. I couldn’t have put mine back on if I wanted to, it was soaked and covered with sawdust. I also know I very much should have been going to a doctor, my ears weren't ringing yet but they were plugged and I was still dizzy. I grabbed ice water and jumped into a 15 second cold shower then got back in the car.

At that moment I no longer wanted to be a missionary. I wanted to be back in Oregon ignoring my health there. Miraculously it really was only a surface desire. Inside I knew I still wanted to be here driving to the hospital to get Alannah checked out again. Listening to her cry and trying to stop her from rubbing her eye. Even when we got to the emergency room and the fat, lazy un-kept “doctor” came in there was an acceptance that this is the price of the gospel. In fact death was paid for all of us.

He didn’t even look at her and told us to go to the eye hospital. Gave us a note to get us treated there. We were there with a baby that has a rash, is pale and has a swollen eye and he didn’t even look.

We headed off to find the eye hospital, luckily Daniel and Juliah had spotted it on our way to the emergency room. We got there to be told they were at lunch and come back at one. We got to the gas station, got home, got the other kids unloaded, I got a real shower and headed back.

The doctor was much nicer and the place was clean. They couldn’t find the problem but gave her some anti inflammatory drops. She still doesn’t look good but has her eye half way open and is watching TV.

After we got back home the guy came to repair my freezer. He missed seeing that he needed a special tool yesterday and now wants more money for the job but since I agreed to a second repair he will honor the original price.

We miss our family. We miss our culture. There is no fast food here. No movie theatre, no shopping mall. We are struggling to both love and reach the neighbor kids and yet teach them to respect us. They call our kids liars and don’t respect what anyone says but me. It’s frustrating, hot and the mosquitos are eating us.

Maybe I almost begin to understand what it means to take up a cross. I know there are people who have paid much higher prices. We aren’t heroes, we are fairly comfortable. We have a decent house, good food, a TV on the wall, satellite, movies and friends. I only think I am suffering because I love me so much.

Walking to the little store down the street I began to reflect on taking up your cross. There is a price to see peoples lives touched by the Lord wherever you are. The price is a bit of your life. That is what it means to loose it. It is no longer mine it is His. I can’t leave just because it is hard for Alannah to live here. Jesus who carried his own cross knows. He loves her more then me. He also loves the neighbor kids who spend 12 hours a day at our gate yelling for us to come out.

Right now we are finally starting to see real fruit, real opportunities for long term ministry. We seen a sprinkling of it in Foz with the kids in the favela but there was a sense that it was only a glimpse of the future. It didn’t feel established or quite real. Here there is a joy in seeing a plan come together. In writing an email to our leaders laying out goals, plans and dreams. Things are opening up and I feel like a missionary. I understand and accept my role. I even accept the pain it costs to be here. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. My flesh has no desire to post this. My flesh wants to leave for Campo Grande tomorrow or next weekend and see a movie, eat subway or burger king. My flesh wants to be fed.

How will I respond. I will get up earlier and be in the word longer. Try and be more prepared to view all the things that happened above as an opportunity for a little of the cross to be rubbed off of me and onto them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What do they need, can I offer it?

As we have lived in Brazil the last year and a half we have often wondered what is our job? Missionary is a big title, it covers a lot of ground. At times it can be evangelist, at times pastor, at times a farm worker, contractor, cook or even a parent. It isn’t as simple as a daily list of chores or punching the clock. You have to be a constant observer and learner.

The resolution I am coming to is that my job is to look at the people I am around and prayerfully attempt to asses their needs. Spiritually and physically. As we observe we also have to keep in mind our own ability to meet those needs. The people may need a hospital or a doctor, that may not be a need I am able to meet. We also have to look at whether God is calling us to meet that need. For instance the church here tends towards legalism. It is not my job to change the culture of the local church even though the people need to know grace.

Here in our neighborhood people need dentists, education and but much more they need discipline. Realy that is true of much of this city and much of Brazil. I would love to teach an in depth bible study. To open a church. To sit in comfortable living rooms. However God has led us to Corumba. Corumba has churches, has church leaders, has pastors and is even sending a few missionaries. What I see that is lacking is discipleship. Often people are believers but have not been led to maturity in their faith. The reality in a catholic country is that very few would deny that Christ exists, that he is God, and that he died on the cross. The biggest problem with the application of the catholic faith here is that they leave him on the cross.

I am not sure really where the line is between saved and unsaved. I personally don’t believe it is a simple prayer, though I still often use that. I believe it is much more simple than that but sometimes more genuine. There is no doubt in my mind that someone can pray a prayer in a moment of genuine confession that winds up commemorating the beginnings of their walk with Christ. There is also no doubt in my mind it could be a few words spoken in a moment of guilt without really giving place to Jesus to be Lord of our life. That is more the experience I see around me. People who have muttered words, been to a service or two but Jesus simply has no more place in their lives then a bumper sticker. Thankfully that is for God to sort out.

In the meantime it is clear to me walking with Christ is about learning to read and obey His word. That starts with me. Am I giving the word of God a life changing place in my life? Is my day marked by giving first priority of the day to a time in the word? In all honesty the last couple of weeks have been marked by much distraction. Trying t get back on task after Christmas has led to a bit of rushing out the door. I am first called to keep this straight.

After me, am I modeling and discipling submission to Christ to my wife and kids? Are Melissa and I together giving effort to seek Him jointly, to be ruled by and live in the Spirit? I see many signs that the kids understand why we are here. They seem to be grasping the task at hand. Juliah last night asked what happened to people who die and don’t know Jesus. I told her they go to hell. She responded with a simple that’s sad. It was so clear.

That is something we always need to remember. All of us. The people around us are very much in a sad state. They are more than likely damned, thankfully God is even more interested in changing that state then me. It wont all depend on us but we may well be able to be a part of it.

After that, if the person does have a saving faith, do they understand? Do they understand the joy of serving Jesus? Did they simply respond to him because someone preached eternal doom, because someone loved them, because they wanted to have peace and joy? Did anyone stay and explain to them that God’s word was given that we could experience life? That obedience is the key to receiving the promises of God?

I believe the streets here are full of people who need to be shown what a life of obedience looks like more then they need to pray a prayer. I believe I need to look at how to spend time interacting with people in a life on life format.

Currently Melissa spends a lot of time with the neighbors. Lots of women and kids. Loving them, being around them. She is looking to start volunteering at a hospital in Bolivia, we are leaving to go there in a bit. I am spending time helping on a little farm. We are having one boy who is 18 but acts about 12 help us. He has had a hard abused life. I believe he will be impacted just by being around Roberto and I. I am ordering materials right after this to build a new roof over his mothers outdoor cooking area. We are leaving to go to the river this weekend to minister again in Porto Esperanca.

God uses the time we spend next to people visiting, working, playing and sometimes even preaching is effective.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Draining in a different way

Having grown up on a farm and owned a business I understand being tired. Melissa and I both have been through long tiring seasons. In our business, our marriage, our family, our personal lives we have seen stressed and tired states. What I am finding is that life as missionaries is pretty easy compared to the grind of chasing dollars. We don’t have a normal, uninteresting routine to wake up too. Our weeks and days all look different. Much of our “job” is about building relationships. A friend and supporter joked with me before we left that I was becoming a professional socializer. It was funny and meant in fun but also largely true. Our job is to meet people and get involved in their lives.

At the same time as this makes our lives more interesting, more pleasurable if you will we have begun to see signs of the toll being a missionary can take. It isn’t that we are doing bad or that we are completely wore out. It is the little things, being more edgy with each other, quicker to frustration things like that. For the most part it is small things.

For me personally it is a little deeper. I happened t learn Portuguese a bit quicker and being the husband it has been my job to take care of the paper work with immigrating to Brazil, locating housing, negotiating, going out to pay bills. These things are normal but in a new culture where you don’t understand how to do things, often struggle with the language it is tiring.

During Christmas we went on a mini vacation with my parents who happen to be in Brazil. The had helped us move in November then went on to their duties with Calvary Chapel. They flew to Campo Grande and we picked them up, drove the 5 hours back home only to arrive home to a brownout and insufficient power to turn on our lights or to get our fans moving. Eventually I tightened all the breakers in the box and got sufficient power to run the fans. A couple hours later a storm blew in and it got cold (70) and we all regretted having the fans on.

The next day we opened presents then went to a resort on the other side of the border in Bolivia. It was a real nice time there, followed up by a nice trip to a little town called Bonito. Bonito has a lot of little rivers with real clear water. You can snorkel and see a lot of big fish. We finished it off in Campo Grande where they have movie theatres, shopping malls and American fast food. We ate McDonalds, Burger King and Pizza Hutt. It was a great week.

The thing is I came home more tired and less refreshed. The other side of the vacation is asking questions in Portuguese, trying to find hotels, looking for places. It is little normal things but I find I am struggling to get refreshed. I love being here and am planning to work with Roberto to start kind of a boy scout program. We want to build a canoe with some boys, camp, build fires, and that kind of thing.

Melissa is wanting to start volunteering in Bolivia at the hospital and we plan to spend some time on the river alone as a family. God is certainly continuing to open doors and lead us.

What I am seeing is the need to visit the US. To spend time in our home church. To visit with supporters. To regroup, refresh and come back re-energized for another couple years.

Pray for us as we get a footing in ministry here in Corumba. We have gotten a start in Port Esperanca and our neighborhood. We want to see a couple more things get established. A better daily routine, Melissa going to Bolivia a couple times a week, and perhaps a boys club. Pray that we hear from God on Kids schooling and the timing for us to go to the US. The kids schooling has gotten more complicated then we thought it would be. There is a lot of bureaucracy here and we need to get a lot of paperwork to have them in school here. For homeschooling with English Material we would be behind because we had chose to put them in public school in Foz. Somehow that didn’t result in them having  the right paper work to re-enter school here and we are not convinced that is the right thing. This is an example of how life here can be draining. Lots of un-educated decisions to be made.