Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Test of Faith

When we started this walk into "Wonderland" it was quite the adventure. Leaving everything we had known for so, friends, culture, language, our church...and moving into a new adventure of life that God was calling us to. It's so exciting when you hit that point because you feel like you've arrived, that you're at the place God has called you to, so what more is there really? Now your living out the true calling! I remember the feelings I had a year ago...sadness muffled by the excitement of it all. I mean, how could we be sad? We are going out to do the Lords work. Then I remember arriving in Nicaragua and meeting the people we would live with for 3 weeks for the first time. I remember a feeling of gratitude towards them, that the longer I'm here, grows in immensity. Liz and Jed Brien, who never asked for a single thing, but opened their house to strangers...they fed us, showed us around, helped us find a car and a house. They explained Nicaraguan life and the ups and downs that come and go. Fast friends...and the wonder of it all is they never asked a single thing in return! Since we moved, distance has kept us apart...but we are forever indebted to these friends of ours who God so graciously put in our lives, with the help of Melissa Radliff (Thank you Melissa).
As this year has past the "adventure of it all" changed from "adventure" to life. We learned rather quickly that we hadn't arrived at anything. In fact it seems like God is working on us more than ever now. Everything changed in a blink of an eye. There are days when I wonder what I'm even doing, if anything at all. When we moved here all I knew was English so the opportunity for friends never, until recently, really presented itself. I felt so alone. I was in this house and felt so utterly helpless. I remember Preston leaving to go to the church or to go do some work and thinking, "What am I going to do if somebody comes by the house? (which happened often) What if something happens to the kids? How will I get help?". I remember having to get used to the fact that nobody understood me and I didn't understand anybody and my only friends were Preston and the kids. Poor Preston, all the pressure was on him, because he knew way more Spanish than I did. Now, looking back, I know that wasn't as much as I thought it was.
We have learned a lot about people since we moved here. We've learned that when you're a missionary (I guess that's what you call us...we just followed Jesus here) you are not seen as one in the place you arrive. I mean, what if someone came to your home town and said, "I am a missionary and feel like God has called me and my family here." what would your response be to that? I think that everybody is called to serve wherever they are, so why does it have a special name when you're serving in another Country, or anywhere for that matter? Why ARE some people called to serve one place and other people called to serve another place? Do culture and government borders have any relevance to God when He's calling a person to go somewhere? Did the Nation of Isreal NEED a forenier named Ruth to unlock the blessings God had in store for those people. Couldn't He have just used an Israelite woman to start the Davidic line?
We have learned that many people think EVERYTHING is "cultural", if I never hear that word again in my life it will be too soon. It's true there are many cultural differences...Happy Birthday mariachi bands at 3 or 4am, constant fireworks, people walking for a funeral and holding up traffic in respect for the dead, being called whitey almost every time somebody I don't know addresses me, people trying to take advantage of us because of the color of our skin, being an hour late and still being early, no a/c, buying only what's needed for a day or two, no animal rights...this list continues, but these are a few. We understand the culture that we have moved to, not all the time, but most of the time. When we talk to people in the States they don't think we understand the "culture" that we are living in. On the same token, when we try to tell someone that something they are doing, here, just isn't biblical, again, we don't understand the culture. I've never in my life known so many people to use the word "culture", as a cop out, so often. Your "culture" should not go directly against what the bible says to I wrong in this thinking? When somebody stands in my house and lies right in front of my face, then turns to me and says, "it's ok, it's cultural", I'm supposed to say, "OOOhhhhh, ok then"? No, I won't do that, because if that's a part of your culture, it's a part that you need to change in your life. Why? because it's biblical!
I try to have patience but I also feel alone in the fact that many people who have been here on short term missions trips feel like they know my surroundings better than me. It's like a teenager who regularly goes to summer camp, and feels that they need to instruct the new counselors. Here's the thing, those counselors have already been trained. As have we, the difference is the person training us happens to be Christ. I just think when you follow the calling on your life, your provided with the appropriate training...this doesn't mean we are perfect, but it does mean we have a supernatural understanding and wisdom that we didn't have before. Don't you believe God can provide that? This is where the loneliness comes in.
Let's talk about the bible for a second shall we? Noah had the great and wonderful task to build an ark. I often think of Noah during my days here. How hard it must have been on him and his family, to daily be mocked. Do you think it was culturally relevant for him to be building an ark? These people had never seen rain! But as he continued God gave him supernatural training as he needed it. He spoke to Noah, He gave him wisdom and knowledge. Do we not believe that that same God can't effect us in similar ways today. I know I do, even if that makes me the object of ridicule and mocking.
Here's the thing, when I tell people we followed Christ here and, as of now, we rely fully on God prompting the hearts of those, who can, to support us, people don't understand. When I try to explain it, it brings further confusion. Some people just don't understand why we can't just get a job. It's simple...tent making opportunities, like Paul, right? Wrong, we aren't Paul, we our Carrie and Preston. We don't follow the calling He has on the lives of others, we follow the calling He has on our lives. The bible is meant to help us to be more Christ like, to help us know the man who died for our sins...not to provide a formula for life. Our "mission" here is to simply serve Nicaragua, the second poorest Country in this hemisphere, while asking nothing in return from these people, not money, not title, nor recognition. If a "workman is worthy of his hire", and you "don't muzzle the ox", then we refused the right to "earn" a living, and again, trust that our provision comes from the hearts that the Holy Spirit has touched. Most of you know Preston and I. You know that we aren't normal. Nothing will change that. Why? Well, we believe in following Christ in the way He directs us to. Sometimes that looks different, ok...a lot of times that looks different! Is different bad?
When John Wimber planted The Vineyard, it looked different. People were drawn to it, because he was following the Holy Spirit into a whole new way of life. Carol Wimber, his wife, didn't even believe in the gift of tongues, until she was awaken one night, with the Holy Spirit on her, speaking in tongues. He had a belief that to live as a Christian, you lived a life following Christ. In all the sermons I've seen of his, and I've seen quite a few, never did he say, "but make sure it's culturally relevant". What I did get from his sermons is follow the Holy Spirit wherever he leads you, no matter how different or stupid you look. We're talking about a man who would write an entire sermon, then, the Holy Spirit would fall on him, and he would throw the sermon away and preach on something entirely different, because, after all, it wasn't his was Gods ministry. We're talking about a man who came home one day and decided to sell all of his belongings, because he felt that that is what he needed to do. We're talking about a man who, in the beginning, only knew the chapter of John and led people to Christ through that. Do you think he cared about culture or looking different? I don't. Some days I think about John...I wonder if he would be encouraging us now. I like to think he would.
The truth of the matter is this, I have leaders in my life. God, Christ, the Holy Spirit (3 in one as it were), my mother, my father, my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, John Wimber (I watch the sermons) these are the people I turn to. I was raised by two amazing people who followed Christ places that didn't make sense. I've watched them be hurt and tormented by people, and still give EVERYTHING that they have. These were my examples. My in-laws too. My Father-in-law who gave up a good paying job and became an artist and worked for himself. Both of these families have come through trial and tribulation and the entire time have fallen on God as their rock. Misunderstood, mistreated, misread, they continued come hell or high water...and never has God forsaken them. These are the people who molded us, who taught us, who continue to encourage us...and who pull us up from the depths when we need it most. Encouragement, love, believing, holding us from afar, praying for us...these are the people who help us continue when we feel like there's nothing left. Who remind us of the many reasons we're here. Who make us feel like followers, not failures. And this is who I blame for giving me the passion to follow Christ with all my mind, body and soul!