Lesson from Honduras #3: We have nothing to give

Throughout the mission in Honduras we had many “moments of grace.”  These are those Imagebrief moments of revelation, when the Holy Spirit makes one truth beautifully clear.  Sometimes that truth is about God’s heart and sometimes they are about our own—but all the times they are unexpected gifts from God.   The timing of these moments are divine.  They have come to me while I am parenting my children, praying in my office, driving my car, or even standing in the shower.  This one came when I we were giving a single-mom a house.

On Friday, friends, family, and neighbors all gathered to dedicate the house to Jessica.  We all had the opportunity to share any thoughts or reflections we had.  Only a few of us shared before her pastor prayed.  As the pastor of this team, I obviously felt compelled to speak not only for myself, but for our team, our church, and everyone who had contributed time, energy, and money to give this young woman a home

I told her that, less than year ago we didn’t know she existed and she had probably never heard of Damascus Road Church in Marysville, Washington.  But now she does know us.  And what she knew is that a group of people in another part of the world loved her unconditionally.  More than that, having done nothing to earn our favor, those same people had come to give her something she probably could never have obtained alone.  And as I spoke, what I said came to be shaped by one of these “moments of grace.”  I told her that, though we had travelled a long way and worked hard to build her a house, WE hadn’t really given her anything.  Everything we had, our time, our money, our abilities, our energy, even our very desires were a gift from Jesus.  I told her that, truthfully, we had absolutely nothing to give in ourselves.  We came to her because Jesus came to us.  We loved her because Jesus loved us.  We gave to her because Jesus gave himself for us.  

As it is with all moments of grace, standing in the middle of a slum in Honduras, everything became clear.  Though we may have looked like a group of Americans who had everything to give, I was reminded that it we were actually a broken group of sinners who have nothing in ourselves.  All we have is from God.  Everything we have, and everything we don’t have, is a gift from Him, by Him, for Him. 

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Where is the Spirit leading you?

I was reading in Matthew 4 today and couldn’t get passed the first verse:  “Then Jesus wasImage led into the wilderness to be tempted (tested) by the devil”

Jesus’ 40 day journey into the wilderness is a replay of Israel’s 40 year wandering in the wilderness.  Hungry, weak, and vulnerable, the devil himself comes and tempts Jesus to deny God the Father, to lose faith, to sin.  Using the Word of God, Jesus success where Adam, Israel, and every man who has ever lived fails.  That is why Jesus is our sinless Savior and perfect substitute in death and life.

What I was struck with most, however, was the fact that the SPIRIT LED Him into the wilderness.  And as I recalled the the story of Israel’s from Exodus through Joshua.  Specifically, I considered how the Spirt led them at different times.  A times, the Spirit led them into a time of freedom from slavery; at other times, the Spirit led them into a time of testing; sometimes the Spirt led them into a time of victorious battle, and still other times, the Spirit led them into a time of peace, rebuilding, and rest. 

The question is never IF the Spirit leading, but always WHERE He is leading. In response to Frodo’s statement about his own trial, “I wish none of this had happened.” the wise fictional Wizard Gandalf said “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

What kind of time is He leading you into right now?  Freedom from slavery?  Temptation and testing?  Battle and Victory?  Or Peace and Rest?  

If you are not sure…why don’t you ask Him?

#2 Lesson from Honduras: The mission BEFORE the mission

First, I am not a “missions” expert.  These are simply my rambling reflections about our recent mission trip to Roatan, Honduras.Image

As our trip for Honduras approached, I became more and more anxious.  Part of my anxiety came from the “unknown”.  The other half came from what I knew, rather, what I had learned from our Dwellings contact about our build.  In the weeks prior to our departure, he posted pictures first with posts in the ground, then with floor joices set, then with a floor on! Though you would think such progress would encourage my excitement, it only served to discourage it because we weren’t the ones doing it. I feared the 10 strong men on our team would not have enough to do, that we would be unchallenged or bored, that we wouldn’t struggle or work hard, that we might not suffer enough, or that we would otherwise waste the time, money, or energy we had built up over the last 6 months. I feared that our “mission” would be done the day we started.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it, we later learned that our mission was not primarily to go there to build a house. That was what we were doing, but not what God would do in us. Alas, that is a lesson for another day.   But on the Monday we arrived, the first thing we did was go to the build site.  My fears only increased as it ‘appeared’ as if the building was nearly half complete (It wasn’t)!.  We surveyed the site, planned the next day, ate dinner, then spent some time discussing our “expectations” as a team. This was the first of several good conversations. I honestly shared some of the fears I had felt, specifically concerning what I “expected” would be lackluster project devoid of enough: blood, sweat, and tears to make it worthwhile. It was then that one man on our team reminded me of the mission before the mission.  

Sitting in Honduras, what was clear is that a house would be built of a single mom, her sister, and five children. That was the original vision for the mission and that was what we were about to do.  Whether the build took us only 6 hours or a full 6 days, our mission would be completed.  But the mission didn’t start on the Monday we arrived.  And those who brought it to completion were not only those who would swing a hammer.  The mission began nearly a year prior and included hundreds of friends, family, and even a  few strangers.  There is a mission before the mission–the work that God does through His people, for His glory, before a single board is ever nailed.

There was the proclamation before the mission:  The mission began with a small idea, but the vision was supported by a big idea–the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We were on mission to make the kingdom of God tangible.  We were on mission to go, love, and sacrifice someone who didn’t “deserve” it because Jesus came, loved, and sacrificed for us when we didn’t deserve it. . That mission began centuries ago and in 2013, a small group of men went again to remind people that Jesus is still saving.

There were the conversations about the mission: For whatever reason, people have an easier time of starting conversations about homes in Honduras than they do about their faith, their church, or their Lord. In the months prior to the build, hundreds of emails and face to face conversations took place.  We were excited to tell everyone (believer or not) what we were doing: friends, family, doctors, co-workers, baristas, even strangers. And, to our surprise, they all wanted to listen.  They wanted to know what we were doing, when, and why.  Many seeds were planted in the months prior to our leaving.

There were the events to support the mission: There were several fundraising events designed to help us raise money for the mission.  And though only 10 guys actually went on the trip, a ton more helped to organize these events.  The mission, before the mission, provided an opportunity for people to be a part of God’s work even if they couldn’t go.  They used their time, their energy, their resources, their homes, their creativity, everything they had to see this mission completed.  The mission gave focus to the “new” in faith and energized the “old” in faith, bringing everyone together with ONE mind, as ONE body, to complete ONE task, for our ONE God.

There was the giving toward the mission: Though we had nearly 9 months to raise the money (12k), at the beginning of January we had only raised 25% of what we needed for the build.  By the end of January, we were funded 110%. God is amazing. . But God works through people who gave sacrificially to support this mission.  Some gave as little as $10 and some gave as much as $1,500.  Our givers included little kids with allowances, teenagers with minimum wage jobs, young men with families and bills, older men with careers, unbelieving family members, friends who have never stepped food in our church, family doctors who heard about the mission from their patients, fireman who heard about it from co-workers, generous people at garage sales, even a big supportive group of longshoremen who simply love a good game of poker.  We are grateful for who God moved to give.   But I’ve realized that money is no object in God’s economy--it’s simply a tool He gives to use to point others to the Son He gave.  

The mission before the mission is something that often gets lost after the completion of the mission. Many will argue that short-term missions are a waste of time, money, and resources. I do believe we need to be wise in how we go on mission, but I have seen first hand the number of souls that even one simple mission can impact.

We need to be on mission here, there, and everywhere.  For a few it will mean a sacrifice of actually going “on mission”. But for most, that will mean staying at home “on mission”.  But what does that mean? For many it will mean sharing the vision with others.  For others, it will mean giving of their time or money. For some, it will mean employing their gifts.   And for everyone, it opens their eyes to something bigger than their own little kingdom.  This is the invaluable mission work that occurs before any “work” is done on the mission field.