Archive for October, 2013

Trusting in the Gospel, Trying to Be Servants

The last three weeks have been spent in full-time language study with our weekends focused on sharing Gospel stories with a couple families in a nearby village. That pretty much sums up the totality of what we are doing at the moment. So often mission workers try to sort of glorify the work or tasks at hand but yep . . . that’s our day. Wake up. Run to get some groceries from the nearest shop on our road. Eat. Engage with people in the community. Study like mad. Have class. Repeat more of the same. The weekends are nice to really zero in and focus on telling the parables of Jesus.

This isn’t pretty guys. I misunderstand a lot. Talking on the phone pretty much sucks. I get lost over my own words and have to have our friends in the house fellowship help me finish sentences. It is one of the worst and unpolished presentations of Gospel stories you’ve ever heard. Most of the time my friends can understand what I’m trying to say and if they can’t, I try again. My prayer over the last several weeks as we join in this fellowship has been “God, help them understand your story. Change our lives in the process.” I don’t care too much about how good it sounds. Even if I wanted that, it is a ways away from becoming reality. And every week our friends make great applications and challenge us. I keep asking myself over and over as I share the parables “WHy is this Good News to me? Why must it or should it be Good News to my friends?” I follow that up by pondering if I really understand the story. Really. So, while things from the outside may look weird or sound funny, inside, deep in our hearts, the Gospel is beautiful. And that beauty is what we so treasure about our Jesus.

So yeah, we’re not like these super-dynamic people. We try to be diligent and stumble over words as we study and use what we learn in the community. It does get tiring feeling stupid all the time but it comes with the territory we’re in. I had a moment where I thought I was superior to the task at hand the other day. A lady was making fun of me because I didn’t understand something her husband said. I was thinking to myself how much better and smarter I was than her. As I was judging her, I was ironically telling myself how much nicer I was. Unbelievable. I was brought back to the simple notion that we are servants. Nothing more. Christ’s servants.

Over the last few months I continue to fix my gaze on the servanthood of Christ and His call for us to be servants. It is by far the part of the Christian faith I struggle with the most. A servant is never too good for the task at hand. They serve whether they want to or not and contrary to our nice and tidy ministry schedule plan, we don’t get to decide when to serve and when not to serve. Just when we’re ready to chill, relax, do our own thing. . . put on the apron and get to work. There is no task from which I am exempt.

From trying to figure out how to navigate the city despite my limitations, to struggling through Gospel storying, to exhausting myself in learning the details of language – servanthood. I am trying to grow deeper and fuller in it. Thank God that Jesus set such a beautiful example for us. Leaving the power and glory of heaven, He came down and became the very nature of a servant. He had no place to lay His head and was eventually rejected by all. then the ultimate. . . He gave His life. Oh wow. Language and memorizing stuff. . . .yeah, lots of room to grow.

So we continue moving forward, trusting in the Gospel, mainly in the Jesus in that Gospel. We trust in His words and actions that led Him to give himself away.

On a less inspirational or challenging note, we have found a flat! We like it a lot and is in a really cool neighborhood. We’ve already met several of our new neighbors and they are very eager to talk with us and invite us into their homes and little shops. Looking forward to getting settled there next week!

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Story-telling and Finding Our Way Around

Last Saturday we met with a group of believers from the other side of the country who now live in a small village just outside of the metro. We were able to operate in Narnianese the whole time and was a true test to see where we were with language. I told the parable of the sower which all of them had heard for the first time. They have never been to a Christian church and only met their first believers a few years ago. They really, really like the story as it related a lot to their farming background. One of the ladies in the group who tends to give into social, religious pressure was very honest about what type of soil and seed she was personally. Without flinching she responded, “I am the seed where Satan comes and snatches it away.” Others thought about the personal nature of the parable and were in deep thought about their condition. The leader of the small house church who came to Jesus at age 62, just a few years ago, remarked, “Growing takes time. Believing takes time. It is a process.” Spoken as only a fermer could. That really got me thinking about the nature and substance of my own faith. We are very eager to get to know this group of new friends and deepen faith together.

Their village isn’t far from the main roads of the capital but it already becomes small dirt paths to get to their homes. They live very simply yet have robust faith. I think once or twice a month we’ll stay the night with them when we go as it will deepen relationship and they feel so honored to have slumber parties with guests.

We started our language instruction already and that has been brilliant. I am not sure about Janessa, but I have enjoyed immensely the time so far. We are doing lots with grammar and structure as our vocabulary base and functional Narnianese is quite good at this point. Three hours a day followed by 4 or 5 hours of study, plus time out in the neighborhood is what I call intense. It has been good to get rolling. In other news, I think we found a flat! We’ll buy furniture little by little and hopefully get settled there. It is a nice little neighborhood with a few shops and plenty of opportunity to deepen relationships and language skills.

We’ll write more as it happens.

How the tables have turned

Well, we landed in Narnia last Wednesday and immediately jumped into 4 days of hanging with and getting to know our new team. They had been living in a pretty remote village for a few months and the rest for them was much needed. It has been great to be with a group of people where you don’t have to explain yourself. After language study, we’re looking forward to join them in the village.

We’ve had a few moments to roll in Narnianese and get here and there. This morning I called a guy that our teammates knew from the other side of the country who now lives in an area just outside the capital city. Less than 3 years ago he and his family had never heard of Jesus. When they relocated to the capital city area,. they are now left on their own to try to figure out how to discover Jesus together. They have chosen, at very high cost, to follow Jesus and we have the opportunity over the next few months to gather weekly with them and explain Gospel stories to them. This will be such a wonderful opportunity and challenge our language skills and push us along in deeper conversations. Further, we met this family when we were here last December and had a naturalbond. We are so excited to meet them again and deepen friendship centered around the stories of God.

It is religious festival season right now in Narnia so much will be shut down or delayed for the next couple weeks. We hope to get started with language study several hours a day within the next week or two.

Aside from all this exciting, euphoric, caffeinated first several days, I have been thinking of our Narnian refugee friends back in the US. I am very conscious of what it must have been like for them in their first few days in the country. This morning I had my first phone conversation in full-on Narnian which I survived. I have talked with our friends in the US on numerous occassions but to finally be thrown into a similar situation is a whole different story. I am however, also very conscious that my white face is a symbol of power and prestige, much different from my Narnian friends who were resettled in the North Central US. Even if I had no language skills or friends here in the capital city, the very fact that we have American passports gives us a strong entrance and immediate respect. So yes, the tables have been turned, but I will never be able to fully identify with my friends in the US who have so impacted and influenced this new stage of our lives.

I have been reflecting on the nature of the Kingdom and how Jesus emptied himself of power and became powerless to serve those on this earth. What a challenge for us as we navigate our new lives. Still, we have so much access to power, resources, and the like. Staying on our faces before Jesus so we continue to walk in step with the Kingdom. The tables have been turned for sure, yet we feel such grace and welcome here. Til next time. . .