Archive for February, 2015

The Voice of The Lord thunders. . . 

The voice of the Lord is powerful.  It roars over the waters.  It breaks the cedars, the cedars of Lebanon.  Psalm 29 came bursting into my heart yesterday after a chat with an ITeams friend here on Facebook.  Actually, we were kind of playing around with this new (maybe it isn’t new but I had never tried it) voice feature on the private messages.  You can basically send voice memos back and forth to one another.  Our colleague and friend related how she and her family had walked through the desert and expressed how God has intention and purpose in that.  She said it can feel so alone.  You feel hungry and thirsty.  But then there is the other side.  The Lord speaks. . . and when He speaks it can be so loud. And that feeling is almost indescribable.  As I heard that encouragement, and what I really believe was a prophetic word from God for me personally, my heart leapt with passion.  Somehow through that encouragement combined with Psalm 29 coming to my memory I was propelled into this place in God that I had not experienced in a long, long time.  Check out the strong words here in Psalm 29:

 

3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters. 4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic. 5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. 6 He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox. 7 The voice of the LORD strikes
with flashes of lightning. 8 The voice of the LORD shakes the desert; the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the LORD twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever. 11 The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.

 

These words from Scripture, like I have said, did something in my spirit that I can’t explain.  Sometimes God is like that isn’t He?  As we read Scripture, we are introduced to a God, revealed in Jesus, and expressed in the Spirit who cannot be tamed or caged.  God’s power unleashed has a voice strong enough to break the cedars.  It roars across the oceans.  And that same God can often be quiet as we dig deep into His presence, understanding deeper His purposes.  And then the noise, joy, and excitement comes.

 

Over the last few weeks I have been talking to ITeams leadership, expressing our desire to stay yielded and open to the Spirit as we make this transition. We want to jump onto what God is doing and we have looked to godly leaders and the larger picture of where we are moving as an organization.  There are certainly things we are looking for as we seek opportunities and new locations, and unique experiences, giftedness, and practical realities we are considering.  As of this week though, the best news that I can possibly share is the kind of intimacy and joy that I am experiencing in Christ.  Just having Jesus, only Him is what anchors it all.  We have a heart the size and shape of Nepal, our tongues have loosened up to communicate well in this beautiful language.  But we are a slave to Christ alone.  Remembering that just Jesus, only Him and  how the only life that is truly sustainable is found in Jesus.  Only Him.  So as I walk with and take care of my family, we remember we are bondservants of Christ.

 

While we don’t have any more answers, explanations, or sure directions than we did a few weeks ago, I am in a better place.  I am drinking from the well that doesn’t run dry.  His voice is majestic and thunderous and while the desert isn’t the most exciting place in the world, the voice of the Lord that breaks the cedars of the forest will eventually break through the dawn.  I am convinced He will speak and lead with glory and power.  Until that time though. . . we stay on our faces before the Lord, crying out to Him.  

 

So many memories have flooded my mind in the last days dating all the way back to when God called me to himself when I was a child, his call to ministry at age 14, and then a distinct missions call my freshman year of college.  These things mark our lives and God brings them back to our memory in the desert.  These last weeks in Narnia, though not what we expected, are turning into the spiritual retreat of my life.  I am continually amazed at the power, patience, and endurance of the Lord and how He uses His people in beautiful ways to push us closer to God’s fully realized Kingdom.  If you’re in the desert, hang on.  The flash of lightning, boisterous, thunderous voice of the Lord will come. .. and when that loud-ness, that boom from the Almighty roars. . . it will be indescribable.

 

 

 

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Don’t Assume You Know All- Hear Their Story

About once a month I get a note, email, or comment where a friend of mine tries to assume they kind of know what kind of journey would be best for me as I have faced blindness. It usually comes in the form of recommending a technology that will alter my life in some sort of way where I could have artificial sight, be healed instantly through prayer, or commending my wife for enduring such terrible hardship for marrying a blind person. I don’t suppose this kind of assumption is all that unique to me as we all face people assuming things about us – thinking we’re worse off than we actually are, suggesting appropriate life choices etc. – but I guess I kind of wonder where all the desire to guide others comes from. Maybe people think they are helping. Maybe they feel bad for a person’s situation. Maybe the brain just isn’t engaged so much.

In light of our transition as it relates to our personal health and future independence, I have received a lot of comments in the other direction. Comments of encouragement, people that have engaged their heart and mind before they speak, and just and overall understanding of walking with us. I have had two or three emails come in where someone said something to the effect of “I wanted to wait to respond to really mean what I say and not sound like one of Job’s friends. I have no idea what you’re facing.” Wouldn’t it be good if we approached a lot of situations like this? Assuming what is best for someone when God may be using pain, trial, and challenge to display His perfect strength is a pretty messed up starting point. Stepping back rather than forward is probably a good first step toward compassion and walking with friends.

This kind of compassion and empathy can help so much as we try to hang with our neighbors and lead in discipling relationships. Rather than a truth that is used as a sword that wounds and kills an already wounded soul, our words and acts of prophecy and compassion can be the sharp double-edged sword with the healing balm of Christ on the tip. No doubt the truth of God and His absolute perfection stings. It hurts. The closer we get to Jesus, sometimes the more painful it becomes. But, in living empathetic, compassionate lives with our friends the healing of Jesus can come in powerful ways. Once we get settled back in the US and find the exact place where God would have us serve the Bhutanese-Nepali people, it will be this sort of steady walking with people that creates the gateway for the Gospel. I’m hopeful I can hold on to these emails to remember what it felt like to be encouraged and led towards Jesus in these moments.

When we lived in St. Paul, I would often tell interns and newbies to the ministry that we were fostering trust over and over again in a community that had no reason to trust anyone. Most of our friends were victims of war, atrocities, and abandonment. Staying in the lives of people day in and day out is not some sort of pansy way to share Christ. Racing to proclamation without any sort of community is kind of like running a marathon with no training. Truth without love can be disastrous as can love without truth.

So there is my story for today. Maybe I’m kind of saying we should know the story of people before we spout off something we think is all great. Advice, the Gospel, good things – they are hard to hear without any context. Undoubtedly, God can use all of us with all sorts of approaches to how we live out His reality and make Him known but I choose the long steady fight for joy and trust as I try to love my friends (and enemies) well. Thanks for helping me along.

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. (Philippians 3, NIV)

Transparency, courage, and mission

By now, most of you who have followed our journey have learned of the news of our difficult decision to move back to the US. There are a lot of emotions, reflection, and plans all wrapped up in that decision that will take a long time to sort through. I have yet to receive a negative comment on our choice and most of the feedback has been met with compassion and encouragement. Having almost 6 weeks pass now from the time I knew we needed to make the decision until present has left me in a different spot. I know the chapter is done. The decision is final. It is the right thing to do. Now comes the joyful and challenging task of abiding in Jesus and allowing Him to push us toward whatever is next. Sure we both have those days where we are left saying, “What on earth was that last 2 years all about? What just happened?”. . . but most of the time we have increasing resolve about moving forward.

Transparency and Courage

The stream of comments and encouragement that have poured in have revolved around the themes of courage and authenticity. Generally people have stated that they really appreciate our transparency about our lives and especially about this difficult decision. I guess for us it is simply who we are. I can’t pretend to throw things out there before people that are half-truths or tinted with rose-colored glasses. This is simply the journey. No one did anything wrong here. Life just happened. Mom died. Dad is alone. We didn’t make it in the villageRaising a newborn in never-ever land wasn’t what we bargained for. . Blindness happened. The majority world didn’t create a space for my personal dignity and independence as a blind person. So now we regroup. Our story isn’t unique in the big scheme of things as people have to make these sorts of decisions all the time. It is unique though because it is our story that God has crafted.

These weeks have been very peculiar as you can easily understand your utter dependence on God when you’re in the valley. Abiding in Jesus isn’t too difficult in those moments. So while we walk through these challenging days the lyrics to the worship music and the red ink words of Jesus in His Word become a bit more clear. You realize that the confidence you have must be again realigned with the King. So we’re doing our best to remain in Him.

Research and Multi-ethnic Ministry

I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t researching next steps like a mad man. I have read and read, networked and networked with Bhutanese Nepali friends and ministry partners across the US. I have looked at demographic articles, sifted through newspapers, and fired off a lot of emails to learn about where exactly Bhutanese Nepalis are in the US and what would be the most strategic spot for us to live. There are all kinds of factors in regard to finding a good network, utilizing our rare language and culture skills, and good access to public transportation that inform our thinking. I have enjoyed immensely having Skype, phone, and email conversations with many in the US.

And because you will probably ask, I have looked mostly at Atlanta, Syracuse, Columbus, OH, Pittsburgh, and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Some leads are a lot more exciting than others. Some are much more strategic. We will likely be taking a trip to a few of these spots to discern what it is the Lord has for us in the coming months.

I think the thing that has struck me strongest in my research is the huge vacuum that I am observing in multiethnic ministry. What I am finding is ministries and churches who are active in communities of diverse populations (as they well should be) with an emphasis on welcoming folks new to our country. There is also an emphasis on ethnic 1st generation immigrant churches with ethnic leadership. I would say on the average, in cities with 10,000 plus Bhutanese Nepali, there are often less than 2 or 3 individuals working full-time with this group of folks (not including the amazing work of indigenous leaders themselves). Further, because of circumstance and mission strategy, few if any can speak the language. It has caused me to see even more clearly than ever that our multi-ethnic efforts in ministry must be balanced with specialized ministries to focus on people groups and language groups within our own country. Without the releasing of 1st generation immigrants themselves and native-born folks who are mission trained and linguistically capable to interact, we will probably just remain a mixed bag of cultures that stay at surface levels of relationship. We need cross-cultural missionaries working alongside first generation immigrants who speak the language of the elderly in the community and who can be a bridge between generations.

So, the combination of multi-ethnic ministry with both ethnic churches/leadership and cross cultural missionaries has to be the goal in our urban centers. While we aim for the color of heaven in seeing integration and multi-ethnic ministries established, the vacuum remains for native-born Americans who can converse with the community and have the cultural sensitivity to be effective. Am I saying that if you are not working with a particular people group in the US you can’t be effective? Sort of. I knew far before coming to Nepal that our effectiveness among Bhutanese was limited because we had not obtained fluency in the language. While you can make an impact, I kind of think you can’t even understand the complexities of culture, adjustment, and worldview without the heart language of the folks you are serving. This is why part of my research is to find those ministries and churches who are striving toward multi-ethnic ministry and come alongside offering the laser focus that is so desperately needed. These things are simple, but not simplistic. Without intentionality, prayer, hard work, and devotion true Kingdom transformation will not take place.

Our cities in the US sometimes have as many as 25,000 people from a certain people group. With the exception of the Spanish crowd often these groups don’t even have a handful of Americans attempting to serve the m ((and I have seen few doing this in a Spanish speaking context either – props to Chris and Krista Ophus living it up in Little Village Chicago). This is further compounded by the fact that 90% of folks new to our country will never be invited into an Americans home. The task before us is massive and my clarion call is for people group focused ministry to come alongside and march to the rhythm of the Kingdom.

Thanks for letting me unload all the thinking and research I’ve been doing lately. If you or someone you know is interested in focusing exclusively on Bhutanese Nepali work in the US, I’d love to talk with you. And if there is a certain people that you are drawn to, I encourage you to follow your heart in that. Some people like to tangle with lots of cultures all mixed together but for some of us there is a specific call, a specific spot with specific people God has for us. If that is you, run after it.