Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Time for a little maintenance

The last couple of weeks you may have seen some of the pictures that I posted from the schools. With a group of college students from Minnesota, we have been painting both schools. Membrillal had never been painted and Zapote was looking really bad. The walls were covered in greasy fingerprints and volcanic ash. Every building needs a little maintenance and freshening up from time to time. We are not finished yet but because of other things going on we are taking a few days for a break.

On Saturday I was talking to the pastor in my home Church and he asked me how I was doing and I told him that we had been very busy for the last month. There really had not been a lot of free time to relax but that we were getting a lot done. He asked my what I was doing to rest and to restore myself. I had to admit that I had not been thinking much about those things because the opportunities had not presented themselves very often.

As I have been thinking about his question and the work we have been doing, I realized that we are in many ways like the school buildings. They need time set aside for repairs, repainting and thorough cleaning. Without these times they will get more dirty and fall into disrepair. They need to have focused attention on their needs if they are going to last for many decades. Without attention, they will not be able to be used for their intended purposes for very long. The will become dilapidated and unsafe. The rain, mold, dirt and bugs will begin take over.

I feel like I need to spend time recognizing these needs in my own life. Jesus promised that if we would come to Him, He would give us rest. In Ps 127:1+2 we see that our work is in vain unless God is protecting it and that He wants to be at the center of all so He an lead us into rest. In Ps 23 we read that the Lord is a shepherd that leads us, cares for us, and restores us. In Ps 91 we see that the Lord desires us to hide ourselves in Him and see His salvation, provision, protection and rest.  I think I need to spend some time meditating on these passages and letting them lead me to the one who is rest for my soul.

I know a lot of people, myself included get busy and say they do not have time for this rest. We try to spend 10 minutes with God before we rush out to some activity then do not understand why we have no strength or energy. David knew that the secret was to have time for quiet rest, focused on God. He was the king of a nation with a lot of enemies. He had a large army and many family squabbles going on but he took time out of his schedule for retreats with the Lord. If David could do it, should we also not find a way to plan our days around building intimacy and drawing strength for Jesus.

I am not going to write a lot more but I want to share these verses with you and ask you are you rested? Do you have time for intimacy with Jesus this week? Are you hidden away in the secret place of the Most High? Or, Are you tired, running on fumes and barely surviving each days load?

My Refuge and My Fortress

Ps 91:1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Positioned to Receive Love

When I was much younger I had 2 experiences at Church retreats that impacted me greatly and helped me, at that time to really understand that I had a Heavenly Father and the He loved me a lot. I knew I was not just created to serve but that I was called to live as a son in my Father's love.  I do not know about you, but I often find that these God moments in my life lose their effect on me over time if I do not spend time meditating on what God is showing me and pursuing it. This experience was one of those things. As I got busy I began to look at myself as a servant primarily. I began to lose the sense of security that came from knowing my place in my Father's heart.

The last few weeks have been a refresher crash course and it has come unexpectedly and in a very unusual way. It began when my Church was here and intensified with the college group that is here right now. While my Church was here we spent most days working but one day there was only a couple of projects for me and I was finished with them quickly. After the projects I got to spend a lot of times with the kids from the school and that had come to the clinic. I really enjoyed getting to hang out with them and just play with them. The day did not really impact me at the time because it is a fairly normal occurrence. I get to play with the kids at Membrillal a lot.

This last week was where I really began to see what God was trying to show me. We went to Zapote to paint the first floor of the school. It is a pretty big task to non painters but it was a very needed task. It gets painted almost every year but because of the humidity and the always present volcanic dust in the air it looks dirty within a few months. This was a job that needed to be done and I was excited to see the transformation that fresh paint brings. I was ready to throw myself into this work and get it done.

One thing that I know is that when I go to the schools I will hear my name countless times during the day. This week was like that. Everywhere I went the kids, especially the younger ones called me. When I stopped, they climbed on me. I could not forget that I was at a school because I was surrounded by children calling me from inside their classrooms, at lunch, out on the playground and everywhere I went. They all wanted hang from my arms or arm wrestle me. At times I was arm wrestling one on each arm and at others I had one hanging from each bicep. I was feeling a little bit guilty. They were supposed to be focused on school and I was supposed to be working. My desire to play often won out and the kids got my attention.

You may be thinking that was irresponsible and you might be right but God began to show me His heart in this. He loves when we (I) come to Him just to be in His presence, to say look at me to ask Him "do you notice me"? He wants us to ask if we matter because He loves revealing Himself and His love to us. As I realized how attention starved may of these kids are I realized I to feel attention starved. I was feeling like maybe I did not matter to God. I began to see that as I love being with the kids and crave that time just to focus on them and tell them that they matter enough to interrupt my work God feels that way about me. I matter and He loves to be interrupted by me as I just stop and call out to Him. He wants to show us love and affirmation. He wants to reveal His love when we are not expecting it and He gladly sets us at the center of His attention when we come to Him. He loves to be a good dad to His kids.

This lesson was intensified when I ran into one of the local town drunks. He frequently tells me loudly that he loves me as he is asking for food or money. I will often buy him food or water because he is poisoning his system with rubbing alcohol. I never give him money because it will just go to more alcohol. I will talk with him and pray for him because he usually asks but my attitude towards him is often not good. I want to shake him and make him quit destroying his life. God reminded me that this man to was created in His image, was created to reflect an aspect of God to the world and he has a Father that is just waiting for him to surrender and call out to Him. Father wants this man to know His love and have a testimony of sonship to share with the world. I was wrong and I needed to let God love this man through me the same way that He loves the kids.

I am learning that God wants to reveal His love to me. He wants to show me His heart for me in new and extravagant ways. He wants me to walk in security as His son. The way that he is doing it is by putting me in positions to be a living demonstration of His love to others. As I allow myself to be used in this way in other people's  lives, He intensifies my understanding of His love for me. I am not a servant but a son. I choose  to serve and in that I learn more what it means to be loved. I pray that God gives me the strength for this work for many more years because I sense that there are many layers to His love that I have not begun to explore and many people that I still need to encounter to have a better understanding of this incredible love He offers.

Many of you struggle with knowing that you are loved. You serve but feel like nothing more than a slave. You feel used and abused by those that you care for. Give it up. Ask God to show you that every work you are called to is secondary to the people that you encounter while doing it. Every accomplishment is nothing if it does not build relationships with people and help you see God's love more clearly. We exist and are called for one reason. To receive our Father's love and give it to all that we encounter. If we do this, we have succeeded in all God has for us.

Monday, October 5, 2015

You Must Go Now

Guillermo Paul, First CMA missionary to Guatemala
I have been back in Guatemala for two packed weeks now. From the first morning that I got out of bed there has been constant activity and I have enjoyed it all very much. The first week there was a conference for the CMA in Panajachel. I got to go and sit in meetings and listen to Pastors and leaders share their vision for the Churches commission to evangelize and make disciples in their own communities and in the world. It was a great time to meet many of the leaders in the Alliance from all over Central America.

On Friday, the 25th I took the last pastors that were still with us to catch a bus back to El Salvador and then went immediately to the airport to pick up a team from my home Church in the States. Life Church Morris sent 9 people to us and we were joined by a friends from  Morris, El Salvador and Guatemala. We were a very international team. While the group was together we were able to build a house and stove in Zapote the first two days and conduct a medical clinic and work on the Church building in Membrillal the last three work days.

Rudy looking at the river while it was rising.
The team was able to experience the joy of rainy season while we worked in Zapote. The first day while we were getting the posts set we could see the rain was coming. Because we have to cross 4 rivers with no bridge we started to pack up and leave as soon as the rain began. We were out to the main road about 45 minutes after the first raindrops fell. We drove through a lot of standing water but the rivers were okay and so we had no problem.

The second day was a little more eventful. At lunch time we figured the house would be done very quickly and we would be headed home. The sky was clear and there was not much work left to do. After we ate lunch we were making good progress but we could see a storm moving in quickly. Pastor Jose Luis told us we had to go NOW even though no rain had fallen yet. We packed up and hurried to get a few things from the Church and left. The rain started after we were in the vehicles and it was not raining nearly as hard as the previous day until we were almost out. You can imagine our surprise when we rounded the curve to the last river and it was about 2 feet higher than normal. We were stuck. We had made it to within a mile of safe travel and were were going nowhere.

We sat for the next 3 hours watching the rain pour down and the river continue to rise and fall. After about 2  1/2 hours it had fallen enough so that  people could cross by jumping from high rocks to other high rocks and we watched a steady stream of people do just that. Unfortunately for us, we could not cross that easily because the entrance to and exit exit from the river had both been washed away. The dirt ramps were gone. There was a 5' wall of dirt where the exit ramp had been. After the rain stopped a large end loader from the gravel company came down and repaired the road enough so that we could get through. We did not know how long we would have to sit but I think that I can speak for everyone when I say we were relieved when that end loader came and opened a way for us.

Heading to lunch in Zapote

In talking to the team we had, I think that it is safe to say that every one's favorite part of this whole trip was the people that they got to see and meet. My Church has heard many stories but they were able to puts names and faces to the people being served. They were no longer poor people or poor Guatemaltecos but they were people that had lives and families. They were people that felt and cared. They became real people to them. They now have a burden for and a love of these people that they did not know until after they met them.

Crowded work site. New house will be built on the left
If you are supporting people in ministry or are giving to organizations that help people, I want to encourage you to consider going for a visit or putting together a team to go work in the areas that your money is going to. It is a blessing to see that your money is going to transform lives and communities. It also helps you to have a vision for why some of us crazy folks want to be where we are and to continue doing the things we are doing. I believe God will reward your generosity and do not want to downplay that because it is important but I believe He also wants to fill your heart with love for people you have not yet met. Pray about it.

Line for the clinic
I also want to ask you to be praying for Guatemala and the people of Santa Catarina Pinula.  You may have seen the reports of the mudslides there. They have devastated the community. There are 125 confirmed dead as of this morning and 300 still missing. There is little hope of more survivors. Some of the town is under as much as 50' of mud. They are searching with dogs and digging with everything from shovels and hoes to heavy equipment. Many people have lost their families and all of their possessions in a matter of minutes. Pray that God will heal hearts and save many lost people through this tragedy. Also be praying that the people will have their material needs met as they try to rebuild their lives.

Thank you for all of your prayers, encouragement, for sending Church members to work with me and for your support.