Brad - Final thoughts - 2-13-12
“It just wasn’t worth it!!!”
Have you ever uttered those words? “It just wasn’t worth it!” I have…plenty of times. I have used it to describe big events, and little ones. To me, it describes the emotion of spending a lot of time doing something that you thought was going to be totally worth the effort, but in the end, turned out to be a waste of time. Maybe it was a 2500 calorie chocolate dessert that looked great on the menu, but tasted like cardboard. It could have been a job you poured years of your life into, but lost unexpectedly. Maybe it was a relationship that you wanted to work more than anything, but was just too painful or complicated. No matter the reason, we have all said those words at some point, and have regretted doing whatever it was. Well, this year WAS “totally worth it!!!” It was NOT a waste of time. It was more than I ever dreamed of, or could have expected. It literally was an answer to prayer!
This was the fourth year we went to work in Guatemala. I didn’t have a lot of expectations our first year. I was excited to go work in Guatemala, since one of my daughters is from there. It would be cool to help a family by building a house. The fellowship would be good as well. But, I just didn’t have a frame of reference to compare it to. We ended up building a home with Bethel Ministries International for a widow. I have told her story before. Her husband had been an alcoholic, was not a Christian and worked in construction. He became friends with a man who was a pastor, who really needed a job. These two men became friends. The pastor poured his heart into this man who had real pain in his life. Through God’s grace, this man eventually gave his life to Christ. Some time later, the man fell into the road and was instantly killed. He left behind a wife, children and a friend. The wife’s name was Blanca. The friend’s name was Juan. Blanca loved God with all of her heart. She was in a difficult financial situation in life. She and her children needed a house. She knew God would provide what she needed. In came a team of people from Louisville who had no idea of this history when they arrived. They just wanted to help where needed. We had good intentions, just no clue. I never knew how important Blanca and Juan would become in my life.
Each year since that first trip has served as a building block. We have tried something different each time. We have built homes, carried in Bibles, handed out shoes and clothing and left a small piece of our hearts behind every time. We have gone from “doing” to “serving”. Scott will tell you that God has done some pretty radical things in our hearts. I am a person who traditionally likes to “do” things, and “accomplish” projects. Give me a list to accomplish, and I will do anything to get it done. You hear all kinds of groups going overseas to “go down and help some people!” Helping people is a worthy goal. But, just helping cannot be enough. It really can’t just be about going and checking off items on a list and calling it a success. It must be deeper…right? This was the point Scott and I found ourselves in a few years ago. We had to ask ourselves why we were going to Guatemala. Were we just going to help build a house or was it to make disciples? The answer to that question became critical to our hearts. God gave us the answer we needed. We were going down to make disciples!
Having that answer gave a focus to my life I never had before. It changed the way I did everything. It changed the way I spend my spare time. I don’t watch a lot of TV. Instead, I collect used wheelchairs. I don’t go on men’s “golf trips”. Instead, I serve along side brothers in Christ who want to bring glory to God during a week of fellowship in Guatemala. It is not about taking a list of “to do items” down to accomplish. It is about going and serving where God needs us the most. All in the name of Jesus Christ, who cares about the people of Guatemala, and has many people He is calling into His Kingdom.
I spoke to Chris from Bethel, and told him what was on our hearts. We hoped to do a wheelchair distribution, which is Bethel’s primary mission tool. We wanted to continue to invest in the lives of the people in Tecpan, where pastor Juan serves. We also hoped to do a men’s Bible study in Juan’s church. Beyond that, we wanted to help Chris wherever he needed us. This idea was somewhat challenging. Go down with 5 men, no agendas and see where the Holy Spirit leads. Would we get to the end of the week and feel like we hadn’t accomplished anything? Would we feel “it just wasn’t worth it?” I knew the answer before we ever left the country!
I have to admit it was a challenge this year to fundraise. Because we were going to do a wheelchair distribution, we knew we needed to raise support for the chairs. God blew us away by bringing people into our lives who helped us meet our goal. We were able to give 22 chairs that day. Not only did 22 people receive the gift of mobility, but six people made decisions to give their lives to Christ. Beyond that, we intentionally did not set agendas to do things. So, it was difficult to raise funds without clearly defined “tangible” goals. We knew we would accomplish much. We just wouldn’t know what those things were until the trip was over. A friend who will remain nameless came to our rescue this year. He emailed to ask for an address of Bethel as he wanted to make a donation before the end of the year. I told him about our shortfall of fundraising. He asked how much we needed. When I told him, he said…”done!” That was it. Once again, it all came down to the last minute. But, God brought the people in our lives that wanted to help us meet our goals.
The group of men we took down this year was great. Each man contributed a lot in his own way. There are too many stories to tell. But, I think each man could easily look back and say that God used them in ways they never imagined. We were each changed by what we saw, and will never be the same. I am glad to call them “friends” and “brothers”. I would gladly serve along side any one of them in the future.
One of the greatest turning points in the trip was Scott’s lesson during our men’s Bible study. I wrote about this in a previous blog post, so I encourage you to go back and read about it. But, I will tell you that his primary “word” of encouragement turned out to be our mantra. “Companerismo”, or “fellowship” in English. We went to fellowship with the men of Juan’s church. We were not disappointed. It was totally worth it!!!
Blanca and her children became a huge factor later in the week. As we stood with them in their courtyard, her oldest daughter absolutely floored us by telling us how important we had become in her life over the past four years. While her dad may have passed away, she looked at us as fathers. Remember Juan and the man he became friends with? Remember the children the man left behind? Do you see how the pieces are starting to come together? Investing ourselves in the lives of others. Going back year after year to the same place…loving…giving…praying…serving! Sometimes we are not able to see the end from the beginning. While I would have liked to think our efforts with Blanca’s kids would mean something important to them, I never could have imagined this day…this conversation…from this young woman. It begs the question, “who do you have in your life right now who needs you like this girl Paola needed us?” You know those people are there. The situation may not seem this drastic. It may be in your neighborhood, your extended family or your friends. Maybe someone who has gone through a divorce and left their children without a father figure or mother figure. There is someone you can invest your life in; someone who needs just a little attention, and who may not get it any other way. God puts us where He wants us. We just need to look around and see it for what it is.
It was also a great trip for working with Pastor Juan. We have intentionally invested our lives into his church. He is the shepherd and his church means so much. Our mens Bible study was awesome. Our vacation Bible school went great. And, as usual, it was incredible getting to sing and worship together and eat a special dinner with all of the members. But, the highlight for me was seeing the walls of “pride and strife” come down in the heart of a woman in Juan’s church. She had been gifted by God with a beautiful voice and musical talent. She had the chance to use those gifts for some time in the church. A new family moved in to Tecpan, and Juan wanted to give them a chance to serve. This woman was hurt that she didn’t get to use those talents like before. Her pride began to get in the way. Strife began to tear not only her relationship with the church apart, but of those around her. As we served with them over the week, she began to see that God had given her other talents as well. She opened her heart and worked with the children during VBS. On the last night we were there, she asked to speak to Pastor Juan. She cried out that she now saw she had other gifts to offer. She wanted to restore her relationship with the other members of the church. She wanted that “companerismo” or fellowship, and to let God use her in any way He needed. It was a wonderful moment for all of us. It was great to see God heal wounds that only He can mend. God truly is good!
Finally, it was great getting to spend a week with Chris from Bethel. The first night I met him four years ago, I asked him what he needed. He simply answered “friends”. Being a task oriented person, I tried to get a “to do” lists from him. But, in all sincerity, he truly meant that he wanted friends. “Friends” will stick with you no matter what. “Friends” will keep coming back to help, even when others may not. “Friends” give you their best, and want to help in any way they can. Well, Chris wanted a friend, and he got more than that. I am his friend…that’s for sure. But, he is also my brother. I love Chris and his family. I cannot think of a place or a group of people I would rather spend a week with than Chris in Guatemala. I have only been back home for a week, and I can’t wait to go back next year.
I want to close with an idea from a book written by Pastor Kyle Idleman called “Not a Fan”. It is a great book, and it has already had a huge impact on my walk with Christ. The point of the book is to ask if you are simply a “fan of Jesus” or truly a “follower of Jesus”. It is a question each one of us needs to ask. Anyway, on page 77, Kyle makes a statement that just resonates deep in my heart.
“When we learn to truly follow Jesus, we find that obedience to God comes from the inside out. Submission to what God wants for our lives flows naturally out of that relationship. It’s not to say that what we do or don’t do doesn’t matter, but what we do or don’t do must come from who we are as followers of Jesus.”
I agree with Kyle. I am thankful for Christ saving me. I am thankful that He called me, despite my sin, and brokenness. I will gladly do anything He asks. Having the privilege to go serve in Guatemala makes my heart beat faster. I cannot thank God enough for allowing me to go and work with Chris, Juan and the people of Tecpan. I am thankful for the men who have gone over the years. They truly are my brothers, and I appreciate each one of them.
I hope that you have found this same peace and satisfaction in your own life. First, for the healing of Christ’s forgiveness from your sins. Secondly, for the love and fellowship you will experience with God from that moment of salvation. Finally, for the direction and purpose you will ultimately discover in His will for your life. We each have gifts, and God is the One who put them there. He gave them to you to use in His service. To not use them is truly a shame.
If you don’t know the peace of salvation I am talking about, I would love to talk with you over a cup of coffee and tell you about the healing that can only come from Christ. If you haven’t found that sense of purpose in how God can use you, I encourage you to jump in and start serving. Find a need in your church, work in a soup kitchen or find a neighbor who has a need. Ask God for guidance. He will give it to you. It may not be in the timing or way you expect. But, just be patient and faithful.
I do want to make one plea with you. I have intentionally not talked about money a lot in my blog over the years. But, the reality is that it does take money to accomplish what we plan. We need your help from this moment until we leave next January. It is much easier to fundraise over the year, than wait until the last minute. If you are in the position to donate, please let me know. Whether it is $5, $50, $500 or $5,000…we need your support!!!
Thank you for following along in the blog. Many of you have come up to say you enjoyed reading our entries. It means so much to know you were there with us, praying and caring. Your love and support has helped us, and we are truly thankful.
This year was totally worth it!!!
Until next year… Dios Te Bendiga!