I am a missionary on a Native American Reservation. Due to some issues previously with some aspects of ministry, I will have to be careful about what is posted on this blog. Please forgive me if things are not explained in depth or if it seems like certain parts of some posts are left out or don't flow well with the rest of the post. It is hard writing with your hands tied behind your back....
I have been on the Reservation for almost one year. October 1, 2011 will be a year since I moved from my home to come to this place. What a year it has been. I still don't feel like I fully fit in, or that what I am doing here is fully accepted or understood, but progress has most definitely been made. Instead of stares, there are waves. Instead of blank looks, there are smiles. Where there used to be silence, there is now small talk and even some joking. Slow progress is still progress.
The Lord has taught me so much about myself since coming here. I used to think that I knew what a relationship with Christ was and how it was to look like when being lived out. I now think completely different from what I did back then. When you come from a place where your family is your spiritual support, you have an assortment of churches to attend, and you have been assimilated into the people around you, you live in a kind of "blanket security." Your beliefs aren't necessarily yours because you have them as much as they are formed and defined by the people and life around you. Please don't misunderstand me... each person has their own personal beliefs. I just know for myself, those beliefs were never properly or fully tested until I came here... three hours away from my hometown by car, but worlds away by any other standard. I used to think I knew what it was like to have faith, to live off less than average, to understand what it was like to go without, to know and experience trials and tests. The thing about a preschool is that it prepares you for school. Well, I have entered school here, in this place. I have learned how to have less than I did before, but watch the Lord provide more than I ever need. I have learned that true faith is not worth having if it can't pass various tests. I have learned how much worldly safety and security can hinder, even halt, the advancement of faith. I have learned how uninformed most people are to the suffering and heartache of others. The main thing I have learned though, is who Christ is to me. I have taken a lot of "Christian" classes, completed a lot of studying and various programs, even took and passed a test to become a licensed minister, but that isn't where I learned who Christ is to me. I learned who Christ is to me through two different things: watching the hopelessness of a child turn into genuine, true faith; and by serving others from sun up to sun down. This is when the Lord has shaped and pruned me for His service. I can learn about Christ all I want through study and classes, but I learn who Christ is by and through service. I am so different now than I was a year ago. While I have experienced more pain and heartache in this year than any other year before, I have also witnessed the grace and mercy of God in the most powerful ways I could imagine. I have watched lives be transformed by the saving and renewing power of Jesus, and I have watched the Holy Spirit purge and cleanse my heart and my life in ways I didn't think were possible. I have fought my darkest days spiritually; and the Spirit of God has given me the wings I need to fly to the mountaintop for rest, before heading back to the valley to battle again and again. I have learned both how subtle and how blatant the enemy can be. I have said goodbye to good friends, and hello to new ones. I have seen bridges smashed by events beyond our control, but I have seen the lifeboat of God ferry us from place to place, shore to shore. I have watched lives without hope change into lives that cannot contain the joy that radiates in them and through them. I have seen faces of fear become faces of happiness. I have seen the effects of the enemy reversed; new breath breathed into dead lives; and floodwater rise in a famine land. I have experienced the presence and power of the Lord in such a mighty way that the only thing to do was lay prostrate on the ground before Him. I have spent nights longing and yearning to hear that Still Small Voice, and having to move on in faith in the morning after hearing nothing but silence. I have seen how the hand of God has protected and provided through situations that shook me to the core. I have been torn down and built up; wrecked and renewed; bled and transfused.
I say all that to say this: there is pain in sacrifice.... but there are experiences of joy, power, and life that can only be found this side of sacrifice, and that can only be reached through faith and obedience, despite all obstacles, despite all counsel, despite all fears. To any who are reading this that know that God has called them to more than what you are doing now: jump.
I pray that our Heavenly Father would begin to open the eyes of His children who are blind to their surroundings, and the hurt and pain of so many within the boundaries of what we call home. He needed to remind me of this recently. Even though I live in conditions that seem unreal at times, I can still grow complacent. I went to the dump the other day to deliver the garbage. When I pulled up, there was a person digging through the trash. The depth of the trash varied from stuff you could walk on to stuff you literally had to wade through. The trail I picked for my car depended on what I thought wouldn't hurt my tires versus what I thought would. When I got out of my car, I looked into this person's eyes, and saw.... nothing. No life. No hope. No sense of self-worth. It broke my heart. I popped my trunk and grabbed my garbage. As I was walking it to the trash bins, I heard a voice say, "You have TRASH BAGS!!!!!" This was said with the excitement of a child on Christmas Day who just received a present beyond their wildest imaginings. I turned around, and there stood a little child. This child was large, probably four or five... and still in diapers. This child's nose was running down past their chin. The child's diaper was soaking wet, and had saturated the shorts. This child was dirty. My heart broke again. I just answered this child the best way I knew how, but my smile did not reach my eyes, for my eyes were full of pain. I continued getting out my garbage, and heard the child say, "Look Dad, I found a toy!" I turned around once more, and saw this child holding up what most of us would consider unfit for a toy for our pets. The smile on this child's face was one of pure happiness. As I was watching, another reality settled in: this child was not wearing shoes. This child was walking through nasty, disgusting, filthy garbage with no shoes or socks. THIS IS REALITY! And what are we doing about it?
I pray that the stupor that sits upon us fall off. I pray that the contentment that has enslaved and bound us be broken. I pray that we understand how evil it is to be an apathetic Christian. I pray that the chains of complacency be broken in Jesus' Name. I pray that God does what it takes to make us hurt for who He hurts for. Christ did not die to make us rich and successful. He died so that we may live to serve others. There is no other reality than this.
I read a quote a while ago that I can't seem to find again. Please forgive me if I state it other than how I read it. It is: "Christ did not die to make bad people good, but to make dead people live." (Author Unknown) But what are we made alive in Christ for? TO SERVE AND REACH OTHERS AS WE HAVE BEEN REACHED AND SERVED. We need to wake up to the world around us and stop living like WE are special or that WE deserved the grace that was shown to us. What a shame that we receive grace and squander it on successful living, when a whole world goes by unnoticed and unreached. Father, forgive us and MOVE us into action, by whatever means necessary!
James 4:1-4, 17:
1 What is the source of the wars and the fights among you? Don't they come from the cravings that are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and don't receive because you ask wrongly, so that you may spend it on your desires for pleasure. 4 Adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world's friend becomes God's enemy.
17 So, for the person who knows to do good and doesn't do it, it is a sin."
We can live in ignorance no longer. We know what we are to do... all we have to do is do it.