“Teach me to do Your will, For you are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.” Psalm 143:10
They say that six months is the break it or make it for missionaries, and I would have to say its true. I just hit the six month mark last month. The time has gone by extremely fast, and it feels like I just got here yesterday. At the same time though, I feel as if I have already lived an entire lifetime in those six months.
Since it has been a while since my last update your probably wondering what I have been up to (this is the longest amount of time I have gone without making a post, sorry about that). In November we had our Thanksgiving Day Feast for the English service and it went great. The best part about it was the food. You were probably thinking I was going to be spiritual and say the fellowship and the general attitude of thankfulness, which both were amazing factors in the day- but man the food was great. I even made my family’s traditional recipe of Broccoli Puff. We had a good show up from the English Service, some of the leadership from the Spanish services came, and we even had some new faces that I hope to see again. It was nice to celebrate our common culture together, and most importantly to give thanks to God for all that He has given us.
One of the guests who came just in time for the thanksgiving dinner was a man named Basem. Basem is from Egypt and is here as a refugee. Just in case you haven’t been following the news in Egypt you should know that it is not a very friendly place for anyone right now, especially if you are a Christian. Basem was working with the Anglican church in helping mission teams do mission work and also was involved in helping people from Sudan be refugees in Egypt, something that he is now experiencing first hand in Ecuador. He came to Ecuador because it is easy to get a visa (you can come first as a tourist then get your refugee visa) and because it is a Christian country. The hardest part for him being here is that he only speaks English and Arabic, which is why he found the English Service in Cuenca on the internet. Him and I have been spending a lot of time together (hes been trying to teach me a little bit of Arabic) since he now lives in the Mission House with me. Eugenio, one of the elders at CCC, found him a part time job fixing computers (since this is Basem’s skill) but it is only on a work by work call in basis.
If he goes back to Egypt Ecuador will not let him come back since they will think his situation wasn’t all so bad in Egypt if he returns, but how is he supposed to stay if he can’t find work to eat? Right now Ecuador is really only prepared to help refugees from Colombia, if you don’t speak Spanish your pretty much out of luck. If Basem is able to find a job and stay he wants to help bring his family and friends over and wants to start a ministry to help Christian refugees in Egypt and other parts of the middle east. I am really praying that God provides him with a good job in Cuenca and that he can stay, since he has already been a blessing to us and has a heart to serve the Lord. We even went to the Muslim Mosque together here in Cuenca since he wanted to witness to them, except that when we got there it was closed. Please pray for Basem that he would be able to find a job and stay in Cuenca.
I have also had the opportunity to go visit a high school here in Cuenca to give a talk about morality and ethics. At first it was sort of a struggle for me since I couldn’t openly talk about Jesus as the only way, but I sure wasn’t going to give them something useless like having a good attitude can change your life, because it doesn’t matter how positive you are if you don’t know Jesus. Only Jesus can change your heart, even if you change your attitude. I finally decided to do a list of 10 things that can help you in life, things that I wish I had known at their age. I started with number two, family and worked my way down the list until at the end I told them of number one… which was God. I told them that I only wanted to tell them things that had really helped me in life, things that I could be sure would help them as well. God has been the number one help for me in life, and He could help them too. If they got number one right all the other things would fall in line. I really enjoyed it and I am looking forward to going back or visiting other high schools. Chances are I will since we got the opportunity from a local TV station called Unsion, they don’t have the staff to do much of their social work so they are handing it over to us.
A few weeks or so ago I was going through a really hard time. It isn’t that I didn’t count the cost before I came, I knew what I was getting into and I have always been willing to pay the price. That doesn’t mean though I wasn’t going to have rough times or even times of thinking about going home. I was struggling against my flesh, and feeling like I was loosing, and I was struggling with the stress that comes with shepherding people and serving at a church. It is something that no one understands unless they have done it, and likewise few appreciate. Be that as it may I was calling out to the Lord and asking him why hadn’t he sent me to the middle east where things were simple, over there I could just preach Christ. No politics, just preaching Christ until they kill me. That would have been a better life then the complicated place where I was at now, a place where not only am I surrounded by pressure without but I am fighting all the temptations within.
Not long after my internet was having issues, but it worked just long enough for my friend Jeremiah to send me a facebook message. He asked how I was doing and I told him honestly not that great. He told me “Grace baby, grace”. And its true. It is all about God’s never ending grace. He then told me to go read 1 Kings 19, just then my internet cut out. Just then I opened my Bible in anguish, anguish over my sin and anguish over the sins of others, looking for hope but feeling hopeless I opened it to Hosea 14:14 which says “I will heal their apostasy: I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.” Although no one would know it, there was apostasy in my heart and I was feeling like it was impossible for it to change. Just then, my internet started to work again… just long enough for me to see a comment from my little sister that said “I had a dream last night that I was in a battle and u were in the middle of it injured really badly …I tried to pull u out but couldn’t… it was strange and idk what it means but I hope ur doing alright miss u brother!”. My heart was instantly broken and I began to cry, because that was exactly how I felt. Not only that there is no one more in this world that I have prayed for to love and follow God with all of their heart then my little sister. To know that she was in this battle with me simply broke my heart in a way that nothing else could have, I am not one to put much into dreams but I knew this one was from the Lord. After that my internet cut out again and I decided to go for a walk and seek the Lord.
On my walk I sat down next to the river near my house on a fallen log and opened my Bible to 1 Kings 19 and asked the Lord to speak to me. 1 Kings 19 is the story of Elijah where he felt so alone that he had finally decided to just go out to the desert and die. An angel finally comes to him and gives him food, but Elijah still has no will to live and lays back down until the angel comes again and gives him more food. After that Elijah responds to the angel and goes to seek the Lord, but the Lord was only found in a still small voice. I understand how Elijah felt, I was feeling like it would have been better to just go and preach Christ in the middle east until I die… but sometimes it is harder to live for Christ than to die for Him. After Elijah hears from God the Lord sends him to find His replacement, and the Lord began to speak to my heart that if I wanted to go back home to California He could replace me, that it would not be an issue. At this thought I realized that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to come to the mission field and have an adventure, I told the Lord that I still wanted to be used. “Not yet, Lord. Not yet.” After that I felt healed, I felt encouraged and the Lord has continued to heal me and move me forward ever since. By the grace of God I think I will make it passed six months.
We all have moments of major decision making, it is in these moments that we will decide if we will break or bend, regress or grow. When it comes to following Jesus it is a constant surrendering, a constant willingness to say yes, no matter if you think what He is asking is possible or not. All you have to do is be willing, He will carry you on from there.