Since we left for language school just over 4 years ago, we have been through many changes and struggles. We came to Oaxaca excited and eager to participate in great things with God. He has granted us this privilege, but most of all He has been teaching us that He really wants us to participate with him in the great work he plans to do in us. One that isn’t completed, and will only come to completion the day we meet Jesus face to face for eternity.
We have been through many changes within our organization. We have lost teammates, had 2 directors of our sending organization resign, as well as our field director. We have had several other co-workers within our organization return to the states. The only constant has been that there is always change.
We have struggled through conflict and hurts from other missionaries and we have caused hurts and conflict with other missionaries. We have felt completely misunderstood and completely confused.
We have missed family and faced loneliness. We have struggled through difficulties in language learning and feeling like we are unable to clearly express ourselves when we talk about things of the heart. We have lacked for community at times and missed the encouragement that comes with spurring one another on in the faith. We have had times of sickness and times of uncertainty. We have watched our family and friends walk through difficult times from afar, leaving us to feel completely helpless. We have seen political unrest in our city.
We have watched people suffer through life threatening illnesses. We have known babies who have died and a sick young mom who had to kiss her kids goodbye for the last time. We have prayed over people who we knew that if God did not move, they would die. We have been up close with poverty and wrestled with how to love people in need. There are experts who have written books about this, about how to do it the “right way”. The reality is that when you walk along side of it, in real life, the experience and the heartbreak is striking and there are times you don’t care about the “right way” to love, you just feel a need to do something, anything.
We have struggled in our family. We have sinned against one another and been too slow to ask for forgiveness. We have had moments of guilt, because we feel like our kids get second best.
We have questioned our call and wondered what we are doing here. We have wrestled with our faith. We have questioned our ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other and walking toward Jesus. This is who we are. We are weak. We are full of doubt. We are fragile. We are sinners.
But God has always reminded us that we are also sons and daughters of the King. We were purchased at a great price. We have been adopted into an eternal inheritance, that will never perish. We are covered in the only thing that has any real power to save us, the blood of Jesus Christ. Those sins mentioned above, they have been forgiven. We are sinners, but we have been made clean, redeemed from the pit. We have experienced grace and we have tasted joy. We have a hope. We have a future.
Over the last four years, we have seen pieces of our hearts exposed in ways that could have never happened if we had not made this step of faith. We have seen things about ourselves that we would have preferred to keep hidden. And we have come to understand more and more the Grace of God. Grace that covers us and washes us clean. Grace that accepts us and knows us and loves us. Grace that picks us up off the floor over and over again. Grace that keeps giving us the desire to keep going forward, towards Christ, because in Him we have everything. God has sustained us through every bit of this journey. He has never walked away from us, not even for a short time. We have had moments of being tossed to and fro by the storms of life, where life felt unstable and uncertain, where we did not choose to trust God enough and instead chose fear, anxiety, and anger. But God never moved, He never turned His back. He kept us and guarded us.
About 6 weeks ago, we were at the height of uncertainty. Our family was walking through some very hard realities and consequences of sin in this fallen world in a way we could have never imagined we would have to. The country we live in and have come to love was in a state of unrest and instability. Our landlord had begun the work on the construction of a house for their son in our front yard, with plans to renovate this house and return here in the near future. Our second mission sending agency director, who walked with us through a very difficult time and was a clear blessing from Christ to our family, had just announced that he was resigning. There was violence between the two villages where we work and the locals were afraid to go from one village to the other. In short, things in our life felt uncertain.
We made a decision to do two things: First, we would pray every morning as a couple, as soon as we woke up, and second, we would have a time reading God’s word together as a family every morning over breakfast. It did not take long for some glimpses of stability to return. It became clear that our stability is not in this world. It isn’t in a home, or money, or relationships. It only exists in Jesus Christ. Of course we knew that, already, but truly believing it and experiencing it, well that is a different story.
We began reevaluating the pace of our lives. We began asking God, what He wanted us to do. What should our ministry life look like, what about our family life? What are the highest priorities He has for us?
A gentle answer came in the words of a command from scripture. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul. And Love your neighbor as yourself.
Over these four years, we have learned a lot and experienced much. Our knowledge might have increased, but bottom line, Do we love Jesus more today than when we arrived? Many times, that is a hard question to answer. Lord, you want us to love you, to worship you, to follow you, to walk with you. Are we better at that today, than when we came here? Have we grown in our love and awe for you? We have seen some amazing things, we can tell stories of your power and answering prayer, we have been blessed to grow in our understanding of scripture and confidence to teach others, but what is it we desire to teach above everything else? What do we want to see? What did we come here for? To see people love Jesus more. To see us love Jesus more.We want to see others know and love and be deeply and eternally transformed by Jesus, the Person. And we can not fully participate in that if we ourselves are not loving Jesus more and literally being deeply transformed by Jesus, the Person. Although there is a necessary connection, the head can be full of things about Jesus, but the heart can be held back, trapped in fear or anger or anxiety or anything other than Jesus Christ.
The last month has been largely about just this. Seeking Jesus. Loving Jesus. Taking time to simply be with Jesus. Somehow that has gotten pushed to the side. If we want to help others know the person of Jesus and love Jesus more, we have to know and love and experience Jesus more. You don’t do that by busying yourself with the work of God, but simply by being with Him, remembering and believing and trusting that all of this, including the work in our own hearts, is His work, by His power. So easy to write about. So difficult to experience in our numbered days and overwhelming tasks and weak bodies and minds, the deceitfulness of sin, and our delusions of self sufficiency. But praise God, who gives grace to the humble, and opposes the proud. Always. This is how we know he will finish the work He has begun in us.
We have recently found a new house that we plan to move into. Everyone seems excited about the house, but we all acknowledge that we will miss things about this house. We are looking forward to what God has in store for us in our ministry and our family. We feel like He is beginning a new thing. Bringing some needed healing and beginning a new work, grounded on Him and on us knowing and loving Jesus more. He is our firm foundation, we cannot be shaken from His hand or separated from His love.