Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Am I a bad missionary? Maybe. Or maybe I’m just human.

I caught myself thinking it last night, and my first reaction was guilt. My second reaction was justification, and my third reaction was defeat. We were sitting in our living room minutes before our neighbors were to show up for our weekly neighborhood Bible study, praying over the lesson and the time we would be spending with them. Out loud I prayed that God would bring the people, that He would move in their hearts to give them a desire to spend time studying His Word and grow in their understanding of who Jesus is. Inwardly I was hoping that nobody would show up so that I could go to bed early: guilt, justification, defeat. Does this mean that I am a bad missionary? Maybe. Or maybe I’m just human.
I find it interesting that we as Christians so often model our lives, our perspectives and our ideas of good and bad in the same way that the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ day did. I mean, how many of our beliefs and standards and practices are really biblical, and how many do we just think are biblical? When it comes to attitude and contentment, is it biblically wrong to be dissatisfied with situation and circumstance? I think some would say yes and others would say no, and I am honestly unsure of the correct response. But I do know, or at least I have come to know, that God is bigger than my humanity, and he won’t leave me alone to struggle through it. You see, it was my turn to lead the study last night, to ask the questions, to guide the discussion, to suffer through awkward silences when no one had an answer or wanted to answer, and frankly, I was just tired of having to try so hard to pull a good discussion out of thin air. So inwardly I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to.
But then, the door bell rang, and in walked in two neighborhood moms and 5 neighborhood children. Sigh. Here we go. Plaster on the smile and do the job, because that is why I’m here after all isn’t it? To do the job. And what is the job exactly, to plaster on a smile and teach about Jesus’ love? To some extent yes, but lately I’ve been learning that the job is less about me and more about Him. Yes, I know that this would seem obvious to any mature Christian reading this post, but understanding it in theory and understanding it in practice are two different things. Why? Because who wants to come out and say that they don’t want to share the gospel anymore? Who wants to take the responsibility to admit that maybe they don’t like ministry? Didn’t Jesus ever get tired of dealing with people who couldn’t understand his message? Didn’t Paul ever get tired of being away from “home”? We don’t really see these things in the scriptures do we, so our tendency is to think that what we read is all there was. Paul, the soldier of the gospel, God’s man taking the good news to the nations, never tiring, never hesitating, never frustrated with culture, always content to be living out of his trailer . . . I mean tent, and never putting down roots anywhere. Is that really how it was? I hope not. Maybe I’m in the wrong here, but I’d like to think that Paul, while an extraordinary believer and a gifted evangelist, was human like any other missionary or ministry worker. I’d like to think that he got tired, that he got frustrated by cultural barriers, and that some days he just didn’t feel like preaching the gospel. And maybe I’d just like to think that so that I’ll feel better about myself when these thoughts and feelings creep into my being. Because admitting that you’re tired of being a missionary is unbiblical right? But you see, these are the moments, precious moments when I struggle against what I think to be true and what I know to be true, and at the end of the battle I rest in the grace of my Lord. Because then it becomes less about me and more about Him. Last night I would rather have watched TV and gone to bed early than teach a Bible study to my Peruvian neighbors. But then God stepped in. He worked in spite of my attitude and tiredness, and He used the power of His word to speak into the lives of these women and their children. And I walked away encouraged, because I was reminded yet again, that nowhere in the Word does it say that I am responsible for saving everybody I come into contact with in Peru. Nowhere does it say that I am not allowed to admit when I am tired or discouraged or feeling defeated. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 12 that God’s grace is sufficient, that His power is made perfect in our weakness. So we boast in our weakness, we delight in our weakness so that Christ’s power may rest on us. So does wanting to watch TV rather than teach a Bible study make me a bad missionary? Maybe. Or maybe I’m just human, human enough to be used by the Lord, yet human enough to need him.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The “Go” of Renunciation

“. . . someone said to Him, ‘Lord I will follow you wherever you go’” ( Luke 9:57

Luke 9:58 are words that destroy the argument of serving Jesus Christ because it is a pleasant thing to do. And the strictness of the rejection that He demands of me allows for nothing to remain in my life but my Lord, myself, and a sense of desperate hope. He says that I must let everyone else come or go, and that I must be guided solely by my relationship to Him.

-Oswald Chambers: My Utmost for His Highest

Monday, September 13, 2010

Stephen Hawking

So in the past few weeks I’ve had a few great opportunities to interact with my fellow teachers and the students of Stephen Hawking High School. Two weeks ago on Saturday the school hosted a “Family Day” at a park outside of town. There were games and relays all morning, picnic lunches and a kite flying contest in the afternoon. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to spend time with the kids and meet their parents, to spend time getting to know the other teachers outside of the classroom. I will confess that after six months of teaching, this was really one of the first moments that I felt part of the school and part of the staff. I helped organize games, judged contests and laughed a lot as I watched my kids enjoy a day with their families and friends. This was also one of the first times I have seen the family emphasized since being in Tarma, and I realized what a cool thing I have the opportunity to be a part of when I think about this school. In the first year of its existence, I have seen the teachers really care for the kids, both academically and personally. I have seen the administration emphasize values and healthy growth. And I’ve been impacted by being a part of it all.
Another opportunity I’ve had to spend time with my kids has been through a series of tea-parties that I’m hosting for the girls of the school. I’m inviting each grade over at a time (generally 8-10 girls) for food, games and a craft, to spend time getting to know them better and hopefully opening doors for future involvement in their lives, even after I go home. Last week I held the first tea-party with my first grade girls, and although only two showed up, we had a really good time. Maritza is one of the girls I’m trying to get to know and hopefully disciple at some point, and Noelia is one of the other first grade girls who has participated in a few of our team events. My next tea party is scheduled for this coming Friday, so I’d prayer for the evening and my conversation with the girls.