Saturday, November 19, 2011

Important Conversations

Every day is filled with important conversations. Two conversations from this week keep re-playing in my mind... because I am humbled at the privilege to do this "work" and awed at the way God intervenes with the right words.

At my house after dinner Thursday night
Manuel: I've got a problem.  Some people are gossiping about me.  They say I am not fit to be a leader because they say..."We've seen you drink and get drunk" and "We've seen you with women." They are saying other bad things about me too that are not true.
Nancy: Are these things true?
Manuel: Yes, before, but not anymore. I've stopped.
Nancy: I believe you.
Manuel: I love God. I confessed these things. You know. It hurts that my "friends" are saying these things.
Nancy: Two things are going on.  1) Satan will encourage people to spread rumors about you to try and pull you down.  You are a wonderful leader and Satan does not want you to lead. So we need to pray that away because as Jesus disciples we have the authority over these evil things. (We read Matthew 10 with emphasis on verse 26.)  So when you are attacked, pray. Recognize it as evil and cast it out. (We prayed).
Nancy:  The second thing is an important lesson that I keep struggling to learn.
You're not perfect.
God hasn't chosen you to lead because you are perfect. The people will expect you to be perfect because you are a teacher.  Then when you are not perfect, you feel guilty and they feel angry, disappointed, and even betrayed. Don't try to maintain an image that you are somehow able to do everything God asks better than they and therefore are able to lead them.  God always chose imperfect people.  David ....with Bathsheba and killing her husband! Moses killed an Egyptian and got angry in the desert, Peter denied Jesus.  As leaders we have to walk in God's grace. I have done things that are wrong. I am not fit to be God's servant, but...God has given me grace, his merciful forgiveness, and takes my hand and pulls me up saying, "Come my child, I have more work for you to do."  Isn't that amazing?
When you show that you are weak and need God's grace, yes even you, the people will believe that maybe God's grace extends to them, too.
Manuel: And I can't keep sinning.
Nancy: We strive to be "holy" because God is holy. (1st Peter 1:16) Everyday I wake up and ask God please help me to do what is right, just and pure, to please guide my conversation to speak His words in love.
Manuel: Me too, I want to do this.

This is Alva's embroidery hoop.

Girl's Night Bible Study
We are continuing to read praise psalms and work on our small embroidery plaques.
Nancy: Let's read psalm 117 and say our own summaries of what it means.  So as we go around the table and read it verse by verse, be ready to say the psalm in your own words.
(We did this...then we came to Alva.)
Alva: I guess it means God loves me and he always tells the (she wasn't believing the words.)
Nancy: God loves you Alva
Alva: But I have so many bad sins not like you wouldn't understand.  I mean bad sins and I have confessed the sins to God in prayer in my home lying on my bed but I still sin and ...
Nancy: So God's a liar.
Alva: God is truth. He never lies. The psalm says his truth is eternal....always truth.
Nancy: Alva, God LOVES you.  God doesn't say uhhhh Alva, if you get your act together and stop sinning then I will love you.
Read the psalm again.
Alva (reads the psalm): But God can see in my heart and God knows that I have bad sin there.
Nancy: Yep. God can see in your heart and God still loves you.
Alva: My brothers were just baptized in Mom's church. I'm proud of them. They don't smoke weed anymore. But I have too much bad sin to be baptized.
Nancy: God loves you Alva. You think nobody could love you.  But I love you and God loves you even more...a lot more.
Alva (cries a little): Yes, yes, but I can't believe that.

Please pray for these two.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Retreat in Paradise November 1 - 6

What a blessing to be able to get together with other Mennonite missionaries living in Central America.
Henry and Millie Buckwalter came from Lancaster to lead us in a study about "Drawing Near to God."  Sheila Yoder from Goshen Indiana came to be my interpreter. How God worked that out is nothing short of amazing. I was so glad to have her there with us and re-kindle our friendship.
The rest of the retreat participants included the Groffs who work with K'ekchi church leaders in Guatemala, the Horsts who created a half-way house for orphans trying to matriculate into jobs and independent living near Telgucigalpa, and Matt Keiser and his dog.  (They work in Las Laureles...some pics of this place are below). Others included the Gingrichs who will help to host short-term mission teams, the Eby family who works in Las Laureles and in La Ceiba at an orphanage, Steve Shenk (not pictured) and Amos Stoltzfus who is our new EMM administrator.  The 6 day retreat was bathed in prayer. The Lord gave us direction and encouraged us. We all walked away refreshed.

This was the view from our lodge. On Friday, many of us walked to the top of that waterfall.  Can you imagine?  
I walked into the park, across the swinging bridge and found a nice bench to sit on to rest and pray while some of the gang did the arduous trek.  This lizard came out of hiding after a while and played staring games with me.  As I sat there I also finished reading the book: When Helping Hurts.  It has formed and tested my thinking about mission work more than any other book I have read in the last 5 years.

This is the view from the "rope bridge". Gorgeous. 
I love laying down and looking up at the trees.

 This is Las Laureles.  It is the garbage dump for the city of La Ceiba.  The people who live here try to make a living off of recycling the junk that comes to the dump, plastics, zinc roofing, metals, whatever they can. 

The dump site keeps growing higher and then is somewhat leveled and seeded. This is the current active pile.
Matt has been working here for 5 years or so.  He relates to the children and families, started several football (soccer) squads that compete against the wealthier La Ceiba teams. He leads Bible studies from time to time and also does some tutoring.  We spent Saturday afternoon here.  You can read more about Matt's work at Matt's blog.

This is Luis. He is Deaf.  He is making an "R" for his last name (?). Luis is 27 and lives next door to Matt. I was so happy to get a chance to meet him and talk with him a little. He works as a spray painter and lives with his mother.  He said he is the only deaf person in Las Laureles but there are many deaf people in La Ceiba. He uses some formal Honduran signs mixed with gestures. I asked him if he went to church.  He said, "Oh yes, when the Jehovahs come to Las Laureles, they pick me up for meetings in La Ceiba.  But the Jehovahs are gone now. They won't be back until January."  He also said, "I didn't know any signs until the Jehovahs taught me." He asked me if I would stay.  "Will you come back tomorrow and talk to me?" "Can you come everyday?"
It's sad that the Jehovahs are making such inroads in the deaf community. Where are the Christian workers?
I wanted to tell him I will come back. I will be your friend. I can teach you about Jesus.  Maybe then you can teach other deaf people...but I just hugged him and prayed God would take care of him as I walked away down the hill to catch up with our group.  Belize is too far away to make a visit to him "every day".

 On Sunday we worshipped at Amor Viviente. They asked us to come to the front and share (in Spanish) a little about our work.  It was good to be there.  The pastor and his wife are standing next to Amos. After church we went to see La Casa Feliz, an orphanage for about 18 children ages 5 to 25 that was started by the pastora.

Thank you EMM for arranging this retreat, and also thank you to Phyllis and Galen for all the work you put into the organization. 

Beloved friends, there is so much work to do to prepare the harvest. Is God calling you? The rewards are much greater than the sacrifices.

Grace and Peace,