I saw perhaps fifty people today for health concerns and we delivered about 25 water filters to individual homes. We are deep into the interior, north of the Amazon River, on the river Paru. We visited many houses, ranging from incredibly simple and broken down ("shacks") to simple but well cared-for. Almost without exception, the people were warm, welcoming, friendly, hospitable, and grateful. I’ve heard it said that people and cultures have two "hurdles" to climb over to reach "relationship". Most have one short hurdle (easily scaled) and one tall hurdle (more difficult to traverse). The people of this culture have an incredibly short first hurdle, as they are so warm and inviting initially. Their second hurdle, to gain real trust and friendship, is taller as the relationship will tend to remain warm but superficial without effort. Some people and cultures have a tall first hurdle, appearing cold and aloof initially, but once "invited in" to relationship, after some effort and time, it is but a short second hurdle to intimacy. A fascinating observation of cultures that I think has some merit.
After delivering the filters and ministering to the peoples’ concerns, it occurred to me that we will likely not "see" the fruit of our labor here. I listen, examine, diagnose, and treat each person. I pray with each, for God to resolve their problem, that they would seek Him, they would hear His voice and really know His affection for them. We deliver filters, conversing and praying with the recipients. Then we leave, and with the geography in which we work and the slowness of travel, we likely won’t be back for a while. We are forced to trust our Father’s continued pursuit of each person to the point of a real response to Him. It is such a part of our human nature to desire to see the fruit of our labor. We seek to justify our work by measuring and analyzing results (fruit). But in this work, the real fruit will be measured by our Father, and from His perspective, not ours.
Trusting God is so much a part of missionary work. We can seek certain measurable results (converts, people saying a prayer, immediate healing, etc) or we can do what we hear God ask us to do and take our eyes off of the "fruit". I think it would be reliable to say that the more we seek and value measurable results, the less we are focused on taking instructions from our Father, and vice versa.
We westerners have a tendency to think linearly, such as "a+b=c". We can be so shortsighted. Nothing in life is so simple. It is more like a+g+q+w+k+s+u+b+z+m+l+r+t = c. Our part ("a") in any equation is small. Each contributes a little, but each part is used by the Designer to produce fruit ("c"). How often have you seen a person contribute "t" to the equation and take credit for "c", simply because they are the last contributor or appear to be a significant factor? I see this in health care and in the church all the time. Many factors (circumstances, microbes, one’s general health, etc) are involved in causing depression or infection, and many factors will be involved in the resolution of the same. In the Kingdom, God uses many factors to open our eyes to who He is and who we are, and He uses many factors and people to lead us to Him. We err in simplifying life to understand and in relying heavily on our shortsighted perspective. Seeking instant gratification from our work (even good work), in fruit that we can measure, can lead one directly away from our Father’s will for us.
Also, prosperity and knowledge can create an "illusion of control" that is common in the U.S. and fascinatingly absent in the river people here. Here they know that there is so much in their lives that is beyond their control. Trust is such a huge part of their lives; trust in others and trust in a God that they know little about though they easily recognize His reality and their need for His kind intervention.
We must remember to trust the One who creates and measures the fruit. We must remember that we are but one small factor in a large equation (a person’s journey). Like a child, we can operate in response to His delight in us, playing whatever part He gives us, and leaving the rest of the equation, and final result (fruit), up to our Father. Indifference to results and the fruit of our labor is very healthy when replaced by listening ears and availability for what small role that our Father is asking us to play.
What small part of someone’s "equation" is God asking you to play today? What "fruit" is He asking you to trust Him with?