I have recently been looking back over the past few years and would like to share some personal thoughts with you over the next few minutes.
When I came to the Amazon on a two week trip in 2003, I was living a life that I would categorize as good, rich, full, challenging, and American-normal (better than American-normal). When I returned home after that trip, I felt personally challenged to do what God was calling me to do rather than what I thought was "good". I entered a period of evaluation; of my life, of my relationship with God, of my motives, of who I am, and of what needs in the world exist that I might be able to help address in a small way. It began 6-12 months of much honest, open conversation with my Father. I freely admit that I was experiencing what many people my age experience, a mid-life "crisis" of reevaluation. It has been characterized as an evaluation of one’s life and circumstances that prompts change. It is a search for significance and one that often finds fault with the pursuit of success that typically had characterized the previous stage of one’s life. I experienced a profound desire to order my life based on what my Father wanted me to do rather than what I wanted to do. It wasn’t long before I knew beyond any doubt that He would have me serve Him in a part of the world where daily lives are difficult and where access to both the Good News and to health care are limited. We moved to Brazil, to the Amazon Basin, in 2006, and joined the work of the Xingu Mission.
It has been almost four challenging (difficult) years of learning a new language, forming new relationships, adjusting to living in a very different culture (where we were clueless!), sweating a lot, and dealing with loneliness, rejection, fatigue, and inadequacy. But we have seen God use us in so many ways and in so many lives and we can now appreciate clearly (we have often doubted) that He indeed called us to this place at this time. Though He could have done all of this without us (What a privilege to get to participate!), we have brought experience and wisdom where it was beneficial in a timely way. We have brought medical help and counsel to many who otherwise may not have had it. We have introduced a very different philosophy to health care, praying for each person and acknowledging before them that only God can heal or resolve any problem. We have mentored many hungry people in how to draw closer to their Father in a personal way and in how to see life through Kingdom eyes. We have taught many of the Vineyard, Kingdom values and emphases that we hold so dear. Especially over the past six months, our language has developed to a place that we can have intimate, open relationships with local Brasilians. And we have loved. We’ve treated people with value and honor and respect. We have seen our love and encouragement bless both the missionaries and the Brasilians who have received it.
Some of our help has been rejected; much has been received. Some has been taken for granted; much has been received with gratitude. Some have misunderstood our motives; most have received our love genuinely. Some areas of darkness remain, others now have light. And everything we did was done with our characteristic human imperfection.
We changed course at a time in our lives when we could have "settled in". We responded to the challenge to do what God was specifically asking us to do. We had no idea how it would turn out. As we look back now, we are so glad that we jumped onto a different path, one yielding eternal fruit and one where we so know our Father’s pleasure. We have experienced riches beyond that which we had experienced previously. We have learned much about ourselves, the world, people, and the Kingdom. We have learned the joy of suffering for His sake and we have experienced the pleasure that accompanies Kingdom hardship.
And now we face the exact same challenge. We are beginning the search for our next step and looking to go more remote. Tim, Luke and Ben will travel for a month to the western end of the Brazilian Amazon Basin and explore potential relocation to a small town that is almost exclusively indigenous people. We will be visiting and researching areas that few outsiders have visited. We want people who have lived remotely for generations to know the good news of God’s grace and love, and to have access to some basic health care. We simply want them to have the opportunity to experience what we have experienced with our Father. As to where to live and work, we are wrestling with ourselves again as to dying to our own desires, and seeking His. But this time around it’s a bit different. We now more personally know how we will be cared for as we step into difficult. We know His faithfulness and His pleasure and this encourages us to seek His will rather than our own. We know it will be difficult, as He will not send us to the light and He will not send us to a field that already has workers. But He will care for us, He will guide us, He will use us, and He will grow us.
I am prompted this morning to challenge you to do the same. Go to your Father and seek His heart for you. Settle for no less. But know that He will not lead you to comfort or to material prosperity. He will likely lead you to difficulty, as He loves sending His lights to darkness and this is never a comfortable journey. But you will experience satisfaction at a depth unknown previously. You will be forced into an intimacy with Him that you never knew. You will grow in areas that previously wouldn’t grow. Parts of you will die that you previously couldn’t kill.
And for eternity you will be pleased with your decision to forsake this life for the next.
People are too caught up in their own affairs to spend much time dwelling on you.
Seek to free rather than to control.
To love my enemies and those difficult requires trust in God’s care for me and in His complete ability to intervene in any circumstance at any time.
Do you want to learn? Observe, ask questions.
Repetition is the key to learning information and skills.
The wonder of God’s creation is endless for those who will wonder.
In decisions and responses, what you think is more important than how you feel.
Consider the heart of the hearer before speaking.
To compare oneself to another is to compare two movies after viewing one completely and looking at a single frame of the other.
God’s directing of your journey and His joy in creating uniquely you is discounted when you compare yourself to another.
We need reminded often of the truths that we already know.