Repentance, Sabbath, Shack, Fondness…

 

We are back in Cavango after a week and a half in Lubango (it was to be a week and we had car issues and other delays).  We had a delightful week connecting with fellow missionaries and Angolan church leaders.  We are returning after a four month stay in the US, which consisted of rest, the celebration of Ellie’s marriage to David Steltz, connecting with our beautiful kids, our family and some of our faithful supporters, a Christian medical conference in Thailand, and a season of repentance.

 

I returned from Angola in November more exhausted than I realized and, through some sensitive and wise counseling with our beautiful SIM mission organization, I recognized that I had recently begun to place serving ahead of my first love and to identify in my work instead of as a beloved child of my Father.  The symptoms were loss of joy and peace and other characteristics of the fruit of His spirit (Gal 5:23).  I was able to see that I had arrogantly chosen to violate my Father’s loving command to rest one day a week and to live a life without the heavy yoke of shouldering all responsibility.  Arrogantly, because I had begun to see my work as so important that I couldn’t rest and the stress of bearing the burden of care that only God can bear was wearing on me.

 

As often happens in depression, my world became quite small and quite focused on me and my activity.  My time in the US helped me to step away and look at myself, my work, and the world from a different perspective, and appreciate again my insignificance.  In the grand scheme of things, we each (and our activity) are quite insignificant and humility embraces this reality, while arrogance disregards it.  Mental health requires a perspective centered on reality (vs the ideal) and one of the characteristics of poor mental health is hyper-focus on one’s self, work, growth, feelings, importance, etc.  Jesus addressed this often when He encouraged us to focus on our Father and on others.  A focus on our Father stimulates us obey Him (an audience of One), out of gratitude and appreciation for who He is, and one of His commands is to rest because it is healthy and because we cannot rest without trust.  It is said that the Jewish Sabbath begins at night because the first part of the Sabbath is spent in bed, trusting the world, our activity, our loved ones, etc to our Father.  We don’t work on the Sabbath, because we recognize that success or failure of any endeavor is our Father’s responsibility and is not dependent on our effort, skill, personality, etc.  Sabbath is about trust (as are all of the commandments), and I had abandoned trusting my Father for all outcomes, believing that some outcomes in my life were more dependent on me that on Him.

 

Repentance involves changing one’s mind, and our Home Assignment allowed me to see the direction I was headed and turn.  If there is one thing I have learned in my 30+ years of walking with Jesus, it is that living with my heart turned toward Him (in dependence) is life and walking in my own wisdom/desire/strength is destructive.  Because of my hard-headedness, repentance must happen often, as I have such a propensity to walk independently of my Father.  My natural bent is to not follow Him wholeheartedly but, when I do, I know the beautiful fruit that a surrendered heart can realize.  Every day I both wander from Him and follow Him.  I am seeing again that I need to monitor regularly whom I am following so as to stay dependent on Jesus and not on me.  There is no better way to do this that to read His letters to us, surrender to Him, talk often with Him, to read the writings of others who are following Him…  Though I now see better my need to trust in Jesus’ care and ability for running the world in which I live, I’ve obviously still not arrived as, yesterday, my first Sunday back in Cavango, found me in a church service for three hours (not rest) and making 5 trips to the clinic for emergency arrivals…  Please pray for me as I continue to process toward a place of healthy trust/rest.

 

This battle within is one of the reasons I write proverbs for my kids (see above under the photo).  To write my observations of life and to stimulate them to chew on what is healthy/true, to reject what is false, and to know the difference.  I need so much help in daily staying surrendered to God, health, wisdom, truth, etc.  I love reading others’ experience in the search for health/truth and I believe that sharing our experiences/perceptions about health/truth are beneficial.  These proverbs are written to share my observations and to stimulate thought and conversation, not to claim the corner on truth.  I believe that our Father’s letters to us were written to encourage relationship with Him (who has the answers), not to have all of life’s answers.   He invites us to reason with Him, to create with Him, to learn with/from Him and to work with Him in determining what is true, good, and healthy and these statements are written with this in mind.  Others have written and expressed their appreciation for how the proverbs have encouraged and challenged them, so I published them here.  I hope they draw you closer to the Truth (Jesus) .

 

I saw the movie, “The Shack” while in the US and, as the book did 10 years ago, it challenged me deeply.  Its message is honest, rich, hard, humbling… and packaged in a way to stimulate a response.  The realities of earthly pain and how our Father views us are especially addressed.  I constantly struggle with realizing His affection for me apart from what I do, which is the whole of Jesus’ message to mankind.  Like the main character in the movie, I can so easily become focused on me, my understanding, my performance, my pain, etc and lose my Father’s perspective, which is the core of the Gospel message.  The Kingdom of Heaven is centered on Him, His glory, His love, His abilities, etc and life is found in Him and not in me and my earthly understanding.  When I remember this and focus on my relationship with Him and His perspective toward me, I know life and peace and, when I forget, I know emptiness, confusion, frustration and fatigue.

 

I especially love the author’s depiction of the relationship of the members of the Trinity toward one another and I’m reminded that God has known love in the Trinity for all of eternity.  The message of the Kingdom is that this same Godhead has now included us in the love they know for One another.  Wow.  The radical significance of the Trinity is that love didn’t begin with creation, but that love for mankind was an extension of what God already knew and practiced in Himself.  Jesus says in Jn 17 that He loves us like He loves the Father, and we are loved like He is loved by the Father.  Wow.  Life with Jesus is not a religion, but a relationship with this loving God.  The movie challenges me because I have such a propensity to leave relationship for a system of commands and performance.  I encourage you to see this excellent movie, to read the book (again), and to reconsider this God who came to earth to clearly reveal and express His unfathomable love toward such flawed human beings.  The message will change you…

 

At the Christian Medical and Dental Association conference in Thailand, the writer of the book, “Insanity of God” spoke to us (about 300 English-speaking medical professionals serving in difficult places around the world) and during his message he stopped and said slowly and emphatically, “I am so proud of you!”  I got quite emotional (doesn’t happen much any more) and I realized how I long to hear those words from my Father.  That day will come soon when we all will have the opportunity to hear, “Well done, my faithful servant”.  The conference was the first time I was with so many serving around the world and Betsy and I will now try to go to this annual gathering as often as possible.  It renewed in me an eternal perspective, which I so desire to maintain.  I desire the things of this world to more increasingly “grow strangely dim” as I focus on Jesus and His heart for those He loves…  I had breakfast with someone serving in Iraq, lunch with someone serving in Afghanistan, dinner with someone in Nepal and every day was like this for 2 weeks.  We shared joys and struggles and had so much in common.  The body of Christ is beautiful, indeed.  I walked away from every encounter with such admiration for those I had just met…

 

Our time in Lubango was encouraging, especially my meetings with my fellow brothers/sisters in the Lord (missionary and Angolan), who work with me to serve those in the rural areas to express this Kingdom love to those who haven’t heard.  One missionary colleague, in particular, Steve Collins, so depicts the heart of my Father, as illustrated in “The Shack”.  The Father character in the movie (“Papa”) says repeatedly and joyfully about various flawed people, “I am especially fond of him/her”.  Steve Collins is a humble, energetic and joyful almost-80-years-old eye surgeon who has served thousands in his years in Angola, and everyone in his presence feels that Steve is especially fond of them.  This is such a beautiful demonstration of Jesus in Him and I want to be more like Steve when I grow up!

 

We had a meeting with Angolan leaders to discuss how we can best place our efforts to communicate to more people the incredible love of our Father.  68% of Angola’s population in 2015 was under 15 years of age.  Children are culturally neglected and we agreed that we, as Jesus’ body, need to place more of our energies and time in loving this beautiful part of the population.  If you would like to make an impact that would last for generations and for eternity, would you consider serving/loving these kids?  If so, please contact us and/or SIM (sim.org).  So many here could benefit from your love.  The laborers are few…

 

Our return to Cavango this week has been full.  We had perhaps a hundred people waiting to be seen, and many very ill (including many kids in coma from malaria and one beautiful 4-year-old who died in my arms immediately upon arrival at the hospital).  It has been a joy to be serving here again, but it has been equally joyful to see that the hospital had been run with excellence in my absence.  To see that all of our training over the past three years has been so fruitful is beyond encouraging!  Whenever we leave our work here, whether in one year or ten, our staff in Cavango has demonstrated that the work and service here will carry on in very good hands and hearts. Our colleagues here, with the Lubango MAF staff, with everyone at our parent hospital CEML in Lubango, and with our SIM and Angola church family, served the rural people with such selfless abandon during our time away…  So beautiful!

 

The child who died in my arms had had fever from malaria for six days.  We tell everyone that malaria rarely kills in the first three days, but kills many after that window.  If we could only get the message out…  We need people who will travel to villages and teach basic health and present the simple message of our Father’s affection for them.  If you would want to impact generations through simple instruction (no health training required), just in the Cavango area we could use perhaps four people willing to abandon their current earthly life to love these beautiful rural folks in this way.  The sacrifice would be steep and the eternal rewards for many even steeper…

 

I remember asking my Father when I moved here to give me His love for the people of Cavango.  As I sat in the church service this morning and looked around the room, I realized that He has done just that.  I have such love and respect for these folks, all flawed (like me) yet all so beautiful and living in some of the toughest circumstances.

 

Please pray for us and our work and refer to above and to the previous post about how you might be able to join us in this remarkable work…

 

2 comments

  1. Love your honesty and willingness to serve. The photo of the three boys is fantastic. Well done thou good and faithful servant (doing a better job than a old boy in Sussex).

  2. Thank you Tim. We too are on thay same journey of dependance on Jesus. We are glad for his patience along the way. Thank God for Sabbath, what a gift. Love you guys, The Linda

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