Being a Missionary is…

So what’s it like; you know, this missionary thing?

Well, I’m only one guy, and while some might disagree, I’ll give you my somewhat limited view.

Being a missionary is hearing and following God’s call.  It is counting the cost and laying down in faith whatever is, for what God’s word says could and should be.   It is the willingness to be baptized by fire in ways you know could happen but maybe don’t believe ever will.  It is wrestling with choosing to trust in the words and ideas of man or God alone when the country you’re in appears to be descending into civil war.

It is asking yourself if you have what it takes to give your life for the sake of the gospel and the children in your care if that moment of truth ever arrives.

It is waking up at 4 am to worship God alone in your secret place or hitting the road at 3 to spend fourteen hours in the back of a pickup. It is laughing with Hondurans and making jokes about pain as you are deluged with inches of freezing cold rain.  It is confronting the worst poverty you’ve ever seen.  It is witnessing the best and worst in others.  It is exposing the same in yourself. It is witnessing God do genuine miracles and the fulfillment of “greater things than these shall you do.”  It is recoiling at those powered by pride, mesmerizing others with cheap grace and lies.

It is realizing that the “least of these” in Mat 25 might not be the starving child hungry for love as much as it is that charlatan you despise.

Being a missionary means seeing people joyfully come into the kingdom as they see their genuine need.  It means seeing people accept Jesus for the fiftieth time because they have learned that raising their hand is the PIN for two-legged, missionary ATMs.  It is bringing your deepest, best and most profound revelations, your testimony, your experience strength and hope to people in the midst of the most unbearable suffering you’ve ever seen.  It is confronting your inadequacies as you wonder if anything you do even matters.  It is speaking, teaching and praying to bring healing and hope.

It is the humbling recognition that you could never endure what they do and that perhaps God placed them on earth to bring healing to you.

Being a missionary is learning to stop for the one and maybe for the one who always stops for the one when you think you have more important things to do. It is accepting that different people have different giftings and not everyone believes that as much as you.  It is learning the meaning of James 1:4 and enduring the reality of the verses immediately before.  It is always seeking to honor others.

It is walking out the understanding that people don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.

It is transcending culture and language to build relationships.  It is comforting a crying child and bringing a chair to an elderly man.  It is wrestling a group of little boys in the grass. It is cutting grass with a machete instead while wishing you had a lawnmower.  It is drawing pictures and playing ball.  It is dancing like a fool during worship to model not fearing the opinions of man.  It is running in circles with fifteen little girls, desperately hungry for a father’s love, all of them vying for your arm.  It is being laughed at because the word you thought was a woman’s name actually meant feces.  It is building intimacy and trust by laughing at yourself.  It is teaching and disciplining, hoping and believing the best as the children in your care continue to grow.  It is having absolutely nothing to say as you stand before 45 children and half as many adults eagerly waiting for you to teach.

It is watching God come through to weave His own message from the words and testimonies of five-year-olds.

It is pouring into your favorites kids even though you’re not supposed to have favorites.  It means counseling and confronting sin, setting boundaries and sometimes pleading that they repent. It is weeping alone when your favorites, those traumatized children you’ve sown into for years become a clear and present danger to the 43 children who remain.

It is the pain of returning them to the poverty-stricken circumstances from which they came a decade before.

It is charging into a burning building to save the lives of 5-7-year olds trapped inside.  It is vomiting out the smoke you’ve inhaled while fighting the fire because there is no fire department to call. It is seeing the grace of God in action and realizing that children would be dead had they remained trapped for just a few seconds more. It is being told by a 7-year-old boy say that the devil told him to set light his mattress on fire.  It is teaching him to only listen to the voice of God and hearing him innocently say "ok I will."

It is suspending your fear of snakes and crushing the heads of poisonous snakes that threaten the children in their dorms.

It is walking out the truth that perfect love really does cast out all fear.

It is being loved and despised by people you’ve never met. It is being persecuted for righteousness sake. It is being envied, hated and scorned by visitors and outsiders who think they know better, could’ve done better, would’ve done better than you, but have never spent a day in anything that even mildly resembles your shoes.  It is admitting that neither have you spent a day in theirs.  It is struggling, at times, to remember that everyone has a story.

It is walking out the understanding that compassion never means compromising truth as you do your best to “love the least of these”.

It means being ready for anything at any time.  It is traveling five hours through the mountains to bring powdered milk to a seven-year-old with cerebral palsy. It is making sock puppets with indigenous children and helping perform a sock puppet show about nonviolence. It is transporting a woman who was brutally attacked with a machete to a hospital the very same day. It is watching her 17-year-old son choke back tears while elevating his mother’s legs as she bleeds to death in the back of our truck.  It means praying for a miracle, for divine healing. It means believing. It means not allowing your faith to be diminished when you learn that the woman just died.  It means visiting and comforting the family when you don’t know what to say.

It means experiencing the meaning of “we see as in a glass darkly.”

It is living without electricity and water and hot water for sure.  Sometimes there’s a bucket for a shower — other times just a cup. It is being sick with the same bug over and over again sometimes for weeks at a time until you finally become immune. It means accepting that if anything really serious happens, you’ll probably be dead. It means being present within the moment and that tomorrow will take care of itself.

Being a missionary is placing your full trust in God and knowing for certain that He can be trusted.

Being a missionary can feel lonely and futile at times.   It is writing newsletters and blogs you think no one will read. It is pouring your heart and soul into making videos you hope will touch hearts and compel others to join the harvest.  It is hearing “hey- I really love your voice. You could be on the radio.”  It is wondering why so many friends and family no longer seem to care and seem to resent you now that you're gone.  It is the shock and amazement at how many people are paying attention, how many people care and come through right at the midnight hour.

Being a missionary means learning over and over again that God is true to his word.

 

Being a missionary is having gratitude for what you are served. It is appreciating a hamburger, pizza or ice cream like never before.  It is seeing that a lot if not most people in the body of Christ are simply repeating the lessons learned by Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Being a missionary is a shortcut to the truth in chapter 12.

It is loving, praying, feeding, blessing, laughing, trusting, weeping, sometimes wanting to scream or do worse in your rage.  Being a missionary is the willingness to be broken because brokenness is the sand in which the Pearl of Great Price is polished and found.

Being a missionary means being a "little Christ"- a Christian.

 

 

Huaorani, Teromanane, and the Depravity of Man. Pt. 1

The depravity of man is both the most empirically verifiable statement and also the most intellectually resistant.

-Malcolm Muggeridge-

 

In October we were blessed with the opportunity to travel, all expenses paid, to Ecuador where among other things we got to meet and minister to the people there including some of the Huaorani (Wowrani) people.

The movie “The End of the Spear” is the story of Jim Elliot and his friends who were martyred at the hands of Huaorani warriors, a previously untouched people in the Ecuadoran Amazon valley in 1956.

It is also the story of their surviving widows who forgave and ministered to the Huaorani people and led many of them to Christ.  It is one of the most powerful contemporary stories of faith, forgiveness and the gospel of Jesus Christ walked out.

If you’ve seen the movie then you know that the spearing of Jim Elliot and his friends was provoked by a lie on the part of a woman who was trying to distract others and avoid responsibility for her own actions.  In a nutshell, she had an agenda that she advanced by manipulating the emotions of her own people and sacrificed the lives of innocent well-meaning people like pawns in a chess game.

Given the emotional response, I would wager to say that were it not for the faithfulness of Elizabeth Elliot and the other wives whose lives were firmly rooted Christ and his word, most if not all of the relatively small number of Huaorani might have been killed in a retaliatory action by western colonists

The Huaorani became increasingly Christ-centered after 1956 yet a group of them rejected Christ in favor of their old traditions and they formed a separate clan known today as the Teromanane. Relations between the two clans were strained to say the least.

Still, the Teromanane were nomadic hunters and avoided the Huaorani villages.  Violence could be avoided provided they avoided each other.

The only problem is that Christianity tends to bring modernization.  That’s mostly a good thing except that the inherent greed in mankind also gets a new venue in which to express itself.

Peace with the Huaorani opened a larger door to tourism, oil exploration, and the lumber trade that in turn created a market for food previously only taken from the land for sustenance.

The food shortage caused the Teromanane to begin migrating closer to Huaorani villages in order to steal their food. Naturally, Huaorani didn’t retaliate and instead sought reconciliation with their Teromanane brothers and sisters.  They told the Teromanane they didn’t need to steal, that all they needed to do was ask and they would give them whatever they needed.  This led to more social contact to include a Huaorani man and a Teromanane woman making plans to get married.  In Huaorani culture, a man and a woman who are together alone three times are expected to get married.

Apparently, the Huaorani man changed his mind.  We don’t know what the woman said to her people. We only know that the Teromanane became so enraged that they kidnapped three young Huaorani children, took them by the ankles and beat their heads against a tree until they were dead.  Thanks to Jesus, the Huaorani had become more forgiving but not that forgiving.  They formed a raiding party, some of whom we met while we were in Ecuador and killed 15 Teromanane men and women while they slept.  Two children were alive when it was done, and the Huaorani took them back to their village and raised them.

Anyone who ran into the Teromanane got speared after that. And the Ecuadoran government shut down most of the tourist activity in the area.

 

 

Fast forward to 2018 and we are with some Huaorani and other indigenous people in Ecuador.

Actually, we were at the Ninawachi school for indigenous missionaries with a passion for bringing the gospel message and the love of God through His son Jesus Christ to their own people.  Three of these, Daeme a Huaorani native, his wife Diana, a Shuar and Priscilla an Ecuadoran colonial, were about to head into the jungle for their outreach practicum.  Priscilla who is actually one of the teachers was a little fearful because she almost died that last time she was there.

Then we learn the Teromanane are really starving and are suddenly willing to discuss peace with the Huaorani again.  The only condition is that the kidnapped children be returned.  Everyone is hopeful including the Ecuadoran military who devised a plan to fly a helicopter into Teromanane territory and lower the children down by rope.  They were that afraid.  The only catch was that someone else had to pay for it.  We were all missionaries.  We don’t have money for helicopters.

The three Ecuadoran missionaries were getting ready to head upriver when we got news that the Teromanane had arrived just outside of the Huaorani village where they were going.  The situation was tense.  Once again two or three Huaorani women who were on fire for the Lord had gone out to meet them.  But it seemed to go well and a meeting to discuss peace was scheduled.

Unfortunately, it was time for us to return to Honduras.  All we could do was pray.  A week after we returned, we learned that the Teromanane leader turned out to be Daeme’s great uncle and Priscilla, originally scheduled to stay in the village for a week was going to stay at least a month. It sounds promising. We are waiting to hear the final outcome.

That said, I have some concerns.  The Huaorani and Teromanane have what I would call an anger addiction.

Yes, there is such a thing.

They also like to drink Chicha a fermented drink made from yuca.

People who thrive on anger and or alcohol are volatile.

Also, these indigenous people of the Amazon valley who probably number less than a thousand, are protected by the Ecuadoran government. They are the primary obstacle in the way of unrestricted oil drilling and lumbering in the area.  The Bible says to be aware of the wiles of the devil and Jesus told us to be wise like the serpent and gentle as a dove. One of our prayers is that they will be protected from lies and deception that would provoke their emotions, possibly amplified by alcohol and result in their wiping each other out.

But this is not just about the history of the Huaorani and Teromanane and our experience with them.

Stay tuned for Pt. 2…