Beware the whiles of the devil Eph 6:11
While short term mission trips are often characterized by “Mount of Transfiguration experiences”. They tend to be ripe with fresh revelation accompanied by a renewed sense of gratitude for everything they have back home. Those involved in long term missions know the valley that Peter, James and John encountered in Mark 9:2-29. That God is more concerned with our own character, than our projects can be a hard lesson to learn.
Chaos is a recurring motif in third world missions .
We were in crisis mode when we thought Honduras was about to break out into civil war and made contingency plans in the event we would have to protect and or evacuate 48 children in our care. Soon after that passed, we had Honduran police storming our compound to take all of our files. Why? Because a member of the body of Christ in the USA decided that IMI was too prosperous and therefore must be laundering money. Of course IMI wasn’t and have since been cleared. The files have yet to be returned. There are always rumors of warrants out for our arrests made worse by the fact that one of our staff had already been the victim of one false arrest. If that weren’t bad enough corrupt government officials continue to try to confiscate the entire City of Refuge for thier own use. We are striving to comply with every regulation. Meanwhile legal paperwork almost always gets conveniently, lost immediately before an important deadline. There are near constant albeit ridiculous allegations of child neglect. One of my all-time favorites was when DINAF, the Honduran social services walked by our two soccer fields, two swimming pools, a volleyball and basketball court, wrestling room, game room, art room and music room before sitting down to tell us that we lacked sufficient recreational facilities. They gave us a deadline to rectify this or we’d be shut down. I asked them why they spent so much time and energy harassing us when there were children eating garbage at the dump. “Honduras is a poor country.” They said. “We don’t consider poverty to be a risk factor.”
Back in the states
Tom, our founder drives around the USA to preach 27 days out of every month. He is lucky if he sleeps four hours a night and eats granola bars because he doesn’t want to waste money on food. The other 3 days a month he spends in Honduras meeting with workers and playing with the children to remind himself why he is killing himself. Meanwhile Teresa spends months away from home in a 10 x 10 ft bedroom and working from 8am- 2m 7 days a week trying to hold things together at the City of Refuge.
Americans love poignancy and we have plenty of joyous stories to tell.
That said you probably won’t hear about the havoc wrought by defiant short-term missionaries or our teen age girls who go home on vacation and return pregnant. You don’t hear the horror of children forced by DINAF to return to their mother even though she showed them their father’s dead body after her boyfriend beheaded him. You don’t hear about sexually abused boys who become predators and have to be removed after we’ve sowed into them for a decade.
You probably won’t hear about seven-year-old who heard the devil tell him to light the baby’s dorm on fire.
We would have had 10 dead children if the mission director and I had arrived on scene three minutes later than we did. You didn’t see the bucket brigade we formed because the fire department couldn’t get there for another two hours. These are just a few of the challenges we’ve faced. But the Lord has a calling on each and every one of these children’s lives, some of whom would not be alive today if they weren’t with us. Others would have no hope of going beyond the sixth grade. In fact there are always between 40 and 60 children whose futures are at stake. God willing there will be hundreds more soon in Sierra Leone. There are 60 – 90 Honduran employees, some of whom would be risking their lives and those of their families to illegally cross the border if the City of Refuge were to shut down. Life is almost always chaotic and the future uncertain. We don’t know what will happen next only that it will. And most likely it will be crazier and harder than the last. Why do we continue? The answer is simple.
We’d rather be IN the will of God and under machine gun fire than OUT of His will on a beach in paradise.
Even so, that certain members of the body of Christ attack and defame the ministry under which we serve is heart breaking at times.
I know. I know, I know…Jesus said a student is not above his teacher… Mat 10:23-25 But I’ll be honest. Sometimes the temptation to harden our hearts and retaliate can be strong. We do our best to be Christ like, but it still hurts when the people we’d most expect to love and at least pray for us do their utmost to undermine us. What is it that causes people to be suspicious of any good yet rarely question a bad report?
Sometimes the only difference between secularists and some Christians is that Christians devour their brethren in the name of God.
But what does the Bible day about all this?
Phil 4:8 effectively tells us to actively, seek the good not the bad. For example, unlike today, it was common practice in early New Testament times to take any controversial statement and search the scriptures to prove it true rather than automatically attempt to build a case against it. Acts 17:11. You’d think so called spirit filled Christians would be keen to embrace this approach instead of the modern-day addiction to outrage. Too often, 2 Tim 3:1-9 language like “boasters, proud, unthankful, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, brutal, traitors, headstrong, haughty…” is more descriptive of their approach toward co-laborers in the kingdom.
Prov 18:21 says the power of life and death are in the tongue. Simply calling a brother a fool puts one in danger of Hell Fire Mat 5:21. Even so, Jesus forewarned us that there would be those who will deliver us up and even kill us in the name of serving God. John 16:2. Evangelicals commonly believe He was talking about radical Islam.
I think He was talking about us.
Perhaps one of the downsides to first world western financial and material prosperity is that it is all too easy to forget that “we” not “they” see as in a glass darkly.
There are all kinds of wonderful projects being carried out in the name of God apart from the understanding “that all have become unclean and our best deeds are like filthy rags” Isaiah 64:6. We are saved by grace through faith which is in itself a gift. That way no one can boast about what he or she has done. Eph 2:8-9 There is no valid comparison of one to another in the kingdom. Because not one of us can accomplish anything of ourselves. John 15:5 and God is no respecter of persons Acts 10:34-35. And while the Lord does have assignments for us to complete, Eph 2:10. Our greatest and most important witness to the world is our Love for one another. John 13:35
Too often people in the first world prop themselves up on a proverbial pedestal and imagine themselves as saviors via their own prosperity. They subconsciously equate their prosperity with Godliness, discernment and wisdom. They commonly envision the “least of these” in the parable of the sheep and the goats Mat 25:31-46 as the suffering child in a third world dump or the homeless person on the streets. While there is some truth to this, the bible calls these people the greatest who will inherit the kingdom of God. Mat 5:3. Is it not the one with whom we are most prone to disagree and perhaps even despise the one who more accurately represents “the least of these” within the context of our own lives?
In John Ch 4 Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well. And while people often focus on her adultery and the forgiveness of Jesus, many miss the fact that the Samaritans (some of today’s Palestinians) and Jews were and still are vehemently opposed to one another.
The well where they sat was Jacob’s well the ownership of which was claimed by both groups. Ironically the first thing Jesus said to the incredulous Samaritan woman was “give me a drink” which she promptly did.
Not only did she give a drink to a Jew, one regarded as “the least of the these” by her people, but she gave the drink to Jesus Himself.
One thing is certain, Jesus’s ministry is the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 Do not involve yourself with those who slander and refuse to be reconciled. Have no part in ear tickling, extra biblical teachings they espouse. 2 Tim 4:3 It is crucial that we internalize that it is ONLY the death of Jesus on the cross and the blood He shed for our iniquities that makes us righteous. It is His resurrection that gives us hope in a dying world. What we say and do on earth is a measure of our gratitude for what He did, or it is a measure of our pride. In the end the grateful receive more to be grateful for.
The prideful almost always eat their own.
So, what does this have to do with horses and donkeys?
Well when a group of horses are attacked, they face each other and form a circle, then kick at the attacker on the outside.
When donkeys fight, they form a circle, face the attacker then kick each other to death.
You will know them by their fruit.
Don’t be a donkey.