A Gray Hope Missionaries Update
When people ask missionaries about missions the easiest answer is to give details about ministries and what we’d like to think we see God doing through us and around us. There have been times when our own reports sound more like an investment prospectus than a report of what God is doing. Most missionary blogs and newsletters do not begin with a list of failures and brokenness. And while the secular cults of personality and comparison have invaded the church and made the quest for personal significance and success into idols,
His strength is made perfect in weakness.” We would rather boast in our infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon us. For when we are weak, then we are strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
Brokenness remains the key to missions.
Therefore we are always compelled to first qualify ourselves according to our failures and infirmities before we qualify any ministry we do. Our lives before Christ included things like addiction, divorce, suicidal ideation, and prison to name a few. I struggled with alcoholism for two decades and failed at everything before being instantly delivered from it and the buckshot coming my way amidst a point-blank shotgun blast. I wasn’t looking for Jesus at the time. I was looking to die. I did. Cathy was essentially looking to do the same when Jesus delivered her. John 15:16
The extent to which God uses us today remains a function of our brokenness and the utter dependence upon Jesus that flows from it.
That brokenness is not just historical.
Like most aspiring missionaries we had dreams of changing the world for Jesus when we began. That’s before we accepted that God may use us but He doesn’t need us to do anything for Him. He places us where ever He does because where He puts us is the best place for Him to conform us to His image. Rom 8:29 As easy it might be to tell tails of adventure and harrowing brushes with death, and how we are saving Honduras in spite of it. The fact is that while the adventure is real it is God and sometimes Hondurans who save us. If that weren’t bad enough, for the record, we have never led a single person to Christ. We have planted and watered a lot of seed. 1 Cor 3:6-8 We have also been present when people made the decision to surrender John 4:36-38. We have never healed anyone. We have seen God heal people when we prayed for them. John 11:4 I once saw a demon-possessed man set free on a short term mission trip as I prayed. But honestly, I only prayed because I was last in line in a fire tunnel and the pastor was yelling at me. I didn’t know what to say so I just started saying “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” over and over until he fell down sobbing at my feet. People said it was amazing. I was more amazed than anyone because I didn’t believe in any of that stuff at the time. When we teach we assume we are there for one person because most people usually don’t care what we say. As it turns out we frequently teach in tongues. Many times we hear, “Wow I really liked what you said.” Only we never said what they heard. My point is that our path was and is one of God accomplishing His will in spite of us rather than because of us. We are not spiritual special forces as some are prone to view missionaries. We are people that God uses to prove that He can use anyone anywhere provided they are a yielded vessel. He is the potter. We are His cracked pots. We just keep putting one foot in front of the other as His will and purpose unfolds before us.
Most times it feels like we are just along for the ride.
I realize this might not be the purposeful and intentional way in which many imagine the great the commission should unfold.
However, it does lend some perspective to Eph 2:8-10
There is a tendency in the contemporary body of Christ to pursue Mat 17 Mount of Transfiguration type experiences. Many Christians spend their entire lives chasing prophetic affirmations mostly about themselves and encounters with the manifest presence of God. Yet the mountain top is the place where God reveals Himself as the anchor to which we tether our faith as we venture into the valley below. It is the firey crises of faith in the valleys of life that burn off the dross and purify us.
Becoming a missionary is volunteering for the valley.
COVID was one such valley for us as we found ourselves locked down immediately after moving to a remote mountain village where we didn’t know anyone and many had never even met a gringo before. The State Department kept sending emails advising us to evacuate. When the border closed we knew we were committed and that we were on our own if we get sick. Several months in, depression and anxiety crept up on Cathy. A sense of futility bordering on apathy snuck up on me as I heard that familiar Gen 3 whisper, “Did God really say?…” “Did God really place you here? Or were we imagining things?” There were only two places to go to at this point. One was what AIM alumni know as the “Q” zone (the quit zone) deep in the valley of the “Project Mood Curve”. The other was deeper into the Secret Place.
Thankfully we were both compelled toward the latter.
Yet even that was a function of His grace more than it was our will and our choice.
That’s when His purpose opened up. God confirmed that we are exactly where He wants us.
Perhaps the biggest difference between full-time missions in the third world and ministry in the first is that missionaries have fewer options from which to choose before God becomes the only one. While the first world rewrites the book of Ecclesiastes, missions offers a short cut to the truth in chapter 12.
Never the less it is a paradoxical process of growth that He brings us through.
“When you are done growing, you’re done.”
We want less of us and more of Him. John 3:30-36
So we keep growing down.
All that being said, “becoming” a missionary is simple. It is hearing and being obedient to God’s call regardless of whether it makes sense. It is counting the cost and laying down in faith whatever is, for what God’s word says could and should be.
“Being” a missionary is living in James 1:4 and sometimes enduring the reality of the verses immediately before.
Lately, it’s been walking through mountain jungles to deliver food because of the lockdown.
And filling the gap at our house because fear canceled school.
Of course, the true purpose is neither food nor school but opening doors to eternal Truth. More often it means planting in hope that another may harvest. One thing we have learned;
People don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.
We are into our fifth year on the field and our fourth year in Honduras.
Right now, we are in a fairly remote mountain location called Cerro Azul Meambar and in Luke 10 forerunning stages of a new ministry among partly Miskito Indian people. That means going low and slow, building relationships and trust, and becoming a part of our new community. We do a lot of children’s ministry. Children are great ambassadors between us and sometimes more skeptical adults.
Our real heart is for discipleship which among other things means involving kids ages 10 -13 in outreach.
The second aspect of forerunning is not as fun. It is finding and binding the Mat 12:22-30 strong man. In missions terms, the strong man is the person, issue, or situation that impedes gospel truth. It can be an individual, political party, or social issues like poverty, domestic violence, or addiction, etc. After nearly six months we are narrowing it down. Most children here only attend school up to the 6th grade at which point they might grow coffee and net an average $3 for every hundred pounds of beans they grow. If they harvest for someone else, they might make $2.
Hondurans are notorious for their stoic, and fateful surrender to hopelessness.
Our prayer is that the fateful become faith-filled.
That said, the strong man appears to be alcoholism here.
It makes perfect sense in the spirit. In addition to the two of us being former addicts, I was an adolescent substance abuse counselor and a clinical supervisor for a decade before I was a missionary. For fun, Cathy and I ran a faith-based co-ed transitional housing program for prison inmates. We lived with 5-10 inmates and sometimes their children for twelve years. As much as we have tried to get away and do something different, God continues to place this population in our path. It was our brokenness that led us to Christ. Apparently, it is still the same brokenness that continues to qualify us in ministry. Ok, Lord.