Still Growing Down in Honduras

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

The valley of Megiddo from the Mount of Transfiguration. We received a free round trip to Israel last year.

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.”

-Heidi Baker-

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 Do.

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.

Thy will be done.

Maranatha!

Que Rompe Tu Corazon?

– What Breaks Your Heart? –

One of the most frequent questions we are asked by visitors is,

“What is it like to be a missionary?”

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To be a missionary is to pursue brokenness. It is first and foremost about love.  Love in the context of a relationship with God and with each other.  Everything we do is rooted in intimacy with Him and each other in Him. The greater the intimacy the greater our recognition of our dependence. Dependence on God is a to key success on the mission field.  It is the understanding that apart from relationship, the words “love” and “God” are meaningless.

 

Sometimes the gospel is more effectively preached with a smile, a hug or a small act of kindness that leaves people with questions rather than answers to questions they never asked.

Being a missionary means understanding that preaching a sermon and cleaning a toilet might be one in the same. 

Being a missionary means having set schedules that rarely pan out because like everyone else, missionaries are gifted and dysfunctional.  It is understanding that the patience spoken of in James 1:4 is an end and not just a means.

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Some days begin at 3 AM in the back of a pick-up truck on a muddy road in the rain and end at 10pm in the same.  Others might start at 10 and end at 3.  Sometimes we are hot, hungry thirsty and sick.  Sometimes we are cool, relaxed and full of energy.  Sometimes we have electricity and water.  Sometimes we don’t.  The periodic absence of first world comforts begets a greater sense of gratitude for the little comforts we once took for granted.

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Being a missionary means not punching a time clock

or looking for one to punch. 

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It means not coveting Friday and a bigger paycheck.  It means not working for the next vacation or retirement. It means not being afraid of being late or failing to perform. It means not being distracted by materialism, the latest styles or trends or the busyness of first world life. It means not being consumed by sports, politics and sewer-stream news.

It means keeping the eternal end in mind.

It is freedom from fear of suffering and the death that no one escapes.

Being a missionary means being willing to live in the desert, proverbial and literal rather than paradise.

Being a missionary means more than being a humanitarian.

It means honoring an old man or  shaking a hand dripping with slime at the dump knowing that you can wash your hands, but he can’t and may die because of it.

It means traveling for an entire day to hug a suffering child.

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It means paying attention to the little things, those who don’t matter to the world.

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It means understanding the words of Mother Teresa,

“the most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”

That these words apply to eternity.

That eternity apart from God is the quintessence of loneliness.

We can tell people ad infinitum that Jesus loves them, put on our best Jesus smile and our best Jesus act in hopes that they will see Jesus in us and raise their hand at an alter call.maxresdefault We can pat ourselves and each other on the back in celebration of decisions for Jesus on a given day.

But at the end of the day it’s about us seeing Jesus in them, “in the least of these” in the ONE in front of us.Gerson2.mp4.00_00_47_03.Still010

It means staying in touch with what breaks God’s heart. 

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There is a reason that it is written twenty-three times in the New Testament that Jesus had compassion.  Compassion (literally to suffer with) is the door to God’s heart.  Knowing what breaks His heart is the key to intimacy with Him.  Intimacy with Him is the path to joy in Him.  Being a missionary is about joy. It is the freedom to follow the call of God we received as a fruit of our relationship with Him.  It is a freedom that comes with the knowledge and understanding that if we delight ourselves in Him he will give us the desires of our Heart, of His heart.  He has.

To be a missionary means to be fully human.

To be human is to be paradoxical.

The blessing is in the brokenness.

Que Rompe Tu Corazon?

Vapor on A Mote Of Dust

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In May of 1990, the Voyager 1 spacecraft first launched in 1977, returned the final pixels of the now famous photo known as “The Pale Blue Dot,” the earth from over six billion kilometers away suspended in a single ray of sunlight.  Ironically, it was Carl Sagan, an atheist himself, whose words are most often quoted.
“That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.”
That anyone could look at that picture and remain an atheist baffles me not because of the size of the earth, but because of the level of hubris and pride, it requires a tiny little vaporous human (Psalm 39:5) to declare that there is no God and all of creation came into being by chance.

You have probably heard about the political turmoil in Honduras.  Some of you know we have stopped posting about the crisis on Facebook and are wondering why.  Basically, we do not want to be viewed as having a political opinion in a country where foreigners can be deported for expressing one.   We are here to bring the love of Jesus regardless of who is in power. Suffice it to say that there is nothing new under the sun. Current disagreements are severe, resentments run deep, and people are dying mostly in major cities in, and as a result of protests.  Regular world media news outlets are near worthless as they are only reprinting each other’s old news as new news. But word on the street has it that there is growing anti-American sentiment, and the situation is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.  I’m listening, via Facebook live as I write, to the former Honduran president who was removed in a coup de tat in 2009 accuse Americans of being assassins and here to kill Hondurans. He keeps talking about civil war and Honduran youth who are not afraid to fight and to give their lives. He says he’s not afraid to fight and die because he is a Christian.  That’s different.  Whether or not the situation erupts into a full-scale civil war is anybody’s guess.  We live in the original “Banana Republic” a term O’Henry coined to describe Honduras in the 19th Century and is still used today to describe countries plagued by chronic political and socioeconomic instability.

Even so, we are trying to be wise and prepare as best we can. The key for us is to remain faithful to the call while being aware yet not consumed by news and outward circumstances.  After all
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  (Luke 12:6-7)

We are having a blast loving on the kids here and preparing for Christmas.  Every day is an adventure. This week we drove three hours into the mountains on an outreach where we got stranded for the day because our vehicle broke down.  To be honest I have never been on a trip in that particular vehicle when we have not broken down.

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It’s almost a tradition.   Anyway, we worshiped God and walked and laughed a lot.  The next day the kids who were with us couldn’t stop talking about how fun it was. That’s just normal life on the mission field.

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Which brings me to the topic of tares.  Or wheat and tares to be more precise.  There’s been a fair amount of discussion regarding Jesus’ parable of these in Mat 13:24-30.  Good people versus bad people is the most simplistic explanation.  The problem is that bad people are often regular people doing bad things that they believe are right or good. The protestors kidnapping, stripping and torturing four police officers feel justified in their actions just as the Army feels justified in shooting protestors dead in the streets.  So, it’s got to be deeper than that.  The most poignant “ah-ha” moment for me regarding this topic was when I viewed a photograph of wheat and tares growing together in a field.  They both look pretty much the same except the tares grew up straight and tall as if reaching for heaven as they matured while the wheat by its side bowed low toward the soil from which it came.  The issue appears to be one of pride versus humility.

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Maybe it’s just my perception, but it seems that the most powerful people in our world are often the most prideful. Pride is the real original sin and it only makes sense that it would be rewarded in a fallen world.  The prideful do what benefits them, and their circle of supporters be it large or small because their supporters benefit them.  All of them speak in terms of the greater good, but at the end of the day, they like people who agree with them, help people who help them and undermine or destroy those who don’t.  Some are more vociferous in their approach while others remain passive aggressive.
There’s always an opposition to those in power and a proverbial boogie man created or invoked to manipulate the public’s emotion. The opposition attacks those in power because they have too much power and the narrative is always rooted in helping the less fortunate and making unfairness fair.  In reality, they just want power for themselves.  So, they use anger and fear and the promise of greater wealth and power for the underprivileged to awaken the most primal tribal instincts that exist within us all. Then they rally their supporters like football fans most of whom have no idea that they are being sent into the streets as pawns to protest and maybe die for what they don’t understand.  The protests become increasingly violent, those in power react with force which sparks more anger and violence in the broader population and civil war ensues.  Too often civil war leads to genocide. Sometimes those in power continue to dominate.  Sometimes the oppressed gain the upper hand only to become the oppressors themselves.  Then the cycle repeats with a new generation that believes they are different and are doing something that has never been done.  Ironically one of the opposition mottos here now is “This time they picked the wrong generation.” The truth is that governments are the number one cause of death for human beings throughout history.  Governments composed of men and women, tiny little tares standing tall with terrific pride, believing that they have or are the answer.

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Perhaps Ravi Zacharias put it best in a conversation with Hamas leaders, whom many if not most people I know would describe as evil.

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“…But the last day, I saw one of the leaders of Hamas, one of the four founders. I went there for one reason; I had one question for him. He gave us a great meal, told us of eighteen years he’d served in prison, some of his children had been lost in suicide bombings, and this and that. And I had a question. I said, “Sheik, I may never see you again and forgive me if I’m asking you the wrong question. Please tell me, what do you think of suicide bombing and sending your children out like that?” I didn’t like his answer. I couldn’t say much. The room was full of smoke.

After he finished his answer, I said, “Sheik, you and I may never see each other again, so I want you to hear me. A little distance from here is a mountain upon which Abraham went 5,000 years ago to offer his son. You may say the son was one; I may say it’s another. Let’s not argue about that. He took his son up there. And as the ax was about to fall, God said, ‘Stop.’” I said, “Do you know what God said after that?” He shook his head. I said, “God said, ‘I myself will provide.’” He nodded his head. I said, “Very close to where you and I are sitting, Sheik, is a hill. Two thousand years ago, God kept that promise and brought his own Son, and the ax did not stop this time. He sacrificed his own Son.”

I said, “Sheik, I just want you to hear this. Until you and I receive the Son God has provided, we’ll be offering our own sons and daughters on the battlefields of this world for many of the wrong reasons.”

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I know that he is right.

None of us here knows if the current perturbation of tares will continue to escalate.  If civil war comes, I won’t be surprised. Nor will I be surprised if it doesn’t.  We continue to draw closer to God regardless of, not because of circumstances.  Many are praying, hoping, believing for a cycle of economic growth and prosperity here and there’s lots of talk of revival mainly by Americans. But I’m not so sure that is the way things are going to play out.  Not at first anyway.  God’s ways are not our ways; His thoughts are not our thoughts. Historically, revival is preceded by repentance and repentance by a crisis that makes society aware of its need.  We usually don’t like that part.  But the Bible promises perilous times not just prosperous ones and the abundance we are promised is abundance in Him, not the world. Maybe that’s why we are seeing some of the most profound spiritual breakthroughs in our kids right now. Some that were a hair’s width away from being kicked out of here last year are on fire now preaching and leading worship and being an absolute joy to be around.  The youngest kids are utterly overflowing with love and Holy Spirit, and they love to praise and worship God with all their hearts.  Last night they joined together to pray for Honduras.  We saw the same thing happen this time last year with Carolyn Figlioli and her South Sudanese Refugee kids when we were in Africa.

When I think of the wheat and tares I need to remember that not only does wheat bow down as it is grown, wheat is grown to be cut down then ground and baked in a fire. Only then can it become bread that nourishes others.  I want to be bread.  But I won’t lie.  I’m no rock star martyr of the faith, and I get scared, even freaked out at times especially if I think someone I love is in danger. Christlike would probably not not be the best description of my attitude and behavior when this happens, and I am out of faith.  I sometimes wonder how I will handle the real fire if and when it comes.

But God…

The answer to everything in missions always comes back to  intimacy with God.  It’s not your work ethic or the money and stuff that you bring. Those are all good. But when the rubber meets the road the only thing that really matters is how much oil you have in your lamp.

At any rate, we are planning a special mac and cheese and chicken nugget dinner with chocolate cake party with our 5-8-year-olds as well as our usual soaking (worship) night with everyone here.  We are still making plans to host short-term missionaries which seems kind of crazy at times. But tomorrow is never promised to anyone anywhere.  So, we remain focused and love what matters most in this vaporous life upon a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam “among the stars that He numbers and calls by name” Psalm 147

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