GRAY HOPE MISSIONARIES NEWSLETTER

Our New Neighborhood

If you haven’t heard yet Cathy and I left the City of Refuge and moved to Cerro Azul near our friends Josh and Paulet.  

They are more than friends. They are family to us.

Josh is the former mission’s director at the City of Refuge and the president of Hope in Time Ministries. We are coming alongside them to bring the voice of experience and elder-ship to the ministry as well as our usual media support.

If you haven’t seen our intro video to our tiny house rehab project then, by all means, click here.

We are still coaching our AIM GAP year mission squad and recently returned from Guatemala.

They are a pretty resilient and independent group of young adults with a passion for intimacy with God. They are headed to Ecuador as I write where they will have less direct oversight and more independence regarding ministry. We will be encouraging them to be scripturally sound in accordance with a 1 Peter 3:15 apologetic approach as they move forward.

Being in Guatemala again…  

allowed us to reconnect with good friends Kevin and Nicole in Santiago. They are like a young Heidi and Rolland Baker as I imagine them.  They’ve been through the proverbial wringer this year that included losing the house in which they were doing foster care for young unwed mothers.  But they are not giving up and are currently preparing to drive a truck and fifth wheel with their two children from Texas to Guatemala. They will live in the camper in Santiago while they build a home/mission base. Please keep them in prayer.  

Thanks to our friend Jason who is a missionary pilot…

…in Guatemala our return trip from Santiago to the airport in Guatemala City was quicker and a whole lot cheaper than the usual shuttle.  If you are planning a mission trip to Guatemala City you can contact us.  His base has an extremely affordable and comfortable missionary housing that is close to the airport.  

As might be expected, people are beginning to ask us why we left IMI. 

“OMG. Is there something wrong?”  “Is there something we should know?” “Is there a reason why we shouldn’t go to serve there?”  

Let me be clear.  We love Tom and Teresa. We are not done with the children at the City of Refuge. We have a perfect venue for youth retreats here and they are excited to visit. We’d be visiting more frequently to do church services and discipleship but we don’t have a vehicle to get there. As for anyone wondering…

You should “give”, “go” and “do” according to how God leads you. Period!  

That is what we are doing, and we are being led in a different direction.  If you’ve watched some of our personal outreach videos, then it should be clear that we’ve had a different philosophy regarding priority and method in missions.  That’s ok. No single ministry can do everything. The current direction that IMI is moving in does not match our passion, priority or our skillset.  

Moving on…

Hope in Time just received 501c3 status from the IRS.  You’ll be able to read more about our vision soon on the Hope in Time blog as we get the ball rolling. 

As stated in the video we are in the “forerunning” stages of our mission.  That means building relationships.  In missions school, we learned the importance of going “low and slow”. That’s hard for me and is Cathy’s passion. Low and slow means not riding in on our proverbial white horses to fix people and things and save the day.  Even the most cursory internet research will reveal how many grandiose activities carried out by “first worlders” in the name of good end up bringing more harm than help. We were taught to honor locals as modeled by Jesus when He honored the woman at the well in John 4 when He asked her for a drink before informing her that He was the living water. We are not Jesus and are coming in on equal footing, sometimes less than equal footing as brothers and sisters in need ourselves. The truth is right now we need them more than they need us. This will be the subject of the next Hope in Time blog.

Cathy is slowly mastering the art of making traditional Honduran beans and tortillas over a fire.

The very first order of business in forerunning is to find the man and or woman of peace.  These are the people that God puts in your path to help pave the way to building relationships within the community at large. One sure way to identify them is that they seemingly appear out of nowhere and are knowledgeable about the very things you need most.  

First ministry team meeting featuring Brian’s spaghetti

Karen was our first.  She speaks a fair amount of English and periodically shows up to give impromptu Spanish lessons. God blessed Cathy and I with many gifts. Languages is not one of them. Thank God for people like Karen. Her sister sells eggs and she’s also knowledgeable about local plants.  Here she is showing Cathy a natural Honduran sleep aide that comes from a tree outside our house. We don’t really need sleep aides here but its cool info and Karen was excited to show us what was growing just outside our door.

Cathy and I were exploring our new community during a three-hour hike when we ran into our second new friend Alfonso. It just so happens that Alfonso lived in the USA until he was deported 13 years ago.  He speaks fluent English and was excited to befriend some North Americans for the first time in years. Hondurans are extremely generous and relational. Alfonso usually stops in to see us a few times per week and brings Yucca or some other vegetables.

Alfonso tried to buy land in Santa Barbra Honduras after he was deported.  He paid a certain family for the land then they changed their mind.  One of the family members did not want to return his share of the money and tried to murder Alfonso with a machete instead.  His hand was cut off, he lost hearing in one ear and sight in one eye.  His nose and part of his mouth were almost cut off, his neck was slit and he very nearly died. But Alfonso is a miracle.

He is also resilient. Many people in his shoes would have just given up. But Alfonso recovered and started farming a different piece of land.  We visited his farm which is a forty-five-minute walk up a mountain from his house. He keeps the land cleared with a machete.  We are in pretty good shape but this walk alone is exhausting. Alfonso has planted hundreds of coffee trees and recently planted 1000 Yuca by himself. Alfonso loves the Lord and while he doesn’t have a church to attend, he is our new disciple and reads two pages in his bible every day. We are working to get him a prosthetic hand. Unfortunately, that probably won’t happen before January.  

Even so, God is a dot connector.

Alfonso used to care for horses and attend church in Ohio. 

As it turns out our good friend Matt Burris who used to pastor in our home church in Hawaii moved back to the mainland.  The people Alfonso used to work for are Matt’s current pastors.  

Seriously what are the odds?! 

We can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store.

Living off base means perfecting the art of shopping in the Sunday street market. It’s something like a farmer’s market in the USA. Another new friend Jenny is a master “marketeer” and even teaches Paulete a thing or two.

Living in the mountains in Honduras also means learning to roast your own coffee Honduran style. Jenny is Cathy’s roasting teacher. It’s safe enough here in Cerro Azul for Cathy to walk the three and a half miles to Jenny’s house by herself. That is not the case in the places we normally do ministry.

Jenny learned the recipe from her mom. The process begins with roasting rice.

Then coffee is added

Then sugar

Then cinnamon and pepper

Then the coffee is ground and bagged.

The whole process takes about four hours.

At this time we are pursuing God, coaching our Gap year racers online, building the website, and developing a scholarship program to help families who can’t afford to send their children to school.

Stay tuned for our upcoming devotional.

In about ten months. I’ve always wondered what my father and grandfather(s) thought about life and God etc.…  The older I get the more I wonder and seek out wisdom and wise counsel from elders. There are a couple who are still alive. While our children and grandchildren might still be in the “we don’t give a rip what you think” stage of life.  Given our experience, we suspect that will change as they mature and come face to face with the abject fragility and shortness of life on here earth. Tomorrow is not promised and we won’t always be here.  So just in case they ever get curious, Cathy and I are writing together.  It’s a fun side gig and we want to leave something behind.

Speaking of our DEVOTIONAL

A word on fear…

There is a lot of fear permeating society lately with the advent of things like the Novel Corona Virus. Non specific anxiety and depression are off the charts with our youth. Here is one of our recent devotional entries that seems relevant at this time. We hope it serves as a reminder and brings you peace.

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For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Tim 1:7

When crises come as they inevitably will and do, there are always two extremes; alarmism, and apathy. Alarmists go from crisis to crises and live perpetually in the “wars and rumors of wars” of Mathew 24.  Meanwhile those prone to apathy which in the eyes of the world often looks like optimism proclaim, “don’t be so negative!” “…relax, eat, drink, be merry.” Luke 12:19 

Neither apathy or alarmism is correct.

Tomorrow is never promised and all our lives are like a vapor. James 4:13-14

As Christians, it doesn’t matter if we live one more day or ten thousand. If we have laid down our lives and picked up our cross then our treasure is laid up in heaven Mat 6:19-21  We have been given a spirit of love and the assurance that allows us to keep God’s priorities and promises at the forefront of our minds. We have the power of Truth and His word. We have been given a sound mind that allows us to remain calm and at peace amidst tribulation – however that may appear. John 14:27.  It doesn’t matter if we are on a beach in paradise or under machine gunfire in some dark corner of the world. Our blessed assurance does not change.  His attendant peace shouldn’t either. At the end of the day, the only question that matters is, “am I in God’s will?” 

Being in God’s will means walking in Truth. It is being in an intimate relationship with Him via Holy Spirit every day. Jesus likened Holy Spirit to oil and believers as lamps. One thing is certain. If you haven’t put oil in your lamp today you’ll end up like the foolish virgins who freaked out in Mat 25:1-13 tomorrow. One thing is certain. All things eventually come to an end. Fear is a sure sign of an oil shortage.

Truth is the only ANTIDOTE.

It is also the only real source of Hope In Time.

Pun intended:-)

If you are receiving this newsletter its because we love you!

En el nombre de Jesus!

Truth or Trump?

I recently saw a headline that 43% of evangelicals think Donald Trump should be removed from office.  We know others who have declared him to be a modern-day Cirrus. I’ve had different opinions at different times but honestly,

I’ve never met the man. 

All I know is what I see, hear and read in the media.  

I write a blog for the Adventures in Missions GAP year squad that we coach called The Squirrel Pole.  A squirrel pole is a survival food trap that I learned about when I was a US Marine. 

Its based on the idea that everything in nature naturally takes the path of least resistance.  A squirrel is perfectly capable of running straight up a tree.  But place branch laden with wire nooses at an angle against the trunk and the stupid squirrel will hang itself every time.

Another squirrel poll upon which people hang themselves is the reliance on others to do their thinking for them.

I used to trade world currencies on the FOREX.

That’s when I learned the world is not the world I had learned about in school. It makes sense. The father of lies is the god of it.

As it turns out the average American’s world view is shaped by a media whose narrative is controlled by six corporations. That’s not just so called “fake news”. That’s all news.

The first thing I learned as a trader was, know your own biases, do your own analysis and emotion is the enemy of analysis. 

People are easily manipulated by what is commonly known as confirmation bias. Brokers leverage confirmation bias to take money away from nonprofessional traders who dream of getting rich quick.

They call these nonprofessionals “dumb money”.

This is how it works. The broker begins by “pumping” a stock or other financial instrument through internet and television. They tell everyone why “you’d better hurry before it’s too late because this one is a sure thing!” Dumb money is looking for a sure thing and hearing “it’s a sure thing” confirms what they want to hear. So, dumb money rushes in to buy before the price goes up. Of course, this drives the price up at warp speed. Dumber money tries to jump on the “moving train” and the price goes up faster until it hits a target predetermined by the broker who probably owns the biggest chunk.

When it hits the mark, the broker might short the stock or buy an “option” before closing his original position and collecting the profit. Of course, some of the dumb money sees the price action, panics and sells before they lose everything. That makes the price drop faster and more people jump off the “moving train” and sell to cover their losses. When the price gets low enough the original broker reverses his position and collects the profit from that trade too. This goes on all day every day that markets are open. What is important to understand is that media drama moves markets. While the public separates into tribes, fights with each other over what they believe is the correct moral side of what they think is the real issue; smart money is busy making money.

For example, gun control is always hot button issue pumped by the press. In June 2016 Barack Obama talked about a possible assault weapons ban. The media pumped a false pending executive order narrative. Guess what happened next? Gun lovers panicked. Assault weapons and ammunition sales went through the roof. Smart money made money again.

Confirmation bias makes lying easy. Confirmation bias makes us easy to manipulate.

World leaders have always used it to manipulate populations for their own gain.

Paul Joseph Goebbels was Adolf Hitler’s Minister of propaganda said;

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Know your own confirmation biases.

Otherwise you’re sure to get played.

Why am I telling you all this in a missionary blog?

Adolf Hitler had motto.

“He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.”

There is a huge cultural and spiritual war in progress for the hearts and minds of the generation that many of us refer to as youth. Some of you are youth.

The winner gets to determine “Truth”

Deception is the Devil’s number one game.

And Your emotions are a primary tool in Hell’s efforts to manipulate and control you.

In Mat 22 people were trying to trap Jesus into making a political statement about taxation, politics, and Rome so they could kill him.  It was a total set up.  But Jesus wasn’t dumb. Cesar’s image was on the money. So He said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s. 

 The question is; who’s image do you bear? 

If it’s God’s then shouldn’t you be rendering all of yourself onto Him?

I recently heard a preacher ask; “Why do we get so upset when we see the world acting like the world?”  That’s what the world does.  Even more; why are we so focused on changing the world by worldly means? 2 Tim 3 seems clear. Things are going to get worse before they get better. As Christians we are called to be in the world not of it. We are called to be Holy which means “set apart”.  We can argue politics all day.  But it doesn’t change anything. It only divides and divided kingdoms don’t stand.

By all means render onto Cesar what is Cesar’s and vote. Just be aware of your own confirmation bias and your own unreliable emotions.

That said, Jesus was clear.  He said “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me”. John 14:6  

Christians are ruining their witness everyday by getting angry over politics. Meanwhile PEOPLE ARE GOING TO HELL.

If you ask me we need to be telling people who Truth is and stop wasting our time fighting over who Trump is. 

At the end of the day we’re all dumb money when it comes to that.

Don’t be a Squirrel

On Horses and Donkeys

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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.

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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.

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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

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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?

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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.

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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.

 

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When donkeys fight, they form a circle, face the attacker then kick each other to death.

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You will know them by their fruit.

Don’t be a donkey.

 

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.

 

 

Why Outreach?

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We could give you eighteen-hundred words that might take ten minutes to read.  But we figure it might be easier and perhaps more enjoyable to watch

“Our Heart 2- Why Outreach”

Enjoy and please subscribe if you think we’re worth following.

God bless,

Brian and Cathy

 

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Toy Story 3.5ish

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While I always hope that everyone reading this blog gets something, I usually have a specific audience in mind when I write.  It could be believers or unbelievers or even a specific family member or friend that is on my mind.  This post is dedicated to the 45 plus members of the Adventures in Missions World race GAP Year, Route 6, Squad V. An inspiring group of 17 – 21-year-old men and women from diverse backgrounds who have chosen to defer their first year of college in lieu of transforming and being transformed in the name of Jesus Christ. It just so happens that we have blessed with the opportunity to coach them during their journey to four countries over the course of 9 months.

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WORLD RACE GAP YEAR V SQUAD

WALL OF PRAYER IN OUR HONDURAN TINY HOUSE

One of my first memories as a child is watching the first astronauts land on the moon on my parents 16” Zenith black and white T.V.  suffice it to say that I was hooked from the start.  I used to put on a football helmet and sit for hours in the hall closet pretending to fly the lunar module.  Alas as so many have heard me say, I really wanted to be an astronaut.  But I sucked at math. So, I became a counselor instead.

 

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In Toy Story One we see Buzz, a toy astronaut with an identity complex.  Buzz does not know he is a toy.  As the story begins we see Buzz comparing himself to, and competing with, the other characters for Andy, the toy owners, love.  Buzz denies his obvious weakness, rationalizes and justifies his failures to the point of the absurd until one day he sees himself on a television commercial and is confronted with truth.  Never the less he seizes upon his powers of denial, pulls himself together and once again tries to fly only to fall with less style than ever and loses an arm.

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In the next scene we see a broken and dejected Buzz drinking Darjeeling tea with a bunch of headless dolls in Andy’s sisters’ room.  His friends try to rescue his shattered self-worth but to no avail.  Buzz must go through the fiery process of transformation and discovery of his true identity.  Fast forward tot eh conclusion, we see Buzz rallying a bunch of broken toys to overcome the wiles of the evil Sid and save the day. In the end He becomes a real super hero but within the context of brokenness and in partnership with those who had also be broken.

That said, I am Buzz Light Year – Space Ranger.

Cathy loves horses.  So much so that she used to pretend she was a horse when she was little.  Even now everything stops the moment Cathy comes near a horse. Horses are everywhere in Honduras so that happens a lot.  She could have married a rancher or a cowboy.  Lucky for me she chose a wanna be astronaut instead.

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Jessie the Cow Girl a.k.a. Cow girl Cathy does not come on the scene until after Buzz’s identity crisis in Toy Story 2.  She appears to be looking for love in all the wrong places and is a bit fearful and claustrophobic until she comes into her own.  She then shows herself to be the most courageous, kind, loyal and helpful to others.  Those are just a few of Cathy’s qualities.  By the end of Toy Story 3 Jessie appears to be developing the hots for Buzz.

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Here begins our story.  Toy Story 3.5ish and beyond.

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We will not attempt to tell the whole story here.  Adventures in Missions blogs tend to be short.  So, we’ll save that for the future book that so many have encouraged us to write.

 

We Just Might…

 

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Instead we thought we would simply bullet point some fruit of a few of the transformative lessons that we’ll call needless pain avoidance/soul – spirit hacks that we have learned along the way, specific points that we think might be of help to the members of our squad whom we have already grown to love.

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1. It is easy to confuse the living God with our perceptions of the living God.

2. It is even easier to confuse our identity with our perceptions of ourselves.

3. Ideas, diagnoses, personality profiles and tattoos are not identities. Neither are feelings.

4. Many people believe they are worshiping God and are worshiping themselves.

5. The voice of God will never contradict His word or His character.

6. Truth and love can not be separated.

7. Truth is absolute. Happiness is relative. Joy is eternal and rooted in truth.

8. Faith (Revelation Faith) is fuel to propel you on His way.

9. Compassion and codependency often look the same. The first is selfless. The latter is the epitome of selfishness.

10. The manifest presence of God is real. Its purpose is not for us to catch a buzz.

11. The mercy of God is frequently misinterpreted as judgment.

12. Judgment and discernment are not the same.

13. The love of God may manifest as a healing touch or a whip.

14. If you really want to grow, learn, and love; die to self and let Him resurrect you.

15. A problem can not be divorced from its root cause if a solution is to be found.

16. Selfishness and self-centeredness are the root of every interpersonal problem.

17. The easiest lie to tell is the one you tell yourself.

18. Suffering is required. Suffering has purpose.  Suffering should never be a goal.

19. To love and be loved is a basic, God given, human need. The problem lies in how we try to meet that need.

20. Nothing opens the door to deception as much as emotion.

21. Your future spouse is like a fruit ripening on a tree. Be patient.  If you attempt to pick it before it is ripe it will be bitter.

22. Sometimes our weaknesses, failures and short comings are what make us lovable.

23. If farts offend you; don’t get married.

24. Forgiveness is for, and the responsibility of, the forgiver. Only then can God heal the associated hurt.

25. We cannot give what we do not have ourselves. We cannot lead where we have not gone.

26. Books are good, but the word of God is distilled, pure truth.

27. Knowledge is not understanding. Understanding comes with time, failure and perseverance.  Wisdom comes from God as an expanded revelation of                 understanding.

28. Triumph and Disaster are imposters and “IF” by Rudyard Kipling is a good road map to maturity of the soul.

29. The top of the mountain is filled with open sky. There is a reason so many ultra-successful people commit suicide.

30. Many people spend their entire lives trying to relive and redo the Book of Ecclesiastes. You can take a short cut and skip ahead to chapter 12.

31. Salvation and sanctification are a process.

32. True identity is found in brokenness. False identity is a prerequisite.

33. People generally don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.

34. Integrity matters. Say what you mean, mean what you say, do as you say. Own your own failure to do so.

35. There is no such thing as failure only opportunities to learn and do better.

36. Every action has a reward and a cost.

37. “Fair” is a fantasy.

38. “Do the little things with radical love. The bigger things will come.”  -Heidi Baker-

39. Everyone is a leader to someone.

40. Approach determines response. If you don’t like the response, then change your approach.

41. Knowing your weakness is the best defense. You can not defend what you deny or don’t know.

42. Transparency and vulnerability are weapons. Your testimony is the nuclear option.

43. The primary purpose in any spiritual calling is for God to teach us and bring us into a deeper relationship with Himself.

44. “I struggle with comparison” can be a white washed term for jealousy, envy and covetousness. Repentance not hugs might be the better answer.

45. When scared unsure or nervous, jump into papa’s arms and allow Him to remind you who you are.

46. Forgiveness, revival and healing are preceded by repentance.

47. Men who don’t cry are wimpy or dead.

48. Obstacles and spiritual attacks are blessing markers.  The bigger the challenge the bigger the blessing on the other side.

49. “Truth is like a lion. It can defend itself.”

50. “If you don’t quit, you win!” -Heidi Baker”

I Am Josue

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I often think of Mrs. P, my first-grade teacher.  She was a sweet lady, at least as far as I could tell.  I don’t remember her saying very much, only kids running around yelling, tipping over desks and chairs and a girl named Kathy who  barked and bit kids on the leg during class.  It was a pretty wild scene.  One of our favorite games was to steal Mrs. P’s stapler that she tried so hard to hide and staple each other anywhere we could.  As for me, I liked science and sword fighting.  And I still have a pencil lead from a sword fight with Steven Adams stuck in my hand.  What I remember most is being filled with energy and craving contact.

I loved to hurl my body at things especially the floor. 

Beyond that, school was pretty boring. Reading was boring.  Math was boring.  Sitting at a desk among rows of other desks while Mrs. P talked and pointed on her overhead projector was boring.  My teachers thought I was impaired.  In fact, one day Mrs. E, my special ED reading teacher threw her book down in exasperation and exclaimed: “Brian, you are the stupidest boy I’ve ever seen!”  My mother was pretty angry about that.  I didn’t quite understand all the hoopla.  Reading was boring, and I couldn’t have cared less about Jane and her dumb dog Spot.   I never saw Mrs. E after that.

One day Mrs. P put her head down on her desk and started sobbing.  No one knew why.  So they took her away.  I never saw or heard from her again either.  I never gave any of this much thought until I was older.  Now that I am an adult and have  suffered my share of pain my heart hurts for them, and I wonder what was the cause of their pain?

My life as a six-year-old was in retrospect, a hyperactive mental fog.  Only I didn’t know I was in a fog.  I didn’t know that I was hyperactive either.  It just felt right to run around crashing into things and laughing until my belly hurt.

Getting in trouble for it wasn’t fun.

I just always seemed to forget what getting in trouble was like until I was in trouble.

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Even so, I did eventually learned to read on an eleventh grade level by the time I was nine, thanks that is to my mother and some books about the solar system. It turns out books about planets and stars were a lot more interesting than ones about Dick and Jane watching Spot run.

Josue is one of our special kids at the City of Refuge. He’s also one of our favorites. He is intensely friendly.

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Actually, Josue is intensely intense and sometimes inappropriate. He’s one of the inspirations for a recent “good touch-bad touch” class for the 4-8-year olds.
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Josue loves to laugh and connect his body to people and things in impactful ways and at high speeds.
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He will love you if you play with him.

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But beware, he’s very focused when he’s in impact mode and has been known to pee at the most inopportune times. I find It’s best just to smile when this happens and act as if it also happens to me. After all, urine is sterile, and a little soap takes it right out.

Shame can last a lifetime.

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If you’ve seen our videos, then you know that Josue’s mom was killed while attempting to immigrate to the United States.  That left his dad, Josue and his brother alone.  There’s no social safety net in Honduras,

and single parents are often faced with choosing between working to provide for their children or keeping them safe. 

 

So they come to us.

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Josue has some type of yet to be defined learning disability.

Or so they say.

What we know is that Josue is a worshipper

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He’s Cathy’s flagging partner on “Soaking” nights and other worship times.  And If Cathy is on her knees praying then Josue probably is too.
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He also loves to sing. He doesn’t always get the words right, but his heart is definitely in it.
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While Josue does prefer impact related types of interactions, calm tactile, kinesthetic activities can be magical too.
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We’ve found that there’s almost always a way to meet kids where they are and redirect their behavior based on their strengths instead of reacting to their negative behavior

in terms of how it makes us look or feel in the moment.

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This is what opens the door to relationship and trust.  Relationship with an adult who knows and loves God is often the key to a child’s future relationship with God.

There are several Honduran staff members who think that Josue does not belong here, that he’d be better served if he were in an orphanage with more kids like him.  I’m not sure if I buy that.  But then I’m not in charge, and it’s not my call.  Life in Honduras is hard.

It’s a place where suffering, not success is expected.  Honduran children become strong and resilient, or they don’t survive let alone thrive. 

My own approach is rooted in one of the most poignant lessons I learned as an adolescent substance abuse counselor.  That 60% of any change that takes place during treatment is the result of  relationship.  Nothing else we say or do matters apart from the connection that is established through relationship.  It’s a connection that frequently cannot be established with words alone.

More often than not what kids like Josue need is a good strong hug, one that squeezes them hard and doesn’t let go, one that says we aren’t going to give up on you

and you can not make us “unlove” you.

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Some people imagine missionaries as human fire hydrants pumping Bible verses into people who never heard the gospel.
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Others imagine missions as an endless activity.  The harder they are serving and the more they accomplish in the natural, the more spiritual they feel especially if the working hurts.  Still, others see it as formulaic as if we’re a syllabus based curriculum.  Granted there is a time and place for all of these things, and they do serve a purpose.  But long-term missions is different and more like regular life albeit under harsher physical conditions.
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For me the answer to the question; what does it take and what is it like to be a missionary lies with Josue.  I identify with Josue.  I can empathize with how he feels when he’s hurling himself on the ground, when he’s excited, when he’s causing trouble, when he’s in trouble.  I can see his heart and his love for God.  I can comprehend God’s love for Josue

and in that comprehension I can understand God’s love for me.

So often people arrive here with an honorable desire to serve those whom they see as worse off than themselves.  While this is often the case in the natural, Jesus exalted the poor, mother Teresa strived to identify herself with them, and the Sermon on the mount is pretty clear that the material world  is not the Kingdom.  Please don’t be mistaken. I’m not saying that living in a grass hut with a dirt floor and eating worms will bring you closer to God. That would mean that leaving people to suffer is the best way to help them.  That’s what Hindus and Buddhists believe.  What I’m saying is that God will bring a person closer to Himself through their identification with Him in the life, suffering, and joys of another.  Whom that person or group is is entirely up to Him.  Our job as missionaries is to know Him well enough to recognize His voice when he speaks through the life of a child here at the City of Refuge, an old man in the community, a single mother in the dump or the teenage girl next door who simply wants to stay in school. The definition and key to being a long-term missionary for me today is found in Josue.  Because at the end of the day,

I am Josue.

Great Expectations, Transitions, and Enantiodromia

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the lessons learned in twelve years of running a transitional house for furloughed inmates and ten years as an adolescent substance abuse counselor in Hawaii. This is certainly due in part to my having encountered so many members of visiting mission teams who are considering doing something similar and have asked for advice. Perhaps a more significant reason is that despite my expectations that I would be doing something vastly different here in Honduras we are frequently called upon to help deal with some of the very same issues. At any rate here are two hard yet indispensable truths and one paradox that are vital to those experiencing a call to backyard missions like running a transitional home.
If you follow our blog you may have noticed that I am a fan of etymology. I love to drill down into the original meanings of certain words. Ironically it only took me twelve years to look up the word “transition” which is from the 15th-century Latin “transitionem” “a going across or over”. In my mind “going across or over” implies traversing some challenge or obstacle and not necessarily an immediate metamorphoses or change. It also suggests the idea of a bridge. Bridges get walked on, driven on, rained on, jumped on, sometimes urinated on… People don’t thank a bridge, stop to have a picnic on a bridge or set up sales, information booths or churches on a bridge. In fact, most people are only concerned with what lies on the other side. People typically only pay attention to bridges when they fail or appear to be at risk of failing.
Which brings me to the first hard truth that I’d like to impart.
Counselors, missionaries and transitional houses are bridges. Most of the positive change that you will see in people if you see any at all will likely happen after they leave you behind. This can be discouraging particularly if you are confused about your identity and relationship with God such that pride takes root in your soul. Our job is not to fix, change or save people. Our job is to be a bridge from certain destruction to some greater semblance of hope which for some might be yet another bridge. The principle also applies when helping orphans or counseling substance abuse clients. Many of us pay lip service to this truth only to suffer burn out due to unmet expectations and or we assume too much responsibility for long-term outcomes. We need to remind ourselves and each other that we are bridges that some will refuse to cross regardless of how much or how hard we pray. Others will never fully appreciate our efforts until years later when they look back and realize what was provided for them and that they could never have made it across without our help. However, the likely hood that we will be around to hear their gratitude is slim at best. Still, there are others who will jump, fall off or otherwise fail to make it to the other side. In this case, you can be sure that you will be blamed by someone and perhaps investigated or sued. Keep in mind that Jesus described Himself among other things as the Way. A student is not above his master or a servant above his Lord. What they did to him they will probably do to you.
Hard truth number two is that we plant seed, and we water seed in faith. Many seeds are “Storm Seeds”.
Our transitional home was in Hawaii, and we always had a garden of some sort. One year I planted squash which normally grows like a weed and for whatever reason, nothing would grow. So, I planted again, but still, nothing would grow. I had pretty much given up when a massive storm and days of torrential rains hit us. Everything was washed out. It was about a week later when I noticed a new squash plant growing about fifty feet from where I had planted it. Sometimes a big enough storm is required to make the seed you plant grow. I never questioned the seeds I planted in soil or in people after that. We plant seed and we water seed in faith. We do not make things change or grow. That is God’s job. The challenge is not to give up planting and watering when the fruit we desire fails to appear at the time of our choosing.
Enantiodromia is a term first coined by Heraclitus and often attributed to Carl Jung describing the tendency of things to change into their opposites. Sort of the way a pendulum swing exhausts its momentum in one direction and swings the other way. The distance it swings in one direction determines how far it goes in the other. While Jung seems to get most of the credit, I think it was Jesus who described it first. “The first shall be last and the last shall be first” and “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”. People in transition be they orphans or inmates are not the final versions of themselves. They are in a process of dying to themselves and their old way of life. This process can be extremely messy. Another problem is that people in transition have a unique way of making others want to quit helping them and sometimes even throw them over the side of the proverbial bridge. Never the less, as in the case of a pendulum swing, sometimes the change begins at the very peak of a person’s so-called badness.
Jake (not his real name) was one of many seemingly incorrigible inmates that the warden of our local jail sent to us through the years. Unsalvageable was the term he used. Jake was a shot caller in the Hawaii gang known as the USOs (pronounced ooso). He was a collector and a strong arm which means he’d probably killed people or at least came very close to it. He engaged in pornography production with young women and even impregnated one of my former Teen Care clients. The drugs he sold went to local kids and also probably contributed to some of my other clients who died. There was absolutely nothing good about Jake when he came to live with us. Not only did he do nothing to help anyone with anything ever but he also helped himself to everyone else’s possessions and food. The other inmates would never complain because they were terrified of him. Never the less Jake heard the gospel, watched our walk and listened to myriad apologetic lectures regarding the abundant, clean and sober, crime-free lifestyle. As expected Jake immediately began dealing drugs, was caught and returned to jail. The last conversation I’d had was via text and amounted to a string of profanity insulting my intelligence and manhood which I printed and sent to the warden who posted it in the prison for everyone to see. Sometimes love doesn’t look all that loving in this realm. But that’s a topic for a future blog should there be enough interest in this one. Even so, I wasn’t angry or being vindictive. It says in Proverbs that a rebuke from a friend is sweeter than kisses from an enemy. I was merely doing what I could to facilitate the process that I had come to understand so well. It wasn’t long before Jake ‘s nineteen-year-old son joined him in prison and they became cellmates. Ironically, Jake ‘s own father had been murdered in that very same prison. Then something happened. Jake’s pendulum swing reached its peak as he came face to face with the reality of who and what he had become.
It was several years later and right before we were due to leave for the Harvest School of Missions in Pemba Mozambique that the doorbell rang. “Cathy?” I heard as I came around the corner. “Who the heck is this?” I thought. “Oh my gosh its Jake ” I yelled! “Come on in!” I said greeting him like a celebrity. Long story short it soon became clear that Jake was completely transformed. He’d gotten born again in prison and become a worship leader. He was completely repentant, and all he wanted to do was to make amends for what he did in our home. He laughed as he explained how he used to tell people that “Brian is boring! Christianity is boring!” He took full responsibility for all the wrongs he ever did, lead us in worship and prayed the most anointed prayer we’d heard in a very long time. Naturally, we invited him to move back in, and he became a manager and the spiritual covering for the house the entire time we were in Africa.
We have other comparable stories to reflect upon even if they pale in number to those who have not made it – yet. Even so throughout the years, the one thing that kept us going was the absolute and undeniable understanding that good, bad, ugly, or beautiful, God had placed His desires in our hearts and called us to love the unlovable. There were times when I – we so wanted to quit and even prayed to God asking Him to release us. Many times, we would ask ourselves “what if all of this was just for one or two people? Would we still do it?” To which one of us would invariably reply “how much is one life worth?”

Now we are missionaries. We continue to feed the poor in the dump, save and raise children. We counsel and clothe, support and serve and strive to be a voice for the voiceless. These are things people honor most and love to hear about. Yet I was hit with the most profound revelation at breakfast the other day. I realized that my perception of the poor dump people I once pitied from my prior, presumptuously, prideful place of material superiority had changed. I realized that I have come to see them as equals, people who were no different and perhaps even superior in some ways to me. I can’t explain it or provide any rational or apologetic argument for it because it was a deeply spiritual experience. Perhaps I am getting closer to understanding Mother Teresa when she said, “we serve the poor knowing that they will rule over us.” And that she always saw Jesus in the eyes of the poor and dying. I know I have already written similar things. I guess we are still in the midst of another “crossing over”. Our expectations are greater than ever now. Enantiodromia.

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The Paradox of Leaping


    The final uprooting of our lives on Kauai continues as we prepare to be transplanted to Honduras. Meanwhile it has become apparent that many of our friends and family are regarding us with a mixture of marvel and incredulity. Others just think we are insane. How in the world could we leave careers that we love, our family, grandchildren and friends? What kind of nut job spends their retirement on an obscure missionary school in Africa and then moves from the paradise where darn near everyone in the world dreams of visiting one day to live in a third world country with zero income? “What are you thinking?” they ask. “Aren’t you afraid?” Well, yes and no. The truth is; most of the people we know don’t have a grid for this. After all it’s basically the antithesis of the American dream.
    There is a scene in the film “The last Crusade” where Indiana Jones finds himself pinned to a cliff and faced with nowhere to go but across a bottomless chasm or down. It looks impossible and the internal battle plays itself out in his breathing and facial expressions as he closes his eyes in preparation for the inevitable plunge to his death. “It’s a leap of faith” he says as the camera zooms and freezes on his foot suspended in mid air. Then wincing, he steps or rather falls forward only to land on solid ground as a land bridge to the other side mysteriously appears. That’s a pretty fair description of how the process of becoming a full time missionary feels at times with the only difference being that Indiana Jones didn’t have the assurance and peace that comes with knowing Jesus.
    I realize the last statement might seem a bit pollyannic as we born again Christians are prone to sounding when we attempt to articulate our experiences with God. I certainly do not mean to imply that I have transcended normal human emotion and weakness or that I have all my ducks in a row. It’s just that that explaining Jesus to someone who has never encountered Jesus personally is like trying to explain a double rainbow over mountains in Hawai`i to a blind Eskimo in the Arctic. Why in the world should he believe you. Believe me I know.
    You see I didn’t grow up in the church and I didn’t like Christians when I was young. In fact I persecuted them more than any atheist I’ve ever known until I finally met Jesus at the barrel of a shotgun and landed in jail. Instead I struggled with alcohol and drug addiction for over 20 years. I basically tried everything you can think of to get clean all the while struggling to maintain a facade of functionality that was finally torn away in an instant. I was in a blind drunken rage and definitely not looking for Jesus when I charged a guy with shot gun all the while screaming “shoot me!” All I know for certain is that he fired. I saw a blinding white flash of light and a thought that was more like a voice roared through my mind “this is the last time!” The deeper implications of those words are too much to cover here but suffice it to say that I did not get shot even though he fired at point blank range and I never had a desire for a drink or a drug again. My point here is that I am not special in any worldly sort of way. I know where I came from and I know where I have been. I know that I know within the depths of my soul that everything I am, have and have achieved since that last drunken day has happened in spite of me and not because of me. 
    But that’s not all. I have other problems too. In fact I have an orphan spirit that periodically rises up within me. I am ashamed of it. Missionaries are not supposed to have it. If you mention it, I will almost always deny it. But it’s there. It is rooted in a time filled with rejection and abandonment. It manifests as a voice that says “don’t you dare ask for…you are a burden; a loser and everything you touch turns to $#@!” It is a mindset rooted in a lie that is itself the root of addiction, poverty and failure. It forever declares that God won’t provide even though He always has. It is a proverbial “thing” that pins me to a wall like Indiana Jones with nothing left to do but take the next step or die. It is something that must be confronted with faith and the revelation of my true identity as a son of the Most High God even though I might FEEL paralyzed with fear. In the end it is the actions we take often in spite of what we are thinking and feeling that determines what we actually believe. Jesus said to “seek first the Kingdom of God and all His righteousness and all these things will be added onto you” Mat 6:33. He did not say to get all your ducks in row before you go. Remembering our previous steps of faith as we overcome fear within the context of obedience to the call of God can require a serious leap yet it is also the source of paradoxical provision. 
    I suppose I could write a more flowery, testimony of faith filled with inspiring prophetic poetry. Honestly I’m still pretty rough around the edges. I also recently read that the top reasons people are turned off by Christianity is that they feel shunned by Christians who seem fake and act like they don’t have any problems. That’s not to say that all Christians are fakes only that the rule of approach determines response is always in play. My audience is often composed of people who are completely turned off by the church. So sometimes it’s best to just keep it real. Apparently the Apostle Paul thought so too. (2 Cor 11:30) 
    At the end of the day I’m not much different from you. I’m certainly not better because I’m going to live in third world country. If anything I’m probably worse. I just happen to be blessed with the knowledge of my need, that God’s miracles in my life have been the result my most glaring weaknesses and that my Father’s blessings for me in spite of me are proof of His great and abounding love for me. I’ve found freedom in gratitude and obedience beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve found peace in the midst of turmoil, His strength in my weakness, provision in poverty. I know there will be bumps in the road. I know there will be days when I want to quit. Heck I might even die. Even so, I fully expect that in writing this; I am laying the foundation for a powerful testimony of God’s guidance, provision and miracles in our mission one day. It is in losing our life that we will gain it. Mat 10:39.
    Taken in its most literal form, the missionary walk is as fantastically paradoxical as it is adventurous. It requires ridiculous supernatural assurance and trust that transcends discursive thought and emotion and makes absolutely no sense in the natural until after we take the leap; a leap of faith that gets a little easier each time we leap. I highly recommend it. But only leap to where you are called.

Anatomy Of The Call

We purchased this charcoal drawing  from a Sudanese Refugee during a Power and Love conference in 2010.  It depicts Sudanese Children awaiting a visit from an unnamed  U.S. congressman who they thought was going to save them and never showed.

People need redemption.  Even renowned atheist Mathew Parris, understood this when after returning from a visit to his boyhood home of Malawi he stated:

“I have come to a conclusion that staggers me.  The impact of the missionaries with their message of Jesus Christ with its redemptive foundation seems to be the only thing that has effectively worked in order to change the hearts of some against the other in their antipathy and hostility towards one another – the redemptive aspect seems indispensable to the transformation of this. I find myself surprising myself in having to the say this.”  “I truly believe Africa needs God”.

Christians understand this.  The book of Romans says that atheists do too.  The hunger of one’s heart must change before anything else will. It needs to change in Africa, in the Americas and everywhere else in the world.
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People need Jesus and the fullness of  Holy Spirit. They need people to carry the message of their testimony. They need people to teach them and give them hope; people who will love them. In fact people need love more than anything else.  This is true regardless if one is living in a mansion in Beverly Hills or a card board box at a dump.  As it happens God is calling us into the dumps right now.  Who knows; he might even call us into Beverly Hills one day.

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But people also need to eat.   They need a place to live and rest, to work, to earn a living, to create, and communicate. People need a place to study and learn, a place to come together to worship and soak in the presence of God, a place that is safe and accommodating with the potential to expand; a place where anything and everything good can be done. A place that influences the surrounding culture with the love of God until the love of God becomes the culture.

Now we are going to Honduras. “Why Honduras ?” you ask.  Well I guess I could give you a monologue about why the 2nd or 3rd poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere needs our help more than the wealthiest; how helping the 3rd world to prosper solves issues like illegal immigration and makes the world a safer place as a whole. I guess I could rant about how the first world has heard the gospel message time and time again only to reject it.  But that’s really not it at all.  “Ok then why Honduras and not South Sudan?”.  Read on.

Cathy and I have testimonies galore of how God has spoken to us over the years. Suffice it to say that one of us usually senses a decision or a change needs to be made, then prays and gets a word or an answer. The other does the same often without knowing what the other is thinking or doing. It’s pretty amazing when we finally talk and find that we are both thinking about the same thing.  When we both get the same word or answer we act.  If we don’t then we wait.

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There were so many times over the years when we wanted to abandon what frequently felt like a fruitless ministry to inmates and addicts. Even so God had more for us to learn and every time the word was a resounding “no”.  Until last year that is when we both clearly knew that it was time to go to the nations.

Our plan was to move to Honduras in December of 2016.  Yet the Bible clearly states in Proverbs that we might make our plans but the Lord directs our steps.

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One day in September Cathy was on her usual prayer walk listening to a podcast as she was accustomed.  This one featured Rolland Baker on “IRIS AFTER HOURS” She then returned home and adamantly stated that “We can’t go yet. God has a work to do in our hearts.”
I listened to the same podcast; Google searched IRIS Global and learned about the Harvest School.  I then heard myself saying “honey they have a school. I think we are supposed to go.” “Really?” she asked. She didn’t tell me she’d already heard the same thing in her heart.  “Yes!” I said. “Let’s do it! The rest is history much of which you can read about on our previous WordPress blog posts.

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Africa was amazing and the need there was seemingly even more profound than in Central America. We thought we might not be going to back to Honduras after all. But we prayed. We asked God to show us both individually and together exactly what our next step should be. At one point while in a South Sudanese refugee camp in northern Uganda we thought for sure that God would call us there instead.  Yet by the end of three months the message was clear.
We were to return to Honduras as originally planned.

I’d like to say I know for sure why aside from loving our friends, God has us going back to Honduras; that we will be ones who bring the City of Refuge model to Africa one day. That would be very neat indeed. But that would also be several steps ahead. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about walking with God it’s that thinking about the second step while still engaged in the first frequently results in a fall.

Some might disagree but for us the anatomy of a call has more to do with “who” is calling and “when” we should go than it does with where, what, and how. That’s how faith works.  At the end of the day I’d rather be in the will of God under machine gun fire than apart from it on a beach in paradise.  That doesn’t mean some are not called to a beach in paradise.  Some are called to go.  Some are called to support those who go.

IRIS has the motto that “Love looks like something.”  It’s more than just an idea to them.  We would agree. Many people would say that going to Refugee camps in Africa looks more like love than does going to Honduras.  Right now, for us, love looks like a City. But it’s only because God has called us there. It’s kind of exciting that while we are pretty clear on the “what” and “how”; we don’t yet know the full story of “why”.  This is the anatomy of our call.

 

Post Note:

I realize the “S” word causes many discomfort and we do need support. But please apply the main lesson in this blog and only give what, where and when God calls you to.

Please don’t stop following us and praying for us simply because you are afraid we are going to bug you for money.  We won’t.  Giving should be regarded as an opportunity.  It should never be done out of compulsion.

If you would like to support us then please visit the Join Us Page on our web site grayhope.com

God Bless,

Brian and Cathy.