Maranatha ( ) Maranatha

I know it’s Christmas and depending on the audience, “Merry Christmas” can be a sincere wish, an act of defiance, or a virtue signal. As for us, Marantha seems a more fitting greeting this year.   

It’s been about a month since our little mission cabin was destroyed in an Iota landslide. In a few days, it will be exactly a year since God called us out of the City of Refuge into the mountains here.

To say that we loved our little cabin would be an understatement for sure.  Of course, we always knew our time there would come to an end.  That awareness only added to the sacredness. Ironically last year I wrote that Water brought us here. I guess it’s only fitting that water-soaked earth should take us out.

I ended that post with Proverbs 3:5-6.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

And lean not on your understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He shall direct your paths.

Like a lot of people, we’ve had our times of wrestling with God this year. Perhaps you can relate. “Why Lord did you bring us here only to lock us down in our house for 13 out of every 14 days.” Yet “Why?” is the cry of spoiled children. “What are you doing Lord?” is the only valid one.  The only thing that came to mind each time I asked was the word “preserve”.  Cathy heard “worship me”. Meanwhile, each time we stopped wrestling with God over our situation, let go, and focused on Him and His word, He’d bring His purpose into our lives.

I can’t describe the confusion I experienced as I walked down the road that morning and realized that our house was completely gone then saw the two boulders laying side by side in the exact place where our heads would have been had we chosen to sleep there that night.

I did get part of an answer to my question for the year.

The Lord had directed our steps and preserved us.

The other part came from Jacob. The story of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32 has always been one of my favorites.   It was during our morning devotions the other day that the word “preserved” emerged again in verse 30. I’d never really noticed it before. We looked it up and found the original Hebrew word is “Natsal”. 

It means to “deliver, rescue and save.

“Natsal” also means to strip.

We had been stripped of everything but the clothes on our backs and we were homeless in the third world.  And yet a strange supernatural peace enveloped us as well as an even stronger bond between us as husband and wife. 

That bond and peace remain with us now.

It is a peace that comes with the reassurance that His hand is indeed upon us and the understanding that true worship is trusting Him no matter what. We did. We do. If we leave this earth tomorrow it is only because our appointed time has arrived.

In the meantime, He will preserve us.

Like most full-time missionaries we’ve had our share of weird harrowing experiences. One thing we have observed is that life goes on as normal until suddenly it doesn’t. One minute your driving down the road singing silly songs then staring down the barrels of rifles or threatened with spears in the next. In any case, facing one’s imminent demise is always surreal.  One thing is certain. All of life as we know it will one day be swept away. As our 78-year-old friend, Maria just said,

“He gives and takes away.”

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” Mat 6:25-27

It didn’t take long for us to release all our worldly possessions that were buried beneath mud and wreckage.  The ease with which we did this surprised everyone especially us.  A few days later our Honduran friends asked us to come to their house.  When we arrived we found clothing and other things that the community had painstakingly dug up and washed for us. 

They even dug my drone and a pouch full of Cathy’s special heirloom jewelry she’d made 40 years ago out of three feet of mud.

The love was priceless and palpable even if our hearts sank under the renewed burden of stuff.  

That sounds crazy. I know.

What are you doing Lord?

While we are certain more will be revealed, at this point, the joy of a James 1:2-4 testing that increased our faith and the contentment described by Paul in Phil 4:11-13 appear to be the biggest takeaway right now. It’s one thing to read and know the word. Living is is another.

Since then we’ve been consumed with helping those less fortunate than ourselves. If you follow us and or Hope In Time Ministries on FaceBook then you know what we’ve been up to.  As for our welfare, we have a fully furnished house to stay in until March 1st.

We have no idea where we are going after that. Mat 6:25-27.

The devastation here can be mind-numbing and the temptation to check out is real.

Yet on this day, our hearts go out to so many in the 1st world.  Those grasping for the material. Those praying that their old lives will be restored and those with all hope in a political candidate. Those with the same hope in a vaccine. Those who remain terrified and angry about so many things beyond their control. Those consumed by the cares of this world and are blind.

To those I say, “there is a better way”.

I’m not a prophet, fortune teller, or seer but I’m guessing that events in the coming weeks and years are going to draw many to the Lord and cause others to fall away. I believe there is a message in the recent events of our lives that applies to all.

Everyone on earth has a world view.  Everyone frames their lives accordingly. Every world view is framed or bracketed by unprovable assumptions regarding one’s origin and destiny. It is on these assumptions that we all place our trust and fill the space in between. That so many today are thoroughly consumed with anxiety and fear over things that they can not control let alone understand is not the result of events between the brackets.  

They are a result of bad bracketing.  

Maranatha is an Aramaic word that depending on how it is pronounced means “Jesus has come” and “Jesus is coming”.  It is the gospel of the Kingdom condensed into one word. It is the truth claim that brackets the life of every true follower of Christ regardless of how messed up things might be in the space in-between. It is the truth claim the brackets our existence and supports everything we do whether or not we have a place to lay our heads. Let’s face it. “Hard” is a relative term. This past year has been hard for everyone. Yet while Jesus did not promise freedom from suffering He did promise peace.  That peace is contingent on the bracketing. 

He came. He is coming. He knows you by your name.

Be Merry.

(Maranatha!

Maranatha!)

OUR THEME SONG FOR THE YEAR

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!