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?

      Africa Bound

Well it’s been a long time coming but it should come as no surprise to those who know us well that we are giving all to become full time missionaries.  

Granted we’ve been short term missionaries in Honduras since 2008, however this different. 

We have also run a faith based transitional home and lived with furloughed inmates since 2005 which probably seems crazy enough to most, however we’ve always had financial security, and a place to lay our heads in a paradise that most people only dream of visiting.  In a word we have lived the proverbial American dream.  

Giving everything up now in hopes of serving the poorest of the poor in the most impoverished and worn torn corners of the world might sound like foolishness to some.  However this has been our dream since before we were married.  In fact we have both known since we were children that we were made for this day.

As Christians we are called to live and walk by faith.  There’s really nothing in the bible that even hints that we should play it safe.  In fact Jesus gave us the formula for success.  Those who will lose their lives for His sake will gain true life. And so we are going.  We are going with a goal of loving the lost and unloved in hopes of one day becoming love ourselves.  This is our theory.  This our plan.  To be perfectly honest we don’t really know what that looks like or even means at this point.  We are simply stepping out with child like faith, knowing only that we know nothing especially in terms of what lies ahead.  We are only certain that God has called us to a deeper place, a place of knowing Him more, a place of acquaintance with His sorrows and with those sorrows, an unspeakable joy that we know will be our inheritance if we remain obedient to His call. 

We will be departing Kauai to attend the IRIS Global Harvest School of Missions in Pemba Mozambique on Oct 4th.  This is a turning point and not just an event.  God willing we will eventually be in places like South Sudan, Honduras and wherever the Lord calls us from here on out. 

Follow us here if you’d like periodic updates as we journey deeper into the heart of God and endeavor to love Him by loving His children here on earth.