Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sharing Jesus 'In Spite Of ' Fear {Catanduva 2015: Part 3}


"I need someone at the eye glasses station," the mission leader called out, "People have started lining up." 

She looked around and realized only she and one other gal were standing there. She thought, Ok, no big deal, I can hand out eye glasses.

But when she crossed the street, she found they didn't need someone to hand out reading glasses and sunglasses, they needed someone to sit under the canopy with an interpreter and present the gospel to the people wanting the free glasses. They started assembling plastic chairs in a circle. Lots of chairs.

What?! Not now. Not today. She wasn't ready!


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Earlier that morning, she had been invited to go door to door with the pastor's wife who also happened to be her sister-in-law. Not ready to speak out loud, she watched in awe and with a little bit of jealousy, as this gal called out to people in their yard, smiled and easily struck up conversations. 

Questions asked. Answers given. The gospel presented. Prayers for salvation lifted up. Prayer requests shared and prayed over. Hugs given. Invitations to the church extended. 

She stood in the background at each home and prayed for the people under her breath, that their hearts would be soft and open, that the enemy would be bound. It was the only thing she felt confident in doing. 

This afternoon, she thought. I'll go door to door. I'll try to speak this afternoon. But as they say, the best laid plans... (or something like that).

So here she was in the afternoon attempting to "boldly" share the gospel with not just one person at a time, but groups of people, sometimes up to 6-8 at a time! This was not what she thought she signed up for. But apparently it was what God was going to ask of her. 

She trudged through the afternoon, not confidently, but obediently, secretly hoping the interpreter was fixing all of her mistakes. She knew she left out parts here and there, but she had to trust the gaps were filled in, if not by the interpreter, then at least by the Holy Spirit!

She usually asked if they knew about the new church building and then she asked for prayer requests. Many who were obviously broken hearted over trials in their lives would become emotional. Her heart could relate to those people. She's experienced brokenness and despair, and she found praying and sharing the gospel with those people seemed almost easy. She felt their need. She felt them seeking assurance.

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A couple days later, she found herself under the canopy again. The groups seemed a little smaller so she thought, I've done this before, this will be easy.

But this day turned out to be more difficult than the previous one. She got in a hurry and rushed through the steps. She stumbled over her words. Her thoughts were not coherent. She lost her place several times. She felt the interpreter was losing patience with her. She was frustrated and just before she let the tears flow, she desperately called someone over to take her place, and then walked quickly away from the booth.

What had happened? Why was today so different? This was too hard. They have asked the wrong person to do this. Someone got their wires crossed.

She sought out the hiding place behind the buildings as she did the other day, but there was already another friend of hers there. She had heard about this friend's boldness in sharing the gospel in the neighborhood the past few days. The thought that she was such a failure compared to this friend was intimidating, but the friend merely patted the dirt and invited her to sit down. Before she knew it, she was confessing all her fears and anxieties about the day to the friend, and the friend calmly prayed with her and assured her that her efforts were not in vain. 

Later she felt led to read the Book of Ruth.

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The next afternoon, she had the opportunity to accompany her son in a group that was going to a "tough" neighborhood. This would be his first door to door experience and she wanted to witness it! The friend from the day before was also coming with the group.

They were told they would just be handing out tracts and inviting people to the church. But as she and her friend rounded a corner, they came upon a woman sitting on the sidewalk. They were advised she was possibly drunk. As the interpreters began to talk to the woman, another woman and two teenage girls joined them. 

Then the interpreters turned to her and her friend and asked if they wanted to say anything. Her friend looked at her and said with a smile, "Do the cube." (The cube was referred to as the "magic cube" because of how it unfolded showing various pictures. At each unfolding, it contained the next step in the plan of salvation.) As horror overtook her, she obediently "did the cube". When she was done, they all stared silently at each other as she was at a loss for what to do next. Her friend whispered to share some scriptures from the Bible, but fear enveloped her, and she looked at the friend pleadingly and asked the friend to do it instead.

What she witnessed next was profound, and something she hopes she will never forget. The friend easily guided the women and girls though the steps of salvation based upon scripture. The women began to ask the friend hard questions about the friend's life to which the friend answered truthfully. They made a heart connection, and tears began to flow from one of the women. Because of the friend's honesty and openness, hearts were softened, prayers for salvation were lifted up, and lives were probably changed.

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Since returning from the trip and as she reflected on these various scenarios, trying to make sense of it all, sorting out her emotions, she realized that there were at least three things she could take away from these experiences.
  1. She needed those opportunities of following behind friends that were more experienced and bold. She wasn't sure why she was led to read the Book of Ruth, but she thinks that like Ruth gleaned behind the harvesters who made it easy for her to bring home food, she needed to see her sister-in-law and her friend's examples and have the opportunity to reap along with them as they harvested. 
  2. Making a personal heart connection with people seemed to be the key to making sharing the gospel flow more easily. On the first day, when she knew where they were hurting, she could pray and connect with them better. On the second day, when she skipped the conversation part and rushed through the steps, she lost her way.
  3. She better be prayed up and in the Word because the enemy was going to make her second guess herself and feel shame and humiliation, if not immediately afterwards, then within hours. Every experience where she had been the one talking had been followed by a torrent of tears and a feeling of remorse. The accuser is very good at his job.

One day Ruth, the Moabite foreigner, said to Naomi, “I’m going to work; I’m going out to glean among the sheaves, following after some harvester who will treat me kindly.”Naomi said, “Go ahead, dear daughter.”And so she set out. She went and started gleaning in a field, following in the wake of the harvesters. Ruth 2 MSG
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  • "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). 

  • "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23) 

  • "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29). 

  • "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'" (John 14:6). 

  • "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, 'Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame'" (Romans 10:9-11). 

  • "And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again" (2 Corinthians 5:15). 

  • "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).
  • Are you a sinner?
    Do you want forgiveness of your sins?
    Do you believe Jesus Christ died on the cross for you and rose again?
    Are you willing to surrender your life to Jesus Christ?
    Are  you ready to invite Jesus Christ into your life and into your heart?

    "Heavenly Father, I have sinned against you.  I want forgiveness for all my sins.  I believe that Jesus died on the cross for me and rose again.  Father, I give you my life to do with as you wish.  I want Jesus Christ to come into my life and into my heart.  This I ask in Jesus' name.  Amen"


    Share Jesus Without Fear, William Fay, published by Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, TN.

    Tuesday, August 25, 2015

    The Mary/Martha Tug of War {Catanduva 2015: Part 2}


    Emotionally drained from having been thrown into the fire of evangelizing the day before and feeling somewhat unsuccessful at that, she got up the next morning, dressed in her $5 Goodwill jeans and old gray t-shirt, and determined she would work on the church building that day.

    However, those familiar feelings of inadequacy consumed her as she walked around the building site looking for something to do. Not sure of where to jump in, she filled the downtime by taking pictures of everyone else working. Everyone busy. Everyone seeming to have a purpose.

    She had traveled halfway across the globe to be a part of this so if she wasn't busy, she or others might question her purpose for being there (or send her out to evangelize - yes, she may have been hiding out that day). But in the end, her fear of failure and not wanting to impose herself on those who didn't seem to need any help kept her desire to work on the building in check. She told herself to be content to keep record of other's endeavors, knowing they would be grateful to see their efforts documented. But still she ached to be assigned a task.

    Then finally! Someone asked her to do something. She had a purpose. She would be busy for Jesus today and everybody would see it! (hello pride...) But no sooner had she started working on this project, than she was flocked by others also looking for something to do and a need to feel useful. They asked to help, and soon she felt she should delegate the project to them and walk away.

    It was emotionally difficult. She struggled with letting go of the ownership she had already taken for the project and wanting credit for doing something that day vs. giving the project away to others that were obviously feeling the same way she had felt all morning.

    Useless.

    What a horrible feeling. She wanted to cry so she hid out behind the back buildings. She took out her cell phone, called her husband, and cried on his virtual shoulder. He assured her that she had a purpose, that her traveling there would not be in vain. They talked about what her gifts were, and how she had already started using them. They talked about her ongoing struggle between her desire to be in the limelight and get noticed and credit versus her competing desire to hide in the background and just be a support system to others.

    So eventually she changed her attitude. Instead of "doing" for Jesus, she would sit at his feet. She would just be there. She would absorb the experience through others. She would not seek out a job. She would support and document everyone's work. She would listen to their excitement and frustrations. She would encourage their efforts. She would smile when not feeling like smiling. She would submit her will and expectations for that day to perhaps what God willed for her instead.

    And she found rest. And joy.

    The remainder of the afternoon turned out to be one of the most fun and fulfilling days of the week. She made new friends. She talked, giggled and joked while trying to learn and understand Portuguese. She was just present, listening, smiling, and taking in the experience. She was even offered several opportunities to learn some of the building skills even though her efforts did not achieve the desired results. Everyone was lighthearted. Everyone laughed. She had won the tug of war in her heart today.


    The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” Luke 10:38-42 MSG



    Monday, August 24, 2015

    An Exercise in Saying Yes {Catanduva 2015: Part 1}

    Exhaustion set in as the plane bounced onto the tarmac, wing flaps fully extended, its engines roaring in an effort to slow down the large mass of metal. Her flight time had totaled about 15-16 hours in addition to a previous 6 hour bus ride. She was returning from the opposite side of the equator, from a place called Catanduva, São Paulo, Brazil. Catanduva's winter, similar in temperatures to those in Arizona, was just coming to an end, warm for the most part, downright hot under the sun, with shade offering respite in the afternoon.

    This past week. Was it a dream? She experienced it, yet it didn't seem like real life, more like a movie, surreal. Facebook photos and a renewed outlook, the only proof that it had actually occurred.

    Ten days ago she traveled to Catanduva with her sixteen year old son and a group of adults from her church. When the mission leader first visited and spoke about the opportunity for their congregation to take part in this mission project in Brazil, her heart beat wildly in her chest; she almost couldn't breathe. She peeked down the row at her teenage son and thought for sure this was an opportunity he needed to experience. With his own expression of desire to possibly go into the ministry someday, she assumed what she was feeling in her body was the call to sign him up. However, a week later, when the feeling didn't go away, and after she asked her husband if he wanted to go, she submitted to the call herself and signed up too.

    Their mission: erect a new building for a local church as well as share the gospel with the surrounding community.


    • Erect a new building with very little construction skills? No problem. No fear.
    • Share the gospel with others when her own life is not the best example of a life continuously rooted in Jesus? That might be a problem. Extreme fear.


    The last time she remembered having actually presented the gospel to someone was 25-30 years earlier when she was in high school. At that time, she had been part of a church youth group that stressed evangelism and sharing Christ with others, and while attending the youth group's discipleship studies, she was repeatedly encouraged to share her faith.

    She had grown up in a suburban, sheltered environment, accepted Christ into her life at a young age, was surrounded by strong Christian influences, and was easily bold in her faith and sure of her salvation. Life was not difficult, the burden really did seem light.

    Until college. Even though she tried to recreate the same environment she had left behind by joining Christian groups and attending church, she just didn't feel a strong connection at first with the Christians on campus. The loneliness from being so far from friends and home led her to hang out with anyone who would accept her into their circle. Her Christian walk became quite "zig-zaggy".

    During her first year of college, she was more concerned with her own feelings of acceptance than anyone's spiritual destiny, not speaking of her beliefs with someone unless she was sure they already believed the same. And while she would walk the straight and narrow for a while even if lonely, temptation for friendships and acceptance would take her off the path for a time until she felt compelled to redirect her spiritual life again. This became a habit that continued for years even after she was married, had kids, and good friendships. She used God's grace as a safety net rather than recognizing it as the true gift of salvation and a place to rest.

    And while God was patient with her through all those years, perhaps even holding back the dam of consequences that she should have incurred, she felt guilt for the many mistakes she had made along the way. Over time, she felt she wouldn't have much influence if she were to share her faith with someone, telling them they need to turn to God when she could not stay faithful to Him herself. She felt it would be hypocritical, the plank in her own eye was too large for her to remove in order to ever help anyone with the speck in theirs. So as her condemnation for herself increased so did her apathy towards others. They were on their own.

    But then God either quit holding back the dam of consequences, or he just got tired of her apathetic attitude. Either way, in recent years, God has allowed more tests and trials than she ever thought she could handle. In the midst of these challenges, she has questioned God, gotten angry at God, cried out to God, begged for mercy from God. She wanted to run or escape, but he wouldn't let her. He continually pursued her until she finally had to give in. She was miserable while she fought, and only experienced peace and freedom once she submitted.

    So she said yes to going to Brazil even though she felt she had nothing spiritually to offer. She had no plan for what she would do there, but she went with the attitude that she would say "yes" to whatever someone asked her to do. Secretly she hoped she could just work on the building, and it would all be easy. She was totally ok with that.

    But God was not ok with that. The building had plenty of workers. Workers with skill and strength she did not possess. So while she said "yes" to any building opportunity offered such as moving concrete blocks or trying her hand at scattering mud on the wall, to attempting to trowel on the stucco, to standing on a precariously perched scaffold to paint the outside wall of the church, or just sweeping the floor and picking up trash, God also had people ask her to go on prayer walks, share the gospel with groups of people as they came to the free eyeglass station, and walk the streets to share the gospel with people in the neighborhood.

    She said "yes" to all of it as best she could. Her personality compels her to let others lead if they seem to have more experience or confidence, but in the end sometimes there just wasn't anyone else around, or she had someone with her that knew about and seemed intent on pushing her to overcome her feelings of inadequacy.

    She cannot tell you in numbers how many she lead to Christ or prayed with for healing, for their families, for their financial situations. She cannot tell you why she felt compelled repeatedly to pray specifically for peace and comfort and for the Holy Spirit to rain down his presence among these people.

    All she knows is that she had one job to do; the job to submit and say "yes" to God.