Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Do Not Open Until Christmas

Luke 19:11-26

Service is a responsibility and a privilege. But how can that be? Are not both ideas opposing spectrum of a singular idea of its own? How many times throughout our childhood have we heard the phrase, “such and such is a privilege, not a right,” or “this and that was your responsibility.” It seems baffling to understand responsibility and privilege in the manner that Christ taught the crowd as He passed through Jericho in Luke 19. In the parable, Jesus tells us that the minas given to the servants were both their privilege and their responsibility-they could do with them what they pleased. What I find interesting about this Scripture is that the servants were not told that there would be repercussions for their actions with the money entrusted to them; they were just given the money and told to make money with it. Of course when the servants were gathered to give a report to what they had done with their investments, the king starts to hand out rewards (I’m sure at this point, the servant who hid the mina away must have been kicking himself). Not only was this investing exercise their responsibility, it was also their privilege. The king was known as a hard man, so all that the servants could understand from his actions was the responsibility involved. I’m sure great fear gripped their hearts as they each handed the mina over to the investment…what if their investment failed? Would the king demand recompense of them for what was lost? I’m sure this is exactly what the third servant was thinking as he hid the mina away in the handkerchief. It is kind of like entering into the living room on Christmas Day and seeing various gifts of differing shapes and sizes under the tree. As each gift is handed out we may notice that some have more than others, or that some gifts look larger. Regardless, if we focus on this and not on the giver of the gift, we fail to capture the privilege aspect of the whole process. The size of the gift isn’t the matter; it is the person who gave it. If we all considered the person who gave the gift, we would understand that what is inside is good and a blessing to us despite the size or shape of it. So how do we consider the gift(s) God has given us? Scripture tells us that He has gifted us with the ministry of reconciliation. How will we invest this gift? Will we be distracted by the gift and/or ministry of another individual? We have no need to fear the giver of the gift, because we know that our Father gives good gifts to His children. He, like our earthly fathers does have expectations for how we use our gifts. Will we invest it in others, bringing a multitude into the Kingdom? Or will we hide the gift that we hold away until He calls for a report? In Peru, every gift that is given is greatly appreciated and put to good use. As I minister, I need to remember that the gift God has entrusted me with is worth far more than ten minas-they are the lives of people-His people…how will I invest in them? The end result is not of my concern, only the investment. My responsibility-no, my privilege in Peru is to invest the gifts given to me by God to invest in people, and leave the results up to Him. So I ask you this: what gifts have you been given to invest? How are you investing them? I think in this Scripture, Jesus is telling us to ignore the “do not open until Christmas” tags.   

Saturday, March 23, 2013

What On Earth Are You Doing Here?

What on earth am I doing? That is a question that I continually find myself asking. Have you ever pondered the question? Sure, when we find ourselves in a place we never intended to be, it is ususally the first question that pops into our heads. What about when we wake in the morning? Do we start off our day asking that very same question? What is our response? Do we know what our duties are for the day? In a few instances I have found myself asking this question of myself. "Am I even making a difference here?" "Is this the right course of action to take?" "What on earth am I doing?"
I am sure that the people of God must have been asking the very same question as they made their way to the Promised Land. Sure, they were traveling every day, sometimes for extended periods of time in the scorching heat of the desert, but where could they turn for purpose? Who could they look to for meaning? What on earth were they doing wandering in the scorching hot desert? I'm sure when we are doing the same thing day after day, many of us could ask that very question. One thing that I've learned is that regardless the activity or task at hand, if God has ordained it, and if you have been called to are making a difference. We are accustomed to gauging our effectiveness on our own worldviews and our own needs. This, however, is not how the people we are helping are gauging our efforts. Sometimes simply having lunch with someone may be just what they need. Here, I will quote the old proverb "our actions speak louder than words". 
 God knew that in order to get the Israelites to the Promised Land, not only would they need guidance, but they would also need purpose and meaning in their voyage. He knew this of them, and moreso, He provided it for them in great detail, down to every person in every family for each tribe. 
In like manner, I am here on a journey. Like the ancient Israelites, I do not know what it looks like exactly-but I have a promise from God. He has brought me thus far, and each day He gives me a purpose and meaning for the journey that I am traveling. Whether I am visiting a family, taking a Spanish class or ministering to youth, I have a purpose here. So what on earth am I doing? Listening to my Father's voice as I continue on to the Promised Land. With that I will leave you, the reader, with a question...
What on earth are you doing here? What has God called you to?   


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cultural Cleansing

Lev 14:6-9

When we think about cross-cultural ministry, how well do we prepare? Really, how well do we prepare our hearts and minds to encounter and interpret what we are about to walk into? When I first set foot in Peru, I thought I was ready. I mean, I have been doing missionary work for a few years now-one of my trips had also been to a South American nation. I was all set, right?.....wrong 
     Leviticus 14 explains in great detail the directions on how the nation of Israel was to go about cleansing a leperous person. When thinking upon how the ancient Israelites followed the Lord in obedience when carrying out cleansing, most non-Israilis would probably find the whole process to be a bit strange. Of course, anybody who isn't a member of  ancient Israelite society would not understand what and why the nation of Israel behaves the way they do when they are cleansing somebody from Leprosy-in fact, the whole ritual would probably look quite strange to anybody from a non-Semitic society.
     Flying through the streets in a taxicab through the streets of Lima is a radically different experience than riding in a taxi from point A to point B in Vancouver. Though the length of the trip may be similar, and although the vehicle may look the same, the actual experience itself is vastly different. 
     Just as the process of cleansing leprosy is vastly different from the time of the Book of Leviticus to any treatment you would find today, experiencing and interpreting culture in a foreign land is much the same. There is no such thing as strange when experiencing and interpretting culture.... only different. Sure, I've never seen a Vancouver cab driver stop in the middle of the trip and yell out to someone on the street for directions to the destination, and I'm not accustomed to hearing so many horns blaring in the streets in the night but this isn't Vancouver.
     Rule number one for really engaging people in meaningful cross-cultural ministry is to understand the culture. Just as I wouldn't understand the significance of an Israelite sitting outside of his tent with his entire head and beard shaved, I cannot assume a North American understanding of the use of a car horn in Lima. Everything changes
     If I really want to understand why taxicabs operate the way they do, I need to become further immersed in the Limean culture. Of course, we can make numerous judgements and guesses, but that is all that they would be-judgements and guesses. 
     So far, my stay in Lima has been eye-opening, reflexive and powerful. As for the taxi rides...
I am not yet immerssed enough in the Peruvian culture to comment, nor will I ever completely lose all of my Canadian backgrounds and biases. 
and I am not about to make the mistake of imposing my North American cultural interpretations on a Peruvian cultural phenomenon. 
Perhaps a little cultural cleansing is just what the doctor ordered as I step into a cross-cultural ministry setting.
So far, I am learning a great deal about Peruvian culture-not nearly enough to call myself an expert on interpreting it, but my desire to increase my understanding of it increases daily. I have seen God do some amazing things here. And He isn't even close to being finished yet! As for the noise in the evenings... perhaps vehicles have a language all of their own... perhaps taxi drivers just want to give their customers the quickest and best service they can. Perhaps there is a lot I still need to learn about Peruvian culture. I believe that  last thought in response to the traffic culture of Peru is the most accurate and helpful.   


Monday, March 4, 2013

Comforted to Be A Comforter

II Cor 1:3-11
     Yesterday was Sunday. Like every Sunday, I awoke ready to attend church. This Sunday, however, would be unlike any other I have experienced thus far during my stay in Peru.  Lately, I had been noticing something that I had never really experienced to the fullest extent while on the mission field... Culture Shock
     The culture shock that I was experiencing was causing me anxiety by the barrel-full. There had been many times when I had felt so stressed that I felt the need to escape to ease the tension hanging within my own ribcage.  
     Last evening at church, however, God showed up in a big way! During a panic attack, I stood a the front of the church in deep thought. 
     Why am I feeling so anxious? What is there to worry about? as I stood deeply immersed in thought, a voice not of my own interrupted, and GOD SHOWED UP! 
     I was reminded of Jesus' interaction with the man with a demon-posessed boy in Mark 9. The disciples were unable to drive out the demon, so the desperate man took his grossly troubled son to Jesus who said to him, "all things are possible for one who believes". The man cried out, "I believe, help my unbelief"
     Standing in the middle of my anxiety attack, my heart uttered the prayer, Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief INSTANTLY, the anxiety subsided and a new inner strength that I hadn't felt since leaving Canada returned to me.  I'm not quite sure why I had been troubled with the bouts of anxiety. I'm not quite sure why I had been experiencing such a massive volley of culture shock this trip. One thing that I am sure of is that the very same words that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth still remain true to this day.... "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction". This comfort of the Father is not solely for our blessing, rather, "so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 
     It is a wonderful thing to be able to tell people that God comforts those who are being afflicted. When we are able to relate to someone's afflictions, the testimony that we carry provides all the more certainty that God still  blesses with healing, comfort, love and care today. During my time in Peru, I have had numerous privileges of being a testimony that God's love, mercy and miracles still ring just as true today as they did during Christ's earthly ministry. We are comforted for a purpose.... We are
Comforted to be comforters


         This is our calling....This is our ministry as followers of Christ

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Night Flights, The Stressful Arrival and First Impression Fail
The flight was long, I was tired and it was late. My flight was scheduled to arrive in Lima late in the night. When the wheels touched down in the South American city, my heart raced several more heartbeats a minute.... though my eyes could not stay open to save my life. My limit4ed knowledge of Spanish didn't help matters either. Though the plan was simple enough, its carry through did not progress nearly as smoothly as hoped. 
Making my way to the luggage carrousel containing my suitcase and guitar, two things crossed my mind. First, the time was nearing 1:00am, and people were waiting to pick me up and take me to my new residence for the next five months. Secondly, the luggage carousel was not moving! After waiting for several minutes and overhearing several airport officials discussing the latent carousel, I discovered that my luggage had been lost. I laughed to myself...I had to. Already I was late for meeting the people I would be living with for five months, so making a good impression was definitely out of the question, or was it...
My thoughts were interrupted by the banging of luggage carousel starting back up again. My bass guitar dropped onto the carousel-I was quick to hoist it off of the metal plates of the carousel. As my eyes scanned the remaining luggage on the carousel, I noticed several people speaking with an airport official. Not wanting to leave my place in front of the carousel, but also wanting to see what was going on with the official. Just as I was ready to stand my ground....
the carousel stopped again
The next step was a no-brainer. As I made my way over to the official, I was made clearly aware of two things....
the airport officials only spoke Spanish
how little useful Spanish I knew to help me in this situation. 
As I set my carry-on bag and computer on the ground beside the official's desk, I understood that my main suitcase had been misplaced and would need to be inquired about the next day. 
I looked at my watch to see the big hand start passing the twelve. It was now 2am and I was still down a bag and my guitar!spotting my guitar on the floor I quickly ran over and grabbed it before someone else beat me to it. 
Slowly I made my way to the customs gate feeling disappointed and wondering what I would wear tomorrow-not to mention if my ride would be waiting for me when I exited the building. 
STARS and a loud BANG interrupted my thoughts. In my over-tired condition, I had failed to notice teh large metal support pillar in front of my face. 
After picking up my carry-on bag and guitar case, I proceeded to the customs desk, only to be horrified after discovering that my computer bag was gone-including all of my documentation. 
After several frantic minutes of rushing around the airport and checking every corner and crack of the airport, I remembered the official's desk and my first awkward Spanish conversation involving lost lugage. The worst part of the search was that nobody spoke English.
As time continued ticking away, an airport official spotted my computer bag. What else could I say except, "Gloria a Dios!
After filling out the customs forms, I walked out of the airport doors and 2:15am on February 2. 
Thankfully, my hosts were waiting for me in the lobby of the airport. 
Exhausted and embarrassed, I followed my hosts into the sticky darkness of my first Peruvian early morning. 


Saturday, February 23, 2013

What to Expect Without Expectations
The days before my departure for Lima were strange, to say the least. I made it my point to leave without any expectations... I neither wanted to put boundaries on how fast and how far God would move in my life and time of ministry during my time in Lima, nor did I want to narrow my scope for what ministry would look like with the Peruvians. It is one thing to maintain a level of expectation, and another thing alltogether to confine your own experience on the mission field to simply achieving or failing certain levels and expectations.
 My final days in Canada were spent in prayer and emptying what was left of my Canadian identity so that I could fully embrace a South American identity. This was going to be an expereince of a lifetime-that I was sure of. What it would look like-that would be a challenge that would redefine my perspective on missions altogether...
or would it. 
Soon I would be breathing Peruvian air, eating Peruvian food and feeling Peruvian soil beneath my feet. How would my body respond to the sudden change in pace, food, and lifestyle? As I boarded the 747 on my way to my only stopover, I took my seat, strapped on my seat belt and prepared myself for an adventure of a lifetime as I ascended through the clouds to cruising altitude on my way to a moment of redefinition. Of one thing I was certain...
God would move in amazing ways over these next five months.