Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Goodbye to yet another awesome friend...

I hate it when people leave. I mean seriously, you just get to know someone and decide that you like them OH SO MUCH and then they leave. Boo.
This is a goodbye to my awesome friend Holly. She has only been here two months but has been a blast and a blessing to be around. With her little Spanish, I have seen her jump head first into culture, friendships and ministry. She was the one who brought Melissa and Tabitha to be such good friends and who was always getting us to do something strange. She was a great addition to our Bible study and a huge help to the Cordero de Dios youth group. She made people feel at home in the cafe and was a bright star showing off Jesus' love. She is now off to her second year of college and my prayer is that the Lord blesses her richly in all she puts her hands to. Even though I have only known her several months, I can already see that her heart for the Lord is BIG and that he is going to do BIG things in and through her life.
Holly, thank you for sharing your life with us. You will be greatly missed. I love you friend!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A year and a half down... 6 months to go

It feels like just yesterday I was writing my struggles of moving to a foreign country, learning a new language and making new friends. A year and a half later, Ecuador feels more like home than anywhere on earth. It is so easy to go through life pleading with God to "do something" and then forget to thank him when he does. So I want this to be a time to look back and remember some of the key moments the Lord stepped in for me this past couple years.
I remember May of 2007 when I had just stopped working for Prince of Peace, was working at Starbucks and felt like my life had no direction. I clearly remember telling the girls in my Bible study that I was probably just going to die because God didn't have a plan for me (dramatic, I know :)). When I finally decided to let it all go and let the Lord do what he was going to do was when the opportunity came up to go with SIM to Ecuador and work in a coffee shop, the exact thing I really wanted to do.
I remember October of 2007 crying out to the Lord asking him what I would do if I could not converse with the people I so desperately wanted to minister to. I remember clearly that he told me to move forward into this abyss called "learning another language" and even if, by the end of 2 years could say no more than two sentences to someone, I was doing what he called me to do and that should be enough.
I remember starting a Bible study in the first 3 months I was here, even though I felt like my Spanish was like that of a 4-year-old. I watched as the Lord took my limited vocabulary and His Word to change the lives of the girls in the study.
I remember being asked to take on the managing position at the cafe. I remember telling the Lord I was not equipped for this... that my Spanish wasn't good enough, that I was too young, but the Lord told me to take it anyway.
I remember being asked to lead a short term team of a church I did not know for people who were twice my age. The amount of excuses I came up with as to why I COULD NOT do it are immeasurable. But again, the Lord took it, used them, used me and turned it into something beautiful. (I can't wait to see what he has for this team THIS year!)
As I write all of this, I smile to myself remembering the fear and doubt I felt in my heart each time the Lord asked me to do something too hard for me to handle alone. I smile because if it weren't for these hard times and difficult experiences, I wouldn't know the sufficiency of the Lord as well as I do today. Thank you Jesus for walking with me in the happy, sad and the difficult. A year and a half down, six months to go... may the Lord bring himself glory through my time here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Did it get lost in translation OR did you just make ALL that up to fit in with your message??

One of the reasons I started going to my church here was because of the lively worship and joy that they all seemed to have. I enjoy people who are not afraid of worshiping their God (this is my youth group on the right...)

BUT some days things aren't so right on when it comes to theology. This week we had a guest preacher who started off by telling us that we were going to talk about prayer and then spent the next 30 minutes talking about basically nothing as an intro. (Most people would be annoyed at this point, but this is just a weekly experience for me) The NEXT part was the part that really got me. He had us all turn to 2 Kings 13:14-20. If you haven't read this chapter recently go and take a look.
I read it to myself as he was rambling on about nothing again and thought, 'What in the world does this have to do with prayer?'
I'm not kidding, I was actually impressed that this guy could write his entire sermon and then randomly said "Hmm what chapter should I use? 2 KINGS!"
The chapter is about how Elisha is about to die and the king at the time went to get his last words of advice before he dies. Elisha tells him to take a bow and shoot an arrow through a window. Elisha places his hands on the kings as he shoots and then Elisha says, "The Lord's arrow of victory" and tells the king to strike the ground with the arrow. The king does it, but only three times and Elisha gets mad and says, "You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it." And then Elisha dies. (Really I'm not doing it completely justice... go and read the passage!)
Here are the points that our guest speaker had as he went through the passage.(It took notes because I was so impressed with how he got something that wasn't there!)
1. Crying is good as long as its real. Fathers listen to their crying children.
2. Bows and arrows are like prayers against Satan.
3. Pray is like incense that is a beautiful aroma to God.
4. The king did not have direct communcation with God, so the prophet had to help him.
Which means that we must teach new believers how to pray.
5. If you ask wrongly (meaning doubting and without faith) He will not answer your prayers.
6. Pray with windows open towards Jerusalem (he gave Daniel's example how he prayed 3 times a day, windows open toward Jerusalem).
7. Prayer without passion does not have power. If you do not hit the ground (like the king struck the ground with the bow), Satan wins.

Here is the thing with some of these points... they are not necessarily WRONG. Yes, we must teach new believers how to pray. Yes, prayer is how we fight against the Devil... but here is what truly saddened my heart. This man is taking any old passage of Scripture and making it say exactly what he wants it to say without any regard to context... and the people of the church are eating it up.

My desire for the church is Loja is that the believers in it would learn to study the Bible for themselves. I long for them to know the truth of the Word and that would set them free from legalism and fear. Please continue to pray for the pastors and believers in Loja, that they would peach the truth of the gospel boldly and correctly.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Boy of Many Questions...

David is Melissa (one of my employees)'s cousin. He is 14 years old and asks a TON of questions.
-What are you doing?
-Why do you do it that way?
-Why are you here?
And my favorite lead in questions...
-Why aren't you Catholic?
This question led is into lots of other questions.
-What's the difference between Catholics and Protestants?
-Do we have the same Bible?
-Why don't you pray to Mary?
All of these questions led to the Bible. We pulled it out and started answering his questions. We talked about how salvation was by grace through faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross and that there was nothing that we could DO that would be good enough to get us into heaven. We talked about how Mary was an amazing woman, but that a relationship with God was only obtained through Jesus Christ. He nodded along like he understood all this, though still thinking it was quite unbelievable that I wasn't a Catholic.
And the final questions:
-What would I have to do if I wanted to be a Christian? Is there some ceremony you have to do or something?
I had to hold back a small grin at the last question. I showed him in Ephesians 2:8-9 how it says that it is only by grace we are saved through faith. And then we looked at John where it says whoever believes has eternal life.
All this was met with puzzled looks and a slight nod... then it was time for him to go. David still has a lot of questions, but one thing is for sure... he is searching. I love the passage in Jeremiah that say, "You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart."
My prayer is that he keeps asking those questions and finding his answers in the Word of God!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

You never know when it'll be your last...

We were getting ready to leave for Cuenca on Friday night when Tabitha called me. “Jose Gabriel died.” If you don’t remember him from about a year and a bit ago, he was the kid that I listened to one day as he poured out his heart (If you wanna read the story from last year, click here). He told me about his family situation and how his dad had lived in Spain for more than half his life.
He had not just made friend with me, he had also made friends with Tabitha, one of the missionary kids. Last week Tab met with Gabriel and as they talked, she just laid it all out for him. He claimed to be a believer, but he just wasn’t living like it. Tab told me later that she had never been so blunt with anyone. She spoke the truth fearlessly into his life… and that was the last time she ever talked with him.
Gabriel’s friend, a fellow believer was the one who told me about the whole incident. He said that that conversation with Tabitha was the best one of his life. Gabriel said that she challenged him to get his life together and start living for Jesus. The Friday night before he died he told his friend that he had a dream that a man in all white came to him and said, “Don’t be afraid. Come to me.” His friend told him, “Jesus is calling you! Run to him!” But what he didn’t realize was that Jesus wasn’t just calling him to walk with Him, but to come home.
That Sunday night, Gabriel’s cousin went to his house looking for help. The cousin wanted to commit suicide and Gabriel was trying to talk him out of it. He was telling him how life was worth living. They were on the fourth floor balcony of Gabriel’s house when the cousin tried to jump. Gabriel grabbed him and while pulling him back grabbed an electrical wire electrocuting himself and vaulting him off the balcony. They rushed him to the hospital, but it was too late. He was gone.
As the girls and I were talking about what happened this weekend, we started praying for the cousin whose life was saved by Gabriel and I started thinking, ‘This cousin now has an obligation to live his life to the fullest because its no longer his, its actually Gabriel’s… which was taken from him.’
And then I realized that this was a new picture of what Christ did for me. He allowed himself to be killed so that I wouldn’t have to die.
Someone gave their life for you… its as if you are living the life that SHOULD have been theirs. You are not your own. You were bought by someone else’s life. Honor Him with all you are.
I think about Tab’s last conversation with Gabriel. She spoke truth deep into his soul. She held back nothing. I am amazed by her courage and the way she allowed the Lord to use her. You just never know when a conversation you how with someone will be their last. Make it count.