Saturday, January 27, 2007

Ramblings - The Lord is My Shepherd

Last Tuesday my daughter Alexis and I were serving at the children's feeding center at Mt. Sinai Church. I was downstairs with the children listening to the pre-meal Bible lesson. This is great practice for my Spanish because they tend to speak slowly and don't use big words. The lesson started with the children reciting Psalm 23.

I've heard Psalm 23 recited more times than I can remember. I've studied, taught, and preached on this passage, and like most of the children at the feeding center, I can recite it from memory. This is a great Psalm to remind us of the blessings, provision, and protection we have through our Lord Jesus Christ. However, as soon as they finished the first line I realized this Psalm may mean something different to these children.

"The lord is my shepherd I shall not be in me the entire Psalm sounded like a blaring contradiction to the environment in which these children exist. I wondered how in the world could these children recite this and really believe it, then I realized something rather profound...which for me doesn't happen often. Never been accused of being the sharpest knife in the drawer.
The fact that I was sitting in a feeding center in Costa Rica, inside a small community church, listening to children recite Psalm 23, before eating a free meal was proof of God's provision and blessing. The fact that many of these unchurched children are being taught to trust and follow the Good Shepherd, who promises to never leave them of forsake them, is part of "God's guiding in righteousness". The fact they are getting a meal shows that He has "prepared a table before them". The fact that He has provided a loving pastor and church full of caring adults that have created a safe environment "so they fear no evil".

I'm not claiming that because of this ministry their lives are now perfect. They still live in poverty, in broken homes, in a dangerous neighborhood. By no means are their lives perfect. However, God's work through this ministry they may see some real examples of His provision and protection in their lives. Maybe they will learn to trust in God more and more with each feeding and start to see that God really is as great as He claims to be throughout His word.
So be encouraged and excited about what is happening here in Costa Rica. I challenge you to go and read Psalm 23 and look for ways that God provides and blesses you everyday. If that isn't enough to excite you, be excited that God is taking your offerings of prayer and support and using them to change lives here in Costa Rica!

Monday, January 1, 2007

Ramblings - Light in the Darkness

A cool thing happened the other night when I went to the center of downtown Alajuelita. I was on a mission to feed the homeless and joined by my daughter Alexis, my friend Jorge, and a small missionary team that is visiting from Florida. We were armed with bags containing personal hygiene products, cups of juice, and a sack full of empanadas. (A empanada is kind of like a Costa Rican hot pocket.)

In most cities in Costa Rica the center of downtown kind of the pride the city. It has a park, a fountain, bus stops, a catholic church, and the municipality. In Alajuelita is no exception, except that town square can be a scary place after dark. Many drugs dealers, drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, homeless, and other shady characters gather for their own version of community. Many of these "dregs of society" are my friends, to be honest I'm not sure why, but I have learned to genuinely love many of them.

We set-up under one of the only light posts in the park, we prayed, and stood ready to serve. Then something strange happened...because nothing happened! Nobody approached us at all, this was very unusual, normally a gringo can't walk through the park without being approached by at least one beggar asking for food or money! I figured a team of gringos with food and drinks, would bring them in like moths to flame! I was dead wrong.

I wasn't going to accept defeat so easy! I ventured out into the darkness in search of my friends. I found a couple and brought them to the gathering, the team served them while Jorge shared and prayed with them. I immediately left to go get must have been a funny site to this weird looking gringo herding the bums in the park. Not everyone I approached wanted to come, some refused and even insulted or threatened me, but many did follow me back to the group.

By the end of the night a neat thing started to happen. Those that had came started to go out and bring others! One of my homeless friends named Javier must have brought eight different people back. Even the ones that were originally insulting and threatening me moved closer to see what all the commotion was about. The night was a success and we eventually ran out of food, and drinks, and bags and left for home.

God taught me a important lesson through this experience. I learned that I need to be willing to go out into the darkness and lead people into the light. I often expect others to see the light, and run to it because it's better, but maybe they don't know it's better? Maybe what they need to be loved into the light? I also watched all of them leave the light to return to the darkness. Unfortunately, most of them are still drug addicts, alcoholics, and prostitutes, But I will still love them the same. I've come to understand that I can't control the results, it's not my job to evaluate God's performance, or demand better results. I can only love each of them and trust God with the results. I do know many seeds were planted, many of them listened to the gospel message, and received prayer as well as loved in the name of Christ, and that is powerful enough to change lives. Mother Teresa once said..."In life we cannot do great things; we can only do small things with great love." I think she may have been on to something?
In closing I want to challenge you to charge into the darkness. Carry the light of Christ to a lost and dying world. I've found it to be scary, exciting, and full of joy all at once. I'm so thankful I have the light, but I can't completely enjoy it while there are so many of my friends living in darkness.

Thanks again for all the prayers and support. God is using your gifts to allow us to be here shining light in the darkness in our part of the world.