Monday, November 24, 2008

A Tico thanksGIVING...

Costa Ricans normally don't celebrate Thanksgiving. Why would they? What do they care about the first harvest feast between the American Indians and the English settlers? They don't watch much American Football, and they don't eat the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. In Costa Rica it's just another day. However, one man is trying to bring Thanksgiving to Costa Rica.
His name is Rob, and he loves Jesus. Actually, he loves Jesus so much, that he's really starting to look like Him. Not in the physical sense. His strongest resemblance is his love and compassion for the poor.
Rob is the mission director at Mason Community Church. He had a radical idea to raise money to feed the poor of Alajuelita. He explained that in view of God's blessing they have received, they wanted to show their gratitude by sharing part of thier bounty with those in need. Wow, what a concept! Sounds just like something Jesus would do.
Rob presented the idea to the church, and God blessed it. The church was able to raise over $1,200 in only two weeks! Did I mention that Mason Community Church is a chuch body of about 200 people, and that Mason Community Church is in Michigan? One of the states hit hardest by our current economic situation. God is truely awesome!
Rob brought the money that was raised, and God seemed to multiply their offering. They were able to purchase almost half a ton of food. That is a lot of rice and beans!
He systematically divided the food for delivery to some of the poorest of Alajuelita.
As we delivered the food to hungry families, the Ticos were overwhelmed with gratitude and thankfulness. Many smiled though teary eyes, while other were just in shock. God was using Rob to answer many of their prayers!
I'm thankful to God for using Rob to help me understand thanksGIVING in a new way. We are all very thankful for God's blessing and provision. However, rather than just saying thank you, let's show it. I find it a little strange that on the day we set aside to show our gratitude for what we have received, we often aren't compelled to give. We typically say thank you, and then sit around and stuff ourselves!
As your family prepares to celebrate God's blessing this year, maybe you can try something radical in your own neighborhood. This year, let's make it a thanksGIVING. Find someone in need with whom you can share some of your blessings from God. I believe that if we can learn to share what God has given us freely, God will use it to change the world!

Medicines, Missions, and Magic...

Last week we had the awesome privilege of hosting our first ever medical mission team. The team of medical professionals sacrificed their time and money for an opportunity to bless others.
The team came prepared with basic medical equipment and several trunks stuffed full of vitamins and prescription medications. The plan was to spend some time on the front end doing house calls, and then open free clinics in the local churches. Over the course of the week God allowed the team to treat over 550 patients!
It was incredible to watch God work through the team. They compassionately used their skills to treat the people's physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. It seemed that every patient was prayed for at least once, which led to several of the patients praying to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Out of all the incredible stories, some tragically sad and others full of joy, one story stands out to me the most. It was the team's very last day, we had closed the clinic and were ready to walk out the door to go home. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. As I opened the door, I recognized the elderly woman standing in front of me. It was Maria. She lives in a small shack down by the river, and had the reputation of being a practicing witch.
MariaYes, I said a witch, as in black magic, casting hexes, and brewing potions. She came asking for physical healing, but had no any idea what she was about to receive. I quickly explained the situation regarding her reputation of being a witch to the mission team. They embraced the challenge.
As she limped up the steps, and the mission team sprang into action. One of the doctors took her into the closest bathroom, which was suddenly transformed into an exam room. The rest of the team started to pray for this woman. They laid hands on the walls of the examine room, they prayed over the new socks they were about to give her. As they bathed the situation in prayer, God answered! Before long this woman was sitting in a chair surrounded by the mission team. They engulfed her with the love of Christ, and she responded by praying and committing her life to God!Since the incident, we have visited her, and given her food and prayer. She is full of smiles, and praises God for sending the missionaries. I don't know what kind of magic or sorcery Maria practiced in the past, but now she has the awesome power of the love of Jesus Christ in her. Although it's not really magic, it almost always feels magical.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fight the Good Fight

I'm sitting in the Orlando Airport reflecting over the past few weeks. As I type this, I'm riding an emotional rollercoaster. I realize that I'm physically very tired, which is probably adding to the waves of heavy sadness that keep crashing over me. I'm fighting off the attacks through forcing myself to remember the exciting ministry God has waiting for us in Costa Rica. The pain diminishes as I'm motivated by God's calling, my strength and joy return, but I fear this is only temporary as I can feel waves building on the horizon.

Our trip to the Untied States was a whirlwind of preaching, meetings, visits, and events. God allowed our time to be very fruitful for His Kingdom. During our stay, Cross Creek Church committed to fund the Children's Feeding Center Ministry for another year. God allowed us to find sponsors for almost all of the children currently in the Child Sponsorship Ministry. We officially announced and celebrated the ministry expansion to Guatemala, and as if that wasn't enough...Celebration Church has committed to start a church plant in Alajuelita! What a great God we serve!

While it's extremely exciting to be used by God in this capacity, it can also be very challenging. The pressure and responsibility of leading can be very burdensome. Part of me would like to stay in Jacksonville, and never have to leave again. However, I know that is the desire of my flesh and not my heart.

This is an ongoing battle between my flesh and my heart. My flesh longs and seeks physical comfort. My flesh believes that my personal pursuit for happiness is the most important thing. I can hear the lie, "it's all about me, I deserve it!" My flesh would rather be first, and it desires the praise of men. My flesh believes the lies of the world that claim that joy is found in physical wealth and beauty. However, in direct contrast my heart knows that my life is not my own, and it's all about Him. I need to strive to put God and others first, and greatness is found though serving. In my heart I know that joy is found in following the call of Christ; even if He is calling you to leave your comfortable life, friends, and family. I know He is calling me to get on the plane and return to Costa Rica.

Isn't that the battle everyday? I don't know about your experience, but I suspect it's the same as mine. The Christian walk is a fight, and most of the time we are our own worst enemy. In the New Testament, Paul exhorts Timothy on a couple occasions to "fight the good fight". This is what I need to remember, I need to be challenged to fight the good fight. Paul realized that we are in a battle, and the fight can be incredibly difficult at times. Sadly, sometimes we forget we are in a battle and simply stop fighting. We give up and start living out the desires of the flesh. Often times it's nothing all that sinister, just subtle changes that change our heart and we become ineffective and discouraged.

I don't think I'll ever understand why God called me to lead His ministry, but I'm humbled and honored by the calling. I know that He likes to choose the weak, foolish, and lowly things, so I know I'm more than qualified. However, it's my prayer that though His grace and power in my life that some day I can claim, as Paul did, that I fought the good fight.

Thank you all for the faithful love and support you have shown to my family and God's ministry here. Please pray that He will continue to use us to bear much fruit and that He will give the strength and faith to keep on fighting.