I am working on a Book project so the purpose of publishing it here is for feedback and clarity on experiences and ideas that I share, It is very rough and so please understand that.
Why take the time and effort to write a book anyway?
What is Normal? When people think about Millennial’s raised in America, what is their common upbringing look like? How do people fit into the mold of culture and society?
My life by most American standards has felt anything but normal. I was raised in a family that never seems to stop growing, I have seven brothers and two sisters, a niece, and two nephews. I know it’s a lot, neither of my parents graduated from college so hard work and frugality were central to my upbringing. We lived in Tulsa, OK most of my life and many of my memories are from 81st and Lewis where I attended Church, High-School, Bible School, and College, then I have worked in the area a lot over the past few years. Even with a large family that did not have a lot financially, I learned many practical skills growing up, and traveled often with my church on mission’s trips around the world. During some internships, I have traveled to many small churches around the United States and to Mexico on countless trips.
I was not a typical Missionary, my parents were not missionaries or pastors, and I never felt called to preach on stage. I have given my testimony and spoken on various trips, but I never felt like that was my calling and purpose in life. It was not until 2008 that I began to see the opportunities in missions’ work that made my heart come alive. A spark in my soul ignited dreams within when I went on a trip where the central focus was to build a home for a family that needed a better living situation. In 2010, I spent the first of four summers in Haiti establishing a mission’s base and building homes for families that had lost nearly everything in a massive earthquake that devastated the already struggling nation. I love the Church for its ability to show the world hope during disaster and destruction. Through the opportunities that I have had on different trips I have been in so many different roles on short term trips that the perspective I have is vastly different than many people that go on short term trips. At one time or another I have been: a kid, a youth, a young adult, a leader, a contact, a driver, almost a translator, a worship leader, a mechanic, and filled so many roles while on these trips.
It is from this unique upbringing and experience that I hope to be able to share some wisdom and insight into missions and ministry life, and also how to trust God and cope with uncertainty and disappointment with the fulfillment of your dreams and ministry calling.
When I was a kid I thought that I would turn eighteen and move across the world and be a missionary and change the whole world for Jesus. So, I did what I knew to do and that was begin to explore and travel as much as I could when I was on break from school. School seemed to be this unnecessary constraint to fulfilling the calling and purpose for my life. What I discovered over time has been that there is so much about the world that I do not know, and that I if I am willing to study and learn, when I do travel it will be that much more helpful to the people that I visit. In pausing this year to write, I hope to be able to share some of the joys and challenges, the wisdom and knowledge that I have gained, by waiting and learning, rather than just boarding a plane and doing missions work.
Learning can be accomplished by reading, studying, and experiencing, along with I’m sure a multitude of other ways, but that is how I have begun to learn what I know so far in life. Of course, there is asking questions, and listening to those who are older and wiser or with different experiences than our own. So, I have read a lot of books, listened to a lot of podcasts and church sermons, and watched many missionaries live their lives both on the field and off the field.
The internal struggle of not going. What if I missed it? What if I am disobeying? What if I don’t have the faith to trust? Why am I still here when I have watched so many others go?
These are some of the questions that challenge and kind of haunt me when I slow down and just have time to think of ministry and missions. My story holds some of the answers, traveling on short term missions while being in school created the image that going would always only be temporary before returning home to recover and refresh. In 2012 and 2013 during trips to Haiti that lasted over two months long I experienced physical challenges that made me reconsider longer term missions from a health and longevity perspective, returning from those two summer trips I could feel physical fatigue and illness for almost four months following those trips. In 2007 in the middle of a two-month long trip to Panama my sister died in an unexpected accident and I was left with the question of how to trust God and a decision that going on missions was my life and no obstacle would hinder me from going.
How do you balance returning to a place with finding new places to visit? There will always be new places that need what God has placed inside your life, while the impact you can make in making disciples on consistent trips to the same place are incomparable. The calling and purpose you have for missions may very well be both. Consistent places that you visit to strengthen the disciples of Jesus that you have met, as well as creating new relationships with people who need to hear of the love of God for the first time.
So what was the question again? Why take the time to write? Because maybe, just maybe this will be helpful to one person who is still unsure, one person who is still questioning, one person who needs encouragement that whatever their day looked like today, it was worth it, it made a difference, and it was important.
Principles & Lessons:
- Discipline –
- Instruction from the aged –
- Encouragement –
- Dreams –
- Run to the Lord –
- help the poor –
- The Lord directs our steps –
- A Moment –
- Contentment –
Discipline – the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience. Oxford Dictionary
What does it mean to live a life of discipline? What does it mean to live a life that follows the rules that are set for success?
People in America have neglected the truths not only of the Bible but of human relationships. There has been a tradeoff of patience and careful planning for instant gratification and appearance.
“Discipline is choosing what you want Most over what you want Now.” – Craig Groeschel
Encouragement – the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope. Oxford Dictionary
In my life, encouragement from others, may be the most influential reason for why I am the person that I am today.
Help the Poor – Proverbs 19:17 – “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord – and he will repay you!
Much of my life has been spent helping those in need, traveling internationally and to many parts of the United States. I have spent time building and working on projects in so many places, and giving encouragement and insight to people in many places. It has been such a joy to partner with God’s vision to help people who are in need.
“You would never have believed your own weakness had you not needed to pass through trials. And you would never have known God’s strength had His strength not been needed to carry you through.” – Charles H. Spurgeon
The Lord Directs Our Steps – Proverbs 20:24 – “The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?”
I have spent much of my life following, because in following I have learned the confidence to lead. I have watched leaders make decisions and have seen them stand by their word, I have also seen leaders who are willing to admit when they are a fault, and reconcile with those they have wronged. Leading people comes easily for me, because I have learned how to follow well, and have learned what those who are following need from their leaders.
I am by no means a perfect leader, nor a perfect follower, on many a journey I have lost direction and have needed guidance, yet the Lord has been faithful to lead in so many moments, that I am confident He will speak to my heart as I continue to walk with Him.
What I have found in my life to be the most important part in the process is that I continue to move, that I do not sit still for so long that I become stagnant, if I stay in motion I can hear and sense whether I am traveling in the right direction, or if I should change directions. He desires nothing more than that we would listen and invite Him to come alongside us in the journey. He never intends that we should travel alone. His goal is not to set a waypoint ten years in the future of where we are heading and then leave us alone as we travel, instead he wants to be right beside us in the passenger seat leading the way and pointing out which turns to make and which intersections to stop at and refuel.
We must constantly remind ourselves that we are not traveling alone. Our feelings will too often lie and say that we are traveling with no headlights and no directions, however, if we open our hearts, then we will discover that we not only have the light of the world but also the most accurate direction in the seat right next to us at all times.
I am convinced that we are driving the car, however daunting that may sound, we have the free will to choose what we do with our lives, that is what makes us human, yet the truest guide for our souls is the Lord if we will choose to follow.
“When you grow up in the battle, you don’t fear the war.” – Erwin McManus Chasing Daylight p. 242
A Moment – A very brief period of time.
“What if you knew somewhere in front of you was a moment that would change your life forever, a moment rich with potential, a moment filled with endless possibilities? … How would you treat that moment? How would you prepare for it? How would you identify it?” – Erwin McManus P. 8 Chasing Daylight
So often we pass through life without ever pausing to reflect on what is truly valuable and how our lives would have been so drastically different if we had not pursued certain intentional and divine moments.
Contentment – A state of happiness and satisfaction – Oxford Dictionaries.
“O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.” Proverbs 30:7-9 NLT
How do we run from the American Cultural norm of always wanting more, always desiring what is next, always seeking something new? How do we just stop and focus on what we have right now?
I struggle with areas of contentment, but I have seen how restraint and patience can result in such a great reward in our lives.
“My son, obey your father’s commands, and don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. Keep their words always in your heart. Tie them around your neck. When you walk, their counsel will lead you. When you sleep, they will protect you. When you wake up, they will advise you. For their command is a lamp and their instruction a light; their corrective discipline is the way to life.”
Proverbs 6:20-23 NLT
Command – give an authoritative order.
Instruction – a direction or order. – detailed information telling how something should be done,
operated, or assembled.
Counsel – advice, especially that given formally.
Advise – offer suggestions about the best course of action to someone.
Discipline – the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment
to correct disobedience.
Proverbs 18:10 – The name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe.
The safest place the we can find ourselves is close to the Lord. In Him is where we find who we are and all that we need. He is a safe place in our struggles and in our trying times. Being close to Him causes the stress and the cares to subside, as we focus on Him the other things become less important. He gives rest and more grace to accomplish all that we need to do.
Desire – a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.
I can honestly say the central desire of my life has been to travel and do missions work, yet it has also been the most consistent thing that I have both been involved with and longed to do. One might ask how this paradox is possible, and that is because most of my missions’ experiences have been short, and the traveling now becomes mostly on weekend adventures to places that are not too far away. Between these two things have been a consistent city to call home for most of my life, and familiarity with the people that I do life with. There have been incredible times and experiences of traveling and missions throughout my life, where I have come to know cultures and people groups in a unique way that I am honored to have experienced. I have seen missions and outreach done well, and times when it was done so poorly I wanted to abandon the faith because of the perception of Christianity that was being left with the people of various nations by well-intentioned Americans.
Desire gives way to hope that encourages a person when the current circumstances make life nearly unbearable. Desire compels a person to action that makes a way for things to be different. Desire give way to change. Desire needs to be fulfilled or it will die.
Knowing a person’s deep desires takes intentional time and effort, it won’t come up in a simple passing conversation, but only in an intimate heartfelt conversation where there is no agenda or time constraint.
The Journey as I remember it.
It all began with a flight to Puerto Rico, I was only eight years old then so pardon the limited extent of the memories I have from that time. But it is important because it was the beginning, the start of an unknown, the intro to what could become of a life given to someone else. Now I by no means have been perfect, there have been so many personal struggles and challenges that I have walked through, but having a set point gives direction in life when there are moments of drifting away from what you know to be true about your life and calling. The greatest takeaway that I have from that trip was to have fun and enjoy all that there is to experience about the people you are with and the people you are going to minister to in the country that you find yourself in.
Most of the trips I have taken in my life have lasted a week to ten days, however there have been a few that were a month or two months long, short term missions are effective when done with a heart to love the people you are with, no matter how long those trips are.
Mexico combined and scattered, I will have to look at my notes but I have been to different parts of Mexico about ten different times, border towns and deeper into central Mexico, as well as the Baja Peninsula south of California. The culture and friendliness of Mexican people is second to none, I have had so many encounters with Mexican culture through my life, they are the hardest working ethnic group that gets the least amount of credit for their perseverance in any situation.
Guatemala 2000 and 2014 – My first trip to Guatemala was as a kid, the second time was as a College student, the two things I can take away from this place are the diversity of cultures that can be found in the places that we go. We consider a Country and think, oh they must all be the same, but then the longer you are in a place, the more you realize that there are vast differences in the family and history backgrounds of people in each country. The Native Indian cultures are so prevalent and visible in Guatemala and each nationality brings so much diversity and uniqueness.
Kenya 2004 – This was my first experience with abject poverty. On this trip, I watched kids on the streets sniff glue out of baby food jars to quench the hunger pains they had for the first time, yet they still held the brightest smiles and warmest expressions of acceptance and joy at our being with them for a short moment.
Haiti 2010 – 2013 – Learning what living on a mission’s field and establishing a mission’s base really looks like. I got to Haiti after an earthquake to discover that work was going to be the central aspect of my life for the next several weeks.
Discovering that what we build on earth is sometimes so temporary that it is painful – I spent two summers building a mission’s base where so many wonderful things were done and so much ministry took place, and then the organization moved causing me to question if all that work was even worth it, and struggling to cope with the internal struggle of loss and the joy of beginning again in a new place.
Everything we do on earth is temporary, so when we begin to realize the significance of relationships that point to Christ it all makes more sense.
Pine Ridge – The first time I went up to the Rez I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was invited by a pastor and a missionary that I had met in Haiti the summer before. We would be working on a gym and playground for some kids at a church. Oh how little did I know then what this place would become in my heart. A refuge, a safe place, a home, and a community where God alone was at work. Deep in the hearts of his people in a place so far away from most things that were familiar to me.
Commitment and consistency, serving another person’s vision because God desires that we build his kingdom together. I thought that I would just go once to see what this friend of mine Jake was doing up in the middle of nowhere, and then I saw, and I was hooked on having to be a part of what God was doing in a place that was so forgotten.
Panama 2007 – I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Returning to purpose and calling even when the most tragic experiences in life come at you.
This ended up being two trips sandwiched between the most tragic family event that has occurred in my family or personal life. About one month into my summer long trip my sister who was on a mission’s trip to Costa Rica was swept into the ocean and drown. Broken, confused, and in shock I left Panama to join my brother, mom and dad in Costa Rica to pray and bring my sister back home to Oklahoma. I did not really know how to process what had happened or what was going on, but endured the funeral and condolences, then found my way fighting to get back to Panama where I could be back doing what honestly was most familiar to me. Twelve days after leaving to be with family and friends I was once again in Panama on the islands and then in the jungle outside of Panama City.
Grief and the process that we cannot comprehend until we have experienced it very closely is an indescribable process. You think that everything is fine, but then the emotions, feelings, and thoughts come crashing in from what seems like from nowhere.