May 9, 2012

How to expect the unexpected

“Here I am, Lord, send me!” are the words that mark a Christian servant. David and I both said these words when we were just barely teenagers. We experienced a turning point in our walk with the Lord and knew that someday we would be missionaries. When that day came we of course had our expectations and preconceived notions about what we would do and what our lives would look like when we landed in Puerto Rico October 2004. In 2005 God led us to begin New Day Christian Ministry.  At first it was just one small church but now we have 46 churches around the world, 2 of them being in PR.

Although church planting is an important part of our ministry it is not the only thing on our plate. God has led us to do many things and meet many people along the way that might seem arbitrary and random to most people. Yet these encounters and activities have become an intercut part of our daily ministry. We have come to expect the unexpected when we wake up in the morning. We never know who we might meet at our local gas station or store, or what blessings may fall on us or what form of tragedy might happen.

This last month we have had an abundance of all 3. We have been abundantly blessed in different ways; we have met many people and been blessed by them and been able to be a blessing to them and their families; we have also experienced a mountain of heartache this month. I would like to briefly share a few examples of each:

When we returned from Kenya we hit the ground running with plans to begin our second PR church branch. We have been blessed with the opportunity to share a church building with Hormigueros Baptist Church. The last few weeks we have traveled there many times preparing the building.  This last Sunday was our first service. We have a lot of work ahead of us and we are very excited at the incredible blessing of starting another branch and being able to meet in a church building. We eagerly wait to see how God will grow this church.

As we have been preparing for this church start, we faced a significant transportation challenge. Because of the distance needed to travel back and forth for this church start we needed to make sure our vehicle was in working order. We took it in for an inspection at our local auto shop and upon receiving an estimate for repairs we were very disappointed. The estimate was over $1500 to repair the breaks and front suspension. When we shared this with our friend, who is a certified mechanic, he quickly offered to help us do any repairs if we bought the parts. We eagerly accepted and bought what we thought were the necessary parts recommended to us by the auto shop. However, when David and our friend began disassembling the van they quickly realized several things were missing and several things that supposedly needed replaced were in good condition. David went back a few times to the auto shop and returned parts and exchanged them for different ones. Our friend also showed us that metal was showing through on our front tires. After replacing the breaks, front suspension and two new tires we spent only $500. Praise the Lord for this incredible blessing. We are so thankful to our friend for his immense help!

While we were preparing for our new church and also fixing the van we received word that a friend was in the ICU. Seven years ago when we started NDCM we needed a post office box. Harry, a postal worker for over 20 years, helped us open one. Through the years we shared stories of our families and different mile stones in our lives. When we became pregnant we excitedly shared pictures and when Hannah was born we brought her in to meet Harry and the rest of our postal friends. Every time we went away on mission trips to Kenya or on furlough to the States he not only personally took care of our mail but he served us and our ministry in a unique and important way. Three weeks ago he was admitted into the ICU for double pneumonia and a few days later died of a heart attack. David was honored to be asked by the family to perform a service and conduct the spreading of his ashes. 

Not more than a day after Harry’s service we received a text from one of David’s closest friends in the States that his mother-in-law had been rushed to the hospital with a brain aneurysm. Sadly she passed away the next morning. We had enjoyed several family get-togethers with his in-laws and had hoped to get to know her better. With so much tragedy in such a short time we were hopeful that the worst had passed. Unfortunately this was not to be.

As many of our friends know almost a year ago our close friend here in PR, Javier, was killed. Five years ago we met Javier at a gas station. David was speaking English and that intrigued Javier enough to approach us and talk for a few minutes. We exchanged contact info and went our separate ways. Five minutes after separating he calls and asks for prayer for some of his friends. This encounter led to meeting his family members, sharing holidays/birthdays and many visits to each others’ homes. On June 4, 2011 upon arriving at his house to show him our new puppy we learned that just a few short minutes before he had been shot and killed. His brother was an eye witness and identified the shooter which led to an arrest. The unexpectedness of his death and having him so violently taken from this earth and the closeness we had with him has left a void in our lives here in PR. This whole year we have been in and out of court, every time reliving the tragedy and pain. This past week a verdict of not guilty was issued and our expectations for a legally just ending was cruelly taken away from us by a corrupt judicial system.  

Literally on the same day that this verdict was given we left the court house to go and be with our friend Nelson and his family for the viewing of his brother. Five years ago through a mutual friend we met this young Deaf man, Nelson. He began attending our church along with his hearing sister’s. We also began to get to know his other family members. We have gotten to know his family through the years. Nelson is the only Deaf member in his family. He has grown so much in the Lord that he is now the Deaf leader for our Juana Diaz branch. One week ago to this day Nelsons older brother was shot and killed. Family members flew in, arrangements were made and David and I stayed with Nelson to be his voice during the viewing and funeral. It was so heartbreaking to interpret for Nelson at the gravesite as he said words of love to his deceased brother and fellow family members.

In the midst of this tragedy, like those before, our families have come together. We have formed new friendships and older friendships have been strengthened.

When a Christian says, “Here I am, Lord, send me” there is no way to prepare someone for the unexpected life of servant hood. Ministry comes in all shapes and sizes and we must be ready in season and out of season. I have found that in order to be ready to pour out the love of God to those I surround myself with, I must first have my cup filled with the things of the Lord.

Being a missionary comes with many preconceived ideas of a scheduled and neat life of church on the weekends and leading people to salvation in Christ. If that were the case I am almost positive there would be many more missionaries out in the field. Christ didn’t call his disciples to a neat and scheduled life of preaching. He called them to GO and MAKE disciples. That task of “going” and “making” are no way neat and scheduled. In order to “go” and “make” it requires surrendering all, not just possessions, but your own expectations, ideas, pride, comfort and having a balanced budget every month! It requires getting ones hands shoulder deep in the work of the ministry; sometimes you are blessed beyond belief by God unexpectedly in different ways by different people, sometimes God leads you into someone’s life unexpectedly and you never know why until an opportunity (or maybe many opportunities) presents itself for you to be a blessing or be blessed.

“Here I am, Lord, send me” doesn’t come with a rule book or a schedule book. These words must come from a place that is ready everyday for the unexpected activity of serving others in unimaginable way’s.