This year’s team is in Nicaragua and blogging at http://missiontonicaragua.wordpress.com/
Real maturity only comes after a season of alienation and desertion, and to continue maturing we’ll need many of these seasons.
We all have a progression to our faith journey; in different seasons we may be growing in maturity and our sensitivity to the Spirit. In other seasons, we may be struggling with a temptation or difficulty that perhaps even isolates us. The former is usually a season of favor and abundance; the latter a season of alienation and desertion.
Look at the progression in the person of Jesus:
“Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52
“The Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:22
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil…The devil said to him:
… If you are the Son of God
… I will give you all this
… If you are the Son of God” Luke 4:2-10
Notice how quickly even Jesus is taken from a season of favor & abundance, into a season of alienation and desertion. The bedrock of his identity as God’s Son is used against him in the temptation. Then, the ruler of this world offers the world to him, literally. Jesus met each temptation with Scripture, standing firm and maturing as he fought with his enemy.
We have all known times of temptation when our identity is used against us to create doubt and fear in our lives. The enemy is working to paralyze our identity so that we cannot move in the ways the Spirit leads.
We have all known times of temptation when the things of this world are offered to us to become a hindrance or weight or stronghold in our lives. The enemy is working to entangle us in the things of his kingdom so that we cannot function appropriately in God’s Kingdom.
We’ve seen these at play this week, but with the right eyes and ears we have also seen them at play in our own hearts. We have begun to have conversation as a group about what the Lord is shaping in each one of us; areas where he is reforming our identity and removing things from this world. Join us in prayer, as we come into our last two days here, that the same Lord who taught the Son lessons of maturity in the desert, would continue to teach us and lead us
Hope is such an elusive thing when your days are filled with despair. Like trying to walk in faith, in the midst of fear, is trying to hold on to hope in the midst of despair. They are antithetical to one another; not just opposites which mirror differences, but actually working against each other.
Yesterday, we had two significant experiences where we saw hope overcome despair. The first was spending the morning visiting with families who had been rescued from La Chureca into a Christian community about 45 minutes away from Managua in Masaya. A small number of families call this place, Chacocente (http://www.outofthedump.org/v3/), their home. They learn to farm, create, sell their produce and crafts, their kids go to a great school on site, and the families have their own homes. It’s a beautiful project that is doing the long, hard work of restoration, one family at a time. Dan & Jessenia have a vision to do a similar thing in the future…
We also went back to the girl’s home that D/J run for the afternoon, and went on a spontaneous walk with the girls to a cliff close by where you can see the sea over the mountain tops. After the kids and our team played in the high grass, we all sat down to share stories with each other. After a few of the girls shared, one little girl shared her story. With tears and her face in her hands, she shared for the first time ever that she was abused sexually a by her uncle, who soon after committed suicide. Dan & Jessenia knew about this from her mother, but she has never spoken of it until this day. She was obviously carrying around so many emotions, but mainly shame and guilt. We immediately began to pray with her, surrounding her, and this went on for nearly an hour. Even her house-mates, some of whom were only 5-7 years old, prayed along with us. When we finished praying, we sang some songs together there, as the sun set over the mountains, and a little girl began the process of healing.
What happened in her yesterday, reminded me of these two Psalms, written while David was in a cave and being pursued by his enemy. We can read these and know that spiritually, our enemy pursues us, and so we can take on the spiritual movement of these Psalms as the type of progression that can happen in our lives, as it did yesterday in the life of a little daughter of the King:
“Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me! Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name! The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me. – Psalm 142:4-7
Notice how the cries are answered by being surrounded with the righteous; the community of Jesus functions as the answer to the cries of so many who are walking in despair. As we pray for them and intercede for them, we speak against the enemies lies and pursuit of them, and bring truth that builds hope and faith!
“In you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge until the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!” Psalm 57:1-3
And here we see what is meant by refuge: that there is no place for shame in our lives; the shame belongs to the enemy… the only thing that has place in our life is the steadfast love and faithfulness of our God.
we had a rich day yesterday, spending much of the day visiting with people in La Chureca that Dan/Jessenia are cultivating relationships with. They are greeted by so many with joy, and it is apparent that they are earning trust in this broken community as ones who represent Christ and his love. We were able to listen to the stories and pray with about a half-dozen families; the stories are impossible to convey and duplicate, but suffice to say they are filled with brokenness, heartbreak, and generational cycles. Each story is different, but in each one you can see Christ at work to bring wholeness and healing, to fulfill his promises to his sons and daughters. It was striking that there was a common theme today of people who shared their story of at one time getting out of the dump, through a job, a home, etc… but choosing to return to it for various reasons.
Even those in great need of restoration will turn away from the opportunity because it is uncomfortable to change.
Seeing such tangible examples of people in need of restoration, in every sense of the word, brought us to a rich discussion of Jeremiah 3 & 33 last night. I wont quote them at length, because they are significant, but one of the main themes that stood out to me what the idea of how hard our heads and our hearts can be.
In verse 3, God uses the following description of his people’s unwillingness to be broken by him: “you have the forehead of a whore; you refuse to be ashamed.” This is not a common phrase for us, to say the least, but I was struck by this description of a forehead; it led me to look into the meaning, which is found similarly used (minus the descriptive language of a whore) in Ezekiel 3:7 (a hard forehead and a stubborn heart) and Isaiah 48:4 (forehead of bronze).
The point is that we are all in need of restoration, evidenced by our physical condition (think La Chureca) or our spiritual condition (think ourselves and our neighbors). In either case, we can have a forehead of bronze, where we are so hard-headed, that we refuse to allow the Lord to work in our hearts, leading to the description of a stubborn heart. And so, despite the great need for restoration, people walk away from it because they do not desire to change.
May it be an opportunity for us to search our own hearts and minds today, seeing if perhaps we are having a forehead of bronze in regards to our restoration. We’ll be praying along with you.
Today looks like a day of rain, but a good day for it as we’ll heading into the mountains to a “solution” that some are working towards where families are being moved from the dump to a farming community where they are taught a way to sustain themselves. Then, we’ll be spending the afternoon at D/J’s girl’s home once again.
Our first day (yesterday – Sunday) was a great start to our week. We had a wonderful experience at Daniel & Jessenia’s church, which is set just at the edge of the dump. It is made up in large part of families from the dump, and as such is a very simple (read: poor) church… but they are so rich in their desire to know God and passionately worship Him. Our team used words like refreshing to describe the experience of worshiping God with some of the same songs, yet in different languages. There were a couple times we were all signing in English and others were signing in Spanish; truly this is evidence that through Christ the curse of Babel has been lifted (see previous post). We spent the balance of the day with the girls & one boy from their home… we took them out for lunch and then spent time at their home in the mountains. It was an incredibly cool day here, and we expect that to end today… well, it already has – it’s 6:30 and somewhere close to 80 already.
Today, we’ll be heading to the dump to visit the families of the children from the home. The children live at the Bain’s home in the mountains with 2 house mothers for all but one day each month. They are taken care of in every aspect, and are given a much better opportunity to mature physically & spiritually. They go spend one day with their parents each month… so the times of visitation by Dan/Jessenia with the parents are incredibly important to continue to earn their trust. Not incidentally – I can easily tell the drastic difference in health both spiritually and physically in each one of the children, having now seen them one year apart – last year they had just moved into the home. The work Dan / Jessenia are doing is long and slow… but it is bearing fruit. I can remember last year being at church with the kids and they were disengaged, quiet, etc… this year each one of them was clapping, signing and worshiping! This kind of spiritual and physical restoration is directly in line with walking in the promises of God for his people.
In Joshua, as he is about to die, he gives his last charge to the people, which is filled with the promises of God, but also a warning:
 but you shall cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day.  For the LORD has driven out before you great and strong nations. And as for you, no man has been able to stand before you to this day.  One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the LORD your God who fights for you, just as he promised you.  Be very careful, therefore, to love the LORD your God.  For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you,  know for certain that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the LORD your God has given you. – Joshua 23:8-13 ESV
We are to “cling to the Lord” (verse 9) versus clinging to the world around us (verse 12)… this dichotomy leads us either towards the promises of God or away from him towards what we have chosen. We see this at play in our lives of those we work with here in La Chureca, but also in our own lives. We walk through life, either consciously or unconsciously, learning to cling to the world because it is all around us. We have to be careful to allow God’s Spirit to identify the places in our life where we are still clinging to this world, instead of the Lord… these are places where we are trapped and ensnared.
If we look at a passage that describes the lives of those in whom this happens, we can see how God works to still restore us:
 They did not destroy the peoples, as the LORD commanded them,  but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did.  They served their idols, which became a snare to them…
This describes God’s people choosing to cling to the world – they then find themselves ensnared and trapped, just as he has said would happen:
 Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people, and he abhorred his heritage;  he gave them into the hand of the nations, so that those who hated them ruled over them.  Their enemies oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their power.  Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes and were brought low through their iniquity.
When we walk in rebellion, we are given over to the things we are chasing, to run them to their end. The Lord is still working to restore and deliver us (verse 43), but it’s up to us to cling to Him…
 Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry.  For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. (Psalm 106:34-45 ESV)
Here is an amazing declaration of God’s intent and action in our lives: “NEVERTHELESS”. Despite our rebellion, he continues to work to restore and deliver, and if we simply cry out, he will unleash on us his steadfast love, returning us to his ways and teaching us what it means to cling to Him.
Pray that we all (those in La Chureca, our team, you) may experience these truths in our own hearts, learning to stop clinging to the ways of the world and in so doing, learning to cling to the LORD. We then can walk in his steadfast love.