It’s a dangerous thing to tell God you’re ready to follow him.
It’s also an absolutely wonderful thing.
When we started going to Harderwyk Church a few years back, I caught wind that they had a week-long mission trip to Honduras planned annually in the summer. Knowing that Stephanie had lived in Honduras for a semester in college, I thought, “Oh great, she’s gonna drag me down there one of these years.” Sure enough, she did. Man, it was not at all what I expected.
For the last seven years, Harderwyk Church has donated to and helped build schools in the Abundant Life Christian School network in Honduras. This would be the second year that the team would be able to stay in the mission house at Talitha Cumi, a farm that is close to the school and is home to more than thirty young Honduran girls who might not otherwise have a safe home.
Before the trip, sometime during lent, even though nothing particularly bad was going on in my life, I experienced a deep sense that I was missing out on something. I was just kind of sick of trying to run my own life, with all the measurements of society that we use to determine whether we’re successes or failures. I mean, don’t get me wrong, things seemed to be going just fine, but underneath all the fineness, I just could not deny that there was clearly more intended for our lives. And by “our lives,” I don’t mean just me, or even just the Joyce’s… I mean all human beings.
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis
During the months leading up to the trip, I was really nervous. Those who are travelers or who have gone on mission trips before might be amused by this, but I had never been out of the country before unless you count an all-inclusive in Mexico (which doesn’t count), and I still haven’t even been to Canada.
So anytime this one song would come on by the band Lord Huron, it really put me at ease. It’s called “Ends of the Earth” and even though Honduras isn’t exactly the ends of the earth, I just really felt a strong spiritual calm coming through it… an excitement without anxiety. And sure, the song is a secular one written about a girl, but who cares? You think God doesn’t work through this stuff?
We arrived in Honduras (at Talitha Cumi in Yamaranguila), ate, slept, went to church, played some soccer, and hung out with the girls at the farm. So far, so good. The first day we worked hauling wheelbarrows of freshly mixed wet concrete, and naturally, I went back to our mission house that night and barfed… because that’s just what my body does when you make it do manual labor.
The next couple days went much better, and Wednesday night, we were treated to a dinner at a nice restaurant in town. We were having a great time hanging out and talking to the full time missionaries who live there when I started noticing that they were playing some really good tunes, so I started paying attention. If you know me, you know this is a rare occurrence even in America, but there was some major chill alternative indie stuff going on, and I was loving it… there was even an instrumental Radiohead thing at one point. Then I heard it. Of course. It was “The Ends of the Earth” by Lord Huron, and I was just a little stunned. “Coincidence,” I thought. So I asked the local translator if Lord Huron was maybe a big thing in Honduras to explain it away. “Who? Nope, never heard of them,” he said.
After working another day and a half, on Friday, we went to a different town (Gracias) to see another one of the schools in this same network of Abundant Life Christian Schools. While walking around the campus, someone pointed up at Mount Celaque and said, “By the way, that’s the tallest peak in Honduras.” Now for some perspective, I grew up in Oil City, Pennsylvania, a hilly little town in western PA. My mom had told me repeatedly growing up that God had told her that he would keep her and her family safe in the hills of Oil City, to which I probably usually thought, “Ok, yeah, fine mom, that’s cool.” But when I looked up at Mount Celaque, I didn’t hear an audible voice, but I did experience an instant and indelible impression that that was God’s way of telling me that he would keep me and my family safe in the mountains of Honduras.
But I still didn’t get it.
So we got home and had a group meeting a couple weeks later. I had had the feeling of, “What now, God?!” an awful lot over those two weeks. After our group had eaten dinner and talked a bit, I overheard the school director (who was in the US for the rest of the summer) say to someone else, “We really need math teachers in Gracias.” Boom. That was it. That was what I would want to do and that is the town where I would want to do it. I’ve always wanted to teach. I just thought it would be in America in my retirement, not in Honduras in my thirties. And since then, Stephanie told me about this medical clinic in the same town that’s overseen by an organization she actually studied when she lived in Honduras years ago. The pieces just kept falling into place.
So I will be teaching math at the school in Gracias for the 2017-2018 school year, and Stephanie will be volunteering at the clinic, and perhaps teaching a class at the school as well. We will be moving there near the end of July, and before that, we are headed with a medical brigade to the clinic February 4-11. Hopefully I will be of some use to them as we also seek to get our bearings in the town of Gracias. In my next post, I hope to tell you more about that trip.
There’s so much more to the story, but I didn’t want to bore you with too many details too soon. Hopefully, this will be a good and entertaining way for us to continue to share with you our story… that is, God’s story, though us. More importantly, however, my prayer is that by telling our story, God can breathe life into the words of Jeremiah 29:11 for you, which apply to each and every person reading this: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” These aren’t some empty words from a fairy tale. These are the inspired, living words of the living Lord. Let them take root in your heart. Let them not be hindered by fear, but let the mercy of God lead you into faithful action to grow you into the beautiful creation he intended you to be since before the existence of the universe. He has an incredible plan for every one of us. There are no exceptions.
And you can’t assume you have to start by going to some foreign country. That would be absurd and boring if God called everyone in the same way. And you can’t assume it’s all going to happen quickly. But I can promise you that even if it isn’t quick, it does begin right now. If you think you need to wait around for big “signs” like some of the things I’ve written about, I should like to point out that they are actually more of an indication of my own stubbornness than they are of anything else. Don’t wait until God has to beat you over the head. I would venture an educated guess that God has already been calling out to you from within in some way. It’s up to you whether to nurture or suppress that call. Both ways will be challenging, but only the first will be good.
If you choose to nurture God’s call in your life, the first step you must take is to enter into relationship with him – a real relationship – that is full of trust and mercy and a faithful disregard for your own plans. This is a relationship where you simply get out of the way in your own life, and let God do his thing. You will get something so much better in exchange, I promise.