Thursday, January 31, 2013

Revive, Retreat, Regroup: Or What Happened to January

I have been rolling around in my head for a couple of weeks now how to come back to my space and pick up again, how to explain my January in words. I am rarely at a loss for words, but the events of this month were so, so big. Too big for any words that I have. It was a month of rare grace. And always the grace of God is so much bigger and better than words can express. And the things we experienced were so, so full. A play by play would take me weeks to type out and you days to read. And let's be honest, ain't nobody got time for that. So, I came up with the quick little outline above in the title. That's my month in brief. And here today I tell you the story of my revival:
Blessed indeed are the feet

  1. Revive: In the final days of December and first week of January, we welcomed our first ever group of visitors to the mission: a group of young people who had been inspired by Kisses From Katie to seek out a missionary opportunity, a few of their parents and a youth minister, and a group of friars from the Franciscan Brothers Minor.

And my joy shall be in you and your joy shall be complete
A perfect description of these men of God
We had spent a year planning and waiting for their arrival. But to be honest, by the time Christmas rolled around, I was spent. The planning and constant pace life had taken on since the summer had worn me out. I was happy to have company, as I always am, but tending to the details of their stay and keeping life up in the mean time, not to mention trying live Advent and Christmas (I'm sorry to say I don't really feel like I did either of these very well), had me wound up in knots. I kept telling the Lord, "I am so happy to have people visit, really I am, but can't you see that more work is not what I need right now? I'm exhausted. I need revival."

And I will lead you beside still waters. Or raging waters, depending.
Either way, you will be revived. That's how the Lord works with me, anyway.

Well, as it often goes with the Big Guy, He heard my cries. And He brought me just what I needed in a way I never expected. The trip was, in fact, a lot of work and at times totally exhausting. But it also was exactly the thing I needed to revive my missionary zeal, my personal spiritual life, and the sense of community I had been desperately longing for. I hadn't realized how carrying the burden of lack of community had worn me out until I had people around to share my life with.

Thou shalt not pass...I cannot tell you how uplifting it was to laugh with these people,
to experience the joy of walking together with them.
It did me good to see our life in a bigger context. It did wonders for me to see the people we minister to through someone else's eyes. The effect of a long confession with a bit spiritual direction thrown in? In ENGLISH? Like my first warm soul bath in a year.

No words. Just, yeah, this. Brother Faithful is his name.
The witness of the Franciscan friars was, in no exaggerated terms, life-giving and life-changing. But the missionary zeal and perseverance of the young people was the thing that really watered my missionary soul deep down at its roots. They came to do something they dreamed of doing for a long time. They struggled. They got sick. They got tired. They fumbled over language barriers and culture shock. And yet they persevered. Until all that faded away and they were able to reach out a hand, make a connection, and say, "Here is your God. Here is your family. We are here. And we love you. Because He does."

The foot bridge into the indigenous reserve,
where our brothers and sisters still wait for us to come
with the message of love and family and hope and God.
A memory that will stick in my mind forever I hope is us walking up to the door a wooden thatched hut in the indigenous village we were visiting to little meet a little girl. She was in the door way crying. We had waded through mud up to our knees to get there. The rest of us stayed a bit back so as not to frighten her and one young girl from our group, Katie, approached her with a pink rosary in her outstretched hand. She stood in front of that little girl and smiled and waited. And the little girl sniffled and stood and stared. Moments passed and the rest of us looking on began to shuffle in the awkwardness and whisper to Katie to just put the rosary at her feet and leave. Katie didn't budge. And way past the point at which most of would have walked away, her perseverance was rewarded when the little girl stretched out her hand, took the pink rosary and put it over head.

Her. Just her. So worth it.
We began the walk back to the school where we were inviting people to join us for an activity, a shortly after, noticed that this sweet little one was following us at a distance. If we turned to look, she hid. So we walked and let her follow. And then we watched her slowly let her tears turn to a smile. She blew bubbles with us and nibbled cookies and held our hands. And before the day was out, I watched one of the you people hold the cross at the end of that rosary up to her and introduce that little girl to her best friend, Jesus.

Oh how He loves us. 

I learned a lot that day. A lot about standing still in the moment, letting the awkwardness be what it is and waiting, hand outstretched. Waiting patiently for the tears and the fear and the shyness to ebb and the door to friendship to open. It is not easy to build relationships in a culture so different from our own, with a people who are shy and timid and who speak a language totally unfamiliar to me. I firmly believe that all evangelization has to be about relationship, and relationships are always based on trust. And building trust sometimes means that we stand in the doorway and smile longer than we might otherwise do, even when it feels really uncomfortable, until a hand reaches out and touches our own.

Here. This is where I lay down my life and hold out my hand
and wait for the door to open.
That is the revival I experienced over and over again viewing my mission life through the eyes of young people. They knew they only had a short while here. They knew their task held an sense of urgency. They were not going to let an opportunity pass them by. They charged up hills and crossed bridges and stood in doorways. They kicked soccer balls and trudged through mud. They held hands and shared cookies and loved and laughed and shone with the radiance of the life if Christ.
    Missionary lunch -- picnic on the banks of the river

And I walked away knowing the supreme privilege it is to be given the chance to live that call every single day, and with a fervent desire to live it with the kind of perseverance and urgency these young people showed me. I got my revival. In the middle of the exhaustion, some new energy was born in me, the Spirit's flames were rekindled, the fire of His love began to glow bright again. And I am so, so grateful that my Heavenly Father knows just what I need and sends it in the most unexpected of ways.

Brothers Felix, Lorenzo and Fidelus play Baltazar, Caspar and Melchior
Epiphany - Yes, that's a good word to sum it all up.
An epiphany of joy.
The story of how retreating and regrouping followed my coming tomorrow. And then February begins to write its own story! I can't wait to see what the Lord has in mind.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cannibals, Thieves and Other Missionary Miscues

I had hoped to get  back here and reflect a bit on the incredible January we have had before now, but life just has not yet allowed for that. Instead today, I am sharing a bit of missionary humor over at A Life Overseas. So while you wait for the scoop on our January journey would you join me for a bit of fun over there? It really is such a lovely community.
Here's a little peak at my post: Because the stress levels that accompany missionary life can often be so over the top and we are constantly battling our fears and fighting for peace, it is imperative that we as missionaries keep our sense of humor and ability to laugh at ourselves...Now if you know me at all, you know how I love to tell a funny story. So head on over and read the rest and laugh with us about this sometimes funny always crazy life we lead.