Archive | January, 2014

AND THE STORY TOOK A TRAGIC TURN

25 Jan

Somewhere in every great book, the story takes a tragic turn. My favorite authors seem to delight in making tragic turns occur just when everything seems wonderful and peaceful. The first such story happened in the Garden of Eden. Sometimes I absolutely hate what authors put their characters through. My favorite writers do it consistently, yet I love their books. Why? Because an adventure requires more than good guys, true love, and good times. It also requires villains, betrayals, and tragic turns. Why? Well, it sells books is one reason, but another reason is that it resembles real life. 

There is an unwritten contract between writers and readers. It states that each tragic turn must serve a purpose. The hero must either grow from the experience or learn from it. Often they will go through a similar (and usually worse) event in the future. We readers will endure tragic, even evil, turns in the story if we see good come from it. Why? Because that is what we want real life to be like. We want to believe that there is a purpose for the tragedies we experience. Most of us don’t want to read books that follow the philosophy of Elbert Hubbard who said, “Life is just one damn thing after another.”

So, with that intro, do you feel a story with a tragic turn coming on? Here it is. In my last post, I wrote about becoming a Tio, or house dad, to three teenage girls. It was with joy, hope, and honor that I wrote that post. I was exhilarated at the thought of helping those young ladies. However, within days, life took an unforeseen turn. While not really a tragic turn, it felt that way at the time. One girl got angry with a government official and left the program. One failed to take care of her child and was placed in another house with a Tia who would train and guide her to be a better mother. The third girl couldn’t stay in their apartment by herself so she was moved to yet another house. In twelve hours, we went from working together as a team and growing as a family unit to me sitting on the floor of their apartment watching all three cry. I tried to offer words of comfort, but I didn’t  know the language well enough to do so.

So life took an unexpected, sad, and disappointing turn. In the past, this is where I would usually say, “I won’t do that again. It hurt too much. No. Not me.” That was me in the past, but what about now? Do I still like the adventure God has placed me in? Heavens yes! Two reasons come to mind. The first reason is that in the days since then, I have lived through the next several chapters of the story. I can already see good things happening. Things that might not have happened in our previous arrangement.

Under the tutelage of a woman she likes and loves, the young mom is learning how to take care of her child. Three days ago she hid her head in a pillow and cried. Today, she is smiling and happy. The girl who got angry and left won’t be back, but she understands that she let her temper put her where she is now. The third girl has started cooking for the boys in one of the houses. I got to eat her fried chicken the other day. Sorry Mom, but Eili’s fried chicken may be the best I’ve ever had. I am not exaggerating. So see, all is different, yet all is well. The Author of this story really does know what He is doing.

And that is the second reason, and perhaps the main one, that I still like the adventure. I personally know the author and trust that He will succeed in writing the story He wants to write. He will end this story with, “And they lived happily ever after.”

Do I have questions about what happened and why it happened? Yes. But here is the real question. Would I do it again? YES! (All caps equal a shout) Now, I know that this turn of events wasn’t truly tragic, but what if it had been. A death could have been the cause of the breakup of our farming team. Or the two girls that stayed could have run away later and ended up in who knows what kind of horrid situation. So would I do it again even if it had been tragic? You can bet the farm on it. Oh, don’t misunderstand me. Watching my girls cry hurt so badly that I went back to my apartment and cried too. It hurt especially bad to know that one was leaving the group for good. But I absolutely trust the author of this story. He has proven His qualities to me time and again. I trust that He is in control, and most of all, I trust that His heart is good. You see, every story He writes is History. (His Story – get it?) And His Story is always good.

As an author, He does have a unique problem. His Story is an interactive story. He lets us participate and our choices determine much of our part in His Story. Don’t jump on me for heresy. I believe God is sovereign and absolutely in control, but I also believe that within His sovereign will, He gave us free will. He chooses us, but we choose whether or not we accept His choosing of us. (You may need to read that line again. I did.)

Life is supposed to be an adventure. Yet, I lived most of my life paralyzed by the constant fear of pain. I did almost anything to avoid even the potential of pain. So, am I having fun right now? Yes, and it hurts. Relationships hurt. Disappointment hurts. Broken relationships hurt. But, I know the end of the story, and friends, we win. Those of us who choose to listen to His call “live happily ever after.” The story doesn’t end with this turn of events. This isn’t the final chapter. Heck, it isn’t even the main storyline. Life truly begins when we enter into the presence of the Author.

Yes this turn of events hurt, but this is the storyline that the Author wrote specifically for me – and my girls. I go through these hurts because I now know that my life has purpose. Plus, even with the hurts, the life I am living now is just plain fun. Other than my salvation, I may be walking through the greatest miracle of my lifetime. God has changed me from a guy who avoided all risks of pain into a man who doesn’t want pain, but sees it as part of this life and is willing to go through it. I know that what I face will make me better and that it will help me face problems in the future that are similar – and maybe worse. Besides, this is History, not my story. My part is just a small part, although to the Author, I am as important as any other character, except His Son.

This poem has been one of my favorites for years. It is just now that I am actually understanding and living this mindset.

My Orders by Ethelwyn Wetherald

My orders are to fight; 

  Then if I bleed, or fail, 
Or strongly win, what matters it?
  God only doth prevail.

The servant craveth naught
  Except to serve with might.
I was not told to win or lose,–
  My orders are to fight.

To have this mindset requires trust. To have trust requires asking the Author to write you into a chapter on trust. It will be a grand adventure, but there will be tragic turns. And it will hurt. But friends, it is worth it. I promise. How do I know? Because we win. What does victory look like? It looks like a celebration of champions. I see one day when you, I, my three girls, and all the other champions will gather in the Author’s house for a party to celebrate the wedding of the His Son. It will be a grand event, but it will be absent one thing. A tragic turn.

“And they lived happily ever after.”

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God’s gentle sense of humor.

18 Jan

Last week I was thrilled when Tio Edgardo finally arrived back from his vacation. Tio is the Spanish word for uncle and Tia is the word for aunt. At Open Door Ministries, the titles of Tia & Tio are equal to a house-parent at orphanages in the USA. Back to Edgardo. It wasn’t his fault that he was three days late. Floods washed the roads away. He got back as soon as he could. The reason I was thrilled with Edgardo’s arrival was that while he was on vacation, I took his place as a Tio. I lived in a small house with 6 young boys for two weeks. With his return, I was looking forward to what I considered a well-deserved rest. I won’t take the time to explain the circumstances, but within a day of Tio Edgardo’s return, I volunteered to be a house parent again. This time it is a little more complicated. I am back in my apartment here at the orphanage, but living in the apartment above me are . . . drumroll please . . . three, beautiful, wonderful, but troubled, teenage girls. (Emphasis on wonderful and troubled)

Now, let’s clarify my status. I am a 62-year-old guy who came to Honduras to farm at an orphanage for a year. I am single, never had children, and I am a loner. Yep, put me in a room with a Bible, a book, a praise CD, and plenty of food and I don’t need other people at all. People wear me out. I can make it on my own quiet well without others thank you. I’m not saying that is the way that I (or anyone else) should live, it’s just the way I have lived for many years now. However, sometimes, in the quiet of those quiet days, I would pray for something else, something more. Sometimes I admitted to myself and to God that I wanted to be part of a team, to be part of something that mattered. Almost as soon as the words would leave my mouth, I would slam shut the door to my heart again and forget them. Guess who didn’t forget my words or prayers?

Yeah, that’s right. My Abba Daddy didn’t forget. So, here is where God’s sense of humor comes into the story. To answer my secret prayers for companionship and purpose, God sent me down to Honduras to be a farmer. Huh? Does that make sense to you? Me either, but let’s face it, if He had told me to do what I am doing now, I would have never believed it was from God. It is just too crazy! Not only does it not make sense, there was a greater problem. I didn’t have enough love in my heart to take on caring for three teenage girls. So do you see why God put me in an orphanage for 3 months? He knew I would fall in love with the little kids and He was softening my heart so He could do His job through me to the big kids. He wanted me to love the lonely, help the helpless, and defend the fatherless. Sound familiar? From his own mouth, here is Jesus’ job description.

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,

Because He has anointed Me

To preach the gospel to the poor;

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Luke 4:18 NKJV

Monday, my girls and I worked in the garden together. What a hoot seeing these 14 and 15 year-old girls with their hands in slime and mud separating dirt from sod. Farming will be part of their chores each day. Did you get that? God has given this ex-loner a team of farmers!

Tuesday, we piled into a taxi and I took them for a class in shopping at a local grocery store. Each girl had a list of 20 items and a certain amount of cash. I had them get a shopping cart and turned them loose with no help or instructions other than “buy the stuff on this list.” I haven’t laughed that hard for a long time. Imagine three cute teenage girls, each with a shopping cart and each looking at a shopping list. It was like an episode of keystone cops. If one went across an aisle, the others followed. If the first one realized she was in the wrong aisle and turned around, the others followed. I stopped laughing long enough to stop that behavior and then noticed another problem. Each had loaded her cart with her three loafs of bread first, and then piled other stuff on top of the bread. I went to each cart and put the bread in the section for fragile items. Somehow, the girls had formed a line again. I noticed that if the first one in line took an item off the shelf, the others took the same item. If she put the item back, the others stared at her, grumbled among themselves, and then put the item back. By this time, I was laughing so hard I had tears streaming down my cheeks. I’m not sure if the girls learned anything, but I had a blast.

There are two passages the Lord has given me for working with these young ladies.

The first is something King David says to the Lord.  

“Your gentleness has made me great.” Psalm  18:35

Wow! We spend so much time talking about God’s power and holiness (and rightly so) yet David said that it was God’s gentleness that made Him great. I know my girls need discipline and tough love, but even tough love can be done in a gentle way.

The other passage is a familiar one to many of us.

“Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13

This quote is from the New King James Version, but I looked it up in the “old” King James Version too. Check this out!“mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”

Sometimes we forget (at least I do) that triumph (victory) brings joy. And if we are truly filled with joy, we can’t help but laugh. Somehow, God’s sense of humor is wrapped up in His joy and His joy is wrapped up in His triumphant victories in our lives. He thinks it is funny to send an old, single farmer to care for teenage girls.

My time with my girls (I can’t help but call them mine even though they are His) may only last for the rest of my year in Honduras. Or . . . it may last for a second year. Or a third year. Or it may last for the rest of my life. I truly don’t know, nor do I care—as long as I am obeying my Jesus and He does His job through me.

Do you see what a mission trip has done to my heart? In less than 3 months, I have learned not to plan the adventure, but to live it. Life without a plan is finally fun for me. But here is something equally amazing, life in the midst of fifty kids is actually fun. I do truly love my girls, but I know that they will make mistakes. Most of them already have. However, the real tragedy is that God had to send a 62-year-old guy who doesn’t even speak their language to be their Tio and His example of His love for them. It is a tragedy for those who were supposed to do this and missed out, but a tremendous privilege, blessing, and adventure for me.

Once again, I want to thank Barry and Penny Compton, the founders of Open Door Ministries and also Lauren Compton, their daughter who manages the day-to-day operations of the orphanage and the girls’ home. They are trusting me with their kids and allowing me time to change into whatever God wants me to be. Thank you Barry,  Penny, and Lauren, I am humbled and grateful to be part of your ministry team.

I thank you, friends and supporters of Food 4 Kids. Please know that our original mission is intact. We will finish the gardening school. We will install aquaponics systems. But we will do all this in God’s timing. Our Father is at work in many hearts and I for one want to live the adventure. Who knows, someone reading this may be the next one to sleep in a house with six boys for a week . . . or longer. Know this, your prayers and financial gifts are making a difference in the lives of the children down here. Go look in the mirror. You will see a Tio or Tia in the reflection, Listen close and you will hear God say, “Good job.”

Last, but most, I thank You, Jesus Christ, Lord of lords, King of kings, and lover of my soul. I thank You for the love that now flows through my heart. It seems like every couple of weeks You have me fall in love all over again. First it was with my little buddy Manuel. After he went back to his mom, you increased my love for Esther and Jasmin. Then I learned to love the boys in Tio Edgardo’s house. Now, You have added Jocelyn and Eili to the list of those that have captured my heart. What is neat is that I don’t have to stop loving one person to love the next one that Jesus puts in my path. He expands my heart’s capacity so I can love them all. Lord Jesus, I hope that You enjoy Your sense of humor as much as I do. And Lord, I don’t know if I am great, but I know this; Your gentleness has made my life great. Thank You.

Tio Gideon,  

January 18, 2014, Tocoa, Colon, Hondura

It’s a New Year!

4 Jan

Remember do-overs? Reboots? How about reformats? That’s my life this year.

Living with 40 or 50 kids will change your perspective about what is really important and especially what it means to truly love someone else. I’ll give you an example.

The last week of December I served as a house parent here at Village of Hope while Edgardo was on vacation. I lived in a casita (small house) with six boys: Carlos, Engleis, Mario, Noe, Adan, and Junior. On New Year’s Eve, we had pork sandwiches as part of our celebration. Later, when I ordered the younger boys to bed, Junior didn’t go. He slowly sat down on the kitchen floor, leaned forward, and puked. The other boys thought it was hilarious. I thought, “Oh joy.” Another temporary house parent, Keyla, came to my rescue. Keyla is bilingual. She brought some antacids and asked Junior some questions. She smiled at his answer. Then she laughed. When she had me feel his stomach, it felt as though he had swallowed an entire watermelon. “Ready to pop” was the phrase that came to mind.

Remember those pork sandwiches? Junior ate all three on his plate. Then he ate one of Mario’s. Then I gave him half of my last one. He also got another half or full sandwich from someone else.  Now Junior isn’t the youngest of the boys in my house, but he is the smallest. He is tiny. We got the antacids into him and got him to bed. I thanked Keyla and she went back to her house. Then I went into the bedroom to pray for Junior. Here’s where I got my lesson.

I put my hand on Junior’s tummy and started to pray. Then it hit me that no one in the room would understand what I said except God. I had an audience, but my faithful sounding words would not encourage Junior nor would they sound spiritual to the other boys. What a shock to realize how much I depended upon impressing other people with my prayers. At that moment, I entered  into a true test of my faith. Did I truly believe God was there, or was I just spewing empty words to an empty room?

Yes, I pray for others all the time when I am alone with God, but this was different. Junior needed help right then. He wasn’t in great pain, but he was laying there looking up at me. He knew I was going to pray for him and I think he was depending on me to come through. What a helpless feeling. It may not sound like that impactful of a moment, but it shook my world. Why? Because all that mattered was results. Not for me, but for Junior. Once again, I received the lesson that this life is not about me.

After a few moments of hesitation, I finally prayed out loud in English. And guess what? Junior went to sleep, slept all night, and woke up feeling great. He also had a much smaller stomach. Sounds great doesn’t it. Just what missionary stories are made of. But what if Junior had gotten sick again that night? What if we had to take him to the clinic or hospital in the morning? In my prayer, I covered all that.

I told the Lord that I believed in Him. I told Him that I had settled the matter in my heart. I not only believed that He is real, but that He is good! Whether Junior got better or worse didn’t matter as far as what I believed. However,  it mattered to Junior. I believe this prayer set God free to act in Junior’s best interest, not mine. With my statement of faith, I got out of the picture and God healed my little buddy.

But the question remains. How will I pray next time I pray in front of a group of people? Will I strive to sound spiritual or faithful. Or will I humbly approach the throne of mercy and grace to ask the Master to help others? Will they be offended if I ignore them to speak to my Savior and Master as though He and I were alone? Well, if not before, I will find out when I visit the USA in January and February.

“Don’t forget in the darkness what God told you in the light.” T.D. Hall 

Blessings,

Gideon

PS – ANNOUNCING THE FOOD 4 KIDS BACK TO AMERICA TOUR”

Eighteen days! 4 airports (2 times each!) Several Presentations!

Dates: January 29, 2014-7:00PM

Georgetown, TX at the home of Bruce and Joyce Hammack. Includes dinner of rice, beans, and tortillas. Ensalada & carne tambien!

February 2, 2014: 8:30 AM & 10:00AM

Breckenridge CO at the Agape Outpost. I will bring the message from the book of Luke at both services. (I may mention kids, mission opportunities, and show some photos too.) Can’t be there? No need to be square, watch the 10:00AM service live by streaming video.Still can’t make it? No problema. Watch it later on the Agape Website.

February 9, 2014: Agape Outpost, after the 10:00AM service. A short meeting to form a team for short-term and/or long missions.

Small group members of Agape, ask your leaders to book a night. Food 4 Kids will be in Summit County, CO for the entire week of February 2 thru 8. Your leaders can contact one of the pastors at Agape or email me directly at food4kids@agapeoutpost.org  Questions can be sent to the same email.

All sessions include photos and home movies of KIDS FROM HONDURAS!! (What could be better?!!)