Proverbs 21:13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered. (NIV)
James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (NIV)
Almost all people who go on missions anticipate being part of some blessing over people less fortunate than them. We hope to improve their lives in some way, doing what we can, giving the best of our trades, talents, gifts, and our time to others we deem less fortunate.
In my experience, for I can only speak for myself, I have had my eyes opened and am almost ashamed of my ignorance with this very perception of a mission prior to going to Central America.
Going on my first mission as carpenter, I was able to work at an orphanage that began with a man from Ohio, who dug a two mile trench by hand, developed a water reservoir and from that, irrigated crops. With the proceeds he created an orphanage and guided these Hondurans to Christ, giving hope to thousands of the children who were left behind with no parents, no food stamps, no health care, no social security, no welfare, and no education.
As a registered respiratory therapist, a registered nurse and a carpenter, I thought I had a lot to offer. I assumed there would be a lot I could do to help those less fortunate. I was right to some extent, yet my eyes were opened at the same time. What I found was that when sincerely praying for effectiveness in others’ lives, those I made an effort to help were much more of a blessing to me, than I could have been to them. I might have improved their houses, their living conditions, or their health, but their faith made me feel so small.
I walked into a church service. It was led by a 13 year old boy whose singing and worship humbled me to my core. With absolute certainty I could feel God’s presence as this small church joyfully worshiped Him. I knew I wasn’t worthy to be there. That was my first wakeup call. A channel inside my chest opened, a new reason and knowledge began to manifest as easily as light through a pane of glass. Their voices, enthusiasm, and faith had summoned a desire to get closer to God.
There are barriers in between cultures, such as language, customs and habits. From my experiences I have concluded that there are ways to breach these barriers, such as work, learning their language, and respecting their traditions.
For three days I worked on a roof on the coast of Honduras, painting the roof to prevent the salty air from destroying the metal. I was sweating so much that I drank 2 gallons of water in six hours and didn’t have to void. People who walked by, seen how hard we worked and wanted to know why. Neighbors wanted to know, what was the gringos’ reason, their source or their hope. Why were these “gringas” (American women) taking food to different houses and talking to families about this Christ?
This is the point. If you can help someone better their house, their health or in some other way, convey to them through your talents, trades or time, that you do not know them, but you love them, this love is from God through you. Without God how many missionaries really are there? If you can say, “I don’t know you, but I love you,” after all of you have done, you will have credibility. You can give that person a bible in their language and they will desire to have that meaning–the source of hope that you have.
One last note on my personal experiences. Everyone is equally valuable in God’s eyes. On another house, after working on some flooring and getting up on the blazing hot roof, surrounded by a swamp of feces and crabs, a new friend I made held my rope for me. He is an amazing musician. When in the church, he could play songs and produce music that would encourage hearts to open up, to sing with more enthusiasm and thus bring on a greater praise. I didn’t feel like I was worthy to be there because I knew he was God’s vessel, yet when I was on the roof, he told me he felt like he wasn’t doing anything. I told him, that without him helping me, I couldn’t do what God sent me to do.
Everyone who makes a point to follow God will have a place. No one is more important than the other, yet we all need each other and are all necessary.
Going to Honduras opened my eyes as I made new friends with people of all ages. I then felt the stir in my chest–that inner calling. I began to understand what it was my parents and grandparents told me. There are things infinitely greater than our selfish ambitions. I was able to establish relationships with these Hondurans after using the carpentry skills my father taught me and was able to establish other relationships using my skills as a registered nurse to help children in very unsanitary conditions. Soon I will be going to Guatemala to serve and establish more relationships, convey God’s love, and share the good news of Christ.
People from one of the poorest nations in the world, with some of the most hostile statistics, lived and still live a life very different from mine. In these lives clean water is a struggle to acquire every day and because of this, dreams have no place because the biggest concern is survival.
In Central America, millions of families do not have access to clean water. Try closing your eyes and imagine having a shack assembled with wooden pallets for walls with a single 8 x 9 room. At night, the cool air drifts through the walls, and the tarp you have for a ceiling flaps and cracks in the wind, but it is all the materials you have to protect you from the elements. (These images are forever seared in my memory from the dump missions in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.)
Now try imagining having one or two children who cannot go to school because they walk, sometimes for four hours a day, just fetching water out of their only resources such as, scum-filled, parasite-infested, stagnant ponds. Also in their everyday trek, as these boys and girls exhaust themselves dragging this water back home in pots and jugs, they are fighting the constant uphill battle that dirty water presents, such as typhoid fever, diarrhea, cholera, worms, malnutrition, and parasites.
One drop of water can contain over a billion bacterial organisms. Water is the number 1 killer in the world. Dirty water kills more people than HIV/AIDS, malaria, war, and vehicle accidents combined. Sadly, clean water is often flowing below ground, but is not tapped into. A water well can literally change the lives of a village in Central America. Time can be given to children so they don’t have to walk for hours in the mornings, so they can go to school instead. Hope can be given, because these cycles of deprivation can be stopped. Children can grow to their greatest potential and not suffer the stunted growth epidemic such as in Guatemala from malnutrition.
It is one thing to read about it, hear of it on the radio, or even see it on television, but to experience it, being in the presence of unnecessary starvation and sickness is another dynamic all together.
After returning from places with the goal of simply surviving, my goals are to use my skills and talents wherever God calls me and to use the proceeds from The Christian and the Lion: Nero’s Circus Maximus and The Christian and the Lion: Victorian Rising to provide the funds to drill a water well for a village in Guatemala, help sponsor youth at El Sembrador in Honduras, sponsor Hospital Shalom in Guatemala, and construction of houses in Honduras and Guatemala
Below are some links to missions I have either personally served on or am going to serve in the near future. Twenty-five percent of all proceeds from The Christian and the Lion, are going to these missions. If you would feel like donating more, the links to these missions are listed here.
Hope of Life International: Bringing clean water, crops, churches, tilapia farms, schools, hospitals, and the message of Jesus Christ to Guatemala. http://www.hopeoflifeintl.org/
Escuela El Sembrador: Providing education and the message of Jesus Christ to youth in Honduras. http://www.escuelaelsembrador.org/
Hospital Shalom: Providing medical attention to poverty stricken people of Guatemala and sharing the love of Jesus Christ with each patient as they are hospitalized. http://www.newcovenantworldmissions.org/Hospital-Shalom.html
Food for the Poor: Providing self-sufficiency in Central America and Africa, through church planting, farms, housing projects, and schools. http://www.foodforthepoor.org/