The lost sheep in our area are the drug addicts, occult members, and floozies.
We’ve read the parable of the lost sheep over and over, but have we considered the story from the perspective of the sheep? Have we thought about how it feels to be the one who is lost and alone, scared and filled with doubt?
Jesus knows how the Lost Sheep feel because they too are His precious children. When we’re lost we get confused and sometimes panic; unable to think rationally, we struggle to make good decisions. Jesus sees his Lost Sheep wandering aimlessly in desperation and weeps for them. Knowing that they will follow anyone and anything that gives them hope, he asks us to rush to their aide and be their shepherd before they’re led astray by the wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Jesus asks us to seek out the lost. It has always been my nature to care for the lost sheep that I happen upon, but that’s nothing more than fulfilling the minimum requirement. Jesus challenges us to do more, to be more. He tells us to go looking for them, to seek them out.
Time and again we’ve recognized our kids as the best missionaries on our team – and it’s true. They go looking for the lost sheep and often times find them congregating in the dark, literally. In our town plaza, there is one side which remains dark at night because every new light bulb is promptly busted out. As I watch my beautiful daughters approach this foreboding territory, I beg the Lord for His protection and wisdom. “Ask and you shall receive.” Jesus responded to my plea with these words of wisdom for Katelyn and Anna, “Don’t ever leave because you’re scared to stay, and don’t ever stay because you’re scared to leave.” We talk often about the importance of allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us, but how do we know when the inspirations that we feel are from Him? One indicator is the peacefulness that fills our hearts when we’re in the midst of the Father’s will. It is that tranquility that they assess when deciding to stay or leave.
About six weeks ago, we were hanging out in the plaza one night. Anna and Katelyn approached some of the kids congregating in the dark and invited them to walk around the plaza, hoping to take them away from the drugs being offered by their “friends.” Several of them accepted the invitation. During their loops, our daughters broached the topic of baptism and briefly explained the importance of being Christians. The Lost Sheep, as we call this group of wandering souls, were intrigued and wanted to know more. Knowing that we had to give the best 30-second elevator speech of all time, we briefly explained that during baptism we are filled with the Holy Spirit and our souls are forever transformed. They listened and then left, with no indication of what they thought. We were unsure of the effectiveness of our spiel until our daughters returned only moments later to report that “the group” wants to be baptized. They collectively decided that we needed to start a sacramental prep class in our home just for them. It would meet every Saturday morning at 8AM, include a yummy American pancake breakfast and lots of fun.
And so it is! Each Saturday morning the Lost Sheep gather in our home. Upon arriving, after politely greeting Chris and I, they always make a beeline for the Legos. It seems that Legos draw boys of all ages from every part of the globe. Vehicles, structures, and other creations come to life as I put the finishing touches on the yummy, American pancakes they like so much. We all crowd around our table, say a blessing, and then dive in. A couple weeks ago we celebrated one boy’s birthday. He was happy to be with us: his parents were both intoxicated and unaware of the date. During breakfast we upheld the FMC tradition of honoring the birthday person. Each of us shared things about him that we enjoyed, respected, etc. It was really powerful – for him and the rest of us. Although he wasn’t going to show his tears, I could tell he was crying on the inside.
I can’t possibly provide the details of every gathering we’ve had, but want to highlight just a few.
For one Saturday we made a giant heart-shaped puzzle that they worked together to assemble. They were unaware of what the final shape would be…
…and that it would have a huge hole in the middle.
After looking on the floor and seats for the missing piece they asked, as if scripted, what was up with the missing piece.
“What’s wrong with having a big hole in the middle of your heart?”, we asked, “You mean, things don’t work right when they have big holes in them?”
We agreed they needed something to fill the hole…
…So we gave them pieces of paper with words that represent things that people try to fill the holes in their hearts with: drugs, material possessions, pornography, girlfriends, etc.
The gaping hole still made the puzzle seem incomplete.
“What do you think is the only thing that can fill this hole in your heart?” we asked.
“Jesus,” they surprisingly replied in unison.
“Let’s learn a little bit about this person Jesus,” we said before reading two stories from the Bible: The Woman Caught in Adultery and The Prodigal Son. This was the first time any of them had heard either of these stories and they were amazed at how applicable they are to life here in San Hilarion. We talked about the reality of our sinfulness and Jesus’ unconditional, unending love. We spoke directly about their home lives and family situations, acknowledging the pain that they suffer when others make bad choices, but explaining the importance of forgiveness. We ended the day by reciting the Our Father and talking about the embedded truth: we can only approach the throne of God asking to be forgiven AS we’ve forgiven others. Until we’ve completely forgiven others, we have no business asking God’s pardon for our own sinful choices.
“…and forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us…”
They boys were struck by the profound nature of the message. By the looks on their faces, I could tell they were considering their own ability (or inability) to forgive those that have hurt them most.
It was a little awkward, so Katelyn and Anna announced that they were going to make human tables. It was a perfect end to a fun morning.
The very next day we learned that it was Javier’s 15th birthday. We offered to host a mini-celebration of cake and pop, but fully expected to lose out to his “boyz” who are always vying for his time.
He agreed to gather in the home of a mutual friend. As everyone was enjoying the sweet treats we honored Javier by sharing what each of us appreciate about him. His hard shell melted and what we saw was the fragile remains of a little boy who had experienced a lot of pain and hardship. We pray that he’ll continue coming around so that he can experience the love that Jesus has for him.
Another Saturday we played a board game that we had made. They moved their pieces along a path which spelled “AMEN” and were trying to reach “Heaven” at the end. Various spaces included descriptions of either good or bad choices, which allowed them to skip forward or fall back.
The pile of draw cards offered the most entertainment. Anna and Katelyn had created over 60 cards that described common situations. For example, “You skipped school to do drugs with your friends. Move back 5 spaces.” Another card read, “You carried water from the river for an elderly neighbor. Move ahead 4 spaces.” Some cards referenced specific events that had transpired, which made everyone laugh really hard: “You told the gringas (their name for white people) that you love them. Move back 20 spaces.”
After about an hour of play we had gone through the DRAW pile a couple times and decided we needed additional cards. As the kids wracked their brains to think of both good choices and bad I realized that this was a perfect application of what we had talked about. They were not only differentiating good from bad, but qualifying just how bad something is to determine how far back a player needs to go on the board. Their examples often seemed ridiculous, but effectively shed light on the scenarios they’re faced with.
After our game and discussions were over we expected our guests to leave. However, they stuck around our house for hours and hours. They played our other board games, built more Lego creations, hummed along with Chris as he strummed the guitar and sang praise and worship songs, and just enjoyed nice conversation. It was delightful.
When it was finally time to leave, they all inquired about our next meeting and felt disappointed to learn that we’d have to take a week off because of our trip into the remote valley of Bombonajillo.
We’re super excited to have found the Lost Sheep. We pray for the grace to be able to follow Jesus’ lead and bring them safely back to the flock. We ask for prayers as we discern each gathering, that we’re able to remain docile to the Spirit who knows exactly what these boys need.
This year, Sammy and the kids made my day extra special with flowers, cards, a special breakfast, and even a original song that they wrote just for me!
Mothers are the ones who help us tie our shoes
Who wash the dishes we use
But the best part is she loves us
Mothers are the ones who help us dry our tears
Who chase away our fears
But the best part is she loves us
Mother’s Day’s the day
Mother’s Day’s the day
Mother’s Day’s the day
We celebrate our moms
Great, right?! Sooo great.
All moms deserve to feel as special and loved on Mother’s Day as I did, but as I was counting my own blessings I knew that that just isn’t the case. Mother’s Day can be hard, lonely, sad, or disappointing for lots of moms and women who desire to become moms. Motherhood in all its forms and tenses — the day to day living of it, or the loss of it, or the yearning for it — involves so much vulnerability. It exposes our very core to so much hope and often, so much pain. I think it must be absolutely the most human experience a woman can open herself up to.
“Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us, while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of our faith.”
+ Hebrews 12:1-2 +
[Originally posted 8/27/2015]
“Are you excited to go for a run on the Great Wall?” I asked my mission partner jokingly.
“I don’t know about going for a run,” he laughed, “but I am definitely excited to be here.”
It was midmorning, we had just landed and both of us were really looking forward to three epic days of climbing the Great Wall, seeing the city, and visiting the FMC team. We had just spent two action-packed weeks in the Philippines and were on our way back to our mission post in Asia. This was the perfect opportunity to make a quick visit, and we were going to make the most of it.
If you show up at Faith Camp this summer, you are going to meet a whole bunch of bright-eyed, crazy-energetic, matching-shirted young people. They won’t only be the junior high students and their friends. You will meet the young people who do the prep work, lead cabins, organize and orchestrate the activities, and, frankly, run camp. Faith Camp is radical because we are by young people, for young people, and Faith Camp changes lives for precisely this reason.
The highlight of my mission trip would have to be the second day of the trip. We traveled to a pueblo called Tres Unidos. It was not easy arriving at the Pueblo, but it sure was a little heaven here on earth, hidden in the wilderness. It reminded me of our own journey in life. Life is not a road easily traveled, but a mix of hard bends, dead ends, and beautiful memories. All our hardships and toils are worth every bit of it because heaven is our final destination. There was so much of grandeur in the sceneries and in the mountains and in the valleys that the road we traveled to get to Tres Unidos and the time was worth every second. Life is hard but it has so much beauty in it that a good way to experience it well is to live it with a thankful heart and constantly remind ourselves that our God is so good… All the time! Herein lies the beauty of our journey.
The dim hospital room was packed full of 15 or 20 Filipino families, each huddled around a bed or crib holding their sick child. The windows were open and a single oscillating fan in the corner provided some airflow to keep the room bearable. Our small group of missionaries had introduced ourselves and were tasked with sharing a testimony – a personal story about when each of us saw God in our lives.
In the late afternoon of the second week of November, we made a visit to a tiny community outside of General Cepeda, Mexico. We went to Oratorio Chico to pray with the people there in their small chapel. With the sun setting as I drove our twelve-passenger van down the long, violently bumpy dirt road to get there, I felt like I was looking out at the set of a dusty Spaghetti Western: shrubs and cactus peppered the landscape; patches of dry, sandy soil separated the vegetation; real tumbleweeds rolled across the road. Out here, the wind will blow around a piece of greenery, scattering its soil, until finally, without anything to hold it down, a careless gust flings the little plant spinning off into the desert.
Now that we are committed to Family Missions Company, we have spent the past few weeks working on purging possessions, preparing a garage sale, and preparing to sell the house. I have to be honest: sorting all the possessions for a family of 7 into take, store, sell, donate, and trash piles is nothing short of overwhelming. It isn’t so much the lifting and moving of boxes as much as letting go of the security and comforts of the stuff we keep. We keep a storage room full of hand me downs for the kids because then we know they will always have more than enough clothes. We keep a closet full of games because then we know we will never be bored (hypothetically speaking). We have a kitchen full of more pots and pans than we could use in one meal because we are sure to have the perfect tool to use with the recipe we are trying. You get the picture.