LenBanks

a continuing story of trust, grace and community

Tag: joy

Healing Through Service

IMG_0524I recently had the honor to take a team from my church to serve at Door of Faith Orphanage (dofo.org) in the town of La Mision, B.C. Mexico.  It is located between Rosarito and Ensenada.  It is a most surprisingly charming place.  If a child has to be in an orphanage, this is the place to be!  As the Director, DJ, gave us his welcome and shared the values of the orphanage that he has led for over 20 years, one of the three values were Healing through Service.  He began to share that the children and staff of DOFO are encouraged to serve, and not just chores.  But real ministry outreach service.  The kids raise funds, go on trips and make real differences in the places they go.  This leads to a healing in their own lives as most are social orphans, having been removed from broken or abusive homes.  Teaching them to serve others brings a lasting and deep healing in their lives.

Javier is a man we met when we went to make and serve breakfast with the Baja Family Outreach located the Tijuana dump area.  A church has been built in the heart of the community of thousands who live on reclaimed dump land.  Most are uneducated and find their income by recycling garbage.  Their homes are built with items found in the dump.  We saw more than one roof made from the vinyl banners of highway billboards.  As we made the breakfast a family of 8 came in, Javier being the dad.  His children and wife sat down to eat the food we had prepared, but Javier stood at the entrance to greet people and watch over his family.  I asked him why he wasn’t eating and he shared he normally volunteers.  By our team being there, we had taken his job.  Of course he was blessed by our presence and asked we pray for his family and to please return.  But I saw something powerful in him.  He had no money to care for his family as I am sure he would like, but by volunteering he felt he was part of providing.  Serving was healing for him.  Serving was empowerment for him.  Serving made him feel like he was being a provider for his family.

IMG_0543No better example of healing through service came in the story of Martita, a lady we met serving at another organization, Life in the Canyon (lifeinthecanyon.vpweb.com).  This group is led by Dave Hessler and he found basically the poorest community of Tijuana and began serving a number of years back and was an outgrowth of his time with the Baja Family Outreach.  He landed in the former TJ dump that has created massive hills of garbage covered in soil and is now being reclaimed by squatters and the poor who have built pallet shacks and small homes.  A little over two years ago Dave came across Martita as he walked through a cemetery.  She was high on crystal meth and was digging through burn piles for scraps of metal to sell to support her habit.  He offered, through his ministry to serve the community, some help.  At first, if I understood her story, she didn’t accept, but time after time he continued to reach out to her and eventually she came to the community center.  There she saw loving people serving their community and something drew her.

She asked if she could serve and they found a place for her.  The desire to quit drugs grew and at a point she quietly decided to stop.  After a week went by being clean, she came to Dave and shared her good news.  He told her to go one day at a time and every day to come and give him a number; the number ‘1’ for one more day of sober.  He wrote that number on a white board and eventually it grew from 7, to 25, to 50.  As of our meeting her it has been over 2 years!  Her love for God, her purpose found in serving her community, and the love shown her by Dave and others gave her hope and strength to go on.  Today she is trusted with keys to everything, is one of Dave’s trusted assistants, and has a restored relationship with her daughter and grandchildren.  She is no longer homeless but has a tiny micro-home built with money from a 16 year old boy who did a fund raiser in his church!  She can’t read or write but has learned to post on Facebook in order to be connected.  She gave us a tour of her community, the dump, and you could see the love she had for it’s residents.  She found healing through serving!

One of the things that I found most exciting with DOFO is that they don’t have teams come just to stay focused on them as an orphanage.  DJ said many times to me, almost to the point of sounding a humorously insulting, “We don’t want you to stay here.  Our kids have seen every drama and are pretty saturated with Americans!”  But as he clarified you knew exactly what he was saying.  Come and use DOFO as a hub to serve the broader area of Baja.  Go to the dumps, build a house for a resident, serve at the rehab homes, do an outreach to drunk Americans at the beaches and bars, give out groceries and pray with residents of the dump.  I believe DOFO is as blessed and beautiful as it is because it too has become whole by serving others and not manipulating donors and guests to selfishly stay committed to them.  They have a mature faith, a generous faith.

I almost missed the joy of the moment!

We are in! Our church held it’s first service in our new building last night. It has been a long journey and there is no other way to explain it other than giving God all the credit to make a way for us. It is not finished as floors and a whole lot of other things still need to be done to get our final inspections approved. But it is safe and it is ours and God is being worshipped in it. I have seen people step up and serve in such incredible ways and sadly I have seen others who I would have expected to, not. Of course they have their reasons and so this has revealed to me once again the part of me that I don’t like.

I found that I slip towards discouragement and judgement and anger far too easily. I am not trying to beat myself up or bring a cloud over this wonderful watershed moment in the life of our church. But I strive to be more like Jesus and can’t just pass over and excuse my own behaviors. Yesterday as we were digging in to get it ready, still doing major electrical installs along with serious clean up, I was “stressed out” which is just code for angry and grumpy and fearful it wouldn’t get done. Of course it did because people stepped up and some of us stayed until very late, even after our first service. But while the service was happening and worship was playing I found myself weeping both out of joy and repentance/shame at the same time. It was so wonderful to finally have praises to God going up from our congregation and at the same time I was so sad I let the pressure of the day almost steal the joy of that moment.

It is so easy to miss silver linings by focusing on the cloud. And in reality it is less of a cloud with silver lining and more of a gloriously sunny day with just a small rain cloud on the horizon. But I/we can get focused on the wrong things. I am glad I was able to step back and see it, but it came much later than I wished it had.

Thank you God for what you have done and how you have done it through incredible people who I have such a deep appreciation and respect for. Thank you for working in me to reveal areas of needed growth and to help me step back and not miss your hand at work. You are such a great God.

I’ve been posting worship songs that reflected my heart to “yearn” for God, but there are just times you want to jump, shout, and be filled with an exuberance. That is where this song comes in. I rejoice that God, the “maker of the heavens knows my name”. My soul will ever sing His praise!

Beyond the Sun

Waves of sadness and joy course over me as I have an “aha” moment.  Once again, God has shown me something.  Not anything new to mankind, but a deeper awareness of what he has been saying all along.

I have have been hungering more for God and leaning in to that posture more and more lately.  I am excited to see what God is doing in me and around me and I want more of that. 

But how that takes shape is continually surprising.  Recently I found myself repeating an experience that I have had in the past.  Something I knew then was not the best for me but it didn’t hold the same weight of grief when done in the past.  But this time, it truly grieved me after the fact.

Jumping ahead, this morning I am reading Matt Chandler’s, The Explicit Gospel, and he writes this, “In the end, there is nothing under the sun that brings lasting fulfillment.  You have to look beyond the sun.”  This of course is a reference to Ecclesiastes and the preacher declaring all is meaningless, there is nothing new under the sun.  While reading this, the song in my headphones became clear to me. “set a fire down in my soul that I can’t contain, that I can’t control.  I want more of you God, I want more of you! (Set a Fire, Will Regan & the United Pursuit)

Back to my grief of sin.  I am not trying to justify or excuse it in any way, but there was a positive side to this.  I discovered that as I fill my life’s ambition with more of Christ, the impact of anything less than him, is greater.  I was broken because I had disappointed Him.  That is a right response.  But rather than get stuck in the shame, I now see instead the joy.  I have tasted the Lord, and He is good!  I went back to try something else, but it just didn’t satisfy like it used to!  In fact it tasted outright bad.  Am I glad I tried it again?  No.  But am I glad that I had this awareness, YES!

What is under the sun is meaningless and is old, stale and unsatisfying.  It may not be “sin”.  It may just be normal pursuits.  But in comparison to the fire that God set’s within our hearts, it just won’t do.

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