LenBanks

a continuing story of trust, grace and community

Tag: love

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’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!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCunuL58odQ&w=560&h=315]

These past couple of days I am enjoying the song How He Loves and it’s amazing lyrics.

“When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions
Eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me

And oh, how He loves us, oh
Oh, how He loves us, how He loves us all”

What an amazing statement! To become unaware of our afflictions because they are eclipsed by the glory of God. What a beautiful reality to live in. What a beautiful way to say it. I am reminded of the old chorus, “turn you eyes upon Jesus…and all these things will grow strangely dim in light of His glory and grace”.

We (I) need to continually make God bigger in my view. To allow myself to focus more on Him. So much energy is spent on trial/sin/affliction management; fear, worry, fret, solutions, and frankly even telling ourselves we need to see God more and then running to the Bible for the fix. There is a franticness even in trying to see God.

But God calls us to just…rest. We don’t need to drum up His action. He already has accomplished it and it is there for us. We need to dwell, rest, delight and abide. Much different mood or tone with those words that are used all throughout scripture to describe the way to approach our Father.

The song continues,
“Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking”

I imagine those slow motion scenes where a person is falling backwards into the water and you see it just engulf them and then the shot takes you under the water where you see the silhouette floating down with the light rays behind. That moment of complete surrender and yielding. No fighting or struggling. Just a resignation. Of course we are not drowning, but we are dying to self. Drawn to the absolute grace. No more effort to maintain our image. No more struggle to become good enough. Just grace!

“I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way

Oh, how He loves us, oh
Oh, how He loves us, how He loves all”

Writing Your Story

I have been listening to a number of different speakers lately that have all woven the idea of one’s story into their messages. The idea being that the narrative we live is in many respects up to us and we have the ability to write our own stories. Of course this is not a new topic or idea, but the language used; plot, narrative, meta narrative, etc gave it new life to me.

If we feel our story is meaningless or boring it is because we have written such a story. Theologically this has implications because many of us have come to conclusions that we are just waiting on God to direct us. We are then often passive characters in our own stories. And while God is sovereign and may at times have very specific parts for us to play, more often His plan is general. He desires all of us to experience love, redemption, forgiveness, to participate in His mission and be maturing followers. But as one speaker said, unless you hear a donkey talk or are a pregnant virgin, you likely are not on a specific plan.

So feeling stalled? Has your story line lulled? Begin re-imagining the next plot line. Ask yourself “What if…” questions. What if that fear was overcome? What if you forgave that person? What if you moved to a new state or country? What if you adopted a child or took in a foster kid? What if you changed careers to follow your dream? See which ones stick with after a few days and then follow that storyline out to its conclusion.

I too believe that we often feel God’s will is more specific than it is. One of my guiding verses is Psalm 37:4. When we delight ourselves in Him, He gives us the desires of our heart. The discovery of God’s will is far less mysterious than most of us make it to be.

What we need to remember, however, is that every good story has conflict that is overcome. Our narratives will not be free from failures, missteps, or tragedy. They may not even have the short-term happy endings we desire. While we are writing our own stories, we are only co-authors, and sadly God is not our only contributor. Many others are adding their stories into ours and ours into theirs.

The point to this though is that we take more of an active role in our own narratives. In creating the ending we desire. Think of your story in movie form. How is it ending as the credits roll? Along the way did you root for yourself or were you falling asleep while watching? Is it a story of heroism that inspires others or a cautionary tale?

As followers of Christ we are assured of the ultimate “happy ending” but that doesn’t prevent us from squandering the life we have until then. I reflect on Christ’s words that He came to give us life to the fullest. He also reminds us in the parable of the talents to not operate in fear of Him being a hard taskmaster and wasting the opportunities afforded us. Instead he rewards the risk taker, the one who invests and lives.

Until we are dead we have a responsibility to live. Live the fullest life you can imagine. One that glorifies Him and serves others. One that reflects justice and mercy and grace and beauty.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYQ7FlND93c&w=560&h=315]

A great soulful cry to trust in the strength of God!

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