A Clay Vessel (Two Blogs in One!)

3 March 2020

"Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us." 2 Corinthians 4:1, 5-7

The thesis I took away from training in North Carolina is that I have absolutely nothing to offer on the mission field in and of myself. And praise God for it! I am thankful, because it is really freeing to realize this: that considering the cultural-linguistic barriers, the barriers of sin, selfishness, and imperfect love, we have nothing to offer but the same sin and brokenness pervading all of humanity-- and yet God still chooses to use us to draw all nations to Himself, to be part of His divine mission to bring people from every tribe, nation, and tongue into relationship with Him.

I am also so thankful for the sanctifying work that God does through intercultural ministry. An alumnus of CIT has a theory that missionaries are really the people God knew had such hard hearts that we would only be cracked open through the refining fire of cross-cultural work. In all seriousness, though, God used CIT to wake me up to realize the depth of my need for Him and to see that when I lay down my pride, self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and self-righteousness, I am free. The pressure is off because it is all Him. As I write this I am en route to Mexico City, and (in spite of nerves) I am excited to experience a culture different from my own and to know the Lord through it in a deeper way. I am thankful that the Lord has given peace where there were fear and anxiety. I pray that my life and testimony demonstrate the love of God to those I encounter in Mexico City. 

I invite you to meditate on these scriptures with me: 

Psalm 24: 
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers. 
Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? 
And who shall stand in his holy place? 
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, 
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully. 
He will receive blessing from the LORD
and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.       Selah
Lift up your heads, O gates! 
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in. 
Who is this King of glory? 
The LORD, strong and mighty, 
the LORD, mighty in battle! 
Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in. 
Who is this King of glory? 
The LORD of hosts,
he is the King of glory!       Selah

Psalm 139
O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar. 
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways. 
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; 
it is high; I cannot attain it. 
Where shall I go from your Spirit? 
Or where shall I flee from your presence? 
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! 
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me. 
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me become night,” 
even the darkness is not dark to you; 
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you. 
For you formed my inward parts; 
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well. 
My frame was not hidden from you, 
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; 
in your book were written, every one of them, 
the days that were formed for me, 
when as yet there was none of them. 
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! 
How vast is the sum of them! 
If I would count them, they are more than the sand. 
I awake, and I am still with you. 
Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! 
O men of blood, depart from me! 
They speak against you with malicious intent; 
your enemies take your name in vain. 
Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? 
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies. 
Search me, O God, and know my heart! 
Try me and know my thoughts! 
And see if there be any grievous way in me, 
and lead me in the way everlasting! 

7 March 2020

I wrote the previous blog en route to Mexico City, and now I am here. It feels really surreal that I am here, actually, though it is now my fourth day here. 

I am extremely thankful for a smooth transition so far. My host brother and sister are already enormous blessings to me, and my team is amazing. Today I participated in my first proper ministry activity, though I was mostly just observing during a math class for elementary children at the community center where I will be doing ministry in preparation for my ultimate hope of working in the refuge home for trafficking survivors. 

I am convicted once again by the reality that I have nothing to offer on my own here. Being overwhelmed by living more in Spanish than English now, and having become dangerously distractable from making time to be with the Lord, I realized today when I finally sat down to rest in His presence and listen to His Word that the moments when I have thought of Him, spoken to Him, or sought Him have been few and far between. I pray He teaches me to be constant in prayer! I have no ability to do that without intervention by the Holy Spirit, nor do I have the strength to continue in ministry here (and I have barely begun!) without His conviction, transformation, and drawing me to Himself and His Word. 

I have also noticed how self-focused I become as I try to say things semi-correctly in Spanish and attempt to feel secure and in control by asking as many questions as my team has patience for (they are SO patient with me!) and feel safer by having this information about this new and strange place. But GOD alone has all knowledge, is alone my protector, alone sovereign, and alone worthy of my trust. Father, bring me to find my refuge only in You! Praise Him that His grace abounds and is greater than all of my unbelief. Lord, help my unbelief! 

Another of the many humbling aspects of life so far here is feeling unable to really do any "true" ministry so far, not having sufficient language capacity. Yet I was reminded yesterday that simply my presence, conduct, and love toward my host family, my team, and those I come in contact with can be a ministry. Once again, a reminder that all work possible is only done by the Spirit and not by my own striving, accomplishments, or Spanish ability. May my life, attitude, and relationships reflect this Truth.