Friday, June 6, 2014

Horse Burgers, the Post Office, and Life on Mission

It's a good thing that God, in his infinite, perfect wisdom, has sovereignly planned all the adventures that will take place in my life, because I would never have come up with anything this wonderful on my own. And, if I knew beforehand just what an adventure it would be, I probably would never have signed up for a ten-week internship in the Czech Republic. Yet at this moment I am sitting by an open window in an apartment in Havirov, Czech Republic, marveling at all that has happened in the week and a half since I left the United States. Praise God that he knew that this was exactly where I needed to be.
I spent the first three days of my internship in Slovenia on the 'Amazing Race.' Basically you get off an airplane, meet the six other people you'll be serving with for the summer, and then look like an idiot running around a foreign country doing crazy things with them. Highlights included eating horse burgers and bridge jumping. An interesting way to get to know people, but by the end of it we'd had some interesting experiences together and were adjusted to the time zone, so I suppose it served its purpose well.
Then they shipped me off to training for four days. I got slightly overloaded with information, sorta caught up on sleep, and, most importantly, spent more time getting to know the incredible people that I will get to serve with all summer.
Two days ago, we finally moved into the apartment where we will be living in the beautiful town of Havirov. The church here stocked us up with dishes, towels, soap, and food which was all waiting for us when we arrived. You know you're home when there's ice cream waiting in the freezer. I was blown away by the kindness and generosity that we've been shown, and already the people here have been serving us more than we could even dream of serving them. How incredibly humbling.
Although the first week here I always had a Czech national with me or another person who knew what they were doing, yesterday and today I had the wonderful opportunity to look like a total idiot while trying to complete some pretty basic tasks. There is a post office less than a block up from our apartment, and yesterday I decided that mailing some letters would be a good 'first independent accomplishment.' When I walked into the post office, I learned thst it's not only a post office and there are about ten different counters to go to for various things. I still don't know what else they do there, because all the signs were in Czech and I still only know very basic and random phrases. After standing there koukam do blba (staring into stupidity) for several moments, I worked up enough courage to ask someone for help. She showed me which counter to take a ticket for, and the rest of my visit passed without mishap. Although the whole endeavor was probably more complicated than most people would make it, I left feeling as though I'd conquered the world.
I'd like to think that I did a little better today, but I'm not sure if the people staring at me on my walk just knew that I was an American or if they could tell that I was trying to figure out where the heck I was and how I was supposed to get back to my apartment. And I suppose it's possible that no one took notice of the three girls staring at the cheese for ten minutes in the grocery store, trying to figure out which one to buy. At any rate, there are groceries in the fridge, some letters are on their way to America, and I'm only slightly sunburnt. 
Although looking stupid is an important part of any cross-cultural experience, I'm learning about some other things as well. If you don't know, Bible college is one of the hardest places to live on mission, and I've definitely sensed a dryness and a lack of passion since I don't get to spend a lot of time around people that don't know Jesus. But it takes only four or five days on an internship with a missions organization to be reminded that we all need to care about reaching lost people. This past semester I was learning a lot about worship and how worship is necessarily tied to Salvation. To be saved is to be a worshiper of God, and to be in the process of sanctificiation is to be learning to worship him more completely. This week I was struck with the reality that if we really care about worship we have to care about mission. There are millions of people in the world who aren't worshipping God, and they need to be introduced to Jesus so that they can worship him. If we care about worshipping God more perfectly and more completely, we'll be passionate about reaching lost people who are spending their lives worshipping things that will ultimately destroy them.
Of course these are easy things to consider when you're in a different country with none of the distractions of home, and you have two months ahead of you with nothing to do but share Christ with people. But I don't want to forget the mission when I get home. I want to spend the rest of my life asking who are my lost friends? where can I meet more lost people right now? who am I helping to mature in Christ? what am I doing right now that requires faith? I don't know yet what that will look like in the comtext of Bible college and beyond, but I know that whatever context I'm in the mission stays the same. If I'm about worshio, I have to be about mission.
More thoughts on that later perhaps, but now it's time for a walk. Hopefully one that won't include looking like a lost puppy and will include meeting some neighbors who need Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria

Saturday, January 25, 2014

"God Himself will be among them..."

When you’re 20, you think you’re invincible. You don’t even have a big kid driver’s license yet, you’ve never experienced arthritis, and you can’t even imagine what it’s like to be 30. Dozens of wise adults have told you at one point or another to ‘keep your life in perspective.’ But when you haven’t even seen 30, how are you supposed to imagine eternity?
      It’s been one year since my dear friend, Micah Stinchfield, passed away unexpectedly while swimming in the school pool. I remember exactly where I was when I heard. I remember being numb for almost 12 hours before the shocking news finally brought forth tears. I remember crying through almost every class for a week. I remember kind words, tight hugs, and compassionate prayers from friends, pastors, professors. I remember promise after promise from Scripture that the Lord brought to mind in the moments when I was desperately searching for hope and comfort.
      When I was 20, I was hit hard with the truth that ‘invincible’ is not a reality. I learned that someone I loved could one day be hiding out in a practice room to surprise me and the next day be taken from this world without even a hug good-bye. I realized the terror of our frail, uncertain existence. But I was also given the gift of experiencing for the very first time the comfort of the guaranteed hope, security, and peace that can only be found in Christ.
      I had been taught for so long the importance of having my identity wrapped up in eternity and in the promise of Salvation that can only come by grace through faith in Christ alone. I was told over and over again that everything we try to find our security in can be taken away by death, sin, and suffering, unless our hope is in Christ. I knew that. I understood. But on January 26th, 2013, I experienced it. In the moments of darkness and despair, I began to grasp more fully the reality of an eternity that is secure in Christ, a promise that stands when everything else is taken away, and a peace and joy that abides throughout all circumstances.
      As I look back with joy on Micah’s life and the time I had to know him, many things come to mind. He always had something sweet to say, he never stopped smiling, and he was always making music. He always remembered prayer requests that I had shared and would take the time to ask about them. He always went out of his way to encourage, to share his joy, and to reflect the glory of his Savior. I still don’t go through a single day without thinking of him. Sometimes the memories are all sweetness, and sometimes the sorrow is still fresh. But always I must smile, realizing that he lived to reflect eternity and is now there, united with Christ and experiencing what we can only look forward to with great joy and confident expectation.
      Each and every day I praise God for Micah’s life, for the joy that he shared and for the eternal hope that defined him. Sometimes I laugh and sometimes I cry, but always I remember what my friend taught me about eternity. Come what may, my hope is sure, my future is secure in Christ, and the day is coming when I, with Micah and all the other saints that have gone before, will at last be united with Christ, when “God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18