Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Day In Mexico


Last week my son and I accompanied others from our church on a one day mission trip to Mexico.  AMOR Ministries (American Mission for Orphans and Refugees) works to alleviate the plight of migrants worldwide. 

Original home of family, the blue barrel is their drinking water

Throughout Central America millions of migrants seeking a better life have streamed to the northern border regions of Mexico.  Maquiladoras (foreign owned factories) are expanding to provide much needed jobs in these regions, but the migrants keep streaming in and joblessness is still rampant.


These migrants form an especially poor underclass within Mexico.  Some will stream across the border, but most will stay and try to make it in Mexico.  A curious thing I have noticed is that in San Diego, the valleys have been long filled in with housing and businesses.  Newer, more upscale housing is being added, but the only place to build is in the hills.  In San Diego the higher you are the richer you are.  In the hills surrounding Tijuana the opposite is true.  The higher you go the poorer and more desperate it gets, because that is the only place to build a house.

We met at the church at 6:30, drove about 15 miles to the AMOR office in San Ysidro to get our escort.  We were at the border, a half hour later.  The Federales pulled us over to the secondary inspection.  There is something unnerving about seeing soldiers with M-16’s wearing masks, but that is what is needed to keep these soldiers and their families safe.  A quick check in the back of the van and they let us go.  I am often asked why I take the risk to go to Mexico, and why would I take my son.  The truth is that sometimes we have to take risks in order to serve people.  I would also like to point out that AMOR takes precautions to keep their volunteers safe.  I feel safer in the neighborhoods overlooking Tijuana, than in parts of San Diego.

The worksite was very close and today we would be laying the foundation for a new house.  The thing that always strikes me is what the family is living in.  The new house is built in three separate trips to the worksite, but the number of trips can be lengthened if the work group is slow or inexperienced.  I have no technical training in construction, but most of the work requires no technical training.  If your group doesn’t have this training, then the AMOR staff will lead you through each step.  You just need to go once and you will be hooked.

The homeowner (left w/ son) helps us build

My first trip with AMOR bothered me a little in that it felt like our work was just a drop in the bucket, but once you begin to recognize the outline of an AMOR house you can start to see the effects of hard work over time.  AMOR has completed over 15,000 houses for families in need!!!  Now I can just look around a neighborhood and pick out the houses.  In addition, the families that were help are overwealmed with gratitude.

  The other thing that brings me solace is knowing that AMOR allows the local pastors to choose which families are in the most dire need and determine the order in which families get their house.  Our effort in building these houses empowers the local pastors in their effort to bring people to Christ.  Our job as missionaries is to just show the love of Christ.

            It was a little harder to walk away from this trip, because I knew the family would have to wait a little longer to move in, but I knew that other faithful servants of Christ would be there to finish the job.  

 I was so proud of my son Spencer.  He worked very all day hard filling wheelbarrows with sand and gravel.   The Sunday prior to the trip, Spencer had been baptized by his own choice. I had the privilege of leading him to Christ following our church’s Vacation Bible School when he was six.  I can see that the love of Christ dwells in him fully. There is no greater feeling to see your children choosing God.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Crisis of Identity

College can trigger a crisis of identity.  The reason is that you were trying to fit in by being someone that God has not made you to be.  High school has a way of doing this as peer pressures tend to strongly force you to conform to something you are not.  The beauty is that in college there are few identifiable “types” as there were in high school, so this can be liberating, but it also can be disorientating.  College professors tend to enjoy their role of calling all of your beliefs into question, so for students of faith be ready to be challenged.  You may be mocked, but you should be ready to defend your reasons for your faith in a way that draws people to Christ instead of repelling them (1 Peter 3:15).  You may have never been forced to do this, so take this opportunity to delve deeply into the scriptures to find out what you believe and why you believe it.  There are a number of good programs out there, check with your pastor.  I have found the discipleship training materials of the Navigators as a great source of training.  For those of you who have left town to go to school, you should develop a new home church where you are going to school.  This will give you access to people like you who can support you in the spiritual battles that you WILL face in college.  Public universities tend to encourage any philosophy except Christianity, so be ready.  Charles Malik in his article titled “A Christian Critique of the University” found numerous areas where Christian values were counter to the basic culture on most college campuses.  A Christian college allows you to escape some of these pressures, but not all of them.  For the rest of you attending a public university, it will serve you to think of college as a mission field. 
            For those who have unclear goals, you are in the majority.  If you have the ability to do college, go for it.  Any degree will give you a broad set of options, as there are careers out there that do not require a specific degree, just that you do have one.  As you seek God, things will become clearer, but be prepared to walk in a bit of a haze.  God doesn’t always explain himself and make your whole life trajectory clear, He often just lets you know what you should be doing now.  You can live out your faith through many careers and God needs people everywhere to reach people who need Him (1 Cor 7:17).  Working in ministry is not for everyone, but if you do your education will help your ministry as well as your impact in ministry.  If you have been given the ability to do college (and only a few have it) you should not turn your back on this gift.   For those of you who have not declared a major, use your classes to help point the way, ask yourself as you take these classes: “Do I enjoy this?” and “Am I good at this?”  An affirmative in BOTH above questions can lead you to a major and a career path.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Gospel of Self-Determination Part II

Every graduation speech hinges on somebody invoking the gospel of self-determination, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”  These types of sayings can lead to disappointment and failure, because not all accomplishment are open to all people.  Relentlessly hard work is necessary for any great accomplishment, but these goals must be correctly attained.  College is going to be a grind, when you begin your career it will be a grind, when you get married at times it will be a grind, and when you have children… you get the point. 
            How exactly does a dream die?  Most high school freshmen boys will raise their hand when I ask which of them will be playing a pro sport, but by the senior year the dream is over as most have not put in the overwhelming effort and time to get to the point where they get courted by colleges.  The problem is that the damage has been done. Kids, now young adults, who thought they were going to play a pro sport put little stock in working hard at their academics to prepare for the rigors of college.  For the athletes who make it to the college level athletically, they will have to wait until a later step in the filtration process to have that bubble burst.  An NCAA report by Clint Newlin in 2011 found that For every 10,000 high school senior varsity football players only eight will be drafted by the NFL. Furthermore, anyone who casually follows football knows that many of these draftees will be cut within the first few weeks of the preseason, so the actual probability is even more staggering.
Many students do seem to understand on some level the odds that face them, so they talk about a backup plan.  This plan is usually academic in nature, but the problem with this mentality is that students see it as a back-up plan and fail to put enough time into their studies.   This leads to subpar skills that make doing the challenging work of college impossible. 
            Simply put, the lower your skills, the more often you will need tutoring in the form of professors, study groups or even hired help.  If you had C’s in high school, you will probably struggle because your skills won’t be there for you.  You will need to devote more time to the process of studying because you have not developed study habits that can allow you to learn information more quickly.  The more you know, the more you can skip things you already know.  This gives some people an advantage over you.  The equalizer in all this is laziness, meaning theirs. While they party and sleep in, you will be studying. You should be able to make up the difference through hard work.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Gospel of Self-Determination

Just as bitterness can flow from unforgiveness it can also flow from a sense of shattered plans and disappointment. The world says that you can do anything that you want if you just believe in yourself, work hard and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it.  There is a lie in all this.  In the book of Acts, Saul was dragging Christians off to jail; he was a man to be feared.  On the way to Damascus he was converted by the presence of Jesus.  He was led, blind into the city and awaited a brave Christian to pray over him. Ananias was the man that God chose, but he was scared (Acts 9:13-16). That last phrase blows me away, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”  God wants us to lay our lives at His feet; we don’t get to call the shots.
When I think about the gospel of self-determination “you can do anything you want to do, just believe in yourself” I’m envisioning some star baseball player saying how slow and small he was when he was a kid.  He will say he didn’t listen to the “haters and discouragers,” worked hard, never gave up, and got what he wanted.  This is true, but only for him and a select few, but not for the tens of thousands of other football players whose dreams perished along the path to glory.  The baseball star fails to mention is that he was extremely fortunate to have many things fall into place.  John Holway, in his book The Baseball Astrologer and other Weird Tales analyzed pro baseball players birthdays and found that that ball players have a 50-60% better chance of making it to the big leagues if they were born in August.  This would make a ball player the oldest player on a team when they all start playing t-ball and naturally have a physiological head start.  This player would usually play more, ride the bench less, and be more likely to play all-stars, thereby extending playing time.  This and many other silent advantages built talent and encourage even more practice.  All pro players have worked really hard, but they have also benefitted from many unseen factors that they do not understand. 
The lottery is for fools, because the probability of winning is extremely low.  It would be foolish to neglect a career to play the lottery every day.  Just as it is foolish to put your hopes on the lottery, it is also foolish to put your hopes on anything resembling a lottery in the way that it works (Proverbs 28:19).  Some careers are essentially a lottery, whereby only a few make it past the many filtration barriers. Wouldn’t it stink to be one of the few athletes who made it only to have some freak injury sideline you?  This happens every Sunday. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

9 Thoughts on Forgiveness and Trust

  1.  When you feel angry about a recurring offense, the anger is not in and of itself bad, but you need to know that anger can lead to sin (Ephesians 4:26).  Anger is an emotion that tells us we need to do something to change the situation, so we need to ask God what we should do.  
  2. Within the context of prayer God will often require forgiveness if we are taking the offense personally.  Sometimes God will just require you to take it (1 Peter 2:19). 
  3. There are times when you will need to assert boundaries between you and people who continually hurt you.  Be careful when dealing with someone who has offended you (Galatians 6:1).  Please follow God’s word, His prompting, and the advice of strong Christians.  Your “boundaries” may be nothing more than revenge (Matthew 18:15-20).  This is why you must carefully ask God to lead you in the right direction.  
  4. Doing nothing when God is prompting you to do something is wrong (James 4:17).  Your inaction may lead to others being hurt.  
  5. So what if you are the offending party?  The two statements that need to be said are: 1) I’m sorry for (name offense).  2) Will you forgive me? It’s their call whether to forgive you, so don’t come unwound when you do not get a favorable answer.  
  6. Christians are commanded to forgive, but it is one of the most advanced things a Christian can do, so many Christians struggle to do it.  So don’t flip out when they don’t.  
  7. You need time to show yourself trustworthy.  It may be that God may need to work on their heart for awhile.  I have been on the other side of an unforgiving heart and it is so painful because there is nothing you can do to force someone to forgive you.  
  8. If you are being refused forgiveness, then you should “bear up under it” as stated 1 Peter 2:19 above.  This will take being “conscious of God.”  
  9. You need to do your part in rebuilding the relationship (Romans 12:18).