Do you ever think of how you got where you are? I do. I can tell you every single little detail in the year leading up to the calling to come to Nicaragua. I can give you detailed accounts of the way the Father had been growing us since we got married, and even since Jr. High, to prepare us for the life we have right now.
I was in Jr. High in this picture (at an orphanage in Mexico) and that was when I realized this would be my life, I knew it. I knew it like a painter knows what he’s painting before it takes form, or a tattoo artist sees the finished product before it has begun. Like a song writer knows those sentences on the page in front of him will one day be a song formed from his heart. Everything was there, everything was leading us here, and even though, to those around us, it may seem like random paint splotches, or a crappy drawing, or a group of words that don’t fit well…we are working toward what will be His masterpiece. When you get to that part, the masterpiece part, everyone seems to forget what lead up to it…they just focus on the beauty, how it catches their eye, how it moves them, what it does in their mind and heart. It really is an amazing process. As you look throughout history you find that many painters became a success after their death. In contrast if you’re a good tattoo artist, you are acclaimed as soon as your artwork is done, and the person you have tattooed is a walking advertisement for you. Two completely different forms of art with completely different outcomes and reactions…but in the end…it’s still art.
Sometimes I view life and church this way. When we first came to Nicaragua, we felt alone…and so lonely. But we had Eugeno, Ana Patricia, Ana Marcela and Adres who welcomed us with open arms.
We grew at La Vina Norte and came to see many of the people there as great friends.
We learned a lot. We discovered the phrase “cultural differences” and the many uses and misuses of it by Americans and Nicaraguans alike. We loved the people there, and still do. Everyone at La Vina Norte was quite patient with us as we began to learn of the new culture we were living in. As we learned Spanish and as we began to discover our true purpose here. They were our introduction to Nicaragua, and they were an amazing one. When we felt it was time to go, it was with heavy hearts that we said our goodbyes. Like a child leaving home, we left with the sadness of leaving, but the excitement of what was to come. Like coming to Nicaragua, we knew it was the next step.
We have made many mistakes as we have walked life out here in Nicaragua. We have said stupid things, been corrected, done stupider things, been corrected…it’s like we’re one big walking rough draft and are constantly fixing the many red marks as to turn in something worthy of being read.
When speaking of his next visit Paul says to the Corinthians, “Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening. For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.”
2 Corinthians 12-19-21
Although we are discussing two very different situations, the same can be said about the way Preston and I feel most of the time. Funny how life feels sometimes, huh? How we see our life in retrospect to how others see it. I mean if you were to ask me, I would say we are forever trying to prove that we are worthy to be here as church planters to Americans and Nicaraguans alike. It’s frustrating and saddens me greatly. At the same time, I know the Lord has called us here. Just like the Lord has called my parents to adopt 8 kids.
People look at it and think, “they brought this kind of life on themselves! They didn’t have to adopt all those kids”. Well, that’s true. They didn’t. Just like we didn’t have to come here. Just like Ruth didn’t have to go with Naomi, her mother-in-law. Jonah could have stayed in the belly of the whale…he could have died there. Paul didn’t have to write letters from prison or travel and speak of the life we are to live in Christ. Nobody has to do anything really. Isn’t that the perplexing life of a Christian? The freedom of choice? The freedom to choose who and what we believe in. These are all things we, as followers of Christ, chose to do, but why?
Is it because we feel we have some special calling? I don’t know, anyone who has been called…doubts that call at some point. Here’s something I do know, when the compassion of the Lord flows over you to the point of not caring about your own circumstances, material belongings, or even your human abilities…you’re probably walking out a calling from above. When we “can’t”, He thrives. When we’re down, we give Him the ability to lift us up. This is the life we are all called to. It can be extremely difficult and extremely blessed, and they are entwined and as we work to untangle them, I just think, why? If we rest in Him and Him in us then we shouldn’t need to untangle, we just need to trust in the One who thrives in the imperfection of our lives.
It was Paul who said, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
We (Preston and I) have a lot of imperfection for the Father to thrive in. We feel rejected, alone and afraid most of the time. We feel that we are just too crazy for people and that our walking out faith looks a lot, like, disorganization and confusion. If we can’t put things into the box people ask us to, we feel as if we have failed them in some way. We try to live the life God is calling us to, while involving everyone we can…but we fall short there too. The Lord has called us to live by faith, and many people are uncomfortable with the way we do that, and at the same time encourage us to continue…it’s a weird feeling. We are constantly reading our bible and finding our help in the Father. We have always come at this life saying, “the Lord is our protector and our provider” and unfortunately I think that has caused people to think we don’t need them, want them, or value their opinion…but this simply isn’t true. We do appreciate, love, and value each and every one of them. We just don’t let the opinions of others drive where we go, because that is the job of our Father in heaven. We try to be respectful and giving of ourselves in any way possible.
I often catch myself thinking about what church is. Are we a church? What separates a church from a ministry? Then I think, “what a waste of time all this is”…pondering what we are. What a distraction! We are what He wants us to be. Whether we are seen as a church or a ministry called the Vineyard Community…why does it matter…as long as we are still walking the call out as directed? Does it make what we are doing any less important? Are titles really what we are focused on? Nothing, while done through Kingdom living, is done in vain.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12 Paul describes us as being one body. God being the head and all of us being different moving parts that are quite necessary. Now I realize Paul was talking to the Corinthians, but I think this can be applied to the church as a whole today. While reflecting on all the relationships I’ve had in the past and present I realize that I am less than perfect. What I love about church community so much is that it’s a place where you can make mistakes and be forgiven. There’s authority, grace and compassion. Also, in community we realize that different people, with different views and cultures make up one body. As long as God is the head of that body and we are all (the church) walking in Him, with Him, and through Him…we are on the right track. Living a life in the Father, through the Son, touched by the Holy Spirit, we should always rejoice in each others victories and morn each others losses. We are a body of one, here for one purpose…we have the authority to call people into a life of believing and walking in Christ and the responsibility to help them grow and mature.
We have learned a great many things in Nicaragua, but one of the greatest things we have learned here is how to walk this life of faith as one body. The churches here seem to put aside their differences and come together to help and grow each other. It’s how we’ve had a donation sent to our church through a baptist church, or gone to Sunday School training through a different church, or gotten donations from a different church. We try to help each other in any way we can, because we are the church…and if we aren’t healthy together, how can we expect our members to act healthy towards each other?
“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings.May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:11-14