Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Living ready

Every now and then I see a post on Facebook ominously declaring that we are in the end times.  My reaction is “Of course we are.  We’ve been in the end times since the moment Jesus ascended.” However, our personal “end time” could come at any moment.  A comet could come crashing down down right now and we’d all be in line at the Pearly Gates. Jesus says:
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”  (Matthew 24:42-44)
Whether it is the END TIME or our personal end time, the message is clear:  be ready. What do we do to be ready?  Personally, one thing I do is say the prayer of confession before takeoff and landing every time I fly…just in case!

There are two reasons to be ready.  One is to avoid hellfire and damnation.  The other is to live into the promise that is Christ Jesus -- eternal life in His presence.

After almost 8 years in Honduras. what I have learned is that being ready is not saying a particular prayer or going to church every Sunday.  Being ready is about how you live your life every day.  Soon after I moved to Honduras, I asked a Honduran pastor, “How is it that the poor who suffer so much, with no end in sight, have such a profound faith?”  He answered me immediately, “It’s because we set our sights on the next life.”  I realized, despite my faith, I and many Americans set our sights on this life.  Our measures of success and security are job titles, the neighborhood we live in, the car we drive, our school, the size of our investment portfolio… But, when you set your sights on the next life, everything changes. 

Hondurans know that they are totally dependent on God.  In our independent, self-sufficient, do-it-yourself culture, does that make you feel a little itchy?  The Hondurans give everything over to God.  The country is one of the poorest in the western hemisphere and the government corruption is mind boggling.  If you ask a Honduran how those conditions might change, they smile and shrug, “God knows.”  It is not fatalism, or complacency, it is trust. When they talk about a future event, even meeting for lunch the next day, they say, “Si Dios permite!”  If God permits!  And as far as I can tell, they rarely try to do God’s job for Him.  Have you ever done that?  “Don’t worry, God, I got this!  I’ll let you know if I need help!” Or, do you ever lay out the solution for Him?  “Dear Lord, here is the situation so please first do this, then this… or…you could do that…either way works for me. Amen.” (Personally, I hope God has a sense of humor!)

The Hondurans walk in the Spirit.  And they want you to join them.  Last year during Holy Week, Dony, a staff member, received tragic news.  His father had been murdered for no apparent reason.  The morning after the wake, Suzy, our founder, and I were in my car on the main street waiting for the funeral procession to start.  Dony came over and leaned into the car to talk.  Suddenly an older man, slightly drunk and reeking of alcohol, came up.  He tearfully told us his story. He has no family, his mother abandoned him when he was young.  He thinks God might love him but he isn’t sure.  Sometimes he wants to “leave this world…”  but he is afraid of death.  He is even more afraid of not being loved. Dony, on his way to his father’s funeral, began sharing the Good News with this man, assuring him that Jesus loves him and will never leave him.  At the worst moment in his life, Dony was evangelizing.  He’s ready.

 Hondurans help people who need help.  If you are trying to back out of a parking spot or parallel park, a man (or boy) is always there to help guide you.  Not for a tip, it’s just what they do.  I can’t carry anything around the Children’s Home for more than about 3 steps.  Someone, even our smallest children, will rush up to help. 

Israel and a small portion of the food
Soon after I got to Honduras, I impetuously set off with a car full of food to give to the family of a young woman who worked for us.  We drove 3 hours and stopped at a restaurant.  It was there I learned that the family lived in some remote area where “taxis couldn’t go.” Well, I certainly didn’t want to go, at least not in a car full of women.  So I walked outside onto the dirt road to look for help. We were right next to a gun store so, not knowing what else to do, I started explaining my predicament, in fractured Spanish, to the heavily armed guard.  (Why did I think that would help?)  Well, the woman behind the counter heard and rushed over, dialing her phone.  “I know someone who can help you!”  10 minutes later a young man named Israel (!) roared up in a pick up truck.  He cheerfully loaded all the food, hundreds of pounds of it, into the truck and off we went.  We drove for an hour and a half!  All the while he was smiling and chatting with me.  He knew a little English and I knew a little Spanish.  When we arrived, we discovered the house was deep in a ravine.  No problem! Israel loaded the food on his back and ran up and down the treacherous path until all the food had been delivered.  As we set off back to the village, I was so grateful for his help.  I looked at him and said, “Tu eres mi salva vida!”  (you are my life saver)  He looked puzzled for a second, then smiled and nodded.  He dropped us off at my car and drove off with a wave.  The woman in the gun store called Israel and he came -- because someone needed food and they are always ready to help. (By the way, it wasn’t until I was back in Tegucigalpa that I realized Salva Vida is the name of their beer.  It was like I had told him, “You are my Budweiser!”)

Eva
Hondurans are clear about from whom all blessings flow.  The last team of 2018 came at the end of October.  In addition to all the other usual activities, they decided they wanted to build a house in a day for Ernestina, a tiny, homeless, elderly woman in San Buenaventura.  The mayor had given her a minuscule bit of land way down a dirt road in the mountains behind the Children’s Home.  The only way to get the materials to the site was to carry them down and back up a ravine.  I was standing in the woods monitoring the progress when another woman appeared, arms full of wood that she had gathered for her wood burning stove.  Eva, too, is impoverished but slightly better off than Ernestina.  She put down her machete and wood and smiled broadly at me.  “I am so thankful the Lord is helping Ernestina!  Thank you letting Him use you to bring this miracle to her.”  Eva knows where that house came from.  We were thankful to be part of Ernestina's miracle.

The team realized Ernestina didn’t have a mattress so they gave me the money to buy her one.  I asked Angel, our singing construction worker, if he could help.  No problem!  I gave him the money and the next day, he recruited a friend with a pickup truck.  They went into town, bought the mattress, and then hauled the mattress and box springs to Ernestina’s new house.  Again, because that is what they do.  If they can help, they do…with a smile.




Hondurans live lives of hope.  Jimmy came to us, broken and malnourished, at 3.  One day I saw him at our school where he does volunteer work.  He is 19 now.  He was doing his university homework, playing very complex classical music on his guitar.  His fingers were flying over the strings as he changed chords and picked a sophisticated pattern.  I asked him how growing up at the Children’s Home changed his life.  “Suzy came and gave us the possibility to dream and the possibility of having a better life.  There is a lot of Christian influence at the Children’s Home. They teach us that our lives have a lot of value.  It changed the way I dream.  My hope for the future is more than a degree from university. More than that, it is to influence society positively. More than changing my life, it is changing the lives of others in a positive way.  I want to give a future to kids who don’t have one now.”  Through LAMB God has given Jimmy hope…and now he plans to share that hope with others.

70% of Hondurans live below the poverty line.  40% live on less than $2 a day. Unemployment is over 50%.  The government is so corrupt it makes your teeth hurt.  There is no end in sight for the poor in Honduras.   And yet, they are always joyful, ready with a smile, eager to help, full of hope and focused on the Risen Lord.  They know this life is less than a blink of an eye in the context of eternity but the next life is forever. They are ready.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be ready…for a life filled with joy!