Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Random thoughts of VanGo...

We get asked a lot, “Does this ever get hard?” 
Our thoughts are usually something like, “Yes. Better question is, when does it get easy?” 
Driving around the country is not easy. Walking up to strangers is not easy. Loving on people who are satisfied with where they are is so far from easy.  At times we think, “Well, eventually it will get easier. We will come up with a system and everything will fall into place...easy.” 
Its been a year. 
We find ourselves with more questions than answers. The more we learn about the person of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that we are so far from having it all together. So far from knowing it all. So far from encompassing what it means to drop our nets and follow Him. There is still so much wisdom and knowledge to gain...
In our very first blog we talked about our desire to take off in our van and spread the name of Christ.  We said we wanted to flip this world upside down with the love of our savior.  
We have yet to flip anything upside down.  
Everything that has been flipped over or even budged in people’s lives has been done only through God. He has simply invited us to join watch stand in awe of the work that he has been doing for a very very long time...even before our creation. 
In “When Helping Hurts,” the author describes it as a “god-complex.” It’s when we feel like we can just burst into people’s lives with all the right tools to help them.  We think that if we pour enough of our money, our time, and our other resources into people’s lives then eventually they will be saved...and through it all, we get to feel better about how awesome we are for helping. We left as if we were something superior to the poor and needy. We left with the intentions of teaching them a thing or two....
We are in California now. Many states later. And we can honestly say that we have learned more from these “poor and needy” people than we could have ever have taught them.  Its not about walking up to somebody as if we are greater than if we have the ability to fix their problems with our valuable gifts.  It is about walking beside them...knowing that we have just as much a need for God as they do...knowing that we are just as dependent upon Jesus as they are.  As the saying goes, “Christianity is just one beggar telling another beggar where the bread is.” 
Some people think that what we are doing is ineffective.  They would say that change is only possible in a person if you stick with them for years.  There are so many layers built up around people’s hearts from years of hurt and disappointment...there is no way that 2 random girls could knock them all down in just a few weeks.  Then again some would say that standing on a corner and proclaiming the name of God with hell-fire and brimstone is the best way too. The argument is so old...yet so hard to wrestle with after devoting our entire lives to this short-term traveling style. 
We met a girl last night who lived in China for 2 years.  She poured and poured and poured into these people and saw very little fruit. She said, “The darkness brings with it a sense of hopelessness.” During her last month in China a group from her American home church came to work alongside of her. 4 people got saved! She said she could not believe it.  She poured 2 years into the Chinese people and saw nothing...after only a few days of being with them, her church friends led them to Christ. 
Maybe there is not a set style of doing this thing. Maybe there is no formula. Maybe if there were, Jesus would have laid it out for us in Scripture. He would have said, “Short-term is better...” or “Long term is better.” Instead he says, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.” And maybe one is not better than the other. 
It would have been very easy for this girl to get frustrated with God...knowing that she poured so much into their lives...and never saw any fruit.  Just as sometimes it can get very frustrating for us.  It is our American way of thinking that much work should produce much fruit....for the one who did the work.  But Paul says, “God gives the growth.” Only God saves. We just get to play a role. And our work is not so that we can gain anything but so that Christ can be made famous (as he so deserves). Sometimes that is planting...sometimes that is watering...sometimes that is spending years doing something...sometimes that is spending a moment doing a good deed. But knowing that God uses the entire body and all of its uses for his much bigger purpose.  It is not our place to say what is better.  It is simply our job to be obedient to what God has called us each individually to do...trusting that our individual role will ultimately play a picture in the big scene. “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” We rejoice in what God does through each part of the body...not comparing ourselves to one another...why should the ear say, “Well, Crap, I’m not a foot?” Why should the person that God has called to stay say, “Why can’t I be the one who goes?” Why should the person that is going say, “The one who stays sees more fruit?” We produce the fruit together. No one person does anything...”Lest any man should boast.” 
See, God used both the long term missionary in China and the short term people to accomplish his goal.  He plans it all out perfectly. It is him who does the work....we stand in awe. 
Does it get hard when we see little fruit? Yes. Does it get frustrating to trust that God has people both before and after us? Often. Does it bring us greater joy than anything this world has ever offered far. by far. This is why Paul considered it pure joy to face trials...because he knew that in the end he would know that much more about God’s patient, enduring, loving character. No, it doesn’t get easy...but it remains fulfilling.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Choose Life.

"I had 3 more weeks paid for at the motel, but I had to leave because the temptation to fall back into drugs and alcohol was too strong," our new friend Brian was telling us.

As his story unfolded we learned that he had been involved in a biker gang most of his life called Hell's Angels. He drenched his entire existence into alcohol and drugs...or "booze and pills" as he said. He is older now...and has a long list of people that he has hurt or abandoned. He has a lot of kids from a lot of different women. He said he always left them because he had to "take care of business," quoting it himself with his fingers.

Then God met him in his motel. He found himself broken before a holy God. All by himself in a dark, drug infested room, he asked Jesus to save him. He felt a peace and an assurance that he says he has never before experienced. Consequently, he fled from his temptation, despite the fact that he had nowhere else to go and no money to try and get anywhere even if he did.

That's where we met him. Sitting on the streets with not a friend around but his walker, staring at the traffic as it went by. After talking with him for awhile we learned that he desired to know more about God and we gave him a bible. We asked him to read the book of John first. We saw him a few days later with the biggest, toothless, grin on his face! He walked up to us, in all excitement, saying, "I read John! It is so good! It brought so much clarity to what I experienced in the motel that night!"

We met our friend General at a park. He was sitting by himself. After a short conversation we learned that he had been out on the streets for 5 years. He ended up there after the love of his life divorced him. He like John and Charles from Chattanooga stopped caring about life when the only one that he was living for disappeared. He fell apart. We have learned, and even read recently in "Same Kind of Different as Me," that if you are not doing drugs and drinking when you get to the streets, you will sure start once you get there.

Alcohol helps you sleep at night...keeps your body warm when you are cold. The mixture of that with drugs helps you forget about your lifestlye, your circumstances, and numbs your deep hurts. After talking with General for a couple hours about his life, our lives, and who God is throughout it all, we left and hoped to see him again soon.

The next day we read part of the book of John to him and watched as God showed up to him in a big way. His curiosity level about God rose as the hours went by. He began volunteering at churches and events on his own (with us and on his own). He prays with/ for his friends on the streets. He prays with/for us. He came to church with us for the few weeks that we were there. He wants to know God.

We watched both General and Brian fight to know more about God. But we also watched Satan pull them back down into the lifestyles that they know all too well. One afternoon we came by to pick up Brian only to find him intoxicated. It was the first time in 3 weeks that we had seen him drunk. He said that it is so hard on the streets to avoid it. Without it there is nothing to do but stare and wait to go back to the Mission for sleep. We came back the next day only to see the same thing. We could see his disappointment in himself as he sipped the bottle. He hated it. There was conviction all over his face...and the truth was fighting in his soul. His flesh was winning the battle every time he made the motion to move the bottle towards his mouth. At the same time we could see God all over him screaming, "I will never leave you or forsake you!"

We haven't seen him since that day. He disappeared. His time at the Mission to sleep is up (They get 30 days in and 15 out). So we know he is sleeping somewhere...we just can't seem to find him.

His spirit is so willing...but his flesh is weak.

General says, "I feel like I am on a fence...part of me wants to go be with God and part of me wants to keep drinking." He knows his addiction. He knows his deep need for God. He says, "I feel the different between being with God and being with my friends." He has tasted God and counts his meeting us as a miracle from God. We have told him over and over what it means to be saved and what it means to start a relationship with God. We have poured out our very every ounce of our prayers on his behalf.  Numerous times we looked so hard through his hard layers and stared right into his soul as we reminded him that God wants to soften his heart and protect it. We watch him throw the possibility around in his heart and in his thoughts before he says, "Not yet."

The other day he reminded us, "I'm still praying about Jesus and all that." He really does mean it.  People say that General will never find Jesus. That he is too far gone.  He is the king around the streets.  We see otherwise.  Deep inside all of that hurt and disappointment lies a servant's heart.  He truly desires Christ.  But he has an addiction that his body needs to let go of. We have given him gentle love, tough love, and everything in between.  It is his turn to move...he needs to put action to his desire...and we can't do that for him.  He can't live for this world, drinking his life away AND live for Christ...who asks us to pick up our crosses in order to follow only him.

Again, his spirit is so willing but his flesh is so weak.

Both General and Brian can literally see death and life, blessing and curse sitting before them. They can taste and feel the difference. Let's join in prayer that they will choose life, that they and their families may live. Deuteronomy 30:19

We know a lot of the people who live and sleep out on Yosemite Ave. They are not surrounded by people who are fighting as hard as they want to fight.

We will be in continual contact and prayer for General and hopefully Brian. We do not think God is done with either of them. We believe that he has another person to come behind us to push them even closer to what they know is the truth.

Which we have no doubt in...

That is the beauty of the body. We were so loved by both Crosspoint and Hilmar church. They took us in and completed our mission to live out Luke 10 as they were the ones who fed us and housed us and took us in...without an ounce of doubt.

"And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him;but if not it shall return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages." Luke 10:6-7

They were both houses of so so so much peace. So much love. SO much Jesus.

And with these churches, we can trust that God's work will be completed. He uses some to go and some to stay and together big things will happen in the lives of people like General and Brian. No doubt.
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God made it grow." 1 Cor 3:6