Monday, May 15, 2017

Discouraged or disheartened??

I know it's been a LONG time since I've posted on this blog, but I wanted to take a moment and do so today (in case anyone is still reading it.  :) ).  May God bless you all!!

*** Disclaimer:  This is a LONG post, but one, I pray, will be worth the time to read as I share some of the struggles we missionaries face.  Please take the time to read and share.

“Into the experience of all there come times of keen disappointment and utter discouragement—days when sorrow is the portion, and it is hard to believe that God is still the kind benefactor of his earthborn children; days when troubles harass the soul, till death seems preferable to life. It is then that many lose their hold on God and are brought into the slavery of doubt, the bondage of unbelief. Could we at such times discern with spiritual insight the meaning of God’s providences we should see angels seeking to save us from ourselves, striving to plant our feet upon a foundation more firm than the everlasting hills, and new faith, new life, would spring into being.
Hope and courage are essential to perfect service for God. These are the fruit of faith. Despondency is sinful and unreasonable. God is able and willing “more abundantly” (Hebrews 6:17) to bestow upon his servants the strength they need for test and trial. The plans of the enemies of his work may seem to be well laid and firmly established, but God can overthrow the strongest of these. And this He does in his own time and way, when He sees that the faith of his servants has been sufficiently tested.
For the disheartened there is a sure remedy—faith, prayer, work. Faith and activity will impart assurance and satisfaction that will increase day by day. Are you tempted to give way to feelings of anxious foreboding or utter despondency? In the darkest days, when appearances seem most forbidding, fear not. Have faith in God. He knows your need. He has all power. His infinite love and compassion never weary. Fear not that He will fail of fulfilling his promise. He is eternal truth. Never will He change the covenant He has made with those who love him. And He will bestow upon his faithful servants the measure of efficiency that their need demands.
Did God forsake Elijah in his hour of trial? Oh, no! He loved his servant no less when Elijah felt himself forsaken of God and man than when, in answer to his prayer, fire flashed from heaven and illuminated the mountaintop.”  (Prophets and Kings, pgs. 162-166)


I have learned so many things since entering the mission field four years ago.  Foremost, that it isn’t nearly as easy as I thought it would be!  I had seen the pictures and videos of other missionaries’ experiences.  I had read blog posts, websites and even talked to other missionaries.  While I had heard and read of challenges many had faced and continue to face, for some reason, in the back of my mind, I had painted a different picture of what life as a missionary would be like.  But from day one, I learned differently.  I am going to be honest with you….perhaps brutally honest…it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had!  Challenges and obstacles I never even knew existed show up on a daily basis.  And if truth be told, more often that I’d like to admit, I find myself entertaining thoughts of running as fast as I can in the opposite direction.  Don’t get me wrong….i absolute LOVE what I do!  And I can’t imagine myself doing anything else for the rest of my life.  But there are days when the responsibilities, expectations, sufferings are overwhelming and seem to crush you and push you to the point of breaking.  How many times do I have to hear a child ask why their father/uncle/grandfather/friend sexually abused them?  Is there to limit to how many mothers can totally abandon their children, never looking back?  Where are the words to explain  and convince how God can love these precious souls when they point out that even their own parents don’t love them?  How many times do we have to file an abuse report, hold the child’s hand as they the forensic exam is coldly and routinely performed, wipe the tears away as they relive the most horrific experiences of their lives, only to have absolutely nothing done about the situation and the child placed back the abusive home?  Words cannot express the agony you feel when that child is crying, screaming for you to help them, to not send them back and there is absolutely nothing you can do!  

It seems like every year, the trials and challenges increase in intensity and frequency.  This past year has by far been the toughest of them all.  The last two months have been extremely tough emotionally for me.  Aside from the above situations, there seem to be a million-and-one other things to demand your attention.  Salmonella outbreaks, broken bones, cavities, problems with the District of Education office, missing records, short-term mission groups visiting campus, medical brigades to offer free health care to the communities, dental clinics, VBS, week of prayer, volunteers leaving, new volunteers arriving, ordering food for the week, children losing their uniforms, reminding the kids to brush their teeth, making schedules, and the list goes on.  I assure you there is NEVER a dull moment!  Being bored is a luxury that most of us here cannot afford.  Two weeks ago, one of our boys cut his thigh with the chain saw.  Yes…the chain saw!  It kicked back while cutting a tree.  God is GREAT and thankfully it was only a small cut (although somewhat deep) and only needed a few stitches. The real problem wasn't so much the accident itself, but trying to keep the very active 14-year old still while it heals and avoid the wound infecting in the heat and humid jungle environment.  A few days later, I had to take one of our new students to the dentist for a filling.  He is also 14.  He had never been to the dentist before.  Bolivians are extremely, extremely scared of needles…much less one that has to go in your mouth!  To say he was nervous is an understatement.  Then, trying to convince him that that tingling, numbing and swelling sensation he is filling is normal is another ordeal entirely.  This same young man received a phone call a few days ago from his stepmother, who informed him through the tears that his father had beat her yet again.  This time, he hit their infant son in the process, causing him to fall down and hurt himself.  The dad kicked her out and threatened to kill her if he saw her again.  She was calling from the hospital where the baby was being treated.  Out student comes to my house and cries in my lap for at least an hour, asking me why his father didn't keep his promise to not hit anyone again?  He proceeded to tell me about several of the times he had been hit by whatever was on hand when his father was drunk and angry.  Then, he shared something that broke my heart even more.  His mother died three years ago (this I knew….I just didn't know the circumstances surrounding her death).  It turns out his parents got into an argument and the father got very violent with the mother, who was pregnant at the time.  She ended up being sent to the hospital.  Both her and the baby died as a result of that altercation.  And here this young 14-year old boy is reliving that experience, extremely worried about his two younger brothers that are still living with the dad, his stepmother and stepbrother who are at the hospital.  We drive him to town to the hospital to see his family, only to find out upon arrival that the stepmother had left to return to the father.  The following day, we file the report with social services.  They speak with the family and are assured that the incident will never happen again and, being content with that response, do nothing further to ensure the safety of the four kids in the home.  

We lost 3 volunteers who returned home after their term of service two weeks ago.  We lose 6 more within the next three weeks.  As of right now, we will be understaffed to meet our needs for next semester, so we are praying about that situation and trying to see how we can stretch ourselves a little more to cover the needs.  

Three weeks ago, we had a group of students do something they shouldn't have done.  Something serious.  As a result, four students were expelled and 6 others were suspended.  It was a VERY tough week!!  Three of the boys involved were “my boys”.  That was the straw that almost broke the camels back.  Things just seemed dark…no light at the end of the tunnel.  I cannot tell you how many tears I shed.  I felt like I was in over my head, like I had failed yet once more.  I came to help and to teach these children about God’s love and making the right decision, to try to improve their lives and from my perspective at the time, it seemed like I had failed miserably.  Surely there has to be someone better qualified to handle these situations, because I evidently cannot.  And if truth be told, I still feel like that at times.  I just felt overwhelmed….in every aspect of my life.  “What’s the point?”  I asked myself.  So many people look at the pictures or videos we post, or hear a sermon we may preach and seem to place us on a pedestal and hold us in high esteem.  I did the same thing before.  But no one really knows what goes on behind those pictures.  The stories and experiences leading up to those moments are unknown.  Being a parent is extremely hard!  But being a parent to 70+ kids daily, plus being a teacher, cook, gardener, dean, psychologist, pastor, nurse, doctor, principal, construction worker, maintenance worker, accountant and counsellor at the same time is even harder.  And while you know it isn’t the case, you have the notion that everyone expects you to have the answer to every problem.  (While on this note, I just want to say how much I appreciate and cherish every one of our volunteers at Familia Feliz…and at all of our other institutions as well!!  There is no way the work could be done without each of them!  If they only realised the impact they are making and how much they help….!  I love each of you!!)  But even with this in mind, I was ready to give in.  

Then, I re-read the passage at the top of this post one night in my personal devotion.  I had read it a couple of months ago and shared it with a dear friend that was going through a tough time.  And as I read it, I couldn’t hold back the tears.  It was just what I needed to hear.  While I knew that the trials were still surrounding me, I was reminded of in Whose Arms I was in.  I was reminded that the battle isn’t mine.  It’s His.  Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.”  The problems aren't mine to solve.  They are His.  And He is more than Capable of handling each one and of taking care of me in the process.  I shared a song that I heard recently on Facebook last week.  The title is “The Warrior is a Child” and the lyrics say, 

Lately I've been winning battles left and right
But even winners can get wounded in the fight
People say that I'm amazing
I'm strong beyond my years
But they don't see inside of me
I'm hiding all the tears

[Chorus]
They don't know that I come running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
(Look up for His smile)
'Coz deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child


Unafraid because His armor is the best
But even soldiers need a quiet place to rest
People say that I'm amazing
I never face retreat, oh no
But they don't see the enemies
That lay me at His feet

[Chorus]
They don't know that I come running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
(Look up for His smile)
'Coz deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child


They don't know that I come running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
(Look up for His smile)
'Coz deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child


This song really hit home to me, because it spoke to how I felt.  I realized yet again that I am but a child.  A child that needs his Father….that Father that will love Him in the midst of the trials.  And that will forgive him for paying more attention to the “giant” (problems, trials, challenges, etc.) in front of him than to Giant (God) holding him.  Like Peter, I had taken my eyes off of Christ and looked at the waves around me…which led to my sinking.  But just as in that instance so many years ago, as soon as I called out for my Savior, His Hand was stretched out, clasping mine and pulling me to safety.  How quick I am to forget and make the same mistakes!

So, now that I have shared some of the challenges I have faced over the past few weeks, let me share with you how God has worked just this past week alone.  First of all, as many of you may have read on another of my posts, we were $2600 short in funding for this month.  That’s a LOT of money people!  But in FOUR DAYS, God sent that and then some!  Four days!  What a Mighty God we serve!!  Then, this past Friday evening, a young man came to talk with me at Familia Feliz.  We were in worship when I was called out.  He explained that he came to get our help.  He was told at the hospital that we have an airplane and do medical evacuations.  His wife had to have an emergency c-section that day and his son was born two months premature.  The local hospital doesn’t have an incubator or other necessary equipment for cases like this and the baby needed to be flown to the city by the following morning or he wouldn’t survive.  The father was desperate.  I told him I would  go and call the pilot in Santa Cruz to see if he and the plane were available.  Thirty minutes later, God worked and we had the flight confirmed.  Sabbath morning, I watched as little “Tiago” (whose head was no bigger than an orange) was loaded on the plane and transported to the hospital in the city.  He made is safely and is doing well.  God allowed me to see firsthand His love for even the smallest of His children and how He is able to orchestrate things so that they work out, where before there was no way.










But that wasn’t what touched my heart the most this week.  We are told that the greatest miracle is a changed heart.  And this week, I was privileged to see not one, not two, but four miracles.  Last week, one of my boys (Kevin) asked to preach.  He had never preached before, but said he felt the Lord calling him to give a message to his classmates and friends.  So two sabbaths ago, I was privileged to hear my “son” preach and call all of Familia Feliz to turn their lives over the Christ.  Then, on Wednesday night, another one of my boys had worship.  Remember the young boy who visited the dentist for the first time and who received the call about his abusive father?  Well, he preached on Wednesday night.  Mind you…he had never picked up or read a Bible before four months ago.  Yet, he spoke for almost 30 minutes on John 15 and the importance of staying connected to the Vine and bringing forth good fruit.  This past Sabbath evening, Eva, one of our young ladies (who has also experienced more abuse in her life than anyone should have to endure) closed out the sabbath with a very opportune message on allowing Christ to give us a new heart, one of flesh.  She reminded us of the importance of truly being born again and referred back to Alan’s message on good fruit.  But perhaps the moment of greatest joy experienced this past Sabbath morning.  I got back from the med evac just in time to hear another one of my “sons” preach.  Manfred was one of the students that was suspended three weeks ago for a bad decision he made.  And he is one of the kids that is closest to me, which made it that much harder for me.  As soon as he returned to school, he told me he wanted to preach and share his experience with the other students, so that they could learn from his mistake.  Manfred had also never preached.  Yet, this 15-year old, preached one of the most sincere, honest sermons I have heard in a while!  He preached for over 40 minutes!  That may not seem like much to some, but if you knew this boy, his past, how his mom abandoned him and how shy he is, you would understand how much this really does mean.  He openly shared his testimony, as he spoke on Jonas’ disobedience and the consequences it led to.  He challenged each of us to obey God, no matter the cost.  As I sat there watching and listening to Manfred, tears streamed down my face as I realized that not everything has been in vain.  God is working, even in the midst of the darkest moments!


Kevin 



 Alan



 Manfred



 Eva

Manfred and I


“God is able and willing “more abundantly” (Hebrews 6:17) to bestow upon his servants the strength they need for test and trial. The plans of the enemies of his work may seem to be well laid and firmly established, but God can overthrow the strongest of these. And this He does in his own time and way, when He sees that the faith of his servants has been sufficiently tested.
For the disheartened there is a sure remedy—faith, prayer, work. Faith and activity will impart assurance and satisfaction that will increase day by day. Are you tempted to give way to feelings of anxious foreboding or utter despondency? In the darkest days, when appearances seem most forbidding, fear not. Have faith in God. He knows your need. He has all power. His infinite love and compassion never weary. Fear not that He will fail of fulfilling his promise. He is eternal truth. Never will He change the covenant He has made with those who love him. And He will bestow upon his faithful servants the measure of efficiency that their need demands.”

I want to take this opportunity to solicit your prayers for a very specific request.  After much fasting and prayer, I have decided to start a new foundation and open another orphanage and boarding school in another state here in Bolivia.  The need is simply overwhelming and we are not coming close to meeting it.  This is a HUGE undertaking and, while I still feel under-qualified and inadequate for such a task, I am depending on God to meet the need.  The paperwork for the licensing is in process and, praise the Lord, He has already provided funding to purchase the land for the new facility!  Pray that doors will continue to open and the support we need will be provided.  We’re going to need around $500,000 to complete this project.  That is a staggering number for me to fathom at this point!  But I am doing my best to keep my eyes fixed on Christ, obey His calling and let Him figure everything out.  :)  If you’d like to partner with us to help reach more children in Bolivia and change their lives, please send me a message and I can give you more information.

I apologize for the long post…and appreciate it if you taken the time to stick with me and read up to this point.  But I felt like I needed to share this.  Are you disheartened?  Does death seem preferable to life?  Do the giants in front of you seem larger than you can handle?  If so, remember that God is right there with you and that NOTHING is too big for Him.  And nothing is more important to Him than you!  The battle is His.  Let Him fight it for you.  He has never lost a battle, nor will He ever.  “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God:  I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”  Isaiah 41:!0.  


Thank you again for reading this.  Please keep all of the missionaries and the people they serve in your prayers!  We need them more than you realize.  May the Lord bless each of you and may you find the hope, comfort, peace and strength you need in our Redeemer!  

6 comments:

  1. Wow this touched my heart more than you know. May God continue to bless you and use you! Thank you for sharing!

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  2. Qué misericordioso es Dios con nosotros, hermano. Yo fui docente durante casi 30 años, mientras usted relataba sus experiencias en mi cabeza aparecían una enorme cantidad de caritas sufrientes... Yo también he llorado de indignación, de impotencia, pero amé a esos niños y traté de hacer lo mejor. Con el paso del tiempo me encuentro con ellos, me saludan, me dan un beso, eso me hace feliz; no porque busque ningún tipo de reconocimiento sino porque es lindo recibir amor. Uno de mis versículos favoritos ISAÍAS 49: 25 "PERO ASÍ DICE JEHOVÁ: CIERTAMENTE EL CAUTIVO SERÁ RESCATADO DEL VALIENTE, Y EL BOTÍN SERÁ ARREBATADO DEL TIRANO, Y TU PLEITO YO LO DEFENDERÉ , Y YO SALVARÉ A TUS HIJOS" DIOS tiene promesas enormes.Vayamos a ÉL. Es como un banco, pero de FE....


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  3. Thank you very much for sharing information that will be much helpful for making coursework my effective.

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  4. My daughter served as an SM at Familia Felize the school year of 2011-2012. Bolivia has always been close to my heart. My mother was born in Bolivia. Her father served as a missionary there. In fact he started the collage in Cochabamba. Serving at Familia Felize had a large impact on my daughter. We still pray for everyone there and your mission. May God continue to bless you.

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