Wednesday, November 18, 2009

If we've ever needed you...

I picked up the new Casting Crowns CD yesterday. There is a song called "If We've Ever Needed You", that is so appropriate to how I have been feeling.

"Here I cry, Lord, we pray/Our faces down, our hands are raised/ You called us out, we turned away/ We've turned away//With shipwrecked faith, the idols rise/ We do what is right in our own eyes/ Our children now will pay the price/ We need your light, Lord, shine your light//If we've ever needed you/ Lord, it's now. Lord, it's now./ We are desperate for your hand/ We're reaching out, we're reaching out// All our hearts, all our strength/ With all our minds, we're at your feet/ May your kingdom come in our hearts and our lives/ Let your church arise// We're reaching out/ We need you now/ Revive us now/ We need you now"

This song so speaks to the turmoil that has been brewing within me, recently reaching hurricane proportions.

I will back up a bit...

About 6 years ago I was involved in and witnessed, which so many in Christian circles have, a split in ministry. It would take way too much time to re-hash the details of the experience but it most certainly was a turning point in my Christianity. Up until that point I was for the most part, blissfully unaware of the aspect of 'ministry' to which I encountered in New Hampshire.

I came to know the Lord in the adobe homes, and dusty roads of Guatemala when I was 12 years old. I remember walking in the small village where I was living with my family, surrounded by a language unfamiliar to me, and followed by what seemed, dozens of smiling children. As I walked, I tried to figure out how it was possible that just a couple years sooner, my life had been filled with fear and uncertainty, and now I had a new life, living in a third world country I had never heard of...

I was the youngest of 2, with a single Mom, trying to forge a life in the aftermath of 2 abusive, controlling men. One of these men, my 'father'. I had lost count of the amount of times we had moved in the time we left my father at age 7, until we moved to Golden B.C., at age 10. We had gone through a time when we had to change our names and go into hiding... making many towns and women's shelters "home". I mention moving to Golden, because this was really the last move before our lives started to change for the better.

I didn't know at the time that this move to Golden would be so poignant. In fact it wasn't even an official 'move', we were just going for the week-end and never went back.. I am sure my Mom didn't know that the first person she be-befriended in this new town, would come to play such a huge role in our lives, and ultimately be the reason I found myself walking along the dusty road in Guatemala...

This person she met, a soft-spoken, friendly Englishman, had come from his own broken family. Yet, I am sure they had no idea that when they slowly became friends over conversations in a coffee shop, that it was in those moments that saw our future change drastically.

This Englishman, Al, over the next 2 years, grew more involved in our lives and tried hard to befriend my sister and I. Not always an easy task, as we held a deep distrust of men, that we earned quite rightfully. During that time Al had gone on some mission trips to Guatemala. I recall him coming back with gifts on his last trip and telling us of his adventures, but it was all rather boring to me. My Mom had taken us to Church with Al on several occasions, and I started going to Sunday School, but the only thing that really kept me going were the chocolate bars the teacher gave out with a memorized bible verse. The reality of God, was nothing more than a character on a felt board to me.

I had learned through observance of the great role models in my life how to steal, lie and cheat my way through things. And in my quiet way, I continued to do so, not affected by my church-going... In fact I remember my regular stop at the local 7-11 after Sunday school, to shop lift goodies for my walk home.

But everything seemed to come to a screeching 180 degree turn when my Mom sat us down with Al one afternoon to say that they were thinking of getting married. Actually, I don't really recall their exact words, but there was something about possibly going to Guatemala that stuck out to me. It seemed Al felt he had to go back there "one last time" and we would go together as a family...

Within a few months we suddenly had a new man in our lives, I still wasn't sure we could trust. He adopted my sister and I, and was now my "Dad"....and we were on our way to "Guatemala"...

So...messed up life, new Dad, new country, and may I throw in -traveled there and lived in - a converted school bus., now up to speed? :-)

As you can imagine, it wasn't all smooth sailing. In fact we as a family had a lot of issues we were dealing with as a result of our past. To put it bluntly, we were 'messed up'! And messed up in a confined space, in countries we could barley communicate in, well... led to some very interesting and trying times to say the least.

Looking back now, as extreme as it was, God knew what he was doing and by doing so, saved my sister and I from a future we we bound to walk in if we had stayed in North America, in the condition we were in.

So my introduction to Christianity and Jesus was amongst the villagers we came to serve and work amongst, in rural Guatemala. At the time, we were the first white people many of the locals had ever seen. I lament that fact actually, since I don't think our scream fests in our bus, that everyone could hear, was the best introduction to white people. But, they didn't seem to acknowledge our 'family moments' and embraced us as one of them.

We lived in the same yard as the Pastor's family and the Church, so we became an integral part of the church community especially. It surprised us when people poured into the yard every night to attend church, and twice on Sundays. What surprised me more was that they seemed to enjoy it!! (I mean, several chocolate bars wouldn't entice me enough to go to church every day!!)

We served the people in building and other projects, to help improve their lives. I befriended local teenagers and attended youth gatherings with them. We lived amongst the people, and their loving way of life, was infectious. It seemed that loving God and serving him was a exciting thing, that nobody was ashamed of.

I learned graciousness when invited to someone's home to eat, and was fed what was surely the only food available. I learned joy, when in the simple act of giving a hug to someone would light up their face. I learned humility when I was treated like royalty simply because I was there. I learned Jesus walked the paths with the people there, because they invited him along in all aspects of their lives. Serving the Lord was an action which governed everything else they did. It was not a chore or an embarrasment. Reading the Bible was a privledge.

Slowly, those beautiful people worked their love inside of me and I began to change.

We returned to Canada as a family changed, after a mere 6 months. At 13 and 16, my sister and I were eager to return to our friends in Canada, but knew we left a piece of ourselves with the Guatemalan people. I don't think we expected to feel the way we did when we returned to Canada, lost and suddenly strange...

After the summer of working and selling our home, we went back to Guatemala.

Over the next 4 1/2 years we lived in Guatemala, returning to Canada to work for a summer to support us, as needed.

Our trust in God to direct our path was intrinsic. Our first time to Guatemala, my parents had prayed before we left about finances. My Dad was a self-employed stucco/brick-layer who had little money to his name, and my Mom had been a cashier at a gas station. But they gave what they had to him for the first trip we made.. This was a time before internet and online banking, in fact the only phone even available was one for the whole village, it was at a local restaurant. We used it to call family on special occasions only, and as it cost somewhere around $5/min, there was very little talked about, especially not banking. Everything my parents had saved they had given to the head of the mission agency we had come down with, so he could bring money periodically when teams came from Canada. parents didn't say much about finances, but as we left Guatemala and headed back towards Canada I think is when they shared the story with us about giving it over to God and how they trusted that he was taking us to Guatemala, and would make what we had stretch as needed. So it made it all that more exciting when we pulled back into Golden with exactly $1 left to our names!!

From then on, we trusted that the Lord would provide, and every time would work giving all to him. Even the years when my Dad made less then ever, we managed to live on what he did earn just as long, and continued to fund the projects we were doing with it.

I could go on and on... but basically this is how my faith developed. It was real and lived out on a daily basis. There was no falseness to it. The Christians I knew were humble people, who heard God's voice, saw people healed and raised from the dead and many other miraculous things on a daily basis. The focus was on the Lord and the glory only unto him.

Fast forward... and so I found myself 6 years ago, at 23 years old, living in New Hampshire. I went there to help out some friends of mine who were in the lurch. A few years previous I had Nannied for them in New Jersey, and since that time they had become involved with and moved to New Hampshire to follow a ministry. They found themselves without a Nanny, and needed help.

I had become quite close to the family and would have done anything for them. I was working on saving money for Nursing School anyway, so I figured I could continue to do so there for a few months until they found someone else.

If I had only known what those next couple of months would have looked like, I would have stayed far away....

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