April 25, 2008

The Call to Action, part 1

This trek started for our family years ago. It probably started even before our kids were born. When Christie and I were married we both realized a love for working with youth. I fought this urge. I didn’t want to be used by God this way. I had no intention of being involved in ministry at all if I could help it.

I had grown up in church and was not interested in anything but being able to come to service and have my church card punched. I didn’t want anything more than to be a “member”. What’s crazy is that I never really considered the time I put into summer camp as a worker as ministry. I had for years gone to camp for what I thought as selfish reasons. I went to see friends and to have fun. All the while God was using these experiences to teach me how to reach youth.

It’s not God’s plan that any of us just be members. We are all ministers, we just operate from a different pulpit. Our first jump into a mission-oriented work was when we had several late teen, early twenties guys live with us for various amounts of time. This may not seem like mission work and we didn’t think of it as such at the time. But being newly married and having someone live in the house with you was a trip to a foreign land!

From there God opened doors and managed to have us involved in many different facets of youth ministry over the next few years. We were volunteer leaders at one small church. Later we were fill –ins until the church we attended found a full-time youth pastor. God gave us the opportunity to be directors of a summer youth camp for several years.

During all of this one thread remained in our lives, the youth and the young adult. These people are the ones that we seemed to gravitate toward. They would come and visit, watch movies and eat at our house or out. We really seemed to be in touch with them. As our love God grew we began to yield more to Him. He gave us the chance to become the youth pastors of a church near where we live. Over the course of many years God had tooled us to fill this post. He had shaped our lives such that our existence caused us to grow in the direction He wanted.

As time passed we met other missionaries and watched television programs about the mission life. Many of these showed the horrible conditions that these folks elected to live in. At the same time, they showed the pure joy they possessed by being in God’s will. They were living the “go ye into all the world and preach the gospel…” scripture just like the apostles.

The concept appealed to us but we had a life going on here. We were buying a home or birthing a child or making a career change. We were not willing to relinquish that part of ourselves to God. We were deep into the “normal” life that seems to rob so many of us in North America. We had dabbled in missions. When we heard a missionary speak live we always tried to give a hearty offering (as long as we could still pay the bills). We sponsored a World Vision child. We made care package shoe boxes and the like. Many years at Christmas we went to the local store and picked names from the angel tree. We would take our own kids along and buy gifts for these less fortunate children. We had no idea that God was preparing us for a work of our own. Each of these things were thrown into our hearts and stirred.

Christie got the chance to go to a conference in Oklahoma. While she was there God planted a love for the Hispanic people. In South Carolina, Hispanic ministry was in its infancy. Our church recognized the need for a ministry effort statewide to touch the Hispanic population. In the mean time a friend of ours had started travelling to Peru. From his initial visits he began to lead others there for short-term trips to minister to those people. People from all over our state were going on these trips and bringing back stories that plucked at the heart strings. Many of our friends told us of their adventures in Peru and relayed how they managed to raise the money to go.

While all of this was going on, a national overseer from the country of Colombia heard God’s call and moved to our town, to our church. He came to begin a missionary effort to the Spanish-speaking people in our area. Christie decided that she wanted to go to South America and see for herself. We began to raise the money and God truly blessed. She went on a two week mission trip and God planted the seed in her. She came home different. It was a strain for her to fall back into the regular swing of life here. Everything seemed to remind her of something in Peru.

I thought it was great for her to get to go but I still did not have a desire to go for even a short trip. I knew someone had to do it, but for me, someone would have to simply be someone else. The following year Christie returned and met up with some of her new friends from the previous trip. Again she came home out of sorts. She said it was like she left something there and needed to go back. Not to retrieve it but to find it.

By then I had been looking at countless photos and hearing the stories from a firsthand account. It somehow seems more real to me when she tells me something than when someone else does. She can make me see it, hear it, smell it, and touch it. Now I was interested, but the trips she had gone on were a hailstorm of travel. Stay up late get up early and ride in a ridiculous excuse for a bus. It didn’t sound glamorous. I wanted to test drive Peru but not like that. I wanted to see the country but not the whole country in 5 days on the back of a burrow or in a tiny canoe.

In October last year I was extended an invitation from our state youth leader to go with him and train workers for camp in Peru. We would go with a group of 4, stay in one location for the bulk of our time and put on a practice camp with the Peruvian leaders. I hesitantly accepted with the provision that I needed to raise the money. The money poured in and killed my chances for an excuse. I went and God completed a portion of His work in me. More later….

1 comment:

  1. Ken, it is nice to see and read about your feelings about "giving up your life here" to do what God has been getting you ready for all these years. I sometimes feel like I been looking the other way when God wants things done. Hearing about you and your family making such a big change with only your faith to move on has really made me see how I have been running away.
    I am fascinated and moved by what you are doing down there. If I had the faith that you have, I would jump in head first. God bless you and your family!


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