March 25, 2009
Confessions of a Fisher of Men
Our primary mission goal here, Tapé Mission Experience, will be opening on July 1, but we are also trying to be involved in ministry to this community. We're running across needs with the children, so we're working on the ministry I told you about, Project: Puente. Our natural bent (Ken and I) is toward youth, so that's where OUR focus ends up. In the U.S., there are more direct ways of accomplishing youth ministry. Here, the obstacle of getting to know the people and letting them know you is a biggie. We can't just jump right in and invite some young people over for dinner and a Bible study, you know? That's cool, because we've always said our calling is relationship ministry. So we've set about trying to build these relationships.
One way is soccer. Ken gets out there and endures the laughs and (mostly) good-hearted jokes about his soccer playing. He's getting better, but this is his first time to play, and these guys have been playing it everyday since they learned to walk, practically. And they take it VERY seriously. The fact that Ken is even allowed to play with the big boys is a testament to how much "practice" he did playing games with the neighborhood children.
After most games, the guys all sit around and enjoy the Cokes bought by the losing team. Some evenings, I make juice or kool-aid, or just take out a cooler of ice water or terere. They don't have much to say, but I sometimes get a "thank you," and I have to believe these little gestures are breaking the walls down a little at a time.
We've gotten a few of the fellas inside our house (a huge feat, we're told), baiting them with a movie or a video of UFC fights (good thing we're big fans and brought the DVD's with us!) We try to be very hospitable and visualize these young men serving God one day, rather than becoming the typical statistic of a wife-beating, girl-chasing, alcoholic husband.
This is a whole different topic, but I wonder where the girls are. I know it's not possible for there to be 50 boys born to this community and only the 2 girls we've seen. I have asked, but no one says much. My thought is that they're home cooking or cleaning. Anyway,...
When Ken packed our fishing reels and a couple of the smaller rods, I'm sure he was just thinking about the three little ponds that separate our house and the Children's Home from the camp buildings, and some evening/weekend free time activity. This past week, he's cast out into the ponds a few times. One evening, his timing was perfect!
He had just thrown his line out when a few of the older guys started showing up for the nightly soccer game. No sooner did one say, "It's not the right time or wind for fishing. You won't catch anything," than he got a hit on his line and reeled in a fish. Well, it was on! He quickly drew a crowd, and those same guys who'd been stand-offish and silent were now asking questions and making comments and getting quite interested in this funny looking reel Ken was using. One of the guys took that first fish home as a meal for his family.
I still struggle sometimes with the feeling that we should be doing more WORK somehow. That we're just spinning our wheels and need to do traditional stuff, like handing out tracts door-to-door or preaching on a street corner or holding a Bible study in someone's house. I can't get my North American work ethic wrapped around the reality of this new world. God keeps reminding me in ways big and small that His timing is not MY timing, and His ways are not MY ways. It's hard to operate that way, when I've always felt more spiritual according to how much I'm DOING for God. These things we do aren't so easy to measure. (I know, I know, that we don't earn salvation through works, but I still am happier DOING things for Him---I'm working on it. Don't crucify me over this one.)
I feel a certain pressure because I think, "We have these folks supporting us that want to hear about all the spiritual fruit of our labor, and there isn't enough fruit yet." I can't always see the fruit that's just starting to grow, or hasn't even sprouted yet. I guess I'm looking for the ripe fruit that's fallen off the tree already. None of you has made me feel this way, it's just how I'm wired. I've read that all these feelings/struggles are common for missionaries, especially in their first year. So my hope is that admitting this "out loud," so to speak, will help me get a little mroe in tune with God's ideas for our life and push aside my own conceptions of what my missionary lifestyle should be.
I'd love feedback on this one, so either comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have thoughts. For now, I'm happy that my boss is a God who lets our "work" consist of hanging out with children at their school or in their neighborhood, playing soccer, and fishing. What a wonderful God we serve!