July 6, 2015

What a busy and exciting 4th of July weekend! I hope yours was as much fun as mine. I pray that God has you "on mission" today as you go back into the "normal" work week. I am praying that God will use you today for His glory!!
Last week I mentioned that I wanted to talk "Panama Mission Trip" but I decided to wait until this week to do so. After having talked about it numerous times over the last week I began to wonder if there was anything left to share here. I know there are many more stories that I don't have the time to share but what can I say about the trip in general? I will say that it has taken me longer to recover than I really anticipated. Even though I "work out" almost every day, my work pace here is not quite as physically demanding as going all day long like we did in Panama. I laughed when I saw the picture of me in the hammock at our hostel where we stayed because I was literally in the hammock for the time it took to get a picture and never had time after that to return just to relax. We were so busy that we barely squeezed in about 90 minutes walking over into Costa Rica and about an hour on our way to the airport to stop and see the Panama Canal. It seemed like literally every other minute was spent in ministry or eating and sleeping or traveling. So I guess God heard my prayer about being fully engaged every minute and wanting to use every second for Him. He just had to remind me of the consequences of that on my older body when I returned. I know I can't use that excuse again this week no matter how much my body is still recovering . . . but I really do want to.
One lesson I learned is that even a short mission trip can be life-changing. I know you always hear people talk about their trip in that way and then after a few weeks you wonder what happened. Right? I said "can be". I used to think going on a short mission trip was really just waste of resources. My rationale was always, what good can I possibly do in such a short time and wouldn't that money be better spent by me just giving it to the missionaries there. Maybe you have that thought process today. Let me encourage you to reconsider. As a Youth Pastor I led many mission trips here in the US to inner-city locations all across America. I can honestly say that those trips were hugely impactful on everyone who went. It was the most anticipated week of the year for all of us. And yet, I was still somewhat skeptical of going with a smaller group and spending much more money on airfare and travel and lodging by going international. I have also traveled overseas for fun but this was my first trip outside the US on a mission trip. My perspective changed several years ago when I read David Platt's book "Radical." I realized that it might be possible to go and actually do so in God's will and actually see some tangible results from all that money. So yes, God softened my heart and I would encourage you today to think about missions in maybe a new way. Let me give you a few ways I believe God used me in Panama.
One way that God used me was less so than I had hoped. I was able to connect with the people of Panama that I ministered to each day but not speaking Spanish limited my ability to share Christ with them. I was part of a group that was doing that and in that regard I did have an impact. I could see on the faces of many that they understood why I was there. I also believe I was part of a team that encouraged the local church and missionaries who were serving there. It was my desire to help them and encourage them and assist them and pray for them and I believe God allowed me to do that in a mighty way. I was able to have long, meaningful conversations with many people who were serving there and I know God used that in their lives. I thank God for that opportunity. But, like most mission trips, I found that the biggest thing that happened was that it changed me. It drug me out of my normal routine. It rescued me from a day-to-day life where I had lost sight of some important things in life. The list is almost too long to share of all the ways God spoke to me on the trip. But the point here is that I had to GO for God to speak to my heart. If I had not GONE then I would not have heard God speaking to me. I would have missed how God wanted to change my vision and outlook on life and ministry. I would have missed his message of being "On Mission" every moment. I realized I NEED that reminder. When I was a Youth Pastor I would get away from my normal routine every year for camp and mission trip and retreats. Now I realize that is VITAL for ALL of us. I don't know that it will be financially possible for me to go on a mission trip every year but I am praying that God will show me how to do that. I realize now that I do need it on a regular basis. And I believe ALL of us need time away to re-focus on what is really important in life.
I am asking each of you to begin praying about how and where God wants to send you to get you out of your normal routine. I know some of you are older or have health issues and maybe you can't go to Panama or somewhere else but you can break out. You NEED to step away and let God speak to you. I am praying today that you will begin planning even now.
I am also asking that you pray with me about the possibility of returning to Panama. I don't mean just Jennifer and I, but possibly some of you going with us. I just find it hard to believe that God opened all these doors for a one-time trip. I know God allowed us to build some amazing relationships in a very short period of time and I believe he wants to use that for His glory. I am still praying about whether this is what God wants for us, but join me over the next few weeks and pray that God would reveal His will.
P.S. Don't forget to join us this Sunday, July 12th, for our Church Picnic!!