Have you ever noticed that this time of year always seems to catch us off guard? It is like somehow every other month follows the rule of the 24 hour, standard day, but come December, and all bets are off!!! December 1st arrives and we hit the ground running at break neck speed, like we might earn some prestigious award for accomplishing even more than we did last year and especially more than all our friends, combined!!! We must get ALL the right gifts for all the right people, attend ALL Christmas pageantry, put up the most and most perfect decorations, hand make, from scratch, batches and batches of the tastiest food and then deliver it to everyone we know and even some we don't, and so on. Seriously? I bet if your anything like our family, the conversations about Christmas preparations this year are similar to the one's taking place in our home. Take a look and see...
"Did you pick up the bug spray for me?" I had to return it and get the one with more Deet! "Really? More Deet?" Malaria is bad stuff. They said more Deet is better. "Okay, right." Have you started your Typhoid medication yet? "Yes. I started it today." Good. What are you taking for Cholera? "There is nothing you can take to prevent Cholera. We just have to be careful." Have you heard wether they are letting commercial flights back into Haiti yet or not? "Not so far. The violence is getting worse." I am sure it will all be cleared up by the time the team is scheduled to leave on Christmas. You packed toilet paper, right? "Yes! Again!" Just checking. Water purification supplies, bed roll, Imodium? "YES! I have it all!"
I know at least two of you that are right there with me. The majority of you however, probably think this sounds like plans for a really bad camping trip. And it kind of is, but it is what our Christmas preparations look like this year. Mark and his fellow teammates are scheduled to leave home Christmas evening. They will stay one night in Seattle, and then fly out early the next morning for Florida, where they will again stay one night before heading to Port Au Prince, Haiti to begin a 10 day mission in the ravaged and devastated country. Why on earth Haiti? Cause Jesus would have gone there. Why now? Why not? and if not now when? when it's "safe?" Why Mark? Cause God said so, bottom line. Will they be protected? Only by God. Will it be as dirty as it looks on TV? Most likely worse. Where will they be sleeping? On the ground in tents. Is it safe? Probably not. But as someone I respect very much said to me recently "The safest place to be is in the center of God's will." and that means no matter where His will takes us. Have you been brave enough to ask Him what that looks like for you? Scary question maybe. But truly what could be better than finding yourself in the very center of His perfect will for your life.
Are you willing to ask, even if it might mean something big? Are you willing to ask if it means giving up your precious holiday time with family? Are you willing to go? What if it looks like serving at an elementary school in the First Grade room? Okay the high school with the kids in detention? What about serving in the prison with gang members? Will you serve with a cheerful heart if it means one of your children contracts a major illness? When your flat on your back, with nothing left to offer after just receiving your most recent round of Chemotherapy, will you in your heart of hearts acknowledge Him and the position of service He has put you in? Will you find the strength in Him to say "Here am I, send me." It's easier to serve when it means staying home with your child or children to nurture and love them or when it means you go day in and day out to your job but, sometimes serving God isn't neat and clean. Sometimes it looks like Haiti, with violence, abandon children, destruction, and disease at Christmas.
The good news, these are all rhetorical questions. I can't check in to see how you answered. The bad news or well maybe the hard part is I am still challenging you to ask them anyway. Mark asked the tough question, probably for the first time, and I can tell you even though he hasn't left American soil, God has already been transforming his heart and working in and through him. He who created the individual grains of sand, who named and put each and every star in the sky, and who fashioned the very cells in our bodies, He wastes nothing! Are we willing to say to Him as Isaiah did in Isaiah 6:8 "Her am I. Send me!"? Will you give yourself over to being a worker in the field, pregnant with its' harvest? (Matthew 9:37,38) It could be life changing for us if we will trust Him with our everything.
He may never send you overseas, or take a child from you or strike you with an incurable disease but if He does are we willing to serve in that circumstance and still give Him the glory?
We would covet your prayers for this team as we head into the weekend before they leave and await the final decision to be made by the team leaders in Alabama. Pray that God would give them clarity of mind as they prayerfully consider the decision at hand. For now the team presses on as if the plans are unchanged. Ultimately, we want them to be in God's perfect will.