This is the story of my husband’s day yesterday, and this is the story of mine:
His: Benjamin drove a team of fifteen college-aged students out to a cistern work site in a village about an hour away, stopping to pick up more supplies on the way. He worked in cooperation with the local foreman in the big project of building another cistern to triple the water 300 families in this town will be receiving into their homes. There is something beautiful about helping bring water (because water changes everything, right?) to people.
Ben left the team and drove to the nearby house of a man, whom we witnessed come to Jesus last summer. He’s been reluctant to take the time for discipleship, but Ben has been faithful to keep in contact with him. He was welcomed into his home yesterday and introduced to his new “wife” (co-habitation with the facade of marriage is common here).
“She does not understand about Jesus like you have taught me, Ben. I don’t know how to explain it all. You’ve got to tell her; will you now?” Ben took a seat and began to carefully explain grace vs. works, Jesus, as the only mediator between God and man, how the canon of scripture came to be, the truth of the Word and the hope of eternity with peace, purpose, and joy in this life. The wife listened intently, trying to reconcile this with the brand of Mexican Roman Catholicism she has only known.
Ben felt he said everything in the manner he was supposed to, for that time. The husband thanked him and said now he and his wife could talk more and have Ben over again for more conversation. There is something beautiful about opening up the well of salvation to another who is lost.
Ben then left to wrap up the work on the cistern for the day. Now it was time to get to the little tienda in which he leads a bible study and discussion every Wednesday evening. They have done an overview of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, delved into marriage and family and now are looking at biblical prophecy. There is something beautiful about engaging with new believers as they wrestle with understanding the Word for the first time and open up their hearts, in trust, to ask real questions.
On the way, he stopped by a home where a man and his wife live with their two girls. Ben has shared many meals with them of meager tortillas and beans, listened to their stories, counseled them, given Jesus Storybook Bibles to their daughters and taught them what it is to pray. Here, often if you want people to show up somewhere, you have to drive to their homes and almost literally push them into your vehicle and encourage them to the place. “Get it, let’s go!” Ben called to this man and his wife. They rushed to bring their girls to grandma and got in to get to the study. There is something beautiful about pursuing people to come to truth when, in their own wallowing, they would be so reluctant to do so.
The study was engaging. Ben arranged he would be back this Saturday morning to pick each of them up to bring them to the prayer seminar we are hosting at our church, taught by our Pastor from Florida and our short-term team. The discussion about this and the details was anything but short in this culture that talks around in circles until they finally land on definites. There is something beautiful about offering a place to learn and grow and be ministered to in prayer to people who have never had the opportunity to experience such a setting in all their lives.
After this time, Ben drove to another town about 20 minutes away to share a late supper with a pastor and his wife in their 2-room house, which also serves as their church. They have labored in this town for 7 years and now have two families that have become disciples of Christ. The ground, spiritually, is fiercely hard and hostile. Ben and those two talked and prayed and schemed up a wonderful outreach to engage this town.
On Monday, we’ll bring our team to the town center. We have a city permit to rent and set up in the basketball courts, in the shadow of the 400-year-old church and ex-convent. We’ll put up a tent with chairs underneath. There we’ll love on children with activities and games, have a message and testimonies and then show a film to reach their hearts. Music that Ben will play will draw them in, for folks love to gather in such a setting. Afterward, we’ll all head back to the pastor’s home and share a meal with his wife and his small body of believers. We’ll love on them, strengthen them, and encourage them, all together. There is something beautiful about planning hope and offering ourselves, for the sake of the gospel all unto the Jesus we love.
He was home by 11pm, and that was his day.
Mine: I awoke to get breakfast for our children. The dishes and laundry met me yet again in piles, for our water supply has been intermittent. I had to fight for joy all day, under that light. We shared a pot of oatmeal around the table, and the children ate as I read from the Psalms and from the Proverbs. The younger two bickered a bit, again. Sigh. We prayed for Dad, for us, for the team coming and for all the cares we have, and others have that came to mind. I drove the girl up to school while the boys ran the dogs. I was already tired. But there is something beautiful about a day fresh before me, even when it can all seem so routine and insignificant.
The boys had neglected their chores before the start of school work. Not the first time this happened. It affected our whole family. I had to talk firm and hard, again with reminders and consequences. Still, there must be something beautiful about the training in the character and discipline of our children. Even when the mother wishes she could look the other way.
I sat down with our middle boy, working painfully yet again, on the structure of writing a single paragraph. Then we moved on to math memory cards, the study of the Mycenaean culture in ancient Greece, the Bible lesson where we studied all the battles in the book of Joshua, the learning how to use a Thesaurus and the daily editing skills. Have I made any headway with this boy this year, academically? I wondered again as it can be arduous to school a boy at this wiggly age. But still… there is something beautiful about taking part in the growth of a boy as he fumbles from learning up to more learning.
Time to throw in more laundry and get it on the line. Time to organize some things in the schoolroom and correct some papers. Time to unclog a toilet. Time to wash that stack of dishes. Time to run to the market store to pick up some produce for supper. Time to pick up the girl from school and hear about her day as she alternates her words from Spanish to English and back again. Oh, for some quiet, but… there is something beautiful in doing daily work unto the Lord. It all matters; it all counts. I remind myself of this truth, for it can get hard, and it can get lonely, and I am still, so slowly, learning the language I hear all around me.
We finish school with the oldest boy given a science test and talking with me about his study of Macbeth. The garden needs to be weeded. The garbages must be taken out (lock the cans to the fence, boys, so they don’t get stolen!). The dogs need to be rerun. The chores to be finished. The supper made and eaten. The oldest boy bikes to his Taekwondo class, the girl runs up to her ballet class. They are all interacting with the culture and people around them. All are growing in wisdom, in stature (indeed, they are getting so tall!) and in favor with God and men. I think. I dearly hope. There is something beautiful about being a mother to oversee all of this and facilitate the days, even in a land so different from the one I come have known.
Showers are done, dishes are cleared, laundry is folded. We prayed some more, worshipped a bit, shut all the windows before another downpour started. The oldest boy climbed up on the roof to make sure the tinaco was getting full of water again from the cistern pump — he is so handy now with these things.
I tuck in the girl. She asked me, in the dimness of her night light how snails are born, why we can’t see wind and how it is that Jesus can hear her when she whispers to him in her bed. She wonders why he does not give her a special friend who speaks English and why she has to be the only girl in the family. I try to answer the best I can. Sometimes I wish I were a walking encyclopedia or I had a magic wand. We talk for a bit, even though I am so tired and I leave the room after I bless her. There is something beautiful about trying to answer the questions in a little girl’s heart, so she knows she is not alone and that she is loved.
The middle son, he is up in his bed reading, “The Jungle Book,” trying to sound out the words he doesn’t know. We talk about his thoughts — BB guns, remote control helicopters, the pyramids in Egypt and how one can really know that God answers prayers and what difference it makes, really, when God says he is always with us. He is thinking the thoughts of a boy and wrestling out the views of an emerging young man, trying to make a little sense of the world he finds himself in. Again, I am so tired, but he needs my exclamations over his delights, and he needs my reassurance that all I am teaching him from the Word is really true. There is something beautiful in these moments.
I walk downstairs to say good-night to the oldest boy, now taller than his dad and quickly catching up to me. He is stretched out on his little couch, reading on his kindle. I sit down next to him. Again, I am so tired, but I have not peered inside his heart in awhile. Being older and more self-sufficient sometimes I confess, I forget. “How are you doing, buddy?” I ask.
He starts to respond slowly, but then his words pick up speed. A lot is going on in that mind of his, and I listen to his line of rational thought and look at him in awe. There is more hair emerging on his upper lip. There is a firmness in his voice as he tells me how he has been examing elements of faith and pondering them deeply, trying to find his own way and come to his own conclusions based on the foundation we have given him. He looks over at his bookshelf with fondness, for these are his friends when friends are hard to come by here. I know the feeling. He tells me of his struggles and his victories, of the little desires he has to save somehow for some things to enhance his bike and his room. These are all important to him. And I have not listened in a while. There is something beautiful in really listening to your child.
“Let’s read together, will you start this book with me?” and he hands me a book on evangelism. What a boy, what a young man! He’s finding his wings. He’s got dreams about his life up ahead. He knows Dad is living his dream and calling, and I am too, and he rests in that, but he’s finding what it is to be his own man in all of this. He’ll be 15 this summer, and I realize with a jolt, it is all going fast. That is the few years we have left together, I’ve got to listen often and help him fly.
Funny how the tables turn. Funny how when you serve, you sacrifice so many of your own ambitions but then find out in the giving that it is all worth it. That it is valuable to empower the growth of others, while God is good to enable yours somehow still.
There is something beautiful in all of that.
So we read, we talked about our reading, we prayed and hugged.
I finally get a shower, folded another load of laundry, make my list of what I need to do the next day, and say my own prayers. It is late, and I meant to get to bed much earlier before it all begins again. I expected to find some time to study my Spanish vocabulary, but it is all I could do that day. “It is all, unto you O Lord,” I whisper. Sometimes the role I usually play of being the “stay-at-home missionary” seems insignificant. My husband’s days can seem so much more valuable. I know it is not valid, but I, like any mother, can sometimes entertain that lie.
I was in bed by 10:50pm, and that was my day.
I remembered, as I lay on my pillow and heard the door unlock downstairs and imagined my husband sitting down to take off his work boots, the verses our friend, Kent had emailed that day in response to our thanks to all he had given last summer on the team that had come from Florida. He responded with something beautiful:
So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ – Luke 17:10
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. -Acts 20:24