So Many Roads.

My husband came to bed quite late the other night.

I was still reading, when I should have slept.  But I could hardly help myself.  The book, which I am still carefully reading with a pencil in hand, is a wondrous true tale.  It is a humble, elegantly written and engrossing work by a woman who lived and worked in Afghanistan for five years entitled In the Land of Blue Burqas.  I picked up the volume while we were in the states.  I was curious of the format. I wanted to understand how the author weaved together her international experience so someday soon, I might weave my own.

I am surprisingly blessed once again with the re-orientation of my mind in terms of contextualizing the gospel with gentle grace and loving my neighbor.  It will be worth a second and third read to me as a tool and an inspiration.  To anyone who wishes to be a better minister in a foreign culture and/or understand Islam, read this book.

As I was saying, my husband came home late. He sat down on the edge of the bed, looking satisfied but tired. We began to swap stories about our day.  Mine were about our children, that our cistern was empty, my conversation with a woman at a market store, an inquiry into what certain words were on yet another announcement our daughter brought home from school and my thoughts.

His were more of the same from what I had heard so many other nights before.  His words piled up in front of me like a tumble of bricks that the writer’s mind in me began placing in a neat and coherent pile.  After his reporting, he rose to go brush his teeth and come to bed, without a shower.  But he turned and sat back down, abruptly and with those tired, but clear blue eyes looked at me and spoke again, “Angel, tell me the truth.  Am I making any difference here or am I spinning my wheels?”

It is not good for a man or woman to be alone.  It is good to turn our souls inside out for one another and voice the questions that sometimes haunt us in our most vulnerable moments.

I put down my book and looked at him. I was quiet for a moment as I thought on a response that would be a good word fitly spoken.

I went over the stories in my mind from just the last three weeks, the snapshots of how he has numbered his days.

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There is the small group in the village of Trinidad he works with weekly, driving 45 minutes to sit with them on over-turned buckets in a small tienda.  He takes them through a basic course for new believers.  He will be the first to confess he is not a gifted teacher nor communicator.  Words don’t come off his tongue, even his fluent Spanish tongue, like melted butter.  He’d rather let his hands speak through the strings of his guitar or the pounding of his hammer.  But he loves, sincerely loves people, especially Mexican villagers.   The people have come to love him too and more than that, to trust him.  Which is big in this culture.  The questions they ask him are enough to break your heart or bring you to your knees.

Then there is Pedro, who Ben has explained the gospel to several times.  He does believe.  And he wants to grow.  But how do you feel the love of the Father when you are rejected by your family of origin, again and again? How do you have time to think of things other than 60-hour work week in the local cement factory where you work so you can support your wife and two daughters who live in a house the size of our dining room?  Ben meets with Pedro, every time he calls.  He sits down in their house-room and shares their beans and tortillas and counsels him in simple, yet challenging ways.  He teaches him how to pray, for Pedro has no idea what it means to talk to God.

I could not forget Victor either.  He came to church just weeks ago, with his brother who trusted Jesus just weeks before that.  He limped on crutches, looking broken in both body and soul.  Ben, drawn to anything that hurts, sat down with him after the service.  He lay hands on his twisted ankle and we both prayed for healing.  They exchanged cell numbers.  Ben called him the next day and picked him up.  He took him on his errands he had to run to pick up supplies to fix a water pump and work on setting up a new water project.  Ben listened to Victor’s story and ached for him.  He prayed for him in the car for 30 minutes straight as they drove.  Then he took him out for tacos and prayed some more.  But Victor still needs so much more healing and his wife still served him divorce papers.

Now it was a pastor in another nearby town whom he shared dinner with.  Ben had led in a team months ago to the town where this pastor works and they broke ground on where a church is to be constructed and built a cistern for their bathrooms.  They continued a friendship and now were meeting to discuss more projects.  This pastor has been hurt by so many sources and his work in shepherding his flock in challenging.  He found Ben a safe place and told his stories.  Of course, my husband responded not with articulate and lofty words nor a litany of scriptures. He response was”let me pray for you”. The taco place was all of a sudden a holy place where Ben was carrying his brother to Jesus.  “Listen, I have a team coming down in June, our church from Florida.  Tell us how for one day we can serve you, your church and town the best.  We want to bless you, we want to come along you. You tell us how.”  The pastor looked at Ben and starting laughing with joy and then wept. No agenda pushed on him, no stress to receive help he hadn’t asked for, just a wish to come and serve.

There are so many other stories. So many. Big and small.

I looked out the window at the full moon and heard the radio playing outside next door.  It belonged to the three workers, building a house next to us.  They sleep on the cement floor at nights and then get up the next morning and start working again. Ben invited them over last week for supper.  We bought a kilo of taco meat with the fixings and the boys and I made a giant fruit salad.  We welcomed them in our home and sat down to a meal together, inquiring about their work, their families and like all good Mexicans, talked about food.  They had never been invited — dirty, rough-handed and from the “lower”class– into a gringo’s house for a meal.  They relaxed soon enough and we stayed up far too late playing games.  I sent them out with a bag of food and plenty of fresh fruit, for I knew they had not been getting a balanced diet.  Ben sent them out with a bible in each of their hands. He spoke with them about the love of God as he walked them back.  He has visited them several times since then.  They are gone now.  The house is still unfinished and we don’t know if they will return.

I knew why my husband asked me this question.  I knew he felt that all of his encounters don’t seem to be producing anything.  He can hardly see that God is working and that transformation is happening.  It is slow.  It is hard.  It is tiring. Is it all enough?

I finally answered him.  “The question is not if you are making a difference, the question is if you are obeying Jesus.  I see that you are and this is all He asks.  You are making disciples and we are commanded to make disciples, not converts.  You are taking the time to love and esteem others.  I know you don’t feel like the super-missionary.  I don’t either.  We are not hip, we are not the most gifted or trained, we are not great evangelists, we would not win “parent of the year” awards, we don’t seem to have a lot of dramatic stories of deliverance or healing or mass salvation to report to our supporters, we probably will never start some huge ministry…we are pretty average and a little crazy.”  Ben smiled.

“But, let me tell you a story your older brother once told me:

When you were little and lived in Guatemala, your dad taught at a seminary.   He would drive home and go down a long dirt-road to get to your house.  At the start of that dirt road a poor family lived.  There was a little boy always playing in the dirt yard.  Your dad, no fail, would stop and greet the boy.  Sometimes he would bring him a treat, sometimes he would tussle his hair, sometimes he would tell him Jesus loved him.  It was not much, but your dad was faithful.  Well, that little boy grew up and trusted Jesus.  He went on to study God’s word.  He went on to become a pastor.  He leads a church now and feeds many with eternal words and hope.  He is making disciples and those disciples are multiplying.

You too, are the one that stops by the side of the road. So many roads.  It may not seem like much, but you are obeying in love.  God did not call us to be successful, but rather to be faithful. I am so proud of you.  So, keep on my love, keep on.”

My husband grabbed my hand.  He had never heard this story.  It meant something to him.  A little misty-eyed, he thanked me.  Then he went to brush his teeth.

I turned off my light.  When I awoke in the early morning, he was gone.  Off to another village for a meeting he had that morning.  The kids needed breakfast.  A girl needed to be taken to school and two boys needed to be homeschooled.  The laundry and dishes were piled up, again.  Ben left me a note, saying he had called a pipa (water truck).  I was still a mom, a wife, a woman in a foreign land.

And I had my own disciples to make.

 

A disciple is a person who has decided that the most important thing in their life is to learn how to do what Jesus said to do. A disciple is not a person who has things under control, or knows a lot of things. Disciples simply are people who are constantly revising their affairs to carry through on their decision to follow Jesus. – Dallas Willard

Top 10 Things Learned in the Last 23 Years: From Ben in Mexico.

In March after ten years, we returned to Mexico to serve as a family for two weeks.  Ben spoke to the students and staff at Puebla Christian school where he attended for six years, 23 years ago.   Here I wanted to give you a peek into the heart of my amazing husband through his words.  There are few people I have meant in my life with greater humility, honesty, perseverance, integrity,  genuine care for people (always believing the best about them), steadfast faith and daily focus on Jesus and eternity.  He’s a no-frills, self-proclaimed hands-on man and deems himself an ineffective communicator (I beg to differ as might you after you read his words) who would rather set up 12 campsites alone than speak publicly–but he also believes in doing hard things, willing to model this for his boys.  Enjoy!

Top 10 Things I’ve learned in the Last 23 Years:  

10.  We all feel God’s pleasure and hear His voice in different ways.   You would think this is obvious, but it has taken me years to come to peace with this truth, comfortable in my walk with God.  I love to work with my hands and it may sound crazy but when I fix someone’s toilet, hang a door or build a cabinet I feel God’s pleasure!  When hike in the mountains or kayak at daybreak out to the ocean I sense His majesty and talk with Him.  When I play bass in worship my fingers are much quicker in being able to communicate than my mouth. When I read about the intricacies of science and design, the wisdom of God overwhelms me.  I’m not one that has seen angels, speaks a prophetic word or can pull from Scripture some profound message to share.   God has made you with the ability to know Him.  But we each will know Him in different ways.  This is okay!

9.  God cannot be put into the boxes we construct for Him.  We’ve all got these God-boxes.  And many of them we have constructed out of fear, the need to control or because that is what we have always been taught.  They feel safe and comfortable.  I know this too well.  But my prayer for years has been, “God, give me all you’ve got–show me your fullness in any measure you want to!”  Why would we put on the brakes when it comes to the full revelation of who He is?  I urge you, look for a bigger God!  Walk in the vibrancy of the Holy Spirit!  He wants to do more in and through our lives than we can begin to imagine.  My wife and I have experienced this over and over these last 13 years.  There are more stories than I would have time to tell.  So don’t commit the crime of living cautiously with your God-boxes.

8.  Love people.  My favorite scripture is Hebrews 10:23-24, “Let is hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  It is the Word of God–this hope we have and people who matter.  Love them all around you and love them well.  Always believe the best about them but put your hope and trust in God not in people.  They will let you down.  They (and I) will disappoint you.  But He will not.  So love, see everyone around you as special and worth your time.   I’ve been in the working world rat-race for twelve years and I’ve met plenty un-lovable people both inside and outside the church. So I know it is not easy, but it is the heart of Jesus that we love one another and forgive as He has forgiven us.

7.  Being a godly man doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a pastor, evangelist, or leader of a huge ministry. How many of you here, many of you missionary kids like me, have felt that people expect a lot of you as if you must be super-spiritual and turn into some sort of charismatic leader?  Yes, I felt that pressure too.  But the truth is I would stink at being a leader of some big (even a small) company or a pastor or anyone like that.  Trust me.  But I’ll serve behind the scenes and I’ll be the best right hand man you could ask for–I’ll enable the larger vision! For years I struggled with “How can I be a godly man if I am not a leader”?  The church even puts that pressure on guys!   A godly man and one who is a leader is a man who serves, who protects, who others count on, who enables other people to grow, who takes the hits and the risks (especially for his wife), who prays about all things all the time making this as normal as breathing.  Again, be who God made you to be!  Rich Mullins, you know the guy who wrote “Awesome God” said this, “If you’re a plumber and become a Christian, you don’t quit being a plumber to become a preacher.  You become a great plumber because your work is infused by your faith.”  Work is a gift from God and it all matters to Him.  A godly man works hard!

6.  I fail…and that’s OK.  There is a difference between failing and being a failure.  Times of failure are actually times of growth.  Take it from me,  I’ve lost about 13 jobs!  Granted only two of those were “my fault” (most were company lay-offs) but still, I didn’t expect when I was in your shoes to walk through 13 job losses as a man who needed to provide for my family.  I got a college degree and have sought the Lord about every decision I have made–I don’t look back and see where I would have changed anything.  But still, failure is going to come.  You can either allow it to take you down or you can keep getting back up and getting in the game, being faithful and trusting it is all making you into someone more than you were a year ago.  So you will fail. Own it. Learn from it.

5.  Brokenness makes you “ready” to serve, not perfection.  If you think the person you are “ministering” to needs the Gospel more than you do every day of your life, than you have no business doing “ministry”.  If you can lean on yourself in any way than you are not leaning on Jesus.  My times of failure drove me to utter dependence on Christ–not my own abilities, background, education, clean records.  We’ve walked through many years of loss and questions and neediness.  This has been our best preparation and we feel we know the heart of Jesus more than ever before.

4.  Mean people need extra love.  Wounded animals snarl when they are hurting–it is no different with people, so have compassion on them.  There was a boy in my high school in Texas, Joaquin.  He was odd and always mean and angry.  Many people picked on him and stayed away from him.  I remember thinking there was something underneath all that facade and trying to treat him with simple dignity.  One day he did not come back to school, ever.  You see he hurt himself really bad (you older ones here understand what I mean).  I’ve never forgotten that, not that I feel I alone could have prevented it, but this sad story reminds me that we walk among hurting people who all have a story and we must have compassion and mercy and not take the snarls personally.

3.  Don’t play the game to impress others–it’s useless and it’s all self.  Personally I hate when people get introduced with all of their titles and accomplishments.  I hate it when we try to impress each other with slick marketing or the latest trends and fashions.  Kids, just be yourself, be a person that “what you see is what you get.” Don’t let insecurity drive you–we are all naked before God and we are here to glorify Him.  All else is a waste of your time and energy and don’t waste your life.  Remember if you do, you are making it all about you and not about Jesus.

2.  Be above reproach–in everything.  Let me give you an example:  I’ve replaced many windows.  When you take the old one out and you see there is rot in that trim and down through the wall, you could just cover it all up with the new window and trim and make it look really good.  I’ve seen many guys do this.  Or you could replace the rot with new stuff so it not only looks good on the outside but it will last for years and cause the customer no long-term problems.  To be above reproach has often made me slower than my co-workers and it’s a bother to employers and yes I’ve lost a job because I refused to do cover-up jobs.  But when you do the right thing than before God you have no regrets; you have a clear conscience (even if you’ve driven people nuts), a good name and live with God’s peace.  You can’t buy this!  Noble things are always harder, but in the long run worth it.

1.  God calls each one of His children to play a role in the Body of Christ.  I love this truth! What peace and joy it brings me!  Look, I have here a hammer and a screwdriver.  Here is a screw that needs to go into this hole in this piece of wood.  What is the better tool for this particular job?  The screwdriver!  Know what tool God has created you to be and be that tool for the job to the best of your ability (which is different than the next person’s ability), serving God and others well.   You will discover this more and more! You don’t know yet what you are capable off and there are still things I don’t know I am capable of! I find this exciting! Our response to how God has made us is simple obedience and trust–not gauging your life, comparing yourself with others and striving.  My “job” is to be the best Ben Blycker to the glory of God!