Monday, February 27, 2017

What No One Told Me About Being A Missionary

Dear Self,

It has been quite some time now since you have "answered the call." Remember what it felt like when you held orphaned children for the first time and slept in tents on the cold ground?  I do, and you should think about those moments often.  Remember the first time you prayed for people to be free, for the child on the corner, the drunken woman, and the man with no home?  I do, and you should think about those times often.

But can you recall your heart pounding so fast because you knew you had to "go into all the world?"  When time after time the tears would just pour out like a river because you wanted them to know, I mean really know, the glory of The One who saves.  The same One who saved you, Jesus. This is what you should think about even more.

You see, there is a lot no one ever told you about being a missionary. It wasn't kept from you secretly or behind your back but yet, perhaps no one really knew what it would be like.  The truth is, few will only have a taste of the mission field. Maybe they didn't tell you of the hardship because they wanted to protect you from that road. Maybe they even thought that if they told you all that is on the other side of the world, that you would just calm your heart, dry your tears, and just "stay" instead of "go."

Most people will rejoice with you and some will even help you pack your luggage.  (Find those people!) You will have to decide what to take and what to leave behind.  My advice- pack light, because you feel the weight of the broken world.

Self, what I need to really tell you is that this is going to hurt.  It is going to hurt in the middle of unspeakable glory,  and no one is going to understand.  What I need to tell you is that people, even ones who love you, are going to hurt you.  They (meaning several) are going to cast judgement and criticize, even when you are in over your head in the trenches; in the moments when you just need someone to tell you to keep going-  it's going to happen.

Some are going to question if you are actually doing "enough" when they have no idea you are still crying over last weeks encounters and the children you held.  (I mean, can you ever do enough in a tornado?) Remember to never, ever let the critics define you or the path of your ministry.  That's a big one.

Self, what I need to tell you is that the spiritual attacks will be real. You have advanced to the front of the battle field taking bullets that no one even sees because you are fighting in front of them. You will be tired and sick and tired many days, because the needs takes your breath away.  This is when you must carve out seasons to rest and fall into the arms of "your people" who "get it." They are the ones who will help you recover and clean the battle wounds. Self, I am telling you, rest, is key to your stability, sanity, and strength.

You have worked hard, Self.  And the truth is you really don't tell the truth of how much you carry, when you are hurt, or how much disappointment you have faced.  Missionaries are "supposed to" tell the "good reports" from the field. However, more times than not, you are fighting to see the good.

You will watch children you disciple steal and choose violence, girls you love will become pregnant, some will try to take their life, and your kindness will be taken advantage of countless times.

That is (really) going to hurt.

Oh, but Self, in those times, do not doubt the ministry you have done. You have done what God has asked of you. Someone always has to pay a price for the kingdom of God to come to earth.  This is your cost.  This is your cross.  And I am telling you, it will be worth it all, it really will.

Tuck that deep inside yourself because some days you will sit on the side of your bed missing your family as you are trying to build the family of God.  Even after years have passed, that will never go away.

See, no one really told you how hard the road would be, but they also didn't tell you how the pressure of the road would cause such profound dependance on Jesus. How the difficulty and the battle would produce a need in your heart to be so close to The King of the very world you were sent to serve.

You will discover much more than the pain, Self, you will discover the riches of His love. The very love you are bringing to the world, is the same love that will sustain you and empower you in the world of missions and on any road you travel.

What I can tell you is that being a missionary is much more about who you are doing the task for, than what you are actually doing. 

This is why, Self, it is so important you remember when your heart was pounding fast and those tears were flowing at the call to go into the world.  If you lay these words to your heart, you will be able to face the broken world, the crying children, the hungry faces, the hard criticism, the overwhelming disappointment, and such deep loneliness with the grace to trust Jesus more.

With all my love,


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Why We Keep Fighting (Written with Keilley Kulhawy)

 She insisted that I hold her. All I could think about was the years she wasn't held. All the times she was overlooked, neglected, and used. 

Almost 2 years ago she came to us. BrokenA tiny, frail 9-year-old who hid behind the 12-year-old sister who had been rescued with her. Both had paid the price of violence, but the dollars had been given to someone else.  Paid in full was an American man who conveniently crossed the border into Mexico to take and collect pleasure from inappropriate pictures. These photographs, harmful as they were, led to even darker acts--atrocities we cannot begin to fathom.  

There is no easy way to say it. It is more than abuse.  
It is the rape of a child. In this case, two. 

When we hear this, we grieve and our stomach turns. The tragedy. The trauma. The sadness and the disgust.  I am told so many times in a day how horrible these things are, and without question, it is.  

After years of fighting in this battle, however, I have discovered a tragedy just as deep, perhaps even deeper. Something that turns my stomach just as much. 

There is a silent seed in which this great tragedy is rooted. And I can say with confidence that it is not found in the throes of battle—because, here, we’re winning victories daily. The deepest tragedy is found in the sidelines of passivity.  How can we possess such information and do nothing?  

Inaction permits evil to continue pouring out—outranking depravity never allowing the cycle to end.

My heart is troubled when I see the silent sideline of those who only "feel bad…" because many of us don’t even realize that’s where we’re standing. 

I say this neither to condemn nor elevate. I, myself, stood unknowingly in that same position for years. More years than which I have been involved.  In fact, I didn’t even know what human trafficking was the night I came face-to-face with it. 

It’s not that I didn’t care, it’s that I didn’t know. And I believe this is where so many of us stand. We THINK there is nothing we can do by the enormity of the issue, so we don’t do anything. Instead of doing one thing that could (and many times does) activate something much greater.

Then there are times we DO see the action we can take...but we ignore it—because we don’t want to pay the cost, make the sacrifice, feel uncomfortable, or get our hands dirty, so we continuing feeling “bad” injustice exists. We go on considering our emotions a sufficient response and accepting the world is just a messed up place. 

But I refuse. 

The first night I witnessed a little girl being sold on the streets was the last night I choose to remain ignorant and passive. 

So I write this to move you beyond emotion. Beyond the stage of "feeling bad." To tell you that you are needed.  It has always been a community of people that make a difference in the world. It has been the power of their unity, the common goal, their resolve to never give up. By linking arms we become a force to be reckoned with. Victories are won; lives are saved.

So this part- this is where you dust off your helmet and old army boots. Where you choose to not just watch the war, but to battle in the community already marching.

Of course, our hearts still ache.  As I hold this little framed girl, I feel her suffering. I see her nightmares. I tense at her anxiety, and I weep over her confused identity and broken heart. 

But we must stop believing that "feeling bad" is somehow making a difference.  Because she is so much more than a reason to get emotional. 

She is the very reason why we fight.

So, you choose.  The sideline or the battlefield.

*Involvement can look different for everyone.  Please see how you can get involved at