Sunday, August 1, 2010

Obsessive Belief

The field workers in Murcia know many Moroccans and there are two particular ladies whom I have grown to love; I’ve spent an accumulated time of perhaps five hours with them. They are the same wonderful cooks I spoke of in my last post. They are wonderful in the kitchen and today fixed quite a spread of lemon chicken and plums. As my cousin would say, “They can sure throw down!” Without being paid anything extra and simply out of the kindness of their hearts, they come and sweat over a hot stove of food and always provide limited, yet much welcomed conversation, as well as comic relief. Try learning to belly dance from a 50 year-old Arab woman and then, in turn, trying to teach her to country line dance (especially when you’ve never country line danced before either)!

I knew today would be the last time I would see Moulu and Fati and as I kissed their cheeks, as is the custom here, I embraced them as well and they both made sure to say in their very broken Spanish, “Tell your mom hello from us and pray to Allah. He can heal her.” They believe in God. The recite their prayers five times a day, but Jesus is never on the forefront of their minds. And I’m reminded that the only way to the Father is through His Son. Moulu and Fati never enter a mosque with stained or soiled clothing. They must be spotless and they must wash before praying as well. Afterall, only the best for Allah.

Unfortunately, they do not know that the spots and stains that need to be removed are from their lives, not their garments, and those imperfections can only be removed by the blood of Christ, which, as my brother likes to say, “is better than Clorox.” So, for these two women, their very best garb and head covering will only gain them permission to enter a mosque. If only they knew the veil was torn long ago. No more rituals. No more self-reliance. Only Jesus…

These two months in Spain have, at points, seemed endless. Then I look back to when I met my team in Kentucky and then at the friends we made when we first got to Spain and those moments seem to have come and gone so quickly. I’m sure the question will be posed, “Are you glad you went even though you didn’t want to?” (I was very close to packing my bags and heading back to Virginia just two days before I boarded the plane to Spain.) I feel obligated to say, “Of course.” I feel compelled to simply say, “I cannot thank God enough for being omnipresent. If He weren’t, this trip would not have been possible. If anything, I learned that God restores the faint-hearted and turns disbelief into obsessive belief.”

I’m one of the “lucky” ones. In fact, I just sat down with a twenty-something girl, named Mil just two days ago. She was asking about my mom and when I was finished giving testimony of God’s provision and faithfulness. She rejoiced with me and then she proceeded to tell me about both of her parents dying from cancer. She cried and I just sat there speechless feeling guilty for being so abundantly blessed. What do you say to that? The girl is a Christian. Her parents were faithful to Jesus, but the “why them” and the deep wounds don’t just disappear. All I can think is that my obsession with God and His existence is the only “thing” I have that keeps me going. Despite the hurt and hindrances that life presents, God is there. I can only hope that my faith should remain as strong as Mil’s.

Another obsessive moment with God was listening to the testimony of a couple at the church here in Murcia. They were married as non-believers. Ten years in to their marriage, they yearned, not for each other, but for a way out. Then they were introduced to Jesus and slowly they recovered the love that was lost between them and with Jesus added to the equation, their marriage is 27 years more beautiful than ever!

God is still a God of miracles. He heals cancer and he takes cares of spoiled whiny children like ME. I should be the last to complain about leaving my family for just two months and the first to whisper of His unending compassion and sweet existence in my life. (I could also shout it from the rooftops, if you prefer.) God is so good!

I started this blog several days ago and am just now getting to wrap it up. I’ve spent some time in the Sierra Nevada mountains here in Spain eating up the majesty of God through His creation and also through a few of His precious children: Ben, Brittney, Stephen, Rachel, and Katie…my interns. I met them just a few months ago and we’ve lived our lives together this summer and have each grown in different ways. One feels possibly led to full-time missions in Spain. One feels led to full-time missions, possibly in Costa Rica. Another would love an opportunity to serve in Asia. Another would like to return next year to plant more seeds through English camp and another in his passion for capturing people and activities with a camera is looking at doing another internship with a partner organization next year.

One of our final prayer times was spent asking God to work in the lives of specific non-believers we met over the summer and had direct contact and conversations with. We sat for several minutes and, one by one with our eyes closed and our hearts growing fragile, listed at least 100 individuals, children and adults, who have not considered making Jesus their Lord, their Savior, their…well, Everything.

I look back and and think, “Isn’t it amazing how God transcends everything?” My interns spoke and still speak very little Spanish, yet they feel connected to and deep love for so many people that God has put in their paths this summer. If nothing else, I pray that they have grown in the image of Christ, learned to pray for lost people and those who leave everything behind to go to other nations, and to live their lives intentionally and without regret when considering the Great Commission that was given to them a couple thousand years ago.

There are stories that need to be heard. People need to hear about Moulu and Fati and Mil. People need to hear about Elis and the fact that she’s never considered any religion…ever. She says she atheist because she doesn’t know any better. People need to hear about “C” and her desire to read the Koran because she hungry to find the one and only Way, yet no one has told her that the only Way is Jesus. People need to hear the story of Si and Er and their labor among Arabs and Latin American immigrants and their desire for Spain to belong to God one again. People need to hear stories of hope, like with Incarni, a Spanish woman who has recently been introduced to Jesus and desires so much to know Him more and the story of Gen and how her sharp tongue and heated confrontation with a non-Christian eventually brought her to repentance at a small Christian camp.

God is at work here in Spain. It certainly hasn’t been a trip that I would put on a personal resume because of particular battles I’ve faced this summer. I’ve not been the coach or mentor that was expected of me, but I did give my everything and I left nothing behind…just perhaps in not all the right places. My interns were neglected quite a bit; the summer was hectic and time outside of direct ministry activities was beyond scarce, but I’m still left with no excuses. There are things that I wish would have been different, but my hope lies in the fact that Jesus’ grace is sufficient for me.

If only the individuals listed in this blog could rest like I will tonight because of the knowledge of His grace and mercy…if only they lived like me with an obsessive belief in a God who gave His life for them.

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