This weekend’s message came in the form of beautiful testimonies from the recent Mission Trip to Romania. I was moved to tears many times as six of our own shared about their experiences. At times, I cried with them as they shed tears. At other points, my heart was deeply moved by the goodness of God toward each one. But what I came away with was not simply someone else’s story about a trip that’s done and over. I walked away with my heart burning within me, challenged in my own walk with Jesus as I pondered all that He had revealed to these six. I am so grateful for what they brought home to us. Here is a small sampling of what they shared…
Beau stated that, from the beginning, he felt compelled to step in fully. He said he wanted to let the people he served and interacted with know him and have a piece of his heart. He wanted it to hurt when he left to come home. He also said this:
“Once I committed to giving my whole heart, it was easy to lay it all out there.”
Levi also expressed that he had made a decision at the start to fully enter in with the people around him. It had a profound impact on him. Not only did he leave changed, but with confirmation of and passion for the calling God has laid on his life. He also came home feeling convicted and challenged about his role here at home. He expressed it this way:
“Why don’t I give what I gave here [in Romania] at home? To the youth here? I hold myself back here.”
John said that sometimes God takes us elsewhere to show us what He wants us to do here. Levi’s revelation is a beautiful example of the truth in this statement.
Mark shared about how they could see the progress that had been made by teams that had gone before them, that their work would build on what had been done by others and that in the future, others would continue the work they had done during their time in Romania. He expressed it this way:
“Amazing things happen when we all pull together. It doesn’t matter what portion we build.”
These statements that I have highlighted, they’re more than a good story from a great trip. They issue a challenge to the rest of us. A challenge to love fully, deeply–a challenge to love like Jesus.
There is nothing “easy” about “laying it all out there” in our day-to-day interactions. What is easy is withholding pieces of our hearts because we’re afraid of getting hurt. We don’t want to feel the pain of giving ourselves away only to experience rejection, disappointment or the ache of goodbye. Maybe it’s possible to enter in fully for ten days on a mission trip, but to come home and give ourselves away like that here? In the places God has called us to live? That’s hard. And I think it’s safe to say that most of us shy away from living that kind of love. But isn’t love like this exactly what we are called to live out?
Love one another the way I [Jesus] loved you. This is the very best way to love. (John 15:12 Message)
Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. (Ephesians 5:2 NLT)
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. (Romans 12:9-10 Message)
Love the way Jesus loved us… How does He love us? He gave his life for us. He comes to the weakest, the sickest, the unseen and gives saving grace to all who ask. Live a life filled with love, following His example. Hard. This requires commitment. A choice.
I am stirred by the way the Romans verse is paraphrased in the Message– Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it… This is what Beau & Levi articulated in what they shared. They chose to love from the center of themselves, to hold nothing back, to be authentically who they are and give themselves away. And they came home changed and challenged to do the same here in their everyday life. This doesn’t come naturally to us as adults. We are well practiced in and conditioned to withhold pieces of ourselves. To wear a mask. To only enter in so far… But Jesus’s way is all or nothing. Partial love, giving pieces of ourselves away, isn’t love at all. Love is only love when it’s all-in, unconditional, following-the-example-of-Jesus love. This is the only love that changes lives and builds bridges. Love that binds us together as “good friends who love deeply”, who don’t mind “playing second fiddle”, who can say as Mark did, “It doesn’t matter what portion we build”, because, “Amazing things happen when we all pull together”.
As I listened to all that was shared (and I have left out so much–you should really watch this week’s video so that you can fully experience their powerful testimonies!), I had to ask myself, do I love like this? Am I willing to fully enter in–when I know there will be pain involved? Sometimes I am… but I want to do this well all the time, wherever God places me, with all people. Every single person is created by God and in the image of God. Will I choose to see the image of God in all people? To see each and every face as one worthy of love? Will I choose to move toward people, to lay myself down for people? Do I understand that it really doesn’t matter what portion we build, as long as we’re loving the way Jesus calls us to love?
John asked us two questions at the end of the message:
- What is God showing you?
- What is God teaching you about yourself?
I have some soul-searching to do and some decisions to make. What about you? How would you answer these questions? We look forward to hearing your answers!
*************************************************************************************NOTE: For those of you reading this who don’t have a connection to our church let me give you a brief back story on “the girls”. When these girls were babies, they were all chosen to be adopted by families in the USA. . Unfortunately, when Romania joined the European Union, all adoptions to the west were forbidden, so these girls were caught in a political mess. There were eight girls. Now there are six, and soon all of them will be in the states because of a new program and of a loophole that has been found. Some of the girls have gotten a special visa that allows them to live with a host family and do high school here. We tried to get one of the girls a year and a half ago, and other families in our church were willing as well, but our state doesn’t accept that type of visa. The other loophole means that Romanian families living abroad can adopt Romanian children, so three of the girls have been adopted by Romanian families in the states.
Like Laura, I came away from Sunday’s service with beautiful nuggets to meditate on; however, the theme that God highlighted in my heart, primarily during the first service, has to do with the girls–the orphans. Young ladies, 14-15 years old now, that we have known and ministered to for a lot of years.
Mark shared that during a conversation with one of the girls, he had the realization, due to bits and pieces from his own personal story, that talking to an orphan about why we make the decision not to adopt rings hollow. And then he said:
Because the whole gospel is about adoption.
The evening that the team returned from Romania, John and I were talking at home and he was catching me up on the girls. I used the word “orphan” during our conversation, and John said that he didn’t like to use that word. I didn’t like it either when referring to girls that I know, girls who hold a special place in my heart. Why?
The word “orphan” is all of a sudden hitting me in a deep way. Knowing these girls–and they have been well loved and well cared for by Peter and Ana, the founders of the Romanian Evangelical Medical Mission (REMM)–doesn’t erase the fact that they are still orphans, and all of a sudden I am feeling the weight of what that means…not chosen, no real home, vulnerable, alone…
Orphans– real live people. Am I willing to face the reality of what it means to be an orphan, and then face myself and my choices in light of what it means?
The world is full of children who are orphans, and who need loving Christian homes to grow up in. I do not take that lightly. I think that’s an issue that we all need to wrestle with and pray about, and whether we are led to adopt or not, we can all play a part in getting children into homes with our prayers and our financial support. Yet my epiphany on Sunday was that every person on the face of the planet that doesn’t know Jesus is an orphan. All of a sudden the weight of that hit me.
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12 (Implying that those who don’t know Jesus are orphans.)
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18
“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.” 1st John 3:1
…”all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” Romans 8:14-17
So, here it is; not only does God tell us, his followers, to take care of the real live flesh and blood orphans…
“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.” Isaiah 1:17
“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” James 1:27
…I believe that He wants us to see the lost as spiritual orphans and care for them as well. This is what it means to love like Christ.
When Jesus looked at the lost, he felt deeply for them.
Matthew 9:36 tells us: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
I believe that he wants us to look at people this way as well.
So when I let both the beauty and the weight of this settle in on me, can I apply some of the things that the mission team said about ministering to orphans on their trip right here?
John said– “Always give your heart away. That’s what ministry is.” He encouraged us to give our life, our time, our fears, and our heart to God, so that we can be in a position to give those things to others–anywhere.
Beau said that leaving the girls on the last night was devastating because he knew that he may not see them again. He reminded us that the fear of pain, of saying good-bye, can cause us to hold back, but that he wanted it to hurt when he left so that he would know he came home different, he would know he hadn’t just shared knowledge, but had actually let the girls have a piece of his heart. He chose to enter in, to speak life, to give his heart, and feel the pain of that. Could that be part of sharing in the sufferings of Christ? Can I be willing to enter in with people even though I might get hurt in the process? Am I willing to give away pieces of my heart?
Levi chose not to hold back, to enter in fully, and was convicted about living that way “at home” as well–speaking life, speaking truth, speaking love, being fully engaged here. Am I willing to do that too?
Charity talked about how touched she was that the pastors and their wives knew the stories of the people that they ministered to, and she told of a woman who could no longer read her Bible, until the team provided a pair of reading glasses for her. Charity talked about the woman’s deep joy and gratitude, because that small gift changed her life. Can we take enough time with people to learn their stories, and live knowing that even small gifts, small acts of kindness can make a huge difference?
Tina said about the dental work, that even though there was a language barrier, the language of touch, of care, is universal. We can speak that language no matter where we are.
And Mark said “Look for Jesus in every moment— amazing things happen when the body of Christ pulls together.”
A mission trip is not about the doing, it’s about the being.
Following Christ is not about the doing, it’s about the being.
Are we willing to see those who are not yet family, who don’t know Jesus, as orphans to be cared for, to be loved, to be spoken into with words of life, to be prayed for, to be worth giving pieces of our hearts to, to share our time with, to push past our fears for, so that we can introduce them to our Father? What are your thoughts?