Friday, July 22, 2011

Excitement in the Mundane

Today we took our lunch break to open a savings account here in Greenwood, something that is a totally mundane occurrence. Until the woman setting up the account asked me (Jenny) where I work. I instantly blurted, "Nowhere," as that is what has customarily been my answer. Then the thought struck me that yes, I am employed. As a salary-receiving missionary candidate of One Mission Society, I most certainly am employed. Troy later remarked that he'd been able to respond to that question with, "I work at Wesley Biblical Seminary", but then, with a similar jolt, realized that was not true.

A mundane occurrence such as opening a savings account profoundly impacted us by serving as a stark reminder of our commitment to step out of the boat and trust God fully for our every needs---especially our funding needs.

Thank You, God, for the excitement in the mundane.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Field Trip of Faith

I want to warn you now, the following post is LONG. So please only read it when you have the time to really read it. Thanks!

When you see or hear the words “field trip”, what are you reminded of? That grade-school field trip you took to your state’s capitol building? How about the “insider’s” view tour you took of the back of a grocery store in early elementary (did this in either kindergarten or first grade and thought it was MAGICAL back there. Then, once I actually worked in a grocery store in high school, it somehow lost it’s magic)? Anyway, when I saw the words “field trip” on our schedule for today, I immediately was thinking of something soothing and relaxing--maybe a meal off-campus with the whole group (minus the children). And then, like working in a grocery store burst that bubble of how magical the back of a store was, Friday’s corporate Bible study had the same effect on my expectations of today’s field trip.

We looked at the passages of Jesus sending out the twelve and the seventy two, in pairs, and His very detailed instructions of what they could or could not bring. Almost immediately, little warning bells started sounding in my head. My heart sank as an idea took shape---they were going to pair us up and send us out into downtown Indy to do street evangelism. Was it too late to back out of this whole CROSS training experience? Maybe if I worked at it really hard, I could somehow develop a strangely rare, non-contagious disease that lasted only twenty-four hours, yet would prohibit me from participating. Some of you might be shocked right now. A missionary scared of doing street evangelism? I mean, is that even allowed??? Yes, it is, and the word should be “terrified”, not merely “scared”.

Fast-forward to today. Knowing that we would be fasting through lunch, our plan of action was to eat a good breakfast. At the appointed time, I noticed that my usual purposeful strides as I walked across campus toward the main building were somewhat lagging in their enthusiasm. And as the departure time kept drawing nearer and nearer, my heart rate kept increasing, and dread completely took up residence in my gut.

In an attempt to make a long story a tiny bit shorter, I’ll just lay it out. We were split into four groups of three, told to empty our pockets of all but our IDs (no credit cards, no cash, no phones---although we each did carry a bottle of water, as it was HOT today), given one baggie of change per group and some further directions, and dropped off at the bus stop. Each team had enough change to ride the bus from Greenwood to downtown Indy....and that’s all. We were to arrange our own rides back. Say, what???

My group arrived at our designated spot, a lovely park area with a fountain of scantily-clad women (not so lovely), directly across from the Indiana war memorial. During the long bus ride there, we had (reluctantly) agreed that we would not ask people for the return bus fare---we would simply pray that God would provide and then leave it in His hands. Once we’d written down some ideas, some immediate feelings (more terror, worry, panic, etc), and then figured out our plan of attack for the morning, we each set out individually to walk the perimeter and just pray. Knowing my tendency to worry things to death, and my tendency to have to know all the details ahead of time, I was really struggling with this whole idea. So during our short time of prayer away from each other, I had to give it all to God. This whole kind of thing is so out of my comfort zone, that it’s in a whole ‘nother state from my comfort zone, okay. And going up to people I don’t know and asking them about God? Same thing. Just because I am a missionary (well, a missionary candidate who hasn’t yet been to the field, anyway) doesn’t mean that I’m totally comfortable sharing my faith with strangers. You might ask how someone is to reach people for Christ if they aren’t willing to share with strangers, and that is a totally fair question. Today reinforced several things for me and one of them is that I need more boldness in order to be effective for Christ. I can’t let fear dictate what I will or will not do. It was also brought home to me the fact that there are many things in the Word I still do not know, and that is mainly because I’ve gotten lazy about reading my Bible and having my quiet time with God. Realizing that, it’s little wonder why I was so ill-equipped for today’s excursion.

As the morning went on, the realization came to me that I really had turned our return trip over to God. I wasn’t stewing over it. I wasn’t trying to figure out in my head how in the world we were going to come up with $5.25 and who we could ask for it. I was assured that God was going to provide somehow. There are no words to describe how freeing this was for me. I am the type of person who has to have everything all figured out. I need a plan. Living by faith is a foreign concept for me. Yeah, God recently asked Troy to leave his job and live on a smaller income as we fund-raise full time. But a smaller income is completely different than no income! Knowing that none of us had a dime in our pockets, nor any plastic with which to procure some cash could’ve been---should’ve been---a really frightening thing. And yet the assurance was there.

During the course of the day, through the boldness of one of our team members (who, I don’t believe met a stranger in the park the way he was able to converse with them), and through offering to take pictures for people and because of other people striking up conversations with us. we were able to speak with a Muslim family from Turkey, a Buddhist woman from the West Coast, a few homeless men, and several fellow Christians who were more of a blessing to us than we were to them. I was never bold enough to approach anyone and share Christ with them, but I did come out of my shell enough to approach people I didn’t know for the pictures. This is all a work in progress (not that I’d like to do this exercise again, mind, but I imagine God will continue to use this in teaching moments with me for a long time to come).

By 3 PM, we started making our way to our bus stop, knowing full well that we had no money to actually ride the bus home. We had no idea how God was going to provide. (But the fact that you’re able to read this proves that He did.) As we rounded the corner, we could see our bus coming down the street. Some panic set in, at least for me. Then, glancing up, we saw another team walking our way. They asked if we were ready to get on the bus, but when we admitted that we hadn’t gotten any money, they smiled at us and encouraged us to get on the bus anyway. When we objected, they smiled again and said, “We have enough for you.” Stunned, we raced to get on the bus, wondering how in the world---and where---they had gotten enough for both of our groups. But there was still more money left! A few bus stops down, we spotted another team. They’d found a free one-day bus pass that someone had taped to the bus stop shelter’s window, but still needed the money for two more people. Our fellow teammates had the money for them as well. They explained that, through the course of a conversation with someone, they’d shared their predicament, but had left it to talk of other things. At the end of the conversation, they’d walked away from this man only to have him chase them down and give them $20!! All told, there was enough money for 8 people to ride the bus---with $5 leftover! Back at our stop in Greenwood, one of the men was able to give the remaining money to two women who were getting on the bus as we got off, furthering the original giver’s blessing to include 10 people! We later discovered that the fourth team had met a group meeting for a Bible study (and were actually able to join in their Bible study!) and, through conversation with them, met someone who kindly gave the three of them a ride back to Greenwood from downtown Indy!

God faithfully provided a way home for all of us and taught us all many valuable lessons on faith in the mean time. For me, the lesson I will take home with me from the whole experience is that I don’t need to have it all figured out. I’ve always admired the faith of missionaries like Hudson Taylor, who prayed in their needs and didn’t worry about them. But until today, I didn’t really think that kind of faith was actually possible. Friends, I am sitting here at this computer because it IS possible! God knows what our needs are and He is more than able to provide them. He knew that we needed a way home from downtown and He provided. And not only provided, but provided abundantly!

The question is, do we have enough faith to let Him?