Don’t doubt in the dark what you saw in the light…

For anyone who’s been doubting or feeling skeptical like I often do, I am here to tell you that the REAL God still changes hearts in REAL life.

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(free stock photo from Pexels)

[So, I am working on a Honduras update post or two but I wanted to give a quick testimony and word of praise for what I experienced yesterday at church.]

First of all, the worship team started off the service with a song I had never heard before called Covered by Israel Houghton that absolutely tore me up…

At the cross you called it finished!

All my past is covered… all my sin is covered by your grace…

No matter what I’ve done
No matter where I’ve been
No matter how I fall
You pick me up again
You have removed my shame
You take me as I am
You call me justified
Now I am covered by your grace

Without mentioning the name of the church (because God gets all the glory, not any person or physical location) I want to say how much I admire this team of ministers for creating such a welcoming atmosphere and having the spiritual discernment and anticipation to be prepared to minister when a person has some heavy crap to take care of. Let’s be real, as humans we get shocked and offended and scared at some of the real life junk that people are dealing with deep down. It is a lot easier to dress up on Sunday mornings and intentionally not think about the personal hell that our neighbor might be living in.

My heart hurts for those who think they wouldn’t be welcomed in a church building. We as Christ-followers should be the most welcoming people on the planet. Why do we screw this up so much?

Well, God isn’t offended or intimidated by our mess. He loves us so intensely that just one encounter with His presence, one taste of the REAL Living Water, is enough to quench our thirst and make us realize that we had been so foolishly drinking out of the wrong well for so long looking for something that didn’t even satisfy.

A friend of a family member whom I met for the first time yesterday got a RADICAL taste of this unconditional love and overwhelming grace. He got set free from some crazy stuff on the spot while praying with some staff members after the service. I’ve been in awe of the Lord and feeling kinda weepy ever since. God is good.

Sometimes in ministry we feel like we’re treading water, maybe we are in the “sowing seeds” stage and it feels really slow. The all of a sudden we get to participate in the “harvest” and it is so encouraging and affirming. And I was reminded again not to ever underestimate what God can and will do. He’s been using unconventional ways and unconventional people since the beginning of time. Who are we to predict or “approve” of His methods or even think we could possibly have Him figured out? (And who says ministry only happens in the church building? That might be one of the most debilitating myths of the Church’s ministry today and there are even pastors who perpetuate this mindset.) When we start recognizing the divine in the mundane and becoming aware of sacred moments in secular settings we will be much more effective in the Kingdom. Let’s not miss God-ordained opportunities because we’re too busy with our heads down shuffling through our daily routines.

God is so much bigger 🙂

Oh, how He loves us

If I don’t write a new blog post right now I might explode. I have no way to put into words what the past 10 days of my life have been like. Not even a couple of adjectives would cover it.

Before I recap/summarize/struggle with what all to disclose to an undefined cyber audience… I need to start with what all I experienced yesterday. Yes, I am about to post something out of chronological order but guess what – this is my blog. 🙂 I do what I want.

Saturday, Sept 29, 2012

Some friends from the church and I left bright and early Saturday morning for Copán, a beautiful rural mountainous region in west Honduras. The four of us set out on behalf of the church’s Christian Social Ministry to distribute food staples and water filtration systems to more than a dozen families with extreme needs. These selected families live in a village of Copán called El Limón. I have visited El Limón a couple times on medical brigades with missions teams from the states including last year’s trip in July. The Christian Social Ministry distributes food to this region monthly.

I joined Doctor Yanela, Jonathan and Gabriela on Saturday with the purpose of documenting the trip for a promotional video. Almost 20 gigabytes of footage and photos later, I am feeling the itch to work on a documentary some day soon. 🙂

When we arrived, all the families met us at the truck and received their food. I recognized many families from the year before and chatted a little with them. After food distribution we went house to house to explain the water filtration to each family. In comparison to seeing these families when they come to us at a certain location for the clinics, I really enjoyed being able to step foot in each of their homes. Yanela checked on the health conditions of each family we visited and gave hygiene speeches everywhere we went. The kids were told to bathe daily, wash their hands with soap after using the bathroom and to only drink the filtered water. The families showered us with gifts of bananas, oranges and eggs. I got to see children’s schoolwork proudly displayed on doors made of wood scraps sometimes with hinges made of tire pieces. I saw the single bed or two where a family of six sleeps and the swinging hammocks holding napping babies. I heard stories that many in the village are fearful at night and sleep together in groups.

I recognized one 11-year-old girl, Nohemí, although she had to remind me of her name because I had forgotten. She ran up and said, “Your name is Kristen!” I was stunned… How did she remember my name from over a year ago without any photo of me? I was one member among a large team of Americans. That meant so much to me.

Nohemí and her family with me from last year. Nohemí and her family photographed yesterday in their home with their new water filter. (the mother is not pictured in the first photo)

I was snapping photos and recording video when another sweet little girl came up and told me that she also remembered me from the year before. She asked if I had any photos of her mom so I started going through my camera to see. I asked her what her mom was wearing so that I could identify her but she stopped me and told me that her mom had died seven months ago when her baby brother was born. She was asking if I had any photos of her mother because she remembered I had my camera last year when their family came to our clinic. The only picture the family had of their mother was an old polaroid that a missions group had taken years before. That moment confirmed that my photography, my videography, is my ministry. Documenting people and events and telling stories is how I want to spend my life. Keeping the memory of loved ones alive like this girl’s mother is what I want to do. We take it for granted. We keep stacks of photo albums, slides, polaroids, computer files brimming over with moments that we’ve captured. Imagine how differently we would grieve for someone if we had no image or reminder of them left after they’re gone.

So I am going through my files from last year’s trip searching for anything I might have with the image this precious child’s mother. That got me thinking. One organization that I love, Help Portrait, takes family portraits around Christmas time for needy communities. I would love to organize a trip back to El Limón soon to give these families the gift of their first family portrait. I would have the photos printed and framed in time for Christmas.

One little boy we met, named Elder, rode in the truck with us as we drove around from house to house explaining the water filtration systems. It was his first time in a vehicle and Jonathan let him sit up front and “drive.” He was so excited! Yanela told him that one day he could get a car of his own. 🙂

Elder riding up front with Jonathan and Gaby!

We stopped by El Paraiso, which serves as our base while on medical trips, and I got to see my friend, Maily, and her new baby boy, Carlos José!

Me, Carlos José and proud mama Maily. 🙂

On our last stop before heading home and right before sunset, we visited the last family that needed to receive the water filter and food. I won’t go into detail but a mother living in the house was battling with some strong depression and feelings of hopelessness. I was amazed at how Yanela handled the situation. She told the lady who had been laying in bed for months, not bathing and rarely getting up, that she had plenty of reasons for getting out of bed in the morning and that the desire for her children to have a better life should be one of them. She shared the hope of Christ with her and we prayed. I could not contain the tears. Receiving food or clean water is not enough to give sustainable hope. But the good news of salvation through Christ is enough hope to sustain us and give us joy and peace and strength for the day. I pray that this precious mom grasps hold of that truth. Yanela asked the daughters to promise to pray for their mother each day and speak healing over her. She also encouraged them to hug her often and tell her that they loved her.

My go-to song in moments like this is “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan.

And all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory. I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me.

I want the people of Copán, Honduras to understand how great Christ’s affections are for them. Oh, how He loves us.

And then I find it ironic that in the midst of so much desperation and suffering that I feel so much closer to my Savior. Everything else is stripped away and I am left with the simple truth that He alone satisfies. My typical life in the U.S. is so clouded with trivial distractions that I lose perspective. I need to be here to be reminded of what really matters.

And in the midst of prompting others toward their liberation, I am becoming more liberated myself I would have otherwise never realized I was so restricted.