I am praying for all of you as you depart today on your way to Ecuador. I pray you are all in great anticipation of what God is about to do in you in the next few weeks.
Something I've learned about journeys from experience as well as observation is that one never ends a journey the same person as when they began. That is God's design. Praise God that he doesn't leave us where we begin our journey of faith! Literal journeys like you are about to embark on are never merely physical in nature. You are also on a spiritual journey and the Lord is at work taking you somewhere deeper spiritually and in your relationship with Him through this time. You may very well find yourself surprised at what God is doing in and through you. As Tolkien said of Bilbo in "The Hobbit", "This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected." This is the stuff of growth, sanctification, discipleship. May it be so of you in the weeks ahead.
This does not mean you will necessarily end up doing something that outwardly looks like a big thing, such as fighting dragons named Smaug. But, there will be opportunities to take big leaps of faith that stretch you and that are incredibly meaningful to the ones you are ministering to as you get out of your comfort zone to serve. Returning to Tolkien quotes, "I found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay, small acts of kindness and love." May the opportunities abound, even aboard the plane on the way there, for you to "push back the darkness" through acts of kindness and love flowing from a heart filled with the love of God. For as Christ said in Matthew 5:14-15, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house." Show the light of the love of Christ.
Anticipate Beauty in Unexpected Places
I'm sure that in some of you, the anticipation of what is to come is at least mixed with a little apprehension. That is also normal. There are things to fear in a sinful world marred by sin. There are things in a new culture that are scary and unknown to us. Brokenness exists in every place this side of heaven. To continue my Tolkien theme: "The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps the greater."
Anticipate God's Love and Care
And fear not, as Paul said, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:31-39
Anticipate Fruit to Come!
Whether you're aware of it or not, God has great work he is doing in each of you and in our church body as a community through this journey. May He be with you, bless you and keep you in this time!