Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My Standard of Living

(written last week while still on the road)

This morning I washed my hair in a sink. If you haven't ever done this before with long hair, believe me- it's a chore. I then used one of my t-shirts as a towel and dressed myself in a pair of jeans that I think I've been able to wash once this tour so far. The other girls just opted for a quick face wash and put their hair back and if I hadn't woken up with one of the worst cases of bed head I've even seen on myself, I would have followed suit.

Take note: I am not complaining. In fact, it was kind of cool to relive the days of when I was a camp counselor using anything for any task, whether created for it or not. I mean, we were even in bunks and everything.

I instead bring this up because all year, but this tour especially, I've been asked "How can you do it? How can you spend every night somewhere different? In a different bed? On a different schedule?... I could NEVER do that...". Really, what most of them are saying is 'I am unwilling to leave the comfort of the life I've created for myself.' This always causes me to wonder two things a) am I really that different that I can handle being a nomad for a year? and b) what about all that stuff in the Bible where it calls us to not worry about our future because God will be our provision?

First of all, I am not different. The people on my team are not different. Yes, we have youth on our side, but we also all have our own things that we may struggle with while being on the road. For example, I can get some nasty migraines at times that threaten to keep me away from light and sound for hours- days even... try being in a band with that one and not relying on God. I guarantee, it ain't gonna happen.

There is a chunk of Matthew that I've heard thrown around this year, and not by any of the CTI folks oddly enough. Rather, I've picked it up throughout the year from different contacts and usually it was said more in passing than anything else.

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.
30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Previous to this year, I always thought about this passage as the one you draw the 'lilies' part from, embroider on a pillow, and place is a room full of flower-printed couches and lace doilies. Not that this verse was bad to me, I think I always just saw it presented as a Hallmark card rather than Christ's call to us to lay down our worries and future needs and to instead focus on our relationship with our Father, letting Him provide for our needs when the time arises. I think this is a principle that is so evident throughout the Bible, testaments old and new, that we fail to grasp the truth of. I think we see God's provision as a thing which we might say we believe but by the end of the day we really view ourselves as the provider. After all, we do have the job, make the money, pay the bills, do the shopping and cooking, etc, etc, etc. Plus, steak is so much better than raining manna, right?

I think this year (for me at least) has really caused me to reevaluate how I understand my place in the world as a child of God and sister in Christ. I am not exempt from the need to plan and organize and know what my future holds. However, the closer this full-time year draws to a close and I still have no idea or inkling as to where I will be living next year much less what job I'll have, I recognize the wisdom in walking in faith that my God will provide.

So, when people tell me they could never do it, I have begun replying with something like "I think you are much more capable of doing something like this if you are doing it for the right reasons- because that's the only way we are able to keep going ourselves". Most of the time, I just get a smile or a quick answer in passing, but occasionally I see a light bulb moment happen. It's for the moments when someone else shares my realization that God may be the almighty creator of the universe, but He's going to give us food, shelter- even a sink- when we need it as long as we are serving Him.

--sara hoagie

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Spring Tour Thoughts

The past week I have been working on reading Jack Miller's The Heart of a Servant Leader. The past 2 days I have tacked on the Jars of Clay book The Narrow Road as well. Both books deal with missions work. The first is a collection of letters that Jack wrote to fellow church workers and missionaries, the second the story of Brother Andrew, noted found of Open Doors International. The Jars of Clay on is going down very easily comparatively (I'll be done by tomorrow). The Jack Miller one I can't seem to go 30 pages a day there's so much content that I'm underlining/dog-earring to come back to. I highly recommend them both, they've garnished a lot more of my attention than half my physics textbooks combined.

While reading them both I am struck by an overwhelming sense of.... inadequacy? pressure? ineffectiveness? impotence? mediocrity? (Thank you thesaurus) I'm not sure the word I want here. Hearing the stories of these people who have done amazing wondrous things in the mission field, and then to think that we at CTI claim to be on the mission field, and yet we... I am not in tune with God's will daily. How can I have the power to go into missions after this year (I'm currently enrolling in an M.A.R. program through Reformed Theological Seminary)? As these thoughts go through my head, I'm reminded of one fact, that I can't. It's impossible. And scarily enough, that's the most comforting thing to hear. It's impossible for me to do any of this on my own. It is only through the immeasurable power of Jesus Christ that we can get up in a foreign country and preach His word. It is only with Him by our side that we can continually fly/travel with our gear and not have it seized at a border or seriously broken in ways that we can't fix. Only His power has kept our gear lasting twice the normal wear and tear age, with more than double the normal wear and tear. Only His power can use a sound tech with a traveling band to connect two family members in different institutions that haven't been able to find each other in 10 months. I could go on. The truth is this is exactly what we've been writing about all year. It's not our power. It's God's strength, and that is all the more evident when we realize that we can't do this on our own. It's impossible. We may not feel like we have the strength/faith of Paul, but at the end of the day everything he had came from God too.

If you take anything away from this, hear this. No matter what happens (in our economy, in a war-zone half a world away, in the family next door, in your own life) let God have His way with you, and work through you. If you are considering something like CTI, or another missions oriented group, do not let anything short of God's word stop you.