Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Mission High Fullfilling

I checked my 'Stats' page for this blog and realized I have not written anything lately. This, be it for the good or bad, will change as I present a four part series on my thoughts about my experience in New Mexico. I will share the joys and the pains, the happy times and the struggles. It will be honest but also full of reflection and hope. The last post will be directed at the people of Rehoboth, but I pray that each post would encourage you and challenge your view of service.

It seems fitting that the first post of the series should describe the background to this year. After all, any good narrative has a back-story  How did I get here? Why was I called by God to such a random place? How did I feel about this calling? Sit back and enjoy reading the beginnings of how a great God set the stage to change the life of a kid that never dreamed of such a life experience.
Unlike most great missionary stories, this one does not have a sudden moment of clarity or change of purpose. Instead, it was a slow, tedious and frustrating process, and yet still very deliberate. There were signs and events that pushed me towards Rehoboth (more on that later) but it took God chipping away at my comfort and happiness to put me in New Mexico.

I'll be honest-- I have not always been the most charitable and loving. Growing up, I admired missionaries and those who worked for non-profits but I never thought of that as a noble pursuit for me. By no means did I think it was for people who couldn't 'hack it' in the real world, but it just wasn't the right move for me. But before I left for Wake Forest I had the opportunity to have that tweaked slightly. For one, I began to correctly understand that any field of work or study should be a mission field. Businessmen and children in Africa both need to be shown the salt of light, if you will. This freed me of my incorrect view that the only type of 'mission work' is one done by pastors and such.

It was also around that time that I also fell in love with one of my favorite hymns, O Zion Haste. The tune is simple, but the words are profound. The chorus goes like this, "Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace;
Tidings of Jesus, redemption and release." I think all too often we Christians view mission work as just something we are supposed to do, something to check off our list or give money to so others can do it. But instead, we have the opportunity to give others a sense of contentment and peace that is desperately needed. 

In the last verse, we sing this:
       Give of thy sons to bear the message glorious;
       Give of thy wealth to speed them on their way;
       Pour out thy soul for them in prayer victorious;
       O Zion, haste to bring the brighter day.

Simply put, I love that message. One, because it calls us out of our lazy, selfish stupor. It brings us into a community that is vibrant, loving, and compassionate. But it is also a community reliant on God's strength. After all, it is only because He enables us (and firstly had mercy on us) that we can tell others of the freedom He brings. In other words, it's all of a sudden not about me (or even better, it's not up to me) and it is all about His perfect plan.

Granted, I still struggled with His calling in my life. I resisted big time. In college, I was not proud of how I acted. I quickly fell into an image-driven, selfish lifestyle that was Christian on the exterior but not nearly the considerate, empathetic person I should have been. Charity was seen as doing something for others, or just to fulfill a duty, rather than out of love. I do not need to get into dirty specifics, but I am definitely not proud of who I was. 

But now skip forward to my junior year. I struggled with finding the right summer finance internship but was providentially (that's a story in itself) provided with a wonderful host family. It was during my stay with the Ormond family, as well as being plugged into a fantastic college small group that I began to realize my priorities were out of line. I knew deep down that I wanted a family and friends and a strong Christian faith, but I was headed towards a life of none of that. Thankful for them and for an interesting job in the world of accounting (note: accounting is not the same as finance) I began to pray for direction.

And that is when I became excited. All of a sudden I had a literal world of opportunity. I've always been fascinated by the Indian culture and when we had a family from Mumbai stay with us for a week, I was riveted by their stories, food (serious eating happened that week), music and culture. As I entered my senior year I began to think about a 'year of charity' possibility in an orphanage in India. It made sense; they had a need and I wanted to help and learn. God had to have set that up for a reason, right?

Well... no. That door was closed soon after. But hey, I've always wanted to go to Europe. I applied through Mission to the World (sidenote: a super intense process-- only do it if you are mentally ready) and was interviewed for several positions, including college ministry work in Ireland and Latvia. I had dreams about the Baltics and got super pumped for learning Latvian and experiencing rupjmaize. Prayer and fasting led me to know that a service year after college was the right choice and it looked like I was going to need a passport...

                                    Pictured: What I can only assume is a really, really awesome city
...until both of those opportunities fell apart. I never doubted that God was pushing me to go somewhere, but I was beginning to lose heart. Both India and Europe held adventure and personal growth and I really wanted to experience another culture.

And then I flew to New Mexico to visit the small town of Rehoboth. I had been there several times growing up and really loved the people I knew there. My sister and brother-in-law had moved there months before and I was excited to see them and our family friends who have lived there for 20-some years. During a hike (because it's stupid beautiful out here) one of my family friends turned to me and said, "Tim, we would love to have an accounting/finance-type out here. You would be a perfect fit." Keep in mind, I hadn't told him about my desire to serve somewhere. At first his comment felt like a joke, but as I kept thinking and praying the thought didn't leave. It was a service opportunity but also a chance to gain professional experience. Could this be a providential win-win?

Again, it is not like a switch was flipped and I all of a sudden decided to go. That wouldn't be real life. Real life doesn't make anything that easy. But, despite my doubts and fears I signed a volunteer contract and got to surprise my sister at Christmas that I would be joining her in Rehoboth for a year.

                                         Pictured: Decidedly less people than the 1st picture.

I wish the story could end there all happy and joyful. But again, this is real life. Real life threw me challenges between then and arriving in New Mexico. Such as having to graduate and not wanting to leave. Or starting a new relationship soon before flying out West. Or having massive paperwork headaches trying to explain to my graduate school (yes, in accounting) why I needed to defer a year. Or even why I decided to choose one grad school over others. Or how I was plagued by doubts and fears about being away from my friends and most of family for a whole year. Or how I wasn't going to get paid and still have to be able to eat and such. 

A common sight in New Mexico. Let that thought sink in, everyone else.

But by His power I stepped out in faith. Little did I know the challenges would come thick and fast. Little did I know that the year would forever challenge and change me. Little did I know the joys and sorrows I would face, the victories and setbacks I would experience, and the incredible year I was about to live.

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