The truth is, I go to Guatemala for me. Because I need to. Yes, while I am there I try to help anyway I can. And Yes, they ask me for help to lead the groups, to build or repair things, to help with the Medical Outreach. Sure, I do help, I pray that in some way God uses me being there to mitigate the consequences of sin in this world. I have great friends there and have fallen in love with the kids. But the truth remains–I go for me.
Guatemala offers me a reminder of the simplicity of life. It is a return to being grounded in my relationship with God. When materialism clouds my vision it removes the cataracts from my eyes. When the complexities and over institutionalism of the North American church overwhelm and bury me, the faith of the staff & students at Mi Refugio inspire me. God uses the school and the people of Guatemala to remind me of the most basic facts of life: God exists, He loves me, He died for me, He transforms me and He uses me so others know these same facts.s
Seeing the church in other parts of the world has forever changed my perspective. Guatemala, Haiti, Korea, Israel–the church in these places exists in constant reality poverty and persecution. When the cost is so high, when the threat is so real, when there is nothing else to trust in but God–the faith is raw, it is pure, it is authentic.
These places and people have changed me. I am different. And that has created a difficulty in my life. I live and work and raise a family in a very different world. I am raising my children in a world where sports reign, not family and community. I am a pastor in a world where we worry about how cold our water is, not if its clean and potable. A world where we complain because the music is too loud or soft, old or contemporary, not if we will be arrested for singing these songs. I am different. But God has placed me into an environment where the cares and concerns are very first world.
I get very discouraged. I get frustrated. I love my family. I love my church family. This is where I want to be. This is where God has called and placed me. But, I feel like I am torn in half. I hear and see the concerns, priorities and values and I cannot share them anymore. I understand them. I agree with them. I do. I just struggle to see them with the same concern as others.
Recently, I upset some folks at church who thought I was being secretive by going to Guatemala and not publically sharing it. That was not my intent. I am so very sorry if I hurt or upset anyone. You see, I didn’t publicize it because it wasn’t a “church” trip. It was a selfish trip. It was for me. I need to go to Guatemala. It keeps my head screwed on straight. It reminds me of who God is, what authentic worship is, what it means to ask for my daily bread. It equips me to be a better husband, father & pastor. It equips me to be a disciple.
Guatemala is a retreat in simplicity. Simply needing and loving God. And I need that.