Sunday, December 10, 2017

Finding Your Peace

I think about peace differently than I used to. Before moving to Congo, peace was about finding time in the busy hustle and bustle of life to spend time with family and friends.  Peace was about not being so preoccupied with life that I couldn't enjoy it.  Peace also had a bit to do with contentment and realizing that in Christ, not consumerism, I'd have all that I need.  Having lived in Congo for just under five years now, peace has a different meaning.  For people here, peace is an absence of war and violence.  Peace is not having to frantically sell everything you own to pay a hospital bill so that a family member can receive life-saving care.  Peace is not being afraid of your government and what will happen if you speak too loudly when you express your displeasure with your leaders. 

Even though peace means different things to different people, the truth remains that Christ alone can bring true peace.  In this time of uncertainty or business, worry or restlessness, we are all called to come to Christ as he calls us and proclaims, "you will find rest for your souls." (Mt. 11:29).  Upon visiting a school this weak, one young man proclaimed, "I need peace so that I can go to school." This is true in a place where insecurity causes schools to close for long periods at a time.  This is true in a place where families could never hope to send all their children to school.  For this young man, Christ's peace allows him to have an education.  In what ways do you need the peace (rest) of Christ this advent season?   

Greetings from the village of Kafubu, DR Congo.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Putting Hope In It's Place

Hope is a common theme for Christians this time of year.  My dad, having passed away just over two years ago, is especially on my mind during this time.  When doctors told him that he had no more than a month to live, after no previous sign of illness, you can be sure that his hope wavered.  Two weeks later, after finally making my way back to visit from Congo, we first met up at a local San Antonio restaurant.  Taking no heed of the fact that we were in a public place, my father wept openly as he hugged my neck.  Days later, he confided in me that he thought he would never see me again, and his hope being restored, was now ready to face the hereafter. 

Today in Congo, you might say that people's hope is wavering.  Political uncertainty, economic instability and insecurity due to various rebel groups operating throughout the country have people doubting that God cares for them.  Rogue Christian doctrine tells them that they can control their outcome through witchcraft and that they should put their trust in prophecies for their future.  Amidst these odds, we stand firm and proclaim that our hope is in Christ alone.  We preach the Good News of the Gospel, that as Jesus first came to a world that desperately needed Him, he comes anew to us today.  Our hope stands firm in Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, as we wait in anticipation of celebrating his birth and our rebirth as people of HOPE.

Below is a short video greeting from Bethsaida Church of the Nazarene in Lubumbashi, DRC.

Grace, Peace, and Hope to you in this season.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Ten Years on the Journey

Ten years is a long time.  In November 2007, Spiderman, Shrek the 3rd and Transformers were at the top of the box office.  At this time, there was no such thing as an iPhone and Blackberry seemed to be a space-aged tool even with slow mobile data and its physical keyboard.  A lot can happen, and has happened, over the last decade.  But for us, it’s less about changes in technology or what’s playing at the theaters, but more about what we are seeing and experiencing.

Macy, Jill & Gavin - 2007
Ten years ago, the Lord took us from Kansas City to El Paso, where we worked along both sides of the border, spoke Spanish, and were mostly involved in youth and work teams in our ministry.  Five years ago, the Lord took us from El Paso to Congo where we speak French and barely remember any Spanish.  We move about Central Africa regularly and are involved in developing leaders across four countries. Ten years ago, we traveled 16 hours by car to get to our mission field.  Today, we travel 40 hours by plane.  We first went out with a 10 week old and now have two children, ages 8 and 10.  Our lives have changed so much since we first hit the ground as rookie missionaries.  Adapting to different cultures is not easy to do, especially when they are so vastly different. 

Jill, Connor, Gavin & Macy - 2017
Even though we have multiplied and changed our appearance a bit on the outside, even though our surroundings and areas of ministry have morphed over the years, the biggest transformations have been going on internally.  God has showed us amazing things and stretched us when we needed to grow.  God has humbled us and made us like babies so that we may learn anew.  The Spirit has led us through difficult times and allowed us to experience renewal and strengthening. 

I have so much I would say to our young selves if I could.  I would correct mistakes, teach myself patience, and insist on the importance of prayer just to name a few.  Since that is not a possibility, I will take this moment to give some advice to our next-ten-year-selves:  "Gavin and Jill, this job is about people, so make time for relationships.  Continue to learn as you grow in the faith, into your assignments, and as foreigners in another land.  Spend more time in prayer."