Wednesday, April 4, 2007

1 Corinthians 1:25

Last year I attended the National Missionary Convention. We, like a lot of other mission’s organizations, set up a booth to peddle our mission to would be supporters. We field a lot of questions and share, with anyone interested, what God is doing through our organization. I’ll have to admit, one question in particular threw me off. On my way back from the bathroom, an old acquaintance from church stopped me and we exchanged small talk. Not long into sharing my thoughts on our Homes For Hope program, and teens in need of a way out, I was asked pretty crassly, “what makes you qualified to take kids in, how have you been educated to do such a thing?” The question stopped me in my tracks and the awkwardness of the moment got very heavy.
For the second year in a row now, my kids’ junior high small group has done a pretty cool thing on Valentine’s Day. The sponsors lead the kids in holding an appreciation dinner for all of their parents. It’s an awesome thing. They decorate the place and prepare the food to serve. Last year Austin had the chance to serve Darcy and I. This year Marissa (our Apache step-daughter) is a part of the small group. I was getting back late from the rez and ran over to the church just in time to eat. Marissa served us our food and took care of us for the whole hour. This year Carly, the small group leader, tried something new. She made every one of the kids get up on stage to tell their parents how they felt about them. Ok, I’ll be honest, this is usually one of those times when you hope your kid doesn’t get up there and embarrass you and themselves. While other students were stepping up I couldn’t help but to listen to answers through Marissa’s ears. We sat and listened to kids step up and proudly make sincere statements to their parents. “You are always there for me.”, “I love you”, “You take me to my games.”, “You are cool.”, “You understand me and dad doesn’t.”, and so on and so forth. As I listened I only imagined how hard this might be for Marissa. All of these statements seemed to define what her real parents weren’t. My mind wandered a little as I thought of the past failures and let downs through most of her life. I remembered the little girl that didn’t want help, the little girl that ran from home, the little girl born into a family of addicts, the little girl that struggled with cutting herself, the little girl that gave herself away to cheap relationships, the little girl that numbed her mind with drugs.....and meth…and alcohol, the little girl that was born into a world that ripped the innocence from her tiny grip. She headed to the stage with a surprising confidence. And when she stepped up she said some things I’ll never forget.
So why is it that Jesus chooses us? Us, the pitifully inadequate. My heart resonates with the echoes heard from ancient times, God’s chosen. Those laden with lust, greed, pride, envy. Murderers, adulterers, thieves and liars. David, the adulterer after God’s own heart. Jonah, the reluctant missionary who just wanted to sit back and watch God toast some heathens. The guys that followed Jesus down the road and quietly argued about who was the greatest. And so on. I wonder, but deep down I know. He wants all of the glory. When he works through our humble weakness…He gets the credit. It’s the great fight against human nature. That pull to count ourselves more than we are. And I’m sorry to admit that many times it’s only when we bravely stumble into something bigger than us that we recognize our limitations. I’ve seen mine. But then there are those special moments when, without provocation, we follow Jesus like a child. And in those times we collectively stand awestruck at what seems to be such a mystery. When in reality we know that mystery unfolds like a beautiful puzzle in the Word of God. He has explained and instructed us so well that if we see, and live, this life His way we will find heaven on earth, and thereafter. But, lest we take Him at his Word, we sometimes fight the battle with our own strength and mind, and are usually overtaken by the pull of the world. My brother told me a story of his mentor who died recently. The son of this high school coach spoke of how special of a leader his father was. He reminded everyone of how special coach made everyone in the program feel. And it was true, no matter of seemingly insignificant of a role you had, he let you know you were a special cog in the machine. But as his son said so eloquently, ”even though you felt like an important cog in the machine…there was never a doubt whose machine it was.” And so I recognize this truth in my life too. Not only does God make us feel special, He calls us and empowers us to be special. Even when we are pitifully inadequate He works through us and there is never a doubt whose work it is.
She stepped onto the stage and, as tears welled up in her eyes, I could only imagine what all was going through her head as she choked out a few words. But words weren’t even necessary. She could have said nothing. I was caught in the moment. Maybe God provided this moment for me. I needed to know that the sacrifices that we make for God impacts souls, regardless of how qualified we may or may not be.
So here’s to those of you who allow God to work in and through your weaknesses to bless others. And through it all, we know that He get’s all of the Glory because we have not obtained anything with our own wisdom or strength…
Ron Everingham

Through the eyes of a child

Everyday I’m reminded of what a privilege it is to serve the God of all creation. In my heart, I know my deepest desire is to be close to God. Actually, I share that desire with you. It’s always there even when we try to pile it underneath the everyday tasks that bog us down and seek to kill our spirit. The Spirit that is within us that desires to dance with us every moment of our lives. The Spirit that frees us and makes us want to dance through life. If I’m honest with myself I realize that my friend, the world, is only making me an enemy of God. And, God within me envies intensely (James 4:4-5). So I, like you, are dealt with this great battle. So, how are we doing? I feel so comfortable in my ignorance, it’s quite bliss. But my God will not let me be. He is constantly disturbing my mind. He won’t go away. He is a persistent lover. And, when I’ve been brave enough to heed His call, His persistence has paid off in my life…I have been blessed. I love the story in Numbers 9:15-23. The Israelites danced with God. They moved and camped upon His guidance. Check it out.

Some of you know the story…in 1993 Darcy and I heard Him calling. It was a weekly invitation for us. That call to believe and follow became consuming until we decided to go forward. (On a totally unrelated note…you’ve got to know that, because I think plugging my nose makes me look like a sissy, I’ve got this little “trick” that I do when I go under water for short periods of time. I blow out air of my nose slowly so that water can’t come in. It’s my thing. I’ve never had a problem doing it, frankly nobody ever knew about it…until the day I was baptized. So, while I was underwater comptemplating the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life, my body automatically began the process of keeping the water out of my nose. And I came up out of the water to cheering and laughter. I guess in the quietness and through the amplification of the microphone, the air coming out of my nose perfectly replicated the sound of a toilet flushing.) Anyhow…from that point on God has taken my hand and we’ve gone to new places. So we served in the church faithfully. Doing all of the “churchy” things that we are all familiar with. And we grew spiritually. In 1996 I went on a mission trip with our youth group to Arizona. Amazing. God spoke to me through the eyes of a 7-year old Navajo child. Through that glance He spoke…service, surrender, commitment, selflessness, sacrifice, love, grace, and what it meant for me to really live. And, even to this day God is clearing my ignorance and making me realize new things. It consumes me. And usually sometime after I’ve finished building a nice little kingdom for myself God comes in and tears it down and rearranges things. It’s a continued cycle of the beautiful refining of my life. And in this cycle God allows me to say “enough is enough” and take a break, but why should I desire to?

How could I when there are souls suffering? The vision is clear: give all you have to build His kingdom, not ours. And I have to ask myself what exactly does his kingdom look like? And the question even worse for my flesh, what am I doing to conform my kingdom to His. Let’s cut to the chase for those of is who know Him well…we are pulled away from living His kingdom on earth by the gravity of those believers around us that enable our complacency so that we all look the same. We should all have people in our lives that challenge us spiritually. Thankfully, God has put a few in my life. And, actually, we all share a mutual friend that challenges us…Jesus. If all of us are honestly desiring be more like Him (and not the most faithful among us), how are we looking? I know what I look like, pitiful but improving and with tons of potential. But this improvement in conditional. It’s conditional upon my surrender and faithfulness. I have to continue to ignore the pull of this world and, more importantly, not ignore Jesus' teachings on who is blessed.

So, the difficult truth that God haunts me with now is this realization. God isn’t looking at how much I give…He’s looking at how much I keep for myself. In our ministry, we live life among people that are looking for a way out. Some have no parents, some don’t know how to read, some are addicted, some live in shacks with no plumbing, and some of these are seeking for Truth. And that is just here where I’m at. On a global level we know there are people dying from starvation, lack of clean water, disease, and natural disasters. And if I look at myself as God does, how can I justify the little hoard of things for myself that I could share? I have to ask myself, what do I really need? Do I have an extra bedroom? Could the money I use for pleasure be spent on an individual in true need? And most importantly, will I be brave enough to keep what I need now, trust God, and give the rest away to those in need for the sake of His kingdom? I can’t wait to see what happens when I do…or better yet…when we all do.

Might we all be brave enough to dance with our Creator and follow Him,
Ron Everingham

Saturday, February 24, 2007

If we don't love, we gain nothing

We are getting geared up for an awesome year with partners from all over the states. Starting spring break we will be hosting around 9 teams this year. We are also excited to be interviewing potential staff and interns! What a blessing. Jake hosted a Superbowl party yesterday and around 40 of our youth were here. Darcy and I traveled to Flagstaff to talk to the NAU student fellowship group about their spring break trip here. We are going to accomplish much for God this year!! We are feeling a bit overwhelmed, thank you for your continued prayers for perseverance and effectiveness.

Now here is the “not so typical” update…

I sat across from a young man (18 years old) tonight in the kitchen of the Kennel. He a boy I’ve known since we opened to the public (2003). I haven’t seen him in awhile and here he is in front of me, crying, broken. It was a tough conversation. He was intoxicated and being very open and honest. Of course, I don’t condone drinking and we always wisk the kids off and out of the place when they come in, but, his honesty caught me again. He’s hopeless and looking for answers. He is surrounded by a clouded present formed by his own day-to-day decisions to waste away. It kills me when a young soul looks me in the eyes and asks, “how can you help me…will you help me…save me.” Honestly, he’s not looking for answers. He’s looking for a miracle. His life is like so many that we deal with. It’s great that I’m there to tell him that I’ll pray for him. I can even reassure him that he can count on me, because I’ve been here for so many years. But I’m not sure that these are the answers he’s looking for. As I’m stumbling for words, I’m realizing my own gaps of faith. I’m feeling hopeless for him because I don’t have a single answer that will meet his immediate need.

I pour him a glass of water as he tells me that he loves me. What he is really saying is that he needs someone to love him. I’m seeing an overgrown boy in front of me that needed to be cared for. He needed nurtured. He’s right, I could never understand the reality of his neglected life. It’s in these times I remember that God is strong when I am weak. I’m counting on it. I know that he is looking for quick answers and there aren’t any. The answers lie in him making a series of decisions, starting with the most important one, laying everything aside and following Jesus. Sounds simple, but so many forsake the thought for self-indulgence.

I’ll have to honest with you all. We’ve all got a long way to go. I feel a bit like the rich young ruler. I’m keeping a lot of God’s commandments but I won’t really be living until I give all that I have to the poor. Period. We are all missing something if we aren’t living to give up everything and love with the right motives. Sometimes I miss the point. I feel pride by how much I give. I miss the point because I put value in the things I give and not the person I’m giving it to. If we don’t love, we gain nothing. Sure, someone who is in need gains physically, but we gain nothing. If this sounds familiar it’s because it’s in 1 Corinthians 13:3. If I give everything to the poor and don’t love, I gain nothing.

From a ministry stand point it could be stated this way. We can give. We can run programs. We can serve those lacking fundamental needs here on the reservation. But if we do not love, we gain nothing. It’s my prayer that God will empower us to love the sometimes unlovable even more this year. And as we do, we will stand back and watch God work miracles in our midst.

Your fellow servant,

Ron Everingham, General Director