I’m not a prophet, but what I said January last year came true: 2011 flew by very quickly. I set some personal goals for the year (click here and here), and it feels wrong to move into 2012 without reviewing those goals.
– Project deClutter – successfully executed and completed, twice! I was able to sell some of the goods and the proceeds went to support ANEW.
– Mission Trip to Honduras – highlight of my year! See the complete stories here.
– This part of my goal was partially fulfilled during the mission trip, but it wasn’t really what I meant when I phrased this goal. Logistics (i.e., time) also became a hindrance, so I pretty much did not do any direct effort towards this goal. In any case, I’m not enslaved to my goals after all, if there are other works I’m led to do at any given point.
With that said, I want service to take a higher priority in 2012. It’s going to be real this year!
3. Future Planning
– Certain things are becoming clearer. I know where my heart lies in terms of choosing a lifework. This goal will still take priority in 2012.
4. Personal Investment
– Suffice it to say that I’m satisfied by the fulfillment of this category of goals.
5. Writing Aggressively
– My goal was to get 10,000 hits on my blog in 2011. I was blogging consistently and doing well until about August, then Fall 2011 happened and this monster called grad school ate me. I pretty much closed my blogging year by August. Thus, I only got about 6,800 hits. I won’t beat myself over the head, but I definitely wasn’t happy about how the blogging year ended.
– Another goal in this department that I didn’t do was to write for an Adventist publication.
Was 2011 a good year? I’d say it was. There were personal failures of course, things too hard to blog about, but overall, I had fun, gained new perspectives on life, traveled a lot (visited pretty much all the major cities in the US, plus Honduras), and met admirable people. I’m ready to leave 2011 behind and move on to 2012!
There are a few meta-narratives of my trip to Honduras, including true education and service. This is another one.
One of the reasons why I wanted to go on a mission trip was to experience discomfort. A perspective on how varied the life paths of humanity on this earth is always a good antidote against insularity. We need reminders that the daily trials and difficulties we face, especially in the modern world, are usually petty ones. They are often luxurious trials, meaning that we get to experience them because of the tremendous privilege and luxury that come with them.
Interestingly enough, ten days in rural Honduras did not bring me to a point of discomfort. I was, in fact, completely comfortable with all the logistical arrangements throughout the trip, as well as the slightly unexpected occurrences. No electricity – absolutely liberating. Cold showers – no problem. I still showered twice a day. Damp bed, water dripping from the roof during your sleep – didn’t kill me. Washing clothes with hands – tiring, but I could get used to the exercise. Fruit flies crowding your breakfast – fine. Professional ants crawling up when you sleep and leaving many bites – annoying, but I’d trade everything else with that. Visiting people – loved it.
Moreover, the people there are very friendly. Life works, even without the conveniences of modern lives, because “a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.” I admired how much they work with their hands and I’m close to coveting their lives when I think about my much more sedentary lifestyle. The smiles and waves people give when you pass them by made me think what a luxurious life actually means.
Basically, I was not uncomfortable at all during this trip. I enjoyed every moment. Of course, it was a short one. But I’m beginning to wonder if I would be uncomfortable if I lived there. Perhaps being Indonesian helps, since I’ve seen and experienced worse.
I was wondering about what was going on. Was this a bad thing that I was comfortable? Shouldn’t something be pushing me more? Then on day 3 or 4, Raquel opened up to this text during worship:
“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” 2 Cor 1:3-4.
How interesting. The source of comfort is God, and it is possible to be comfortable in any kind of difficulties. Then, because we have that comfort, we can comfort others who are in trouble. If that’s so, then I wouldn’t want to ever be uncomfortable.
Every good thing comes from God, and I believe it was a gift that I felt comfortable in the given circumstances. Perhaps my work was to comfort others who might not have been as comfortable. From that day, I stopped worrying about seeking discomfort and shifted focus to, as I could, comfort others.
As the trip went on and I was becoming more and more appreciative of the lifestyle there, if that was even possible, I realized that the discomfort that pushes me out of my boundaries does exist. But I wasn’t going to find it in this mission trip.
I realized that I actually am more uncomfortable in the life that I live now than in Honduras. It’s not about physical discomfort. It’s the mental and spiritual discomfort of being where I am right now, waking up pleading for God to give me strength to face each day. Perhaps that’s why God puts me in school. This is where my character is being grilled…
With that thought, the burden returned and I felt the heaviness on my shoulder. But Christ too drew near and assured that His yoke is easy and His burden light. He would be with me still and the same comfort can remain with me as the trip drew to a close and I returned to the US. Being on this mission trip was actually a relief from my discomfort and I felt eternally grateful that God let me experience a breather there.
Tasks uncommended, labor without recognition, is the lot of most of the world’s toilers. And in such a lot many are filled with discontent. They feel that life is wasted. But the little rill that makes its noiseless way through grove and meadow, bearing health and fertility and beauty, is as useful in its way as the broad river… The lesson is one needed by many…What we need to learn is faithfulness in making the utmost use of the powers and opportunities we have, and contentment in the lot to which Heaven assigns us. Education, p. 117.
I wouldn’t know the desperation of one who is sick and has no access to doctors, medication, or any information on how to get better.
Inhabitants of Honduran villages and small cities mostly have low income. Doctor visits are expensive, so if you don’t have money and you’re sick, then the only option remaining is to live with your illness.
It is to relieve the pain of such suffering ones that the Adventist Church pays great attention to health and medical ministry, and that clinics are always an integral part of mission trips. It is to tell them the simple message, “God cares.”
Though the medical field is far from my calling and my knowledge of it near nonexistent, I did have one practical skill useful for this one-day clinic in Talanga that everyone on the trip got to participate in: massage. All credits go to CAMPUS Missionary Training Program.
This day was the pinnacle of my short, true education course. And that pinnacle of true education is called service.
My task was to give 5-min back massages at the booth where people learned about rest and relaxation as an essential part of healthy living. Damaris and Kelly, both full time missionaries with VIDA and the only Spanish-speaking individuals at the booth, would give a short explanation to those who came by. Then we would pray with each person before the massage. I liked that.
As my Spanish skill was just as nonexistent, I prayed that God would help me minister to this one person during each prayer. I prayed that my massage would be a blessing.
I wanted to be aware of every moment of the massage. I didn’t want to do it mindlessly, which, as I had learned in times passed, was very easy to do. Since I couldn’t speak or make friends with the people, I thought a lot instead.
We often minister to others by our words. But in the situation where verbal barriers exist, the Gospel still has many other avenues. For me, the only avenue that day was by touch.
At CAMPUS, massage was a means to make friends or ultimately invite people to Bible studies or meetings. That day, there was no more evening meetings to invite them to and I couldn’t say a word to them. The massage was not an avenue; it was the end. The massage itself was the ministry.
During the massages, I thought about the privilege of service. I asked God to help me show Christ’s love with each touch and help me do my best in serving this one soul. I joked with someone that I had the germs and sweat of the whole town of Talanga on my hands. But it really was a privilege to serve.
While the crowd for the booths subsided, many people still waited in line to see the doctors. The doctors, bless their hearts, were such assets.
As we waited for the doctors, a lady whom I had massaged before approached me, Ronny, and Kelly. She had something to say to me and via Ronny’s translation, she thanked me for the massage and expressed how grateful she was for it. Then she reached over and gave me a real hug. Ah, this was what Ellen White meant with “in our life here, earthly, sin-restricted though it is, the greatest joy and the highest education are in service” (Education, p. 309).
It was to me an affirmation from heaven that indeed what I prayed for was answered. You can communicate love, though fleeting, by your touch.
I was completely overwhelmed and wished I could say something more to her. I think I mumbled something unintelligible that in my mind meant “You’re very welcome.”
It’s pretty rare that you get to minister with just your touch; a ministry without words. Jesus too ministered with His touch and His touch brought healing. It was an honor to follow after the divine pattern.
The VIDA staff did a series of devotions based on Luke 4:18-19. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Naomi did the first one on Sunday morning. It was powerful.
When Jesus started His ministry, He began with words that pronounced blessings to the poor in spirit. ” Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:3,5.
The reason why we minister to those in need is not because we are so rich and they are poor. The Laodecian church is also poor and blind and naked, except that it doesn’t realize its desperate condition.
We minister because we need to realize that we are poor in spirit. I need to realize that I am poor in spirit and that the kingdom of heaven is for me too. I need to learn meekness, to be like Jesus.
Naomi read a powerful passage from Testimonies for the Church Volume 6, under the chapter titled “The Church’s Need.”
While the world needs sympathy, while it needs the prayers and assistance of God’s people, while it needs to see Christ in the lives of His followers, the people of God are equally in need of opportunities that draw out their sympathies, give efficiency to their prayers, and develop in them a character like that of the divine pattern.
It is to provide these opportunities that God has placed among us the poor, the unfortunate, the sick, and the suffering. They are Christ’s legacy to His church, and they are to be cared for as He would care for them. In this way God takes away the dross and purifies the gold, giving us that culture of heart and character which we need.
The Lord could carry forward His work without our co-operation. He is not dependent on us for our money, our time, or our labor. But the church is very precious in His sight. It is the case which contains His jewels, the fold which encloses His flock, and He longs to see it without spot or blemish or any such thing. He yearns after it with unspeakable love. This is why He has given us opportunities to work for Him, and He accepts our labors as tokens of our love and loyalty.
In placing among us the poor and the suffering, the Lord is testing us to reveal to us what is in our hearts… The culture of the mind and heart is more easily accomplished when we feel such tender sympathy for others that we bestow our benefits and privileges to relieve their necessities. Getting and holding all that we can for ourselves tends to poverty of soul.
The purpose of mission trips is character development. Not that the poor needs us and that’s it. We need them for the purification of our character.
So then, what about God’s work and hastening His coming? It turns out that our character development does hasten Christ’s coming as well.
“When the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.” Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own. Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69.
Christ calls us to His work so we can experience His joy and His pain, that our hearts would beat the same beat as His.
God could have reached His object in saving sinners without our aid; but in order for us to develop a character like Christ’s, we must share in His work. In order to enter into His joy,—the joy of seeing souls redeemed by His sacrifice,—we must participate in His labors for their redemption. Desire of Ages, p. 142.
During Sabbath lunch, I got to chat with Manuela Fankhauser, a full time missionary with VIDA from Switzerland. She’s in charge of the bilingual kindergarten there, named Campos Blancos. I told her that I had engineering background and she told me that there were a lot of engineers in VIDA, including Jose and Monica. I, being biased, got excited.
Since we arrived early at the La Ermita church, I got to talk with both of them before the evening meeting. Jose studied industrial engineering. I asked if he found engineering useful in ministry and he said yes, since it involved a lot of management.
Monica Muy also studied industrial engineering. She is a beautiful young woman whose smile and energy are contagious. She works with the not-so-small groups at the La Ermita church. She used to work at ExxonMobil in Guatemala and was ascending the corporate ladder. In fact, she did very well that they would still take her back. But when the call to ministry came, she left that world behind and moved forward in faith. She spent a year with David Gates’ ministry in the Bolivian Amazon. Through a series of providential events, she ended up this year with VIDA.
I asked her how her previous experiences affected her ministry now. She said that no experience was wasted with God and she could use the skills she had gained for God’s work. And now that they were trying to establish an industry for VIDA to be fully self-supporting, she was excited to apply her engineering knowledge to help establish a tamarind juice plant.
“When I think of industry, I think of food.”
VIDA Internacional is a pretty awesome organization. Check out their YouTube channel too. God has been providing them with properties via miracles after miracles, including a tamarind plantation whose harvest is of interest to commercial companies in Honduras. They want to build a jugo de tamarindo plant, which will make them a fully self-supporting ministry.
Establishing an industry for God’s work. I just love that concept. And yes, engineers can be missionaries too.