Monday, July 6, 2009

Nica Update: Forgive

Dear family and friends,

In this email, I will give you the "short story" and then the "longer story" with more detail. The short story will include information and prayer requests. The long story will be more similar to past updates where I "journal" and share our story more intimately.

Short Story:

Below are the times of church services where we will either speak during the service or share our power point presentation. We will continue to keep you updated on new information. We would love to see you at one of the events listed below!

July 11 – River Rock Church at 5:00 pm which meets at Rockford Christian School (Belding Road) This church is having a "serving Saturday" and will be having their worship service after they complete service projects that day so there will be no Sunday morning worship services. We will speak 5 minutes during the service and be around afterwards to connect.

July 12 – Ada Bible Church – plans are in process of being finalized. We will be sharing our power point presentation. Will update in regard to time of presentation.

July 19 - New Covenant Bible Church in Cedar Rapids – we will be speaking for 5 minutes in all 4 services, sharing a kid's presentation during the 9:20 and 11:00 services with Children's church, and there will be a lunch following the 11:00 service when we will share our power point presentation. NCBC's services are at 8:00 am; 9:20am; 11:00am; and 5:00 pm.

July 26 AM – Southern Heights CRC in Kalamazoo, MI (We will be speaking 5 minutes during their 10:30 service and be available to connect with people after the service)

July 26 PM - Willard CRC in Celleryville, Ohio (We will be sharing our power point presentation during the Sunday evening service)

August 2 – Peace CRC in Cedar Rapids at 9:30 am – plans are in the process of being finalized. Will update later.

Prayer Requests:

1) Please pray for health. We are struggling a little due to a schedule that is different every day and warm and then cold weather. I'm (Lisa) dealing with some severe headaches.

2) Please pray for my sister Brenda's safety. She is in Nicaragua teaching summer camp right now and just called yesterday to let us know that the mayor of the city of Managua (where we live and she is staying) was found dead. News reports indicate that it was suicide, but there is still speculation. We are uncertain how this will impact the stability of the city and the country, so we ask too for prayers for peace.

3) Please pray for Coach Thomas's family (Parkersburg, IA football coach who was murdered on June 24) and for those who do not know the unconditional love of Christ to be drawn to Him through the example of this family.

4) Please pray for an accountability partner in Nicaragua for Lisa who can help her with the issue shared in "the longer story".

The Longer Story

Our first three weeks back in the States have impacted each of us differently. Our kids are noticing different things – like "the cars are so quiet here. It is not so dirty. The road is so smooth." I'm hearing ambivalence – "I wish we could live here for a year and go back to Nicaragua for a year and keep doing that." And they have been very excited to see their family members and friends. Our time back in the States is not a "vacation" for Dan. He is still working on things for school via email and we are traveling and preparing for presentations, etc. He is working on income tax (we got an extension) and trying to apply some of the things he has learned in the trainings he is attending. So, he has many balls in the air right now. I've felt physically exhausted. I think some of this is due to our last weeks in Nicaragua – packing and planning in extreme heat and humidity, preparing for my sister's arrival and then doing a quick 4 day orientation with her before we left, wrapping up school and work AND our first couple weeks back which looked like this - 3 different time zones + five 2 – 4 hour flights + traveling by car within and to 3 different States + sleeping in 6 different beds + 3 nights of intermittent sleep as a result of a sick child + a 40 year old body = exhausted. Thinking about this has helped to ward off any thoughts that I might be suffering from a rare tropical disease! And perhaps just gives you a picture of where our family is at right now.

Our flight back to the States ushered us directly into the arms of family. My cousin Jim and his family took us in for a couple days in Chicago - taking very good care of us, showing us so much love and grace. Then, we got to spend a week with Dan's whole family in California which only happens every two years due to everyone living in different parts of the US and now the world. We were blessed by their generosity and their love. It was especially fun to see our kids reconnect and play with their cousins. This past Tuesday evening we arrived in Wellsburg, Iowa (my parent's home). We've been organizing, practicing, and delivering our presentation to churches. The Sunday of June 28, we shared our presentation with two of our Iowa churches. We were so encouraged by the number of those who attended our presentations and enjoyed connecting with many very dear people including some of my aunts and uncles.

The day we arrived back in Iowa, we received the tragic news that Parkersburg's head coach was shot. I'm assuming that most of you have heard the details of this shooting as it has been on national news. Parkersburg is about 15 minutes away from where my parents live and this school was in our school's conference. My cousin's daughter was in the school during the shooting – it hits close to home. A few days after the shooting, I read the following in "My Utmost for His Highest" . . . . "The Sermon on the Mount indicates that when we are on Jesus Christ's errands, there is not time to stand up for ourselves. Jesus says, in effect, "Do not be bothered with whether you are being justly dealt with or not. To look for justice is a sign of deflection from devotion to Him. Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it. If we look for justice, we will begin to grouse and to indulge in the discontent of self-pity – Why would I be treated like this? If we are devoted to Jesus Christ we have nothing to do with what we meet, whether it is just or unjust. . . . The most devout among us become atheistic in its connection; we do not believe God, we enthrone common sense and tack the name of God on to it. We do lean to our own understanding, instead of trusting God with all our hearts.

I see the family of coach Thomas choosing grace and forgiveness over justifying themselves in relationship to the family whose son killed their husband and father. It is similar to the way in which Mateo's (NCA student killed in car accident) family dealt with his death. And I am once again challenged and humbled. I look for people like this to learn from and get close to because it is clear to me that the lives of people like this are surrendered and characterized by humility. I believe that when we are wronged, the true condition of our hearts is illuminated by virtue of our reactions to the wrongdoing. Will we slander (this basically means to change someone else's opinion about someone by speaking negatively about them)? Will we hold on to bitterness and unforgiveness? Will we blame others and then look for more evidence to support our assessment of them in order to rally the support of others to our side? Or will we allow God to fight the battle and put our energy into discovering what He desires to teach us about Himself and about ourselves?

I went for a run/walk J the other day and as I was talking with God, He pinpointed some harbored hurt in my own heart and reminded me of all that I've been noticing in Mateo's family and in Coach Thomas's family. It was both humbling, and yet exciting to hear from Him and to remember that I can trust Him to help me with this. When I've dealt with things like this in the past, I've found someone (accountability partner) that I can trust to walk with and pray me through a specific issue with a specific person. The accountability partner does not allow me to blame the person that I'm having difficulty with, but helps me to understand what that person triggers in me (is it pride, fear, jealousy, a need?). This person also challenges me to pray the 1st Peter prayer (praying blessings on the life of "the enemy") for the person I'm having difficulty with. I've realized that the goal is not always reconciliation with the person I'm having difficulty with (some relationships are toxic and until repentance is evident in the other person, efforts to try to mend the relationship will lead to dead ends). The goal, however, is to be able to stand before the Lord with a pure heart – one that does not resent or hold the person in contempt, but one that has wholeheartedly forgiven and is committed to a life of forgiveness and unconditional love. And during seasons when I have lived my life intentionally that way, I've lived in peace with God, myself, and the individual that I've had difficulty with in the sense that I was no longer negatively impacted by their behavior. Coach Thomas's family teaches us that love really is a choice - to love unconditionally and to forgive – often without receiving the apology or any kind of love in return. It is how Jesus lived and how He loved. And it is how, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live and love too.

Peace to you,

Dan, Lisa (the writer), Rebekah, and Will