Well. This week is the one year anniversary of the day we were told that Genetics would be closing. Thursday at about 4pm, to be exact. I wrote this on my Facebook status that night: “Goodness….what a day. Sometimes the entire axis of your world swings a new direction and you’re left just standing there wondering what’s next. Just trusting God on this one.”
This underscores the most ridiculous question my manager would have to ask me each year at my evaluation time. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
Um…unemployed and doing mission work on the Navajo reservation?
It makes me laugh (looking back!) at how God takes our plans, and if we are willing to follow Him, turns them upside down.
May my answer to that question ALWAYS be: Following God. Five years from now I will be following God down whatever path he leads me.
I worked for awhile with a singles ministry at a big church in Fort Wayne. I was actually in the group, but I took on the role of planning all of our outings. The church put an elder over us that was obsessed with planning ahead and being ultra organized. He told me that to be the planner of our activities that I would need to justify how they fit in the church’s 5 pillars of belief (I think they all started with the letter F…you know how churches like to do that…), and I needed to plan every event one year in advance and submit my calendar to the church for approval.
I remember telling this man that it was impossible to plan events that far ahead with singles ministry. The group changed so much from year to year that I couldn’t tell if the group would be able to afford a certain event in a year, or if we’d have a group more interested in museums or sports events. He insisted, and I stepped down from my role in the group out of respect for how he wanted things done.
I love the hymn “Be Thou my Vision”. We place so much value on having a plan and mapping out our future, but the simple truth in the words to this song say- let God be your vision. Let God decide what happens 5 years from now. Spend more time learning to hear His voice than you do mapping out the way you think your future should look. Stop finding your security in having a fail-proof plan for everything. Find your security in following God.
I’m not saying don’t have a plan, don’t dream big and work to make that dream a reality, but allow God to shape and change that plan and those dreams as he sees fit.
When I first came to Arizona, the single most frequently asked question of me was this: What will you be doing?
I had no idea. None. I knew I was supposed to encourage a little church in Rough Rock Arizona to stand on its own following years of missionary training and support. That was it. I had no idea how it would all play out. But I knew for sure that God had called me to come here for 8 months.
So now, looking back, I can see some of the things God has done. I say “some” because I am convinced that there are seeds under the surface here that are invisible now, but will one day bear fruit in this little Navajo town.
When I arrived, one of the men was very tentatively leading Sunday School. He read straight from a book and apologized profusely for his lack of leadership ability. He still reads from the book, but he pauses now, and shares stories from His life and adds other scriptures that relate to the lesson. He doesn’t apologize now. He talks a lot about ways for the church to reach the community. He told me the other day, “I’m just going to go door-to-door and ask people how I can pray for them. People need Jesus and they aren’t coming to the church, so we need to go to them.” He reminds me of the disciple Peter, the “rock” on whom Jesus built his church.
In January, there was no weekly Bible study. When I arrived they all looked at me to start one, and I did, with one rule: I wasn’t going to lead it. Weeks and weeks of awkward silence followed. One family came consistently and really wanted to know about what the Bible teaches. I gave them a method for studying and discussing scripture, and wrote out instructions for how to lead a Bible study. I put them both on bookmarks and they kept them in their Bibles to refer to each week. The Bible study is at this family’s home now, and the group that meets each week is beginning to feel like a community. Each week more people from the church venture out to see what this Bible study is about, and all of us can see the power of God’s word changing us from the inside out.
This same family that is leading the Bible study was the inspiration for another project during these 8 months. When they came to their very 1st Bible study, I asked if they would like to lead the discussion. They both laughed. “We don’t know ANYTHING about the Bible, ” they explained. “We have so many questions. Like what is the New Testament and the Old? We listen in church and nothing fits together for us.” I spent the evening doing a quick overview for them of the timeline of the Bible. Later that night I called my friend and mentor Paul Armstrong and explained the difficulty that the Navajo have reading and understanding the Bible and knowing the whole story. He thought about it awhile and then came back with a WONDERFUL idea: TELL the story of the Bible from the beginning to the end in story-telling fashion. The Navajo are story tellers, and they have passed their traditional stories from generation to generation. So why not add the Bible story to their collection? Train them to tell God’s Story to future generations.
Story Night was born.
I have to add at this point, that this underscores the value of community. Paul is not the only person who has inspired me to try new things here. God uses other people to lead us and inspire us. I hear a lot about the frustrations people have with Christian community, but for better or worse, we need each other. Our lives and walk with God are so much richer when we work together and allow God to speak to us through other believers!
Our last Story Night is next weekend. Last night we told the story of Paul’s missionary adventures and his letters to churches he had previously encouraged. Each week, I try to explain a word they might hear in a sermon and not understand and this week the word was “gentile”. I asked them if they remembered who the Jews are and they all at once launched into a hodge-podge of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, living in the desert, the 10 commandments, the promised land, Jesus and his ministry and death on a cross. I just smiled and tried to blink back tears at the fact that they know God’s story now. They can tell God’s story now. Beginning to end.
It’s hard to leave at this point. I feel like things are just beginning and I want to keep cheering them on! I feel a little like Paul in all of his letters to the churches he had left behind. I catch myself actually saying his words to the people here and praying that they will stay strong and focused and “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and run with perseverance the race marked out for us!”
Please continue to pray that these dear believers in Jesus will continue to seek him and serve him. One of the verses I keep speaking to the them is this:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
I keep praying that those words will become imbedded in their hearts and I ask that you will pray for this too. Pray against discouragement, and fear of what others think. Pray for a desire to read God’s word together and to listen to the Holy Spirit’s convictions and promptings. Pray for them to continue to act on the desire to reach others with the good news of God’s love.
I’m so thankful that each of you (in a sense) came along with me and supported me on this journey. Who knows what God will bring from it? His ways are perfect and he can do more than our biggest dreams for this place and these people.
One week left in Rough Rock! I’m praying it is a time that brings God glory and praise!!!