Re-evaluating my values

Sunday morning, when I went to church, I could not find a parking space.  I decided to go to the overflow parking at a nearby shopping center and ride the shuttle over.  When I got there I was disappointed to see the shuttle was not there.  (In fairness, I had arrived between services, and the second service had not let out to make room for those coming to the third.)

Not knowing for sure when the shuttle would return, I decided to go to a coffee shop in the same shopping area and splurge on a cup of flavored coffee.  It is rare that I allow myself this luxury, but being in the States, it seemed a normal thing to do.  I ordered my coffee, a small one at that, and was astounded to be told it would be $4.98!  That's twice what I would pay for the same cup of coffee in Guatemala, and I have to admit, I was taken aback, and somewhat convicted at the same time.

You see, that is what an average "camposino" or farm worker in Guatemala would make on a good day.  Many earn less.  And here I had just paid that for 12 oz. of coffee (perhaps harvested by these same workers who receive $13 for 100 pounds of beans) without really giving it a thought.  The coffee was a little bitter in my mouth, and it wasn't because of the brew.  

Now, do I think it's wrong to buy a cup of coffee? Of course not.  What I began to contemplate was how, after just a little more than a week in the States, I had spent $5 without giving it a thought.  How I had acclimated to the culture around me so quickly.  And I have to admit, it broke me. We have limited resources in the ministry, and in Guatemala I would never spend $5 in such a cavalier manner.

Please don't think I'm suffering for Jesus down there.  I live in a simple apartment by US standards, but it is luxurious compared to my neighbors.  Do I allow myself creature comforts?  I do.  I even splurge on a $2.50 cup of flavored coffee once in a while when funds are available.  (I also buy Coca-cola for the guys to enjoy.)  But it is not an every day occurrence done without a second thought.

What we think of as luxury in the US
A luxury "dream home" in Guatemala

What convicted me the most was the many years I spent money so casually on things that I thought I needed.  It never occurred to me that I was being extravagant in comparison to the majority of the world.  When presented with an opportunity to share with those who had less, I would struggle, worrying that I would not have enough left for myself and my family.  I have to shamefully admit, I was a tight-fisted giver, giving out of obedience to the Word, but not with joy.

Why am I sharing this?  First and foremost, to hold myself accountable.  In seven years in Guatemala God has changed my ideas of stewardship and taught me that much of what I thought was a need was really a luxury.  And, in a few short days, I fell right back into my previous ways.  It was a humbling experience which I don't want to repeat.

I am also sharing this, however, to challenge the multitude of people who "want to give to XYZ ministry but just can't afford it." Really?  What if you intentionally sacrificed a latte a week?  That would free up $20 a month to give to those who need it much more than you.  What if you forego dinner out once a month, and give that money to the organization God has been putting on you heart for so long?  What if you're on a limited budget, and only have $5 to give, and you're embarrassed to give so little? Do you trust God to multiply this widow's mite with his abundance.

This really isn't about organizations that need your donation, though they (we) do.  It is about our hearts and attitudes before a Father who has been so generous to us.  We who have been given much have a responsibility to care for those who have so little--and this is most of the people living in the world today.  They are poor not for lack of effort on their part, but for lack of resources and opportunities.  And we, who are overflowing in opportunities and resources, so quickly forget about them.  God forgive us.

So the next time you drive by all those expensive coffee places, open your heart to the voice of the God who tells us: 

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."~~James 1:27

I am making it my conscious goal to protect myself from "being polluted by the world" (my culture in this case). 

Will you join me?

21 Days of Prayer~~Owning Casa de Esperanza

Today, I thank God for gifting us with the ownership of Casa de Esperanza, and for all the people who made this possible.  While it is just a piece of property, it symbolizes so much more.  It reminds us of God's provision even when all seems lost.  It demonstrates to the residents that we are here for the long haul, and will not abandon them as so many have before.  It provides a sustainable base of operations for Reason to Hope far into the future.  Yes, it may be just a piece of property, but to our ministry it is home.

My prayer of thanksgiving

Father, today I praise you as Jehovah-Jireh--the God Who Provides.  I praise and thank you for allowing us to purchase the property which is now Casa de Esperanza.  I thank you for designing it to function so well for us with so few changes.  I thank you for bringing us to the community of San Pedro Las Huertas, for the friendships we have developed with the people there, and for the opportunity for us to be a light in the darkness that so often overshadows the pueblos in Guatemala.

I thank you, Father God, for all the people who contributed to the purchase of this house.  The ability to purchase it debt-free in a little over a year was truly miraculous.  Bless each person who donated or worked in any way to make the purchase of this house possible. 

You have used this house to forge us into a family.  May we use this house to bring glory to your name.  In Jesus' name I pray.

21 Days of Prayer~~Our Partners

Today I thank our God and Father for every one of you who has partnered with us in some way.

Whether it be through prayer, financial contribution, personal encouragement, or time spent serving with us in Guatemala, I am grateful. If you have helped with one of our projects or events, or come to one of our dinners, I thank you, and thank God for your presence in my life and work.

I have often said that I get the fun of watching first hand what God is doing in Guatemala, and that's so true.  I would be able to do nothing, however, if it weren't for the backing provided by each one of you.  Even taking the time to read these posts offers me more encouragement than you'll ever know, as well as allowing us to spread the news of the wonders God has done and is doing in Guatemala. So today I thank God for you.

My prayer of thanksgiving

Father, I thank you in the name of Jesus for all those you have brought alongside of me as I have been on this journey to serve you in Guatemala.  On my own, I am an earthen vessel with little strength, but in you, I can do all things. I praise you and thank you for working through by brothers and sisters who support me to bring me strength, encouragement and stamina to carry out this ministry.  

My prayer warriors are my front line of defense as we serve in Guatemala.  We so desperately need the prayer covering they provide to carry out no only the physical works of this ministry, but to make your name known and glorified through what we do. Empower their prayer lives through your Holy Spirit.

I pray for those who encourage me, through emails, calls, notes, and by reading our posts and newsletters.  While I would like to walk completely in the spirit, I still live in the flesh, and these concrete reminders of friendship and support help to keep me going, especially when things are tough. Encourage them as they encourage me.

I thank you for those who support us financially.  It is a challenge at times to trust that you will provide all we need for what you ask us to do.  The partnership our donors have with our ministry makes this promise of your faithfulness a reality in our daily lives.  Finances are a reality of serving and I am so very grateful for those who support us, whether through regular monthly donations or periodically as you prompt them.  Bless them for their generosity and multiply their resources.

Finally, Father, I thank you for the very special people who have served with us.  I thank you for those who help with events and activities stateside.  They enable us to share what you are doing in Guatemala.  Multiply their efforts.

I thank you, too, Father for the individuals and groups you have sent to work alongside us in Guatemala.  I thank you for the teams who are willing to do relational ministry in place of physical work to advance your kingdom.  I thank you for the interns who have served with me over the years, and the energy and insight they bring to our ministry.  And I thank you for those who come to visit, whether for an hour, a day or a short time to see first-hand what we are doing.  They impact our ministry more than they know, and I am grateful. All these have made personal and financial sacrifices to be with us, and I ask you in the name of Jesus to repay them generously.

For all of these "human resources" you give us to support, encourage and sustain us, I thank you, Father.

The Challenge to Be Content

This is a hard post for me to write.  I much prefer to write about the amazing things God has done in my life and ministry.  It's harder for me to share the challenges.  

As I have been preparing to share at our Taste of Guatemala Dinner on Saturday, I have felt a burden.  A burden which is not mine to carry, but I try to anyway.  This past year, in addition to some great joys, we have faced a number of new and significant challenges in our ministry.  Illnesses among the residents, significant car repairs, the need to let go of some of our workers, even some repairs to the house after a big tremor from a nearby earthquake, have stretched our faith as well as our finances. 

When there has been a shortfall in funds, it's been hard for me not to feel as if I am falling short.  I KNOW God is our provider, and He has never failed us.  I KNOW we are being good stewards of what He has given us.  I KNOW that temporary setbacks are not permanent positions. But sometimes it's hard waiting for Him to act.

You see, my name in Pat and I'm a recovering control freak.  I not only like my ducks in a row, but I like to tie them together so they can't get away.  On the mission field, I have often not even been able to find my ducks!  And immediately I default to starting to believe the lies of the enemy that it's because I am not doing enough.  I am not enough.  Smart enough, strong enough, financially astute enough to run a ministry. Surely God could have found someone with better business sense to run this type of ministry. (After all, I came down here to work at an orphanage part time, and just be responsible for myself!)

But, here I am.  God has put me here.  I do the best I know how with the advice of wise counsel.  And still the unexpected happens and it is a struggle.  I have to surrender to the tyranny of the unpredictable and continue to soldier on.

And there is my problem.  I try to do it.  I take on responsibilities which are not mine.  And I need to go back and remember what God has done in the past to demonstrate His faithfulness over and over again. This is what has led me to my 21 Days of Prayer exercise of giving thanks.  It has helped me to focus on the fact that I KNOW the responsibility for this ministry is not mine, but God's.  He has delegated stewardship of the work to me, but it depends squarely on Him.  This is the reality of living a faith based ministry.  And while I KNOW He is faithful, it's hard to wait for Him to come through.

I have always loved the stories of George Mueller and the way in which God provided miraculously for his ministry.  It has always seemed so romantic to think of him praying all night because there was no food for the children in his orphanage, and miraculously in the morning, food was provided.  How lovely those stories are.  While I have so admired his faith and trust in God, never once have I considered what it must have cost him as a man, a human being, to live that faith.  I can't imagine that, like me, he didn't have fear trying to creep into his every prayer.  Worry trying to distract him from praise God for what He was going to do.  But he persevered.  And I want to persevere. 

I want to be able to say with Paul:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Phil. 4: 12-13)

I desire to live each day in obedience to His call, showing the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit.  I rebuke worry, preoccupation, and the sense of failure.  I claim God's protection and provision over my life and our ministry.  

Will you pray these things with and for me?

21 Days of Prayer~~Reason to Hope & the Frisinas

Today I thank God for our independent non-profit organization, Reason to Hope.  It may not be clear to everyone just how critical this is to the sustainability of our ministry.  Our agreement with the Josiah Foundation was with me, Pat Duff, personally.  They agreed to serve as my missionary sending organization and I was an independent contractor working through them.  They held no responsibility for our ministries in Guatemala.

When I came as an individual and only required personal missionary support, this was sufficient.  As our ministry has grown far beyond what I ever would have envisioned, we need an organization to oversee the ministry going far into the future.  Reason of Hope serves this purpose.

I could not thank God for Reason to Hope without also thanking him for Mike and Marty Frisina.  (Yes, they are Husker fans!) They not only have come alongside me, but actually were the driving forces in getting me going in forming our own non-profit.  We are only beginning to see the responsibilities they have taken on as our Stateside representatives, and I am so grateful for their concern for our ministry.  I am even more grateful for their friendship and personal support as I serve.

My prayer of thanksgiving

Father God, today I thank you for allowing us to start our own organization to care for the ministries you have entrusted to us in Guatemala.  I thank you for the joys and challenges which have come with this change.  I pray your guidance and protection as we move forward in obedience to your call to serve the least of these.

I thank you for Mike and Marty, Lord God.  Bless them as they do the hard work of organizing and managing the business aspects of the organization.  Give them wisdom and discernment as they support and advise me, and give them stamina to fulfill the obligations they have so willingly taken on.  I pray this in the power of the Holy Spirit and through Jesus' name. Amen.

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