|Abraham leaving Haran|
Last fall, our friends, Duane & Lois Pederson, who are the Directors of the Crossroads Discipleship Training School and the Co-Directors of the YWAM-Baguio campus in Baguio City, Philippines, invited me to come and teach a week at their school and then join Duane for a week in Palanan in remote north-eastern Luzon among the Agta. The Agta are the equivalent of our North American First Nations tribes, the indigenous people of the Philippines who have been living there long before the first Europeans arrived in 1521. I immediately accepted their invitation providing I could find the money to get there. That was early November. I began to share with our leadership team my intention to go mid-December as a way to solicit their prayer support. Throughout the month of January, Lois and I exchanged emails regarding the exact dates and details of my journey but I had yet to buy my airline ticket. In my heart there was a "yes" to their gracious invitation but what I needed far exceeded the credit line on my credit card. So I continued to pray and hope that there would be a proverbial "check in the mail." But none arrived. Last week, with my designated departure date getting closer on the calendar, I asked a close friend if he could buy the ticket for me and I would pay him back. He agreed and last Wednesday night around 10:30 p.m. it became official. I leave a week from Thursday.
It's funny. I have not a clue how I am going to pay him back but I have a remarkable peace about this whole matter all the same as if some way or another the money will come, as if I am being sent there as opposed to just picking up an international teaching gig (sounds prestigious, doesn't it?) And the minute after I agreed to the purchase price of $1,606.50 I did not experience the ancitipated "Oh-God-what-did-I-just-do?" moment. Rather, I walked home from Refuge that night full of joy.
|An Agta family|
|Duane's class from 2008|
Last year a Super Typhoon with winds clocked as high as 200 m.p.h. devastated the region. Duane's nipa hut that his Agta friends had built for him in 2008 was among the casualties. These people are hunter-gatherers who have been reached with the gospel over the last decade or so. As Duane tells it, there are entire villages that came to Christ and three years ago he and others led the first Discipleship Training School there.
I haven't started packing yet. More on my mind has been this question: What possibly could a guy from northern Wisconsin bring to either Duane & Lois' Pacific Rim students in Baguio City or to these nomad-like aboriginals? Certainly not my expertise (such as it is) of pastoring a local Christian fellowship for almost 20 years. That may be impressive in some places but if I rely just on that little bit on my resume I fear I'm going to end up looking like a vacuum cleaner salesman trying to pitch my product among a group of people who only have electricity at certain times of the day and who, by the way, don't own a rug among them.
Yesterday, however, as I was kneeling at the altar during our worship gathering, Jeff G had a word for me. It's a word I have preached at Refuge before. I don't know if he was quoting me or The Message where it came from but it was God's word to me all the same: "Don't worry about what you are to teach. You are the message." At the end of Matthew 9, after making the circuit of certain towns and villages, Jesus' heart is breaking at the need that he encounters in every locality. So he gathers his friends together and commands them emphatically to pray - NOW - for more help to care for the aimless and wandering sheep he sees. They do and when they open their eyes they find they have been volunteered. They are the answer to their own prayer for help. Jesus' instruction to them are simple and to the point:
"Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light." (Matthew 10:9-10, Msg)
"I am the equipment" the Lord is reminding me. It's not my experience. It's not my knowledge of their culture or their language or their history. It's just me and what the Lord has instilled in me. Relying on anything else would be foolish. So I guess it's time to pray that great 8-word prayer that a guy once taught me to pray:
"OH, GOD, OH, GOD, OH, GOD, OH, GOD."
P.S. While I was writing this, my parents called and informed me that they were donating $500 to the cause. Awesome. Only $1,206.50 to go.