The Discipline of Service

As the cross is the sign of submission, so the towel is the sign of service. When Jesus gathered his disciples for the Last Supper they were having trouble deciding who was the greatest. This was no new issue for them. “And an argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest” (Luke 9:46). Whenever there is trouble over who is the greatest, there is trouble over who is the least. That is the crux of the matter for us, isn’t it? Most of us know we will never be the greatest; just don’t let us be the least.

Gathered at the Passover feast, the disciples were keenly aware that someone needed to wash the others’ feet. The problem was that the only people who washed feet were the least. So there they sat, feet caked with dirt. It was such a sore point that they were not even going to talk about it. No one wanted to be considered the least. Then Jesus took a towel and a basin and redefined greatness.

Celebration of Discipline
Richard Foster

A Drive to Guadalajara

So we had to drive to Guadalajara earlier this week!

Guadalajara, the 2nd largest city in Mexico…..and not just that, but we had to go to El Centro (downtown). Some people love going to El Centro, with all the hustle and bustle.( It is not my cup of tea.) There are people everywhere: in cars, on foot, on bicycles, motorcycles, macro buses, peddling fruit or hot dog stands. It always amazes me to watch the the people, especially ladies in their 4 inch stilettos rushing across the street.

Our first stop, the tile store, we need to price some tile for an upcoming project. This stop, which once could have taken half of a day, now takes about 30 minutes. We know what we are looking for and find it…the price is better that we had hoped. Returning to the car, we are on our way. We turn onto the six-lane one way road divided by a median quickly approaching my favorite intersection. It is a 5 way junction, which years ago terrified me, but not today. I knew as soon as we pulled onto the road that I was in the wrong lane to make a right turn at the intersection. So I take a deep breath and zip through the intersection, cross 4 lanes of traffic and make a hard right at the next intersection just a few feet ahead. It is at this intersection that all traffic comes to an extreme halt. You have heard of going zero to 60, well this is more like going 60 to zero in 30 feet. I turn the corner and arrive behind 3 busses. Assessing the situation notice a police man parking his motorcycle behind the last bus. (He has pulled it over.) I quickly merge left to swing around the police man and bus and then merge right in front of the bus to take another right at the following light. I am going around the block to get on the street I originally wanted but was not able to turn on to when going through the 5 way intersection. I turn left, finally on the desired street, “Mario Andretti” speeds past us in his BMW, nearly taking out the fruit vender as he peddled his three wheeled, bike/stand in the right lane. We are approaching downtown.

We pass the convenient store where last fall there were riots and looting. We easily identify it, buy the makeshift plexiglass windows in the front. The street we need is on the right, but it is a one way going the wrong direction. We have to drive another 5 to 6 blocks in order to find a street going the correct direction. I turn, there is a man sauntering across the street. He stops in the middle and gazes at the store signs, eventually indentifying the one he wants, he continues to walk slowly and diagonally across in front of us. (With his street suaveness, I am amazed that he has survived this long in the city.)

It has been a while since I have been to Javiar Mina, the street which sells clothes, cook ware, and has several beauty supply stores. After driving around many blocks, we decide to park and try to find the store on foot. About 30 minutes and several stores later, we find the special leave in conditioner which cost 1/3 the price here than it does at the salon in our town, but the clipper guard we sought was no where to be found. Running short on time, we decide that we’ll have to either come back another day, or order it on line and find some willing soul to bring it to us from the states.

We’re back in the car and headed to the third and final stop. Headed north for another 15-20 blocks we are now on the edge of the city, our street sneaks up on us. We have to quickly make a right turn from the left lane. (No wonder we are such crazy drivers when we return to the United States.)

I was glad that I had called ahead and spoken with the store owner, because this street was filled with warehouses, not one store front in sight. We would have to knock on the giant metal curtain door to be let in. It took two tries, but eventually we arrived at our destination. Ramon, the owner, showed us into the office. A large room with 6 desks and 1000 telephone and Internet cables strung all over the place. (I would have taken a picture, but I didn’t want to offend.) No wonder our staff think we are crazy when we require that our office is kept clean and tidy. Desks were covered with stacks of papers haphazardly strewn on them, I could see a half eaten bag of tostadas, salsa, salt, disposable napkins and half eaten bowl of unidentified food and plates, sprinkled throughout the dusty shelves. But what really caught my attention were those cables! A scarey array of telephone cables came from a cockeyed box on the wall. They were all bunched together and then going out in different directions. Beside it, slanting the other direction was some type of Internet hub connected in the same fashion as the telephone junction. Leaving the boxes, each wall had cables tacked along it, also haphazardly meandering to their destination. When a phone call came in each phone (on high volume) began to play a different tune. (I wonder if I could somehow harness all that energy into my cell phone, so I could hear it when it rings?)

After waiting we were escorted into the warehouse to look at the tool which we were picking up. It seemed to be in good shape. We paid and were asked to bring the car around. With no receipt given, we were ushered out on the street door soundly closed behind us. Even after 12 years of living here, the “no receipt” scenario still makes me uneasy. I had visions of bringing the car around to find everyone had closed up shop and gone home. I drove my minivan up to the loading dock and true to the culture they were waiting, tool in hand ready to load the car. “The receipt has not arrived, we’ll email it to you when we have it.” Was his comment as he thanked us for our purchase and we backed out to leave. (Here receipts used for tax deductible purposes have to be government approved and often take a while. We know that eventually it will arrive.)

While driving home through rush hour traffic we were sitting at one of the many downtown red lights. I hear Rodney begin to chuckle. Asking why, he directs my attention to the dance studio on the corner. Among the many types of dance classes advertised on its windows, complete with photo, was pole dancing. (Sad but true!)

The rest of our drive home, although very long was mostly uneventful. And thus concludes one of those mundane days filled with practical activities, to just keep the ministry running.


A missionary’s sermon

“There is too little desire to know what is the actual state of mission work in India, and a regard to the showy and attractive rather than to the solid and practical.”

Excerpt From: “Things as They Are” By Amy Charmichael (Missionary to India, late 1800 early 1900).

Working in ministry for 25 years and full-time missions for over a decade, I have often identified with Amy’s statement. And more than once, I have been discouraged by the casual comments of the masses. “How many salvations have you seen this year?”, “You only have “x” number of boys live at the boy’s home?”, “Oh, look at all the staff you have and the many buildings. It’s obvious that you don’t have any financial needs.”, “We don’t want to help with a operational expenses, we would rather give something that goes DIRECTLY to the boys.”

Mission work is so much more than numbers: boy’s serviced & salvations. It’s more than rescuing abused and abandoned boys. It’s even more that verbally preaching the gospel. It is LIVING the gospel while completing the mundane chores of the day. It’s securing visas, renewing passports, paying the electricity bill and making sure that there is enough staff to watch the boys, feed the boys, drive the boys to school, mow the lawn, paint the buildings, answer the telephone, complete government paperwork…… the list goes on. It’s carving out enough time for my family so that my girls grow up knowing that they are just as important to me (and God) as the boys at the orphanage. It’s spending time with my husband so that our marriage remains strong and Christ can be witnessed by others in the way we interact with one another. It’s working with lawyers, securing building permits, hosting teams, scrubbing floors and picking up visitors from the airport. It being gentle and kind to those who hurt and offend you & being gracious when listening to those who (never working with orphans) think they know all the answers. And…..It’s raising enough money to keep the whole thing going.

No, most of what we do is not showy and attractive. Instead I could describe it as routine and often mundane or like Amy mentioned, it is rather solid and practical. And although rarely I stand behind a pulpit and preach a message, I assure you that working and doing, and living the gospel, can be a powerful message which far outreaches the walls of the sanctuary. And you don’t have to be a pastor nor a missionary to preach that sermon!