Tonight Pastor John has asked me to have a final devotion with our missionaries before they board their buses for the long trip home. It’s been an amazing week for them to see so many of their friends, tell their stories, eat their favorite Brazilian dishes, and worship together. They spent time with the National Board, the top leaders of the Brazilian Church. They now know their work is known and celebrated by their church’s highest authority. Two of the missionaries were consecrated - they became full fledged pastors in a ancient ceremony of prayer and laying on of hands. Now they are returning. It has been a mountain top experience they will remember the rest of their lives. Me too. Me too, but for different reasons.
My heart sometimes gets pretty dry from the lack of genuine transformation in people’s lives. It’s not the Gospel or God’s fault. A lot of folks just don’t think they need God’s help or want to give up control of their lives. They are stuck and they settle for managing their little world of “stuckness”. They're not going anywhere, maybe because that somehow feels safer to them.
There is a young man here at the missionary training center. His name is Kevin. His job is keeping the facility clean and anything else people ask him to do. I never saw anyone work so hard, mopping, washing, picking up, moving stuff, and responding to anything asked of him with a spring in his step. That Kevin really works hard. I never saw a happier guy. He likes hugs. And when he hugs you he wraps his arms around you and you can be prepared for a real hang on hug.
A few years ago Kevin was sleeping on the streets, being passed around and being abused by the sickest men you can imagine. He got HIV. He was stuck big time. He opened his heart to the people here. He got off the street, was doing good on his Aids medicines, and enrolled in college. When he was done with his work one afternoon, I saw him writing out formulas for his chemistry homework. You should see him dancing with the praise music at the services. He’s not stuck anymore. He’s changed.
Adam is married, with one son and about to take his final exam to become a doctor. He has put in unbelievable hours in med school, working exhausting rotations, and crammed more stuff into his brain than I can imagine. If anyone needs medical help here at the center, Adam is there for them. With all that on his shoulders, he is always in church. He plays guitar in the praise band. Church comes first.
I had a long talk with Adam about what he will do after graduating. He could make a lot of money as a doctor. Going where God wants him to go is what is most important to him. He is going to be one of our missionaries - a missionary doctor. He is really making the right God-honoring choice for his life. He won’t make all the money he could. But he won’t lose his way to self-centered life. He’s not getting stuck.
Augusto and Julianne will be arriving here in 10 days from Brazil. They have been married a couple of years and have felt God calling them to become missionaries. Rather than building a career, they want an adventure taking the Word of God to a new nation. They’re not stuck.
Robert and Evelyn are going to have their first baby in two months, a boy. His name is Gabriel. They are Bolivians who found Jesus in this center, found each other, were married here and have become amazing leaders in the church here managing 12 small groups - which are really large groups. They are pastors. They just don’t know it yet. They will start new churches here in Bolivia. They have changed. They aren’t stuck.
Then there’s Janderson, Tali, Martha, Daisy, Nech, Peter, Scorro’s - they’ve all changed too.
What should I share in my final devotion to our missionaries tonight? I’m thinking about another farewell to a group of 11 missionaries 2,000 years ago. Come to think of it, their lives had all changed pretty radically, too. Their adventure was just beginning. Need a hint? Check out the final words of the Gospel of Matthew.
When you finally realize you were never meant to be in charge, but to follow, then you’ll begin to understand why God put you here. Its not all about you. As long as it is, you'll be stuck and you’ll stay stuck. Here’s what God wants to change. You. Then you’ll be ready for your adventure.