Stop looking for the finish line… Just run!

Let me start by offering a truth: I’m not a runner. In fact, my knees creak and crack so much that I have embarrassed my dear wife when I sit down in church because people around us look for the origin of the loud crunching sound. Ashley, however does not miss the chance to join a 5k and she effortlessly dominates her age group while pushing a set of twins. I appreciate the idea of running though. The training, the sacrifice, the early mornings… I remember when I was growing up I would visit a close friend’s house and his father would return from an early morning run with sweat frozen in his hair and clothes all in preparation for an upcoming marathon. Didn’t make sense then at the age of 7, but at 41 I’m starting to get it. From an outsiders view it seemed all about the finish line.

I say all of that to relate what recently happened here in Honduras. After 8 years we had a finish line experience. It all started when I got call from another missionary from another organization. She talked about a need in a large children’s home here in San Pedro Sula. There are 20 to 30 young men in this home that no one is discipling. People had tried to reach out to them from time to time, but with little lasting success. She knew of our youth group in the Bordos community and thought that bringing our staff in might help make a connection. I agreed with her that we would pray about it getting involved. Shortly thereafter, within seconds of praying, I felt like God dropped a ton of bricks on me. The feeling was clear, “It’s time to put the boys in the game”. Cristian “Cappy” Lopez has been discipling some of the most amazing young men I’ve ever known over the past 4 years. It felt right. It was time. Let’s get them in the game. After talking with Cris he agreed that the boys were ready. THEY would lead this Bible study and now focus their lives on these young men. The next day Cappy pitched the idea to four of the young me and they agreed.

Now, fast forward with me to this past Saturday. I had the opportunity to drive Angel, Victor, Irvin, and Poyte to the large children’s home for their meeting with the young men. It was silent in the car. I tried to break the silence with a killer joke, “Que pais cabe en una tortilla? Chile.” No laughter. Then I really knew that the nerves were hitting hard because that joke is gold. Before we got out of the car at the orphanage I got to share with them that the pressure is not on them, and that the Holy Spirit would both guide their words and move on the hearts of the hearer. He has them covered on all sides. They knew this already, but we all need the reminder as our human nature will always scrap and fight to make everything about our personal performance.

As we walked through the home the boys began to follow us to the meeting area. They were drawn to our guys. There were hugs, high fives, and connections happening right away. I could already see evidence that the Holy Spirit had gone ahead of us. Poyte introduced the theme for the day – LOVE. Immediately my brain started thinking about how one communicates love to young men who have felt abandoned and abused their entire lives. Then I sat back and watched God work. Poyte talked about how showing love might be caring or supporting someone as a friend or a teammate on the soccer field. They immediately perked up and got that. They nodded their heads and chimed in. Then Victor talked about how greater love has no one than this – to lay his life down for a friend and introduced the love of Jesus. After that, Angel walked up and with great strength told his testimony about the moment Christ entered his life and he felt love for the first time. He spoke about how nothing can separate us from the love of God. As Irvin walked up to speak every young man in the crowd smiled. The joy of God flows out of him. He gave an amazing lesson on how Jesus coming to earth was God showing His love for us. Then Poyte came back up and finished it off and prayed. I probably could have summarized all of that better but I chose not to. It’s representative of something large for Sparrow Missions. It represents the multiplication of disciples. Young men who joined us and were discipled are now making disciples of others.

   

I flash back to when we first walked in to the Bordos in 2009 with the dream of seeing disciples made. On Saturday I took a moment to soak it in. It felt like a finish line experience. (This must be why all those runners do it) It was overwhelming. I called Bo Cracraft and we celebrated together. High fives were given all around. God had moved faithfully to a point of seeing multiplication happen! Then I began to think of all the other areas where God is working in amazing ways. The Children’s Home community, the women’s discipleship, the Sparrow Academy, Ministerio Vida…. and I realized that this is not the finish line at all. These are simply a few of the amazing things that God does during the race. It’s super easy to get caught up in looking for the finish lines of life. It might look like gauging the success of church by the number of the people in the congregation or a ministry with it’s number of salvations per year. In our personal lives we must always be aware that God hasn’t set quotas or minimums for us to meet to cross the finish line successfully. What He wants for us is found in Hebrews 12:1-2:

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

We are to: #1. Run with perseverance the race marked out for us. #2. Fix our eyes on Jesus. Each of us have a distinct race to run. But we must consistently ask ourselves if we are running the race that He marked out for us or one that we marked out. It will require sacrifice and total dependence on God. And most importantly, are our eyes fixed clearly on Jesus. He is the pioneer and perfecter of faith. He led the way. Will we follow in His footsteps?

The book’s not finished…

A chapter is ending but the book’s not finished.

It has been one week. One week since I moved back to the states from the beautiful country of Honduras. It had been something anticipated and known, but that really doesn’t make it any easier. Saying goodbye is never easy especially when those people have made such an impact on one’s life. However, the reminder that God is in control and that he is the one directing the steps is what I can rest and trust in. It really is amazing how God orchestrates everyone’s story so uniquely into His perfect plan, which is most often so different than what we can fathom in our finite minds.

Ephesians 3:20-21 was a verse that was so meaningful to me in the month leading up to leaving for Honduras 2 years ago ad it has been a constant theme throughout my time there:

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

This isn’t dependent on people, location, amount of faith, anything that has to do with us as humans, but rather has all to do with Him, how He works, how He loves, how He heals, how He restores His children, so much more than we could every ask or think. So, I can rest in that.

When I think back over the past 2 years and my time in Honduras, so many memories, thoughts and emotions come to mind. I think to my first day in Honduras, waiting to go to language school, not quite sure what to expect but so full of excitement for what lied ahead. I knew without a doubt I was supposed to be there and couldn’t wait to begin. I really had no idea what I was getting into. I didn’t realize how hard some things would be or how easy some things would be. But through it all, God was so faithful. I can’t even begin to list all of the ways God showed his faithfulness and all the things he did not only in my life but in the lives of others. God showed me so much about who He is, His heart and love for his people and how he intricately works everything out for our good and His glory.

In the week that I’ve been back in the states, everyone has asked me, “So how was Honduras?” Such a simple question, but the images, emotions and thoughts that flood my mind are too many to describe. I can’t really sum up Honduras in a single word or phrase, but if I had to it would be. “God is so faithful. My time was full.”

Full of memorable, happy times, enjoying life with my girls. Full of difficult struggles with the language, cultural differences, situations. Full of uncertainty, but full of learning how to trust. Full of laughter and full of tears. Full of brokenness and full of healing. Full of spiritual battles, full of victory. Full of sorrow, but full of joy. Full of teaching moments. Full of lessons learned. Full of changes and transitions. Full of despair and full of hope. Full of the opportunity of presence. Full of passion and life. Full of perspective. Full of people who touched my life in so many ways. Full of deep friendships grounded in our relationship with Christ. Full of Jesus’ guiding hand. Full of the faithfulness of God.

That faithfulness of God was always reminding me that I am nothing but a vessel, an instrument in certain places at certain times for a specific purpose that He has already laid out. Isn’t that beautiful? So while it hurts my heart to leave the people I love, it is also exciting to know that God is taking me to a different place for a specific purpose to serve Him. At my going-away party, Justin said something to that effect of going on to the next mission field. And so with that perspective and bittersweet feeling, I am back in the states, knowing that while my time living in Honduras has come to an end, it’s not goodbye forever, just until next time. God is so faithful.

Thank you for all of your prayers, support, and words of encouragement over the past two years. Thank you for the significant role you played in the work God is doing in the city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras! I am so grateful for the people and support God has put into place that makes ministry happen. Thank you so much or rather, Muchísima Gracias!

God Bless!

Not goodbye, but nos vemos!

Friends and Family,

It is with great joy and sadness that I announce my time in Honduras pursuing full time ministry is coming to a close.  I am beyond blessed to have been in this unique position to serve God by serving His abandoned and neglected children living in children’s homes, on the street, and in the bordos of San Pedro Sula, Honduras for two and a half years.  The decision to return to live in the U.S. did not come lightly.  After many conversations with my pastors, my counselor, and first and foremost my Father God, it was laid upon my heart that this is the next step is an ever growing journey.  During this time I have walked side by side with the children’s home Senderos de Amor (Paths of Love) assisting wherever and however I can, taught English at the Sparrow Academy to children living in impoverished areas, participated in numerous outreach activities with other organizations, and grown in community with other missionaries living in Honduras.  Last and certainly, not least, I have developed a deep dependency on God’s unwavering faithfulness, confidence in His Holy plan, and rested assurance in His blessed insurance.  I can confidently say, I love deeper, wider, and longer than I ever thought possible.    I am grateful for you and your prayerful support and financial investment that have allowed me to submit and serve in a truly spectacular way.  
 
I will return to Arizona on May 4th, 2017.  My immediate plan is to rest, restore, and process many of the experiences God has given me these past few years. 

***

The leaving is as difficult to explain as the coming. God’s call for me rarely seems to be easy. There’s always a period of submission. It’s a contradictory time when my flesh wants to stay in routine and the Spirit urges me to move. But when submission comes, as it always does, His peace and joy flood my senses and make the next step so incredibly bearable. In a few days I’ll be embarking on this ‘next step’ of returning to live in the U.S..

When I was preparing to move to Honduras, I had no idea how long I would be here. ‘Indefinitely’, was my response to everyone’s questions. While my lips said indefinitely, my heart said forever. Honduras will be my home. And for over 2 years, I put every effort into making it my home. In many respects it is. I have formed deeply woven relationships with friends that feel more like family. Friends that I’ve sat knee to knee with praying, shouldering, and witnessing the weighted effects of poverty on the children we love. Our shared experiences, adventures, and meals reflect so much of the community of the early church. We gather and eat and cry and encourage and vent and joke and take in every single moment of the privilege it is to serve in this way. From progressive dinners to Taco Tuesdays, rarely do I eat alone. It will be hard to leave this community.

Each step into the brokenness, into the shattered life, reveals such raw and significant beauty. In every opportunity to show Christ’s love to those that are hard to love, hard to reach, I find myself standing at the precipice of Holy Ground. Here, Holy ground is often covered in the mud, the tears, and the blood of the broken that are aching and craving love. Stepping into and on this Holy ground is the only way to show love. It is where love lives. It is how love lives. Holy ground is so far out of the comfort zone, so deeply imbedded in generational brokenness, easy to pass by and ignore, and so incredibly inhabited by the Holy Spirit which constantly urges me to go deeper and deeper into the mire. And when I get to the other side, when I crawl and claw through the trauma and tragedy I find small little mirrors echoing the cry of humanity for a savior to come and redeem and restore. I see scars of abandonment and neglect, abuse and misuse – to which a 5-year-old soul feels 55. I find truths in these little mirrors that I have not yet discovered. They have persevered such hardships that they can recognize genuine love. I find home and hope in their stories and struggles. It will be hard to not walk side-by-side daily with these incredible souls.

I leave Honduras knowing that it is simply my time to no longer live here right now.  She is a beautiful country and has taught me many things. Unforgettable things. Unfathomable things. She opened up her mountains and lakes and beaches, her islands, tropical flowers, and beautiful sunsets to me. She cradles the many beautiful sons and daughters I’ve had the privilege to hold and love in the in-between times.  Because of you, Honduras, I have 2 homes and more family that I ever dreamed of.  Because of you, Honduras, I love deeper, wider, and longer than I ever thought possible.  I am eagerly anticipating the day when my two homes will be one.

It’s not good-bye, it’s nos vemos – I’ll be seeing you!

Healing Is a Process

I know we have talked so many times how when the Sparrow Academy started, we were not by any means sure of what this meant but we knew that God was preparing us to expand our mission in the kid’s spiritual and educational walks. You have heard all the good stories about the kids’ development at the Academy, and how their behavior has changed and continues to do so. They are growing right before our eyes, becoming teenagers (with a lot of sass) and young adults. God has been doing some awesome things! We have witnessed miracles – giving hearts have developed, students are showing love to one another, bad attitudes have experienced God’s mercy and grace through forgiveness and love from the Sparrow Academy Staff.

But where we see growth, as you know, the devil is not far behind. The beginning of this school year has brought so many new challenges. These past couple of months have been full of emotion. Feelings of brokenness, pain and disappointment have been shared not only among our students but their parents as well. This may sound sad but God has used these tough situations for the good of his kingdom.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28

God has used these difficulties to show and help me grow on what real healing actually means. As a whole, the school has had moments of prayer crying out to God to heal his land (the Bordos), to heal those who are in gangs and to heal the kid’s wounds from past wrongs.  As families were once again moved out of the Bordos, and gangs increased their violence and terror, God had a plan to use our school way beyond books and tests.

God began to use the school as a community center and led us in opening the doors to all of those that have felt the need to talk, cry or pray. THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF THE HEALING THAT I HAVE PRAYED FOR ALL ALONG!! This year the Sparrow Academy has been way more than just a place where the kids receive education; it has been a safe place for moms to go talk about the struggles and the difficulties they have, a place where God is showing love for the kids, and it has been a place where children could finally let go of things from their past. The process of healing has begun, and people are experiencing the freedom that Jesus gives us! I have seen the beginning of something much bigger than ourselves. I have zero qualification to talk and pray with people and believe me, many many times I have asked “Why would they talk to me about this?” or “I have no answer to this”. But I’ve learned that is not me or what I say, but it is God using the moment to heal his land and I just need to surrender all of it at his feet. For me that means crying out to God in the principal’s office floor, in the third grade classroom. It means getting on my knees and listening to Oscar pray for those who had to leave us and for their families. God is in control, I just need to surrender it all at his feet.

I can tell you a million stories about how God is using the school to change me, the staff and the kiddos. It reminds me of the verse where healing is a process. God binds the wounds so that new skin can grow and become stronger. It is the same for our hearts and spirits. We experience pain and struggles, and God uses these hardships to grow us stronger than we were before.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalms 147:3

So God we pray to you
Humble ourselves again
Lord would You hear our cry?
Lord will You heal our land?
That every eye will see
That every heart will know
The One who took our sin
The One who died and rose

And when your kingdom comes
And when at last You call
We’ll rise to worship You alone.

I love this song and it’s a reminder of this school year. The crazy thing is, the year has just begun. I truly believe God will continue to use the school as a whole (teachers, children and parents) to draw us closer to him and to equip us to do kingdom work. Please pray that God continues to lead our Academy to grow and change the lives of the children we love so much, and that he is with the leaders of the Academy always growing them in wisdom of godly leadership. Thank you all so much for your support of the school, and I can never thank you enough for what your support means to us. I can’t wait until the next time we get to share the incredible changes God has made in lives of the Sparrow Children!

Elena and Dean Faulkner

Daily Miracles

“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” – C.S. Lewis

Most days, by the time we get the kids to bed around 8 in the evening, I am absolutely dragging. We wake up at 5:30 to get them ready for school, start our first “bus route” by 6:40, and then I start my day at 7:00 working on current projects. By evening, I can get really tired. If you read Eric’s blog post last week, you got a glimpse into the “March Madness” we have been experiencing not only in March but all year so far at the Children’s Home.

Aside from hosting more teams so far in 2017 than we did in all of 2016 in Santiago, I have personally overseen many construction projects on the property. In 2017, we built a woodworking shop, a wash area, 2 car ports, finished our purified water project, built a soccer field, and are now finishing our church. On top of starting a sewing class, launching the medical clinic, starting Celebrate Recovery at Ministerio Vida, and building their new ministry house outside of Tela, we have been staying very busy out here in Santiago. And on top of that, we are raising the 3 children God has placed in our home, with a 4th on the way. I do not say all this to boast, or complain at all. I would just like to give some perspective into the last 3 months.

Recently, I was talking with a member of one of our teams, and she asked me “Chris, how do you stay going with all that you all do?” At the moment, I laughed and said, “Only through God’s grace and Mountain Dew!” Though I feel my answer was spot on, the question has resonated with me since. If we are honest, being a missionary in a foreign country is hard. Besides the obvious differences from serving the Lord stateside, if you are truly listening and following His calling, then He is going to keep you really busy. If I am honest, if we’re all honest, that can be exhausting.

It is true what I said though. What keeps me going each day is His grace. For me, there are two things that give me renewed strength each day, each week, and each month. First is resting in Him and spending time with Him to be refilled, and the second is seeing the miracles He is doing in our every day lives through us. When I was in Bible College, in one of my earliest classes, we defined miracles as God acting in an extraordinary way in our ordinary physical world. And seeing that now here in Santiago pushes me closer to Him.

There is a precious little girl from our area named Nallely. She has one leg that is several inches shorter than the other. She has to climb up and down a mountain every day to go to school. Through God’s grace, we were able to identify her need through a recent medical brigade, and God is providing the help she needs to change her life through a local physical therapy center and people interested in changing her life. That is a miracle.

This year I have started teaching Celebrate Recovery at Ministerio Vida, a rehabilitation center for homeless men. One man left after 2 months in the program because he didn’t like the idea of dealing with his problems through Celebrate Recovery. But he returned 4 days later because he knew he had to face his sins in order to change. That is a miracle.

At Ministerio Vida, we have been working on building them a new house with a great pace this year. We were stopped for about 2 weeks due to lack of funds when out of nowhere the pastor received a letter from the owners of the current house they rent saying they needed to be out by November because they had sold the land. After fervent prayer, God has brought in enough money in one week to finish the walls, roof, floors and more! That is a miracle.

A few weeks ago we had a sewing clinic for ladies in our community. Each day, they had a Bible lesson before they had their class. At the end of the week, several ladies started coming to our church for the first time and are still attending faithfully every week. Last week, the husband of one of our sewing clinic ladies came with her and felt convicted to give his life to the Lord and was saved. That is a miracle.

These are just a few of the examples of God’s faithfulness to us that we have witnessed here in Santiago. As Lewis’s quote points out, miracles are God’s constant confirmation in daily life of His over all promise. That He is here, that He loves us, cares for us, and is faithful to His children. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Through His faithfulness, we are given the strength and energy we need each day, to press on while singing His praise. No matter how tired I get, He gives me the strength to carry on!

In Christ’s love,

Chris Weeks