As we are getting reading to wrap up the school year and getting close to Thanksgiving, we had our own little celebration at the Sparrow Academy. This year was a little different; last year all the kids, staff and some extra visitors sat together in one big table and ate chicken(Honduran style for Thanksgiving) and thanked God for all his provision. This year the Lord put in my heart to celebrate it with an act of thanksgiving by showing honor and love to our parents. Let me tell you why….
Through all month God has being working in my heart in specific areas of my life, areas I didn’t know I needed work but areas that were making me have feelings that were not of love. As you all know I have a close relationship with the kids at school, they are part of my life and my heart. It is almost as if they are my own. Our relationship goes beyond more than just me THE PRINCIPAL making them obey at school; it goes deeper to them sharing their feelings, their dreams, their struggles, and their rejection, and I usually dig in a little bit more on what happens at home as well. With that being said I found myself being angry and judgmental toward some parents that I knew they were not showing love and value to their own kids. Of course my judgmental feelings, of how they needed to fix it or how their only job of being parents was not done right, needed to be addressed. My thought was “if they can only see the kids heart” they will know how much they are missing”. But I figured that though was not from the Lord and he showed me that, through the Friday celebration with the parents.
He guided me to the scripture of Luke 7: 36-50 – this scripture talks about the woman who came to Jesus recognizing he was the savior and in need of his forgiveness. But I want to talk about what the Pharisee, who had invited Jesus to his house, said:
v.39 “Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, if this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner”
Let’s stay there for a minute. The Pharisee knowing the law and the word of God, decided to judge really quickly in his heart. I found myself doing this. “if Jesus only knew how they act”, I used my time to judge instead of love, forgetting Jesus already knows who they are. This past month I have been reminded of who my God is and how I am called to love and serve to be able to show Jesus.
So back to the celebration. We invited the parents to the academy and they were surprised by the Thanksgiving brunch that led into a talk of how grateful and happy we are for their lives. Teachers made little cards of encouraging words for each individual parent. At that moment, I knew the Lord was showing me if I keep letting my judgmental heart get in the way I will be wasting my time. As Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge people you have no time to love them”. I cannot change who they are, and fix the things that are broken because that is what Jesus does. I cannot judge the lack of love from someone that is in need of the source of love. Instead, what I can do is spend my time searching for ways that I can serve, and be a support for them when things aren’t easy.
God works in ways we don’t expect, and I recognized that this past week when I saw the smile of a mother who was tired, struggling and weary, being told that she is valued, she is loved and there is redemption. This is a reminder of what God does for us daily. When we hear his voice saying, it’s okay, I know what you are going through, and guess what? I still love you the same.
So as we celebrate and thank God for what he has done, who He is to us and to our families, why don’t you join me in prayer for those moms and dads that are lacking that love. I encourage you as well, to give love and show your thankfulness in thoughtful ways this week, especially to the people who you are quick to judge. Find them, show them kindness and make them feel love. We are grateful for his sacrifice, and for his redemption in our lives. Hope you guys have a great Thanksgiving!
“20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Growing up in church, this is a passage I have heard used in countless sermons over the years, but one that has really become real to me in the past few months. We have been watching God do some incredible things both in and through the ministry of the Sparrow Children’s Home lately. Things that only He can be given the glory for bringing to pass. I have also seen the reality of this verse in my personal life as well through an incredible trip I was able to be part of this past October. I will go into more detail regarding all of this in a moment, but, before I do, I encourage you to read these verses again and think back to those moments in your life when God, as only He can do, went over and above whatever it was you were praying for. Okay, do it. Now, got that moment in your mind? If not, think harder…because I know it’s there. Got it? Good, let’s keep going. If you’re like me, it is not just one moment that comes to mind, but likely far more than we can even count if we’re being honest. Fact of the matter is this, no matter how impossible we may view a task or challenge, or how big we think a need may be, there is never anything we can ask of God that He cannot bring about provided it fits within the plan He has set out for our lives. Not only that, but so many times it winds up being more than we could have ever imagined.
Back in October, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Delhi, India with a group of folks from Sparrow and LEAP International (see last Justin’s post last week). So, my first prayer was that somehow the funds would come in for me to be able to purchase plane tickets and pay for expenses while there. God literally brought in almost to the penny the exact amount needed to cover the trip. My next prayer was seeking God’s direction on my role with this team. Admittedly, I don’t have a broad knowledge on how to play or produce a ukulele, but I knew that God had a place for me in India that week.
Our first full day in country, we were given the opportunity to visit a large private school in Delhi. All we knew going in was that a few of us would share testimonies and maybe sing a couple songs. We were advised going into the program to not specifically mention the name of “Jesus”, but that talking about God would be more widely accepted based on the religious makeup of the students. (For perspective, about 80% of the Indian population are Hindu and close to 14% are Muslim, but only about 2% of the population profess to be Christians.) My prayer that morning was simply that whether the actual name of Jesus was spoken or not, that He would be glorified through whatever took place. We did some games with the teens, three of us shared testimonies, and we closed out with some music. The crowd of teens seemed to be actively engaged in the stories of victory over addictions, restoration of lives and redeeming love of God. We ended with the song “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord”, and you could see a couple of kids in the crowd actually singing and dancing to the song. So, here we were speaking the name of the Lord with a group of largely Hindu and Muslim teens joining in. Later, the students were given the opportunity to come up and speak to us individually. There were kids coming up to us and telling us that they share some of the same struggles and asking how we dealt with temptations, and a few that just thanked us for being there because they said they were Christians too and it encouraged them to have fellow believers on hand to worship together with them. Wow! Not only did God hear the prayers we had prayed, but He definitely went over and above what we could have imagined.
In my last blog post back in July, I mentioned that the Children’s Home would soon be welcoming a new house family to the property. On November 18, the Amador family will officially be moving from their current home in Tela to the open cabana on our property here in Santiago. I shared in that July post about how we had been praying since before we even moved to Santiago about house parents and that God would lead us to the right people when the time was right. First, He led us to Chris and Alishia, who continue to be a huge blessing to our ministry and the community of Santiago. Then, on Christmas day, 2016, He answered that prayer again in the persons of the Amador family. Over the past year, we have gotten to know the Amador’s very well and have spent time with their whole family, and we literally walk away from each meeting with them so blessed and amazed at how God has answered that prayer for house parents in a greater way than we ever could have imagined.
One more testimony, recently Roxanne expressed to me a desire for us to pray about good education opportunities for not just our own children, but every child on site at the Sparrow Children’s Home. We began to pray and she began asking around about various private schools in Tela. As you may know, Tara and Ella (our two biological daughters) are currently enrolled in a private bilingual school in Tela, but, admittedly, the cost of tuition there and the fact that some of the kids we would be sending there are older and would have to learn a lot of English to catch up were both factors that made that option seem out of reach. However, Roxanne mentioned it to the headmistress one day and suddenly God opened a door to answer that prayer for a school option in a way we could not have imagined. The public schools in Honduras end this week and on November 27, the Weeks’ children and Amador’s children will enroll in the Blanca Jeanette Kawas Bilingual School in Tela. The children will receive tutoring in English for the remainder of the BJK school year (which ends in June) to catch them up and Roxanne will go on staff as a personal tutor for any kids behind in their English and she will also be serving as the school’s nurse. We will be helping the school through some of our short term mission teams as well as in other capacities, and in return the school will be significantly lowering the tuition costs to $30/month so that our kids can be enrolled with monthly sponsorships. Again, God went over and above!
Now back to that verse in Ephesians 3:20-21. First off, it is important for us to always remember that regardless of the need or size of the challenge, God, above all, is ABLE to do anything. The question is never “can He” do something, because we know He certainly can. He has proven His ability to us time and time again personally and through countless testimonies we hear and read. We often hear folks use terminology like “well now you’re just showing off, God”, but the truth of the matter is He is just being Himself. God knows more than what we desire, He knows what we need. What we need to get through life, and sometimes what we need to grow our faith even more. Even more encouraging is the fact that verse 20 tells us that this power which is able to accomplish more than we can even imagine is actually at work in our very lives. It is the power that dwells within us through the Holy Spirit. And ultimately, it is not we who receive the glory, but rather it is God who is in fact that very power that dwells within us that receives the glory. We know there is no way on our own we can accomplish these things. Our limited ability prevents us from asking or thinking or even understanding what it is we need, much less achieving those things on our own. But, as the New King James Version puts it in verse 20, God alone “is able to do EXCEEDINGLY ABUNDANTLY above all that we ask or think.” I encourage you to be mindful and dependent upon that power that dwells within us as believers in Christ, and to always remember that God can always do more than we could ever imagine. And because of that, we should never be afraid to dream big and pray hard. Maybe those prayers are answered, but even if not, we can rest assured that God will be glorified one way or another. So when you pray, do so with confidence and watch what God can do…exceedingly abundantly!
Strum It Forward – India
On December 12th in the year of our Lord 2015 I posted a simple picture on the Sparrow Missions Instagram page. It wasn’t a big deal. It was simply one of our newest ukuleles from the carpentry workshop that we run at Ministerio Vida Rehabilitation Center. When I saw the work that David Parkinson, Cristian, a few of the young men from the bordos community and Reynaldo had made I knew that it had to be celebrated. Now I’m not one to frivolously post on social media, but I saw this beautiful uke and had to share it.
Little did I know at the time that this simple Instagram post would lead us down a path to working in one of the least reached areas in our world. An area with a population of 125,000 people and fewer than 25 known followers of Jesus. Bhiwadi, Rajashtan, India. Let me back up…
In 1993 on my first mission trip I first heard about the unreached and the least reached people of the world. It burned in my heart that in our day and age how there could be entire communities of people in the world who have never heard the name of Jesus, much less have they interacted with a believer who could share the beautiful Gospel of our precious Savior. That desire never left me. My darling wife knows better than anyone that I have been drawn to this part of the world. At times, I’ve wondered why God would call me to Honduras when He knows that both Ash and I are both open to the unreached. It’s now becoming clearer by the day.
Sidebar: Let’s take a moment here and recognize why these people of the world are not reached. Why would 42% of the world be unreached? (“unreached” is defined as group refers to an ethnic group without an indigenous, self-propagating Christian church movement. Any ethnic or ethnolinguistic nation without enough Christians to evangelize the rest of the people is an “unreached people group” or any people that are less than 2% evangelical Christian).
- They are deeply rooted in ancient false religions. (Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism)
- There is active persecution.
- The cultural distance and language barriers take a years to learn.
- It’s far more costly.
Back to the Instagram post – Within days of the ukulele social media post on Dec 12, 2015 I get a call from a good friend and ministry partner Jeremy Isom. He is the Executive Director of a great org called LEAP International. He calls me out of the blue a few days later and starts the conversation with, “this is going to sound crazy…” So many great things start out sounding crazy. (basically anything that requires faith does) He had received a message from a man name Anand in India. Jeremy knew Anand from a past trip to India. Anand asked if it would be possible to send someone to India to train their young men how to make ukuleles like the one in the picture and disciple young people from the villages where Jesus is not known. What do you say? Speechless.
Right away the “crazy” idea doesn’t sound so crazy. You see from our first steps into ministry in to the incredible country of Honduras our dream has to give people Jesus and to see them become healthy disciples of Jesus. God has done that in many ways. We have a group of young men who have been discipled by Cristian Lopez in a very active and personal way. They are mature and godly young men. So after prayer and a conversation with Poyte, Irvin, Angel, and Victor, they agreed and it began. Two things needed to happen.
- They had to be experts at making ukuleles
- They needed to learn English to communicate in India. (Many Indians speak English).
Within weeks we created a daily apprenticeship at the carpentry workshop for them. They began studying English on a very high level so that they could communicate well in India. These young men have worked hard and can now make beautiful Ukuleles and are very close to being fluent in English with the intention of becoming missionaries from Honduras to India.
The next step was a setup visit to meet Anand and his son Joy. We needed to see where they would live and work. So several weeks ago a group of Sparrow staff and LEAP traveled to New Delhi, India to do just that. The trip confirmed that God is in this. Anand and Joy love are passionate about reaching the unreached with the name of Jesus.
These young men will be moving to India for at least 3 – 4 months in the early spring to begin training young men like themselves on how to build ukes all the while sharing Jesus and making disciples. They will be part of an underground house church in Bhiwadi, India. Only God knows what amazing things will come of this. Only God knows how they will each be funded. Each young man will need $3,000 for the flight and living expenses for India. Thankfully one church in KY is already on board to adopt one of these young missionaries.
The dream of strumitforward is to see these workshops spread. As this carpentry workshop grows in India they will send out a group of disciples to the next place just as we will continue to do so from Honduras. It will continue to grow throughout the world in a “pay it forward” action. #strumitfoward.
As I post this I know that many of you have seen videos of us in India eating fire or running the run4the1. I bring you in now because it’s time to pray.
- Pray for the people the young men will interact with in India
- Pray that God will prepare Poyte, Irvin, Victor, and Angel.
- Pray that disciples are made in India.
- Pray for God to provide all of the support that they need.
- But not least, the unreached of this world. Luke 10:2,3 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
In 1993, I could have never guessed that God would allow me to have a small part in the early stages of a mission to India and the unreached, but I’m thankful that He lets me be involved. If you would like to get involved in this project don’t hesitate to email me. [email protected]
For more information on the unreached peoples of the world please go to joshuaproject.net.
God speaks to us in many ways
God is talking to us every single day. Not just a day or a specific month on the year. And the main thing God taught me and spoke to me on this last summer was the importance of the testimonies.
God speak through circumstances. You must be diligent to seek God and to be attentive to His work in every facet of your life. As you focus on the Lord, especially during difficult or painful circumstances, God can show you His perspective about your circumstances. Rather than trying to figure out everything, equipped only with our limited knowledge and understanding, we can acknowledge the Lord in all of our ways and rely on His love for us, His sovereignty, and His plans for our good. (Proverbs3:3-13) and (Romans 8:26-32). He is totally trustworthy.
God speak through others. The Bible records many instances in which God used one individual to deliver His message to another individual. Acts 9:10-18, 10:1-33. God may speak to you through another individual—a friend, a parent, a pastor, even a stranger.
One of the best experiences I did had this last summer serving in my own country as a staff member with Sparrow, was being able to share my testimony for the first time.
And I know a lot of you reading this can relate to that, and know it is a big feeling. Being able to share the process of your trial, makes you understand God’s purposes through all the process. If you are going through a trial and you feel like you didn’t overcome it the best way you can, and you feel like you didn’t score a 100% in the test God sent you it doesn’t matter because your process can help another person. James 1:2-5
God did allow you to overcome it, the way you did, so His name will be glorified. Testimonies are the reason number #1 of being in a trial.
God tells us we should help each other and one of the best ways to help someone is by sharing our testimony because God want to use us. He uses our brokenness, our problems, our ups and downs, our process…“Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit”
More than just telling you how God talked to me through the whole summer, I want to take advantage and give a BIG THANK YOU from all Hondurans, for all of you that take time, invest money, pray, and do different activities to help and support Sparrow Missions. God is using you all and He wants to use you even more so don’t think He is done with you yet or that you are too broken or not worth it, because you are worth it and HE wants to use even your brokenness. We just need to die to ourselves and give Him all the glory in everything He does in our lives even though we don’t understand in the moment; He has a greater plan for you. Take advantage and use it to make His kingdom bigger.
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:6,7
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16
The whole book of Galatians has shadows of the concept of guidance. Paul addresses the church in Galatia intentionally because there is poor guidance being given to the new believers. He speaks of the guidance that we had before the time of the Christ and the Holy Spirit, which is the One who we walk by now today. We can forget how loving verse 16 is; as followers of Christ we have a desire to be with Him and seek what His will is in our lives. This verse is a promise to us. Those that walk in the Spirit will not carry out desires of the flesh, they are in direct opposition to each other. This is a gift from God, Himself, a gift of assistance. The Spirit frees us from personal trail blazing, we now have Someone to guide us out, away from the flesh forever. We no longer have to look for passion, motivation, life, that is all satisfied in Him.
I can remember moments during the summer the temptation was to look for our own way to solve issues but that’s when the Spirit would prick us back to His ways. The journey is one of respectful and reliant submission. Always being welcomed back to the path in love and joy. But it’s not fun being pricked even though it’s something we need and should desire. This pricking led to an amazing summer of service and worship in everyday life for us to show to God and to share with all the people that came to SMCH as well as many people in San Pedro Sula. For teams, interns and Sparrow leaders, this past summer was one that was a time of growth and also a time of learning how to rest in the Lord.
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters – Psalm 123:1,2
As our summer was coming to a close we were sitting at KFC thinking about what God had shown us about Himself and His character over the past few weeks and months. One of them was that he would always provide what we needed for today and only today. The green pastures in verse two are not what we always picture it as. When and where this was written, green pastures did not look like Sparrow Missions Children’s Home. They were not an expanse of vibrant grass, trees as far as the eye could see and fruits you never even knew existed. Green pastures were literally a little patch of grass that would be just enough for that day. The shepherd would lead his sheep daily to find this small patch of grass to provide sustenance for the day. The sheep therefore were in constant reliance of the shepherd, a relationship of provision and loving devotion because with their guide the sheep would have no hope of finding what they needed. This is seen with the Israelites wandering in the desert and God would provide manna for that day.
The water that is mentioned in the second part of verse 2 is quiet like peace we have in God. It’s still, the way our hearts will be in the face of worry with our perfect Provider. Not gushing or streaming like we so often desire of the Lord for “abundant blessings”. It’s just enough for today and it is perfect. This summer we had challenges but we would be led to the pasture or the water at the right time. God’s time, much different than what we expect or want, was and is what we are being disciplined to abide in.
he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. – Psalm 123:3
God is faithful to Himself, therefore, He is faithful to me. His name and His glory come first. Which is why He leads me down the right paths. God didn’t provide us with the things we need for us to be comfortable but rather for His name’s sake. God does all of these things for me, but it’s not about me. It’s not about safety or success or comfort. IT’S ABOUT HIS GLORY. And that’s it.