So here we are. We've completed our first three months as full-time missionaries in Honduras and two weeks with family in Colorado. The Honduran Government only grants 90-day visas, so we had to leave the country for a few days to get a renewal. Now we are going home; home to Honduras. Lately, I find that writing has somehow become harder and I have less and less to say so Cathy, and I are writing this one together.
I guess the thing that sticks out most for me is also the single most frequently recurring conversational motif among family and friends both on social media and in person;
"I hope your new life is all that you hoped it would be."
I can't help but think that some are expecting to hear that it is not. My answer? "It's better than I could have ever imagined." You see I blindly followed God's call to Honduras. And unlike Brian,
I had no idea what, if anything I had to offer. I went in faith, and I am a blessed woman. Of course, there are day to day discomforts like no hot water if we have water at all, the ninety-degree heat and ninety-percent humidity, walking home in the dark through ankle deep mud in the rain, the electrical grid going down for days at a time. There are snakes, and stomach viruses and the most frustrating part of all, the language barrier. I hate not being able to communicate clearly and effortlessly. But I also have the freedom to wake up every day and seek God, to put Him first and go where He is leading me that day. Every day is an adventure in not knowing. Trusting God is just part of the journey, as He has been faithful to provide me with my purpose here at the City of Refuge.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised, given our past experience, that Tom and Teresa would ask me to oversee all the female missionary interns. But I was. Did I feel equipped, prepared and confident to step into this position? Absolutely not! But now I can see how God has prepared me for exactly such a time as this! God also knows how much I like surprises. As it turns out having no agenda beyond a desire to commune more deeply with Papa God as we entered the mission field opened doors to opportunities beyond our wildest dreams.
So what does life look like for me each day? Well, some days are spent just being present with the kids. For example, I might be helping with soaking and worship, or teaching a journaling class, or helping Brian teach video. I might be shooting video, taking pictures of kids or construction progress or interviewing people for social media.
Still, on other days, you might find me speeding through cartel territory in the back of a pickup truck, on top of a mountain worshiping God under the stars, tagging along on a medical outreach, or feeding people at the dump as part of our outreach team.
Of course, I'm always taking pictures where ever I go. In fact, I've found still photography to be an awesome tool for transcending language barriers and connecting with people from different cultures. It seems that like Africa, nearly everyone here loves having their picture taken.
And then there are the horses. I've always loved horses. I guess you could call them my third greatest love. I want to use them as a tool for working with the children. I'm very excited about what the future holds. I guess you could say that we are dirt poor and love rich and living our dream.
Jesus said, He that loves his life shall lose it, and He that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto eternal life." (Jn. 12:25)" Which brings me to my recent time in Africa. Every day in Mozambique began with two hours of worshipping God. I was on my face most of the time, letting go, giving everything thing I held precious to God. I was counting the cost. I laid my children, grandchildren, sisters, my mother, family, and friends at the foot of the cross. He asked me, "Are you willing to answer this call to missions even if it means never seeing your family and loved ones again on this side of heaven?" I wept until I could hardly breathe. Of course, my answer was "yes," but it wasn't easy and was a part of a process of dying to self. I realize this might be hard for some to understand. But when you let go of a loved one, you are relinquishing control you don’t have anyway and entrusting them to God. I take God at His Word. Jesus tells us "...except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Mat. 18:3) Those are strong words. But God has given us permission, truth, and a key to trusting Him! We can trust Him as our small children trust us to care for them with the only difference being that He does not fail. What better place to place our trust than in the Creator of all things seen and unseen? I'm not tooting my own horn here and claiming to be some remarkable woman of faith. I just know that I know that I'm on the right path and that there is no turning back. "Glory to glory," He says! (Ps. 34:8) "O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him." I choose to lay my earthly life down and step into the Kingdom of heaven (or rather let heaven get into me) while here on earth. Jesus mentioned this when he was instructing us how to pray. " ...thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Mat. 6:1-15) I take this very personally. THY will be done IN MY heart as it is in heaven. I can't wait for anyone or any event to happen to manifest this. It can happen today at this very moment! Kingdom living, revival, awakening, being born again, having Faith Hope and Love or whatever you want to call it takes place on an individual basis. Papa God through His Holy Spirit wants a relationship with us personally! He fills us up, and we overflow! When this happens, nothing can stop it! Think about it. What feeds Fire but breath, wind, oxygen. This is simply a way to walk out one's life here on earth. It doesn't matter if you are a missionary or a soldier, a janitor or a CEO, a schoolteacher or a student, a billionaire or a homeless pauper. We can all become childlike and know that Papa God holds us in the palm of His hand. It's an invitation to a more abundant life free of worry and anxiety regardless if we are deep in a valley or on a mountain top. It only requires one small thing about the size of a mustard seed. That is faith! What do you have to lose? That's an important question that everyone should answer. The answer is what lead me here to Honduras.
“When a poor person dies of hunger it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed. We have refused to be instruments in the hands of God to give the poor a piece of bread, to offer them a dress with which to ward off the cold. It happened because we did not recognize Christ when, once more, He appeared under the guise of pain, identified with a man numb from the cold, dying of hunger, when he came in a lonely human being, in a lost child in search of a home.”
Cathy is incredibly spiritual and definitely more of a mystic than me. I am more superficial and obsessed with worldly contrasts like those between prosperous nations that appear to be losing their collective minds and souls and poorer ones like Honduras that seem to be gaining theirs. I know there is nothing new under the sun, that everything we see in the world today is part of a larger historical cycle that one day will culminate in a proverbial harvest. Even so, I am still bewildered by those who root their identity and worth as individuals in perceptions of people and things they have never met or encountered, by people that can't or won't recognize debate as an opportunity to learn and discover the truth, those who vilify and kill each other over politics and race. I am stupefied by the distress of so many Americans who have so much, refuse to give and are so utterly miserable. I am amazed at how good a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a plate of beans tastes here.
To answer the original question: My life here is better and fuller than I ever could have imagined. This is a good thing because imagination is often one of my biggest problems.
For example, I have always hated snakes. Or rather, I feared snakes. I'm not speaking about rational fear. I'm talking about full on irrational phobic fear. In fact, I might not have stayed in Hawaii as long as I did were it not a snake free zone. I am also pretty sure that snakes are one of the top three reasons most people refuse to visit us here. As it turns out I've killed two rattle snakes since we've been here. One was in our house. The other was on the walkway between the baby and the girl's dorms. The farmers killed another six-footer behind our house where I hang laundry barefoot. Still another one practically slithered over my toes while I was walking outside our house. I would have killed that one too, but it was too quick and apparently more afraid of me than I was of it. Ironically, no one here has ever been bitten by a snake. Funny thing is I worry less about Honduran snakes now that I've encountered them in person instead of just my imagination. As it turns out, they want to eat rats, not children and mainly just want to be left alone.
Of course, there is Honduras's reputation for being the second or third most dangerous nation in the Western Hemisphere which is a sign of progress. It was in first place when we started coming here in 2008. Even so, this is still number one stated reason why people won't visit us. But I get it. Years ago, we were afraid to venture beyond the front gate by ourselves. Now we drive through alleged cartel and gang territory on outreach. I've heard stories of mean Honduran people and I'm sure I'll meet a mean one someday. It just hasn't happened yet.
As it turns out, after living here for three months and then spending two weeks in the USA, I am convinced that the good old USA is a much more dangerous place than most of Honduras. Please don't misunderstand. I love my country, and I will continue to pray for my people and our president. It's just that spending most of the past year outside of it has made the futility of politics, the absurdity of mainstream media manipulation and the toxic effects of rejecting Jesus Christ for materialism more apparent than ever to me. You and I can philosophize and debate about Jesus ad infinitum, but the fact remains that He said He is the way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through Him. I have found this, by way of personal experience, to be an absolute. The longer I stay away, the more I internalize the fact that knowing God is all that matters in the end. It's about knowing Jesus more and finding my true life in Him. That's why I am here. It's not about my being some humanitarian cow boy, and I'm certainly no Mother Teresa or whatever image you might have in your mind regarding how a good Christian or a missionary should look. In fact, I'm still the same crazy, hyperactive guy with the same crazy sense of humor. I'm also still selfish and self-centered and it just so happens that the easiest place for me to find Jesus is in the eyes of poor and down trodden here in Honduras. But there are poor and down trodden people everywhere, and I can't help but wonder, as each day goes by if we aren't training future missionaries who will go to the USA one day.
"The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God."
We are Brian and Cathy Gray formerly of Gray Hope Productions.
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