Santa Teresa, Belize has been a joyful point of ministry for several years. That ministry has been rewarding and inspiring on many levels. And this week’s work has been a difficult mission in many ways. In fact, the two previous posts almost had the title: My Most Difficult Mission. I didn’t use that because I knew the work was not yet done. But this week has proven my original thought. It has brought great joy and it has brought tears. So let me give you a look at this very unique mission.
Santa Teresa: Parting – Sweet Sorrow
Shakespeare’s line from Romeo and Juliet seems fitting. One agenda item for this week has been to work out a proper parting with our friends in Belize. A truly healthy model and practice of missions promotes independence. Fellow believers should be equipped for healthy and independent Kingdom ministry. When that stage is reached in one place then resources and energies can be focused on another area of need. And that is where Mission: Hope finds itself with our work in Belize. As you might guess, the ‘exit mission’ is not done often. And I have never had to lead that kind of mission.
The difficulties above are actually the easier ones! It’s one thing to have a healthy model of missions and to understand why that’s necessary. It’s another thing to implement that model and simultaneously communicate to everyone that we are not just going to cut ties and run away. That wouldn’t be a good thing. It’s a little bit like raising your children to be healthy, independent adults. They get jobs and their own homes and set about building their own lives. Then you enjoy them when you get to visit. In that same way we will not forget or abandon friends with whom we have shared so much. We will visit. But the focus of our work will move to other areas of need.
Santa Teresa: Ministry of Encouragement
I don’t know how others might address a mission with those distinct needs. My approach was to focus on encouragement. And to be very transparent, that turned out to be a big challenge. The difficulty wasn’t in knowing how be encouraging. It was in two facts:
- We have an enemy
- Eager, encouraged believers threaten our enemy
So staffing this mission was unusually difficult. Funding this mission was unusually difficult. We departed with about 75% of the funds necessary to do all we would like to have done. And these difficulties lasted through our departure time. The nurse who wanted to be part of the team didn’t get to go at all and one team member had his departure flight canceled. He arrived a day late and then his luggage didn’t arrive for two more days. The challenges just seemed like they would never stop. It might have been worse but for the prayers of God’s people! And then we arrived in Santa Teresa…
Santa Teresa: Graduating Pastors
I’ll try to deal with the funding issues when I get home. But the challenges I have shared (above) are in this post for perspective. Those were/are real problems that must be addressed. As real as those challenges have been, they paled in comparison with the very evident presence of God in our work. Our Father likes His children to be eager and encouraged. In fact, He commands us to encourage one another! And that’s what the graduation was all about.
There were many other parts of this week’s work. I will share those in coming posts. This one is about the words of encouragement God gave for the pastors. And I share them because they:
- Were given in answer to your prayers
- Should encourage you
- Will help you pray for these dear friends in and around Santa Teresa
We began with Moses’ words from Psalm 90. That Psalm has been the basis for more than one devotional post on these pages! Moses’ prayer at the end of that Psalm was:
Lord, establish the work of our hands
I unfolded the Psalm for the pastors and the attending crowd. And when I had explained from the Psalm why the prayer was a model for all of us, I told the men I would be praying that very thing for them as they came across the platform in the graduation ceremony. That is what is happening in some of the pictures you see.
I Thessalonians 3
The message closed with some of Paul’s words to the Thessalonian church. This was a cause for joy but it also brought tears. Never before have I had such an identification with the heart of the Apostle as I did in applying his words to our friends in Santa Teresa. Just see the verses that follow and I think you will get the picture. We begin with verses 6-8:
But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.
The challenges of this mission don’t even begin to compare with the trials and persecutions Paul faced. But I began to get the picture as I saw the faith of these pastors and the people entrusted to their care. I saw them engage, study and learn. And I also heard them pray all week. The sense of peace I had about them was something I could almost hold in my hand. It was what Paul meant when we said, For now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord. That should be equally real to all who have invested time, talent and treasure in this work.
For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?
Is is possible to thank God enough for the joy we felt in seeing these pastors graduate? Could we thank Him enough for allowing us to have a part in equipping them for His service? Didn’t we rejoice in seeing our prayers for them being answered? You know the answers and I hope you share the thoughts expressed by Paul.
Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.
This is a short prayer. It was Paul’s heart for the Thessalonians and it is my heart for the pastors and people of Belize.
There was joy and we shed tears. But we can return knowing that our Father will do great things through these fellow believers we have come to love so much. Please pray for them, and please pray for us as we return home. Finally, pray about our first visit. When? I don’t know. Maybe 15-18 months from now. I’ll be hearing from these friends and I’ll share that with you!