Friday, December 2, 2011

More Than Imagined

Haiti is a hard place in which to sleep. On a mission trip this summer, I learned this in a profound way. It was still 90 degrees when we went to bed. The small fans we shared gave minimal relief. The bed felt more like a summer camp bunk than my comfortable bed at home. The excitement of the day swirled in my brain as I closed my eyes each night. The sounds of the street—car horns, goats, chickens, barking dogs—were constant disruptions. But then there was one more thing—a 17 year old American kid named Zac in the bunk next to me. Every night, he’d sit on his bunk and journal page after page about his experiences of the day. He wasn’t noisy at all, he just needed the light on.

I thought about asking him to find a time earlier in the evening to do this, but it seemed that this was an important time for him. I learned later that journaling was not something he did at home, but rather this was special to his week in Haiti. It was evident that something very personal was happening to him. I sure didn’t want to disrupt that. So, I would pop in my headphones, close my eyes and listen to some music as I reflected on my experiences that day. The light would eventually go off and sleep would come to everyone.

Last week, I got to sit with Zac and talk about the trip. It has been four months since we were in Haiti. Zac was preparing for a presentation he will make to his high school about his trip. He asked me for some help in preparing for his talk. We brainstormed outlines, outcomes, and stories. At the end of our conversation, he went to his car and came back with his journal. He asked me to read it to see if there were any stories I thought needed to be highlighted. He had so much to tell and needed some help narrowing things down a bit.

As I read his journal, I was impressed with the words that had been penned in the bunk next to mine. I was intrigued by how a high school senior was processing the sights, smells, sounds, and experiences of such an intense place as Haiti. As I read, I could tell that something very personal and profound had happened in this young man’s soul. I could even sense that something bigger was happening with this experience; and that through Zac’s experience, others would become engaged in God’s work in Haiti. He wanted this experience to impact others.

For many people who go on mission trips, the impact of the experience is short lived. Life’s routines tend to choke out the potential changes in people’s lives shortly after they return. There are great stories to tell but their life doesn’t change much. But Zac was determined to have his Haiti experience live on through his senior year. His presentation to the student body will be to ask their help in aiding the people of Haiti. He is committed to creating awareness to the needs of Haiti and the work that God is doing there. He also made a great big goal of raising $5,000 to send to the ministry we served on our trip. This goal will engage him his entire senior year.

The Bible is filled with stories of God doing something personal with someone; but as read the story you sense that there’s something bigger going on. The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth is a perfect illustration. Here’s an elderly couple who has never had children—a disgrace in most ancient societies. God comes to Zechariah to announce that he’ll be a father. Zechariah has some reasonable doubts and God gives him nine months of not being able to speak. We learn that his baby is not only a special gift to this deeply devoted but disgraced old couple, but he will be a gift to the people of Israel. This baby, named John, will be the messenger and forerunner to the Messiah, Jesus, the incarnate Son of God. The planet will be spiritually changed because of what God set in motion through John. Four hundred years of silence from God will end through this old couple and their baby.

There are times in life when we sense God giving us a very personal and intimate gift. But, he has a way of linking these personal gifts with something more grand, cosmic, and bigger than we could imagine. We are blessed to become a blessing. We are given gifts to become good givers. We are given life-giving truth to pass it on. We are encouraged to become an encouragement to others.

As you step into the Christmas season, take inventory of the beautiful personal gifts God has given you. Don’t just settle for having a sense of gratitude, look for something bigger. Could God be doing something more than you ever imagined with the gift he’s given you? Zac, who had a cool mission experience in Haiti, would tell you that God may be up to something bigger. Maybe we need to think bigger. Maybe we need pray bigger—this week!

1 comment:

  1. Phil-thanks for this post. I was in Haiti a year ago as a sixty-something and was very touched. My journaling was done on an iPad and with a Flip video camera. And I like your last paragraph which I'm sure is a preview of Jeff's sermon. I will take that inventory of the "beautiful personal gifts God has given you." Wes