The God of Tegucigalpa

I’m not a poet, but sometimes I’m compelled to write in my own, unique style of verse. So it is with my recap of the week Audrey and I spent this summer in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

We went with a team led by our dentist and friend Dr. Bob Ward of First Lavaca (Arkansas). And we worked under the direction of World Gospel Outreach, an organization that has learned through the years how to truly honor God and serve the physical and spiritual needs of people in efficient and powerful ways. It was, frankly, the most impactful mission trip I’ve ever taken, and this ode won’t do it justice. But it’s all I have.

We took a ton of photos, a few of which I’ve included. Click here to see more.

God Moved

I asked the Lord:
“Show me a revelation;
“Move within me;
“Move within us;
“Heal this land;
“Heal these people;
“Make Your Glory known.”

We flew in fast, and we landed hard,
Because this is Tegucigalpa – its mountains high, its runway short.

The adventure had just begun;
Pedro took us up and down the mountain,
Through the city and into the countryside,
Driving his yellow school bus like an Indy car,
Smiling all the time.

We came, of course, to help;
A “brigade,” they called it;
A troop of foreigners and nationals,
Joining together in the inward parts of this city,
Offering what we could ….
To provide basic medical, dental, and optical care …
To wash and style the hair of children, treat their hair for lice, paint their nails, and watch them smile …
To pour a concrete floor or paint the random boards
That serves as walls for a shack a family knows as “home” …
To listen, to pray, and to share God’s grace.

Could we make a difference? Really? In this city?
The pollution burned our nostrils, stung our eyes;
We saw pain and heartache holding so many in its vise grips;
Hopelessness attacking their souls, prisoners walking in the streets;
“Who are we,” I asked? “Who am I?”
Poverty had been taking root in these hills of silver for nearly 500 years;
We were here for just a week!
Could we make a difference? Really? In this city?

Evil lurked, whispered his lies,
Distorted truth, twisted hope into despair;
He will not win, I remembered;
He's already been defeated;
Christ's heal has struck his head;
Jesus lives and evil's hold will not prevail!

Could we make a difference? Really? In this city?
Could we make a difference?
Not us … but Christ within us.

So we served and watched Him work;
We saw a double rainbow from the clouds,
Vibrant colors painting the Honduran sky;
We saw God's face in those we loved:
A son, daughter, granddaughter, husband, wife … a stranger … a newfound friend; 
We saw God’s mercies, grace, and faithfulness, 
All written in the faces – of children, young men and women, the elderly; 
They had hope; 
They had Hope. 

We smelled the coffee beans as they roasted, 
High up in the mountains, where the air is clean and fresh; 
We saw papaya growing by a squatter’s shanty house, 
Nestled down a hill on a dirt patch just off an unpaved city street; 
We laughed with the lady who said she had "a zoo" in her tummy; 
We laughed more when we heard about the granny 
Who packed a pistol on her hip and Jesus in her heart; 
And we cried as we washed each other's feet; 
Tears of joy, tears of life, tears of love; 
And along the way we heard the words angels long to hear: 
"Yes, I need Jesus!" 
"Yes, I want Jesus!" 
"Yes, I love Jesus!" 
Another 80-plus souls signed up for heaven; 
Another 70-plus recommitted their lives to the Way. 

And when we stopped … 
When we paused to look and listen … 
All around us, 
All within us,  
All among us; 
Here’s what we saw … 
Our God moved; 
Our God moves! 
Praise His holy name!
  • Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 6/30/17

3 Lessons from Lunch with an Atheist

The atheist invited me to lunch. He wanted to ask about Jesus.

I played it cool.

Externally: “Sure, man. Let’s roll.”

Internally: Fist pumps. Shouts of, “Yes!!!”

photo credit: Split Pea and Ham Soup via photopin (license)

This is what followers of Jesus in the secular marketplace long for, right? A chance to be salt and light to a co-worker who is suddenly eager to hear about God’s redeeming love.

So we went to lunch, me and the atheist.

He shared some of his the troubles. He asked why believing in God would make any difference in his life. And he asked why I “bought into Jesus.”

I listened. I asked questions. I made observations. I shared from my personal experiences as an agnostic-turned-believer. I gave him blunt answers to his blunt questions. I drew stuff on a napkin.

He listened. He asked more questions. He made more observations. He looked at the stuff I drew on the napkin.

We spent more than an hour talking about life, death, and God. And guess what happened?

Well, that was more than 10 years ago and, as far as I know, he’s still an atheist.

On the one hand, he left with a clear understanding of mankind’s sinfulness and the solution Jesus provides for anyone who seeks forgiveness, grace and redemption. On the other hand, I felt like a failure. Intellectually, I knew better. But I had invested emotionally into this friendship—and others in our office. Why wasn’t I seeing fruit? Surely it was my fault.

There are times when I still experience this type of frustration. But a few decades in the marketplace mission field has driven home an important theological point: It’s not about me, it’s about God.

That’s easy to forget in a results-oriented culture, especially when the challenges of life are beating on us like the winds of a hurricane – when Satan whispers (or shouts): “You’re not good enough!” So when the storms begin to form, here are a few things that help calm my waters:

  1. Remember the seed-planters. When I feel like I’m not making a difference in the world, I make a mental list of all the people who invested in my journey who have no idea I’m no longer the same misguided agnostic they once tried to help.
  2. Disrobe and un-gavel. One of my sisters is a federal judge. She gets paid to judge others and interpret the law. Not me. So why should I judge myself (and others) when it’s so clearly not my job?
  3. Take my medicine. Sometimes I enter into a conversation believing God is using me to teach the other person something. That might be true, but too often I arrogantly miss something God is trying to teach me. God is sometimes working through me, but He’s always work in me and on me.

In our work, we set goals and we’re held accountable for the results. In the Kingdom of God, we act in obedience and leave the results to Him. We can get uptight when the results aren’t what we expected or wanted, or we can remember that God is far more qualified than we are to spin this world forward as He sees fit.