Mi Refugio, Missions and Our Mission

What does it mean to be a follower of Christ – to be a disciple?  I thought I knew.  But two experiences over the last two weeks have altered my perception radically.  I’d like to share them with you.

As my wife Jane and I prepared to leave for our mission trip to Guatemala, I was looking for a good book to read on the airplane and during any down time I might have.  I decided now would be a good time to dust off The Hole in our Gospel, by World Vision president Richard Stearns.  I had had it for months, but it just had not ascended to the top of my reading list.

I scanned the first few pages, and knew right away that it was a good choice.  It became the third leg of a stool – the other two being the mission experience itself and the bible study of the book of Matthew we did that week – each one contributing to a powerful and impactful experience that I hope and pray can lead to a renewed and refreshed perspective on what it means to be a Christ follower.

Our mission was to a school near Guatemala City named Mi Refugio, started by a sold-out servant named Kari Engen.  For an introduction to that the school is today, please watch these two videos. http://youtu.be/epXvLHkKNHQ and http://youtu.be/bSfrat3H2r0 .  But for some real perspective on where it all began, watch the 60 minute “Children Living in the Dump” documentary. 

Funny how my problems all start to just disappear when I realize how so many other human beings – people made in the image of God – would gladly eat the crumbs that fall from my table.

Some people ask God why he doesn’t do something about all the suffering.  Through these experiences I now realize that God is asking us why we don’t do something.  His job was to send His Son, to show us how we should live.  Our job is to do what the Son says.  If we did, the Kingdom would come, on earth as it is in Heaven.

Stearns points out that the words of the great commission (go and make disciples) cannot be fully understood without taking into account others such as Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25.  Isaiah 58 says in part:

2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Many Christians today seem to think that if they go to church worship services, treat other people with kindness and respect and pray, they are O.K.  After all, they reason, Jesus said that the two most important commandments are to love God and your neighbor, and that “all the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:40)  Yet when asked who our neighbor is, he answered with the parable of the prodigal son.  In so doing, he affirmed, it seems to me, this passage from Isaiah.  Your neighbor is anyone who has been yoked or oppressed, anyone who is hungry or in need of clothing or shelter.  He is one who needs something you can help with, if only you make a decision not to pass by on the other side.

In spite of that, many believers continue to cling to the belief that they don’t have to DO anything in order to be saved.  Some even believe that God chose them for eternity before the world began, and that there is nothing they can do, should do, or could do that would ever change that.  It’s an age-old argument.  But I do want to ask this: If that’s what you believe, what do you do with Matthew 25:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

We are saved BY grace through faith, but we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)  And if we know what we are supposed to do, and we don’t do it, we will be the ones standing outside weeping and gnashing our teeth.  Because He will say “I never knew you”.

Kari Engen is not one of those people.  She has the kind of faith that I most admire.  It is not easy to be a good Samaritan.  It is even harder to be a full time missionary in a third-world country.  Not everyone is called to the same mission.  But we all have a mission.  Most of us never find out what it is, because we never really submit ourselves to God’s will to see what it is.  I don’t want to be one of those people.

How about you?

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8 thoughts on “Mi Refugio, Missions and Our Mission

  1. Stephen

    Great post. You gave me a copy of The Hole in our Gospel earlier in the year. The book reinforced my commitment to missions and help me appreciate World Vision, an organization I knew very little about. Thanks again.

  2. Good observations. The Hole in our Gospel is a great book for anyone moving towards a second career or just wanting to broaden one’s impact in the world. With regard to Matt. 25, I think you have to interpret this scripture by scripture or the works vs grace conundrum will be confusing. John gives us another perspective. Notice that he indicates that love for other Christians is an indication of one’s salvation status:
    — 1 John 3:10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
    — 1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.
    — 1 John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.
    — John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

    So I think love for one’s brother or one’s neighbor is a direct fruit of salvation, and those who do not demonstrate this love may not be truly saved. Hence, Jesus statement “I never knew you.” That is not to say that Christians are never unloving or cold — we can all use the reminder to do more that will bring honor and glory to Jesus — but we shouldn’t worry about losing our salvation because we haven’t done ‘enough’ to please God either. For a bit more on this theme see 1 Cor. 4:1-5.

    Blessings, Paul

    1. Thanks for commenting Paul. I do want to respond to one thing you said, though. The question of losing our salvation is a meaningless distraction to me. I say that not because I’m personally worried I might lose mine, but because it takes focus off of the bigger question of what God expects of those who are saved. The Arminian says salvation must be earned, and it is therefore possible to lose what was gained. The Calvinist says that if one falls from the faith, he was never saved in the first place. It’s a distinction, but is it a difference? Either way, the person everyone thought was saved, falls away. Jesus, in his parable of the sower, pointed out that “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.” So understanding the Word is of paramount importance.

      But It’s not just a matter of personal salvation. Whether we have been saved because we were predestined to salvation or by our volitional act of faith, we were “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” That means that we should understand that we need to be about the business of looking for opportunities to “love our neighbor” through acts of kindness, love and mercy. We need to be asking God, as Bob Pierce (founder of World Vision) did, “Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours.”

      We are all called to be good Samaritans. We must be willing to take our eyes off of the things they were on before we saw the suffering that we encounter on the road to somewhere else. We must be willing to stop and serve, even though doing so is inconvenient and costly. James, in chapter 2 says “14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”

      And consider Jesus and the fig tree with no fruit. He said to it “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered. What’s the point? Was Jesus mad at the tree? Hardly. Like pretty much everything he said, he used it to make a point. I think he was telling us ‘Go and make fruit. If you don’t, you’re useless to me.

  3. Paul Schomburg

    John: I definitely agree that we all need encouragement to pursue good works that glorify God (1 Tim 6:18). I think scripture teaches that bearing fruit is a result of how the tree was created. Jesus said: “”Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.” [Mat. 12:33]. As you quoted in the post, we are “_created_ in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” [Eph 2:10]. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing that pleases God [John 15:5], — even Jesus said He could do nothing on His own initiative [John 15:7]. So if a child of God is unfruitful, God steps in to discipline us like a father [Heb 12:11], pruning away the things that block fruit bearing [John 15:2]. It is the dead branches who are cut off — not those who were made alive in Christ.

    So, let’s continue “to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
    [Heb 10:24-25] Thanks for stimulating me brother!

    1. So here’s a question: Is it possible that a brother who wants to do what is right, but who is being tugged at by worldly temptations – is it possible that he hears our exhortations to be loving not just in well-wishing, but in acts of loving kindness, and turns, assuring that he is counted among those who were made alive in Christ? Being a Christ-follower does not take us out of the world, nor does it assure us that we are made impervious to worldly influences,

      And who is to say that our encounter on the road to Jerico, our chance to be a good Samaritan is not with someone whose needs are not literal food or water or clothing, etc., but spiritual guidance?

  4. The more I study and try to learn, the more confused I become. Perhaps my study and learning is inadequate and lacks true commitment. Should my judgement prevail, I would not select me to be saved. The needs of this world are overwhelming, even in my immediate family, the need and suffering on a worldly and spiritual basis is staggering. It appears to me to be of such magnitude that only God can undo the carnage evil has caused the people of God and those who do not yet know Him. Even the little I am able to do seems so inadequate and ineffective, yet I trust in the word of God to hope that by my faith I will be saved. I still try to deliver this message to my family and others.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Mike. And yes, it is of such a magnitude that we can do little to help. But when we do even the smallest, most insignificant good deed, we are doing it for Jesus Himself! Mother Theresa used to say that in the faces of the poor she saw Jesus Himself, in His “most distressing disguise.”

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