It was all a little intimidating when we first arrived but, having been here for four days, I would not have missed this for anything in the world.
I am writing this early Thursday morning. I can see the beginning glow of a sunrise. Light breaking through and eliminating the darkness. (And, yes, the dogs are barking … and I am still protecting them, Ed.)
The word I cannot erase from my mind is “Joy”. We saw this word here in the form a Christmas wall hanging in a room that was filled with 18 beds for terminal patients. (A stuffed Goofy doll hung in a nearby corner.) Some patients were out and about. Five of them could not be. The room looked like it could not even hold out the rain but yet it was meticulously neat and I would have eaten off the floor. This was a scene, though, with folks struggling for their next labored breath, where you would not think joy could possibly exist … but it did exist. The director’s name escapes me right now (yeah, Seth, it’s part of that old man thing) but he absolutely exuded joy because he is doing exactly what God put him here to do. The “purity of the call” as I have said as we have met folks truly giving up everything to serve those that God and they love. I know many wonderful people doing ministry in the states, both “professional” and the ministry we’re all called to … may we all develop the purity that the folks we met in Tijuana have.
There are so many other examples of the joy that we have seen here, in the form of the many points of Light which we encountered. Sister Myriam (who I still think could possibly be Emeril’s sister), Donna, Sarah, Martha, Seth G, Sergio, Chris, Sasha, my little buddy Asrael (sp?) and so very many others who I hope we can talk about here in the blog in future weeks. All tremendous points of Light and all examples of joy in the unlikeliest of places.
I am leaving the group a day early due to a family commitment. I am anxious as all get out to see my family but a huge sadness sweeps over me with the thought of leaving behind these points of Light, this city, my teammates, this joy. All in a place that does not have the comforts of home. Yet not having those comforts reminds us of those who are hurting, reminds us of the calling, and develops purity of the call.
We need to continue celebrating the joy that is in the points of Light we have met here but today, as I prepare to leave, I want to celebrate my teammates … the points of Light that they are … the joy they have brought to me. I love you all so much and it has been a great week of learning, talking, sharing really deep stuff, crying and laughing. In no particular order, here are some quick thoughts on why I love each of you so very much.
Beth – wow, it’s been huge getting to know you better this week. I have always thought so highly of you but we just had never had the opportunity to spend much time together. I love you for your authenticity. What pureness of heart and willingness to share you have. I love you for holding the hands of the terminal patients. We know how God had prepared you for that day but your genuineness in always being the vessel He wants you to be … well, I love you for that. It is hugely inspiring.
Pam – I am not sure how much even you realize it but you are an encourager – our Barnabas. I love you for your sweet spirit and your words which are so eloquent and so encouraging of others and so from a heart of God. I love you for your voice and the way that you use that gift for His glory, just as we are all called to do. There is no one I’d rather hear sing than you. And on this trip, I heard you sing in a different way – with your heart which is after more God and wants bigger things for Him. Keep singing, girl.
Lisa – I love you for the joy which literally pours out of you but yet also for your ability to be one of the most empathetic and caring people I know. You have absolutely no idea how huge your personal ministry is at Sidney First and among those who know you. And that is another reason I love you. For you, it’s not really “ministry” because that word implies something a person has to work at. For you, it is just this natural outflow of God’s love. That’s the way it should be for us all. Wow. You are huge. (And, no, that comment has nothing to do with birthing hips.)
Erin – Oh my, so many spiritual things I could say about you, all the basis of love for all who know you but I love you most because you make me laugh. Joy overflows from you and you have a sense of humor that is infectious and incredible. As someone who sees laughter as being one of the key things that God and the Spirit give us to bring us comfort and strength along this journey, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate and love the fact that you can make me laugh. Again, like Lisa, you have no idea how huge your ministry is and I love you for that as well.
Seth – This is all your fault, you know. The fact that a city a couple thousand miles away has gotten into my heart. I think we both knew it would happen and it did. I love you for your constant seeking of God and for your intentional desire to follow him. I love you for the example you set for both youth and adults. God is doing great things in and through you … you’re responding with a purity and willingness that is so inspirational. I love you for your openness and your willingness to be who He calls you to be. You know where your worth comes from – not from man but from above. Remembering that will keep you on a path of always being where He wants you to be, and bring you comfort in not always following the ways of the “rest of the pack.” And I love you for not making too big of a deal out of the fact that I am almost three times your age. After all, when I’m 125 and you’re 97, let’s face it, we will both be really really old and dealing with that whole W.U.S. thing (you had to be there for that one). Wow. You’re huge man. I can’t think of a better person to be aligned with as we see where God is leading His work in Tijuana.
Dan – I don’t know what to say. I love ya man. In your very humble and unassuming way, you have been one of the biggest spiritual mentors in my life. And you are that for so many other people as well. You have a way to inspire hearts and bring them to life through the teaching of God’s word that is huge. I love you for your naturalness and for the joy that is on your face when you’re interacting with our friends in Tijuana. You always recognize Jesus and you chase hard after Him, calling the attention of others as you go. And finally, I love you for asking questions like “So, where did God intersect with you today?” when the only thing I can think of is the taxi cab we almost intersected with. (Heehee)
Ed – I love you for the way you played with the kids. We could see you living out a calling on your life as your joy spilled over to them. I love you for your servant’s heart – throughout this trip, you have always been there for your teammates, to help and to encourage. And I love you for the questions you asked … for your analytical mind that wants to get to the root causes of a problem but does so in a humble, caring and gentle way. That is a huge part of discernment and God has gifted you with an ability which I really need to learn from.
I think that is everyone from our team. I love you all. What a week it’s been.
As I prepare to leave this place of joy and return home, I hope that I can carry with me an approach to life that is even one-hundredth of the way to being a point of Light like we saw here. I hope that I can carry joy like we have seen here back to Sidney.
So, in Dan-style, I will leave everyone with a couple of questions. Where is your joy today? And where will it be tomorrow and the day after and the day after? For I believe that, as folks following hard after Jesus, we can all answer that question right now for the rest of our lives. Don’t you?