Final thoughts by Brad
Have you ever pretended to NOT hear someone, and then keep going? Maybe they even call to you again, but with the same result…you just keep ignoring them? How did it turn out? Typically, they finally catch up to you, and then you say, “Oh, sorry…I didn’t hear you”. Why do we do that? Because, we typically don’t want to hear what that person has to say.
If your usual response to the plight of others is, “So sad…but it’s not my problem”, then you may want to stop reading this blog post. You may NOT want to hear what I am about to say. I’m going to give my final thoughts about our Guatemala trip, and they may not be what you expect.
I am going to skip over detailing what we accomplished on our trip. God did so many amazing things. The other men and I have kept a very detailed blog from each day. I hope you will go back and start from the beginning (around 1/25/15), and read as the trip progressed (read blog). Then, come back and read this final blog post. Last chance! OK. Here we go!
What's the difference?
So, what’s the difference between the people of Guatemala and the USA? Other than about 1,500 miles…nothing! I spent a week going into people’s homes, hearing story after story of broken relationships, death and heartbreak. And I will still say the same thing…there is no difference between them and the people in your own city…in your own home. We are all the same. Books have been written about how small the world has actually become. Most of the time people are trying to convince us we are financially connected. I contend we are connected on a much more basic level. Our souls are plagued by the same core issues…greed, lust, selfishness and hopelessness.
One difference I notice between the people in Guatemala and the USA is their willingness to admit their lives are in shambles. They can’t hide behind the facades we have here, because they can’t afford to. They can’t eat, because they don’t have a job. Husbands leave their families to begin new lives, and there is no recourse. They have no place to turn, no one that will listen. They do the only thing that will actually work…they cry out to God! In America, we pride ourselves on being “self-made people”. Speaking about the pain in our souls is typically seen as weakness…especially in the hearts of men. The old commercial said, “Never let them see you sweat”. We say, “Never let your guard down”. I have heard many times in my life, “God is for weak people”. Well, this is where it’s about to get personal…”We are all weak…you just don’t realize it!”
Pain and suffering are all around us. Children die young, marriages are ending at a catastrophic rate, and suicide and depression are much too common, especially in our teenager’s lives. We grow older and our bodies begin to fall apart. Yet, we say, “I’m OK…I don’t need any help!” I fly with so many men at the pinnacle of their career who put on a brave face, and when you dig a little, you realize the amount of pain and tragedy that is very close to the surface. It’s like we are going down with the ship, all the time saying there is no problem.
Response in Guatemala
Our first day in Guatemala was with a woman named Etylvena, who suffered from years of abuse. Her response in the midst of it all? Cry out for help. Next day was Isabella. Same situation…same response: “God, help me! Show me the way out of this!” Each day, you never knew “who” the home visit was about. That’s right…not “what”, but “who”. One day we went to install a stove in the home of Sebastian, who we met at the men’s Bible study. During our visit, it was apparent we were there for Chris to share the Gospel with his younger brother Edwin. The walls on his heart were so high. Chris felt led by God to wash Edwin’s feet, as a display of how much Jesus loved His disciples. Jesus said He came to serve, not be served.
What if I came to your house, and in the midst of your child’s life struggles, I took off their shoes and began to wash their feet? I began to tell them “about who God is, how He created them, how much He loves them, and actually cared enough to pay the price for their sins. That the free gift of salvation was available to him/her if they would only stop fighting against God, and receive the love of the Father that gave them life?” Some of you may be squirming right now. You would probably stop me, and maybe even ask me to leave. Do you know what the result would be? Your child would continue to suffer from the same depression and heartache they face in their lives right now. Why? Because we simply will not turn to the only person who can cure us…Jesus Christ. Many recoil at the mere mention of that Name. What about Edwin’s parents? Did they kick Chris out? Did they ask him to stop and leave their home? No, they actually welcomed it. We saw Edwin’s heart begin to melt. The walls did come down, and he began to weep. He accepted the love and help that was being offered. Healing came to Edwin’s life and soul.
We met a dad named Victoriano. He worked hard to provide for his family, but it was not enough. They still went hungry, could not go to school and were barely surviving. As we began to talk with Victoriano about his standing before God, he did not jump up and tell us to leave. On the contrary, he listened intently, opened his heart and began to weep. He knew the words that were being spoken were true. He felt separated from God, knew that his heart was broken, twisted and in need of healing. Victoriano received the help that would change his life…here on Earth and in Heaven.
In America, we have savings accounts, jobs and a roof over our head. We have been trained to believe we can accomplish anything if we simply put our mind to it. Anything is possible! The reality is, we are actually one diagnosis, job loss, financial meltdown or heartbeat away from having our mortality shown to us. The very events that should be driving us to the feet of our Savior, actually embolden many rebellious hearts. Bad diagnosis? There must be some medical cure. Job loss? Unemployment benefits. Financial meltdown? Bailout.
It's not political
In one week of discussing people’s tragedies and problems, the topic of politics never came up. This is not a political or government problem. This cannot be solved by nationalism or positive thinking. I love America, and am proud to have served in the military. The problem is not whether you are a Republican or Democrat. The problem is whether you are cut off from God by your sins, and have thrown yourself at the feet of Jesus Christ for salvation. There is no other solution. There is no other way.
What is love?
Some of you may be saying, “I love God”. Let me ask you something. If your spouse came home and said they love you, but kept calling you by some other name; asking you to meet all their felt needs but never giving in return; leaving the purity of your bed, only to sleep with someone else…would you think their love was genuine? No matter what they say, would you believe they loved you? No. You would say, “No matter what you claim, your words and actions show me the truth about your lack of love”. It is the same with God. I lived the first twenty years of my life claiming to be one thing, and the actions of my life proving it was false. We have to stop looking at God as if He is somewhere between the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. The truth is that God ultimately does not care about your “happiness”; He cares about your “holiness”. But, you have no holiness to bring before Him. We are all (every person who has ever walked on the planet) separated from God by the sin in our lives. We are all rebels and have no hope in ourselves. I once heard John MacArthur say, “Religion is man’s attempt to somehow reach God.” I am not talking about being a good person, living your best life now, helping others, giving more money, feeling more guilt or joining a particular church. You can’t buy enough stuff, die your hair, nip and tuck your skin, replace body parts or think enough positive thoughts. That’s your attempt to silence the static in your head. Somehow make yourself feel better. Drown out the voice that is telling you something’s wrong. You are NOT OK, no matter how secure you may feel. The only solution is Jesus Christ.
I love my wife, my children and my job. But, the only reason anyone should have faith in me is from my relationship with Jesus Christ. All decisions flow from that single choice. I cannot be the husband, dad, friend, employee or citizen I should be apart from making a true decision to follow Jesus. I know many will disagree. But, the world is littered with people who have good intentions. It doesn’t matter if you are in the Third World or First World. You have a broken soul and you need a Savior.
Hanging in there?
I know that many of you may be barely hanging in with me at this point. “Brad, this was supposed to be about Guatemala”! Amazingly, it is about Guatemala. Every time I come back, I pray that God will not allow me to go back to the way I used to be. “Change my heart God!” Well, He has answered me each time. Each year I am changed a little more. Some of you might be saying, “Brad, you need to stop going. Many good things have been done, but this is way too over the top. I thought this was about feeding people, building homes and giving wheelchairs?” Don’t get me wrong, God does want to meet the needs of those who are hurting. God hears the cries and prayers. The question is, “How does He meet the need?” Well, He does it through you and me. He gives homes, food and relief through the generosity of people who have much in their lives. We have much, because He gave it to us.
Don't miss the point!
But, if you miss what I am about to say, you have missed the whole point. “God wants to heal hearts and souls more than He wants to build homes. He wants all of us to cry out to Him for healing and salvation. He wants to restore marriages, heal depression, give hope and joy.” How does He accomplish this? The same way as before…through you and me. How?
Rom 10:13-15 NIV - "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
So, we must go and tell the good news. The stoves, food, houses, wheelchairs are all so essential. People are in desperate need, and we can help them. But, their much greater need is to be changed by the truth that God loves them and wants to restore their souls into relationship with Him through the blood sacrificed by Jesus Christ. Your donation and support allows the people in Guatemala to hear this truth. We are enabled to go through your help!
What's your response?
So, what are you saying right now? “Brad, I can’t hear you!” Or maybe, “So sad…it’s not my problem!” These words may harden, or push you away. “I have given in the past, but no more.” I pray that is not the case!
For many of you, these words may be piercing your heart. You have spent a lifetime “around religion” but have never known the peace that I am talking about. You are burdened or busy with “doing things for God” but have never known about the forgiveness that comes through a right-standing with Jesus. You can have unconditional forgiveness from the Lord. No more fear. No more uncertainty. You can be absolutely sure! But, in the words of Jesus, “You must be born again”. When you are saved by the grace and mercy of God, you are literally a new person. The “Old things pass away, the new come.” This is the most difficult decision any person can make. It may divide your marriage or your family. But, the good news of it is, while it may bring division, it is at the same time bringing healing. If you got a diagnosis you have a deadly disease, would you reject taking the medicine simply because it may make you feel worse in the process of getting better? No, you would take the medicine because it will save your life.
Hearts were changed in Guatemala this year. Souls were saved by the grace of God. I am praying that there is someone reading this here in America that wants the freedom I am talking about. Let your pride down. Let the walls of your heart fall.
The cool thing about my time in Guatemala is that I get to talk about Jesus all day long. I would love to do that with you as well. We can talk on the phone, over coffee, eating pancakes…anywhere, anytime. Please don’t ignore these words. Please don’t say, “It’s not my problem”.
Dios Te Bendiga,