Many of you who know my wife Jenny and I are familiar with our story.
We met in college and were married in 2002. For our honeymoon, we were invited to volunteer for a few months in El Salvador. After seeing the incredible work of rural pastors, our three-month honeymoon turned into nearly eight years of living in El Salvador. Our children were born in El Salvador, and we’ve now been involved with ENLACE for more than 17 years. I would have never imagined what God had in store for us when we said yes to a trip to El Salvador.But I am so grateful to have gotten the opportunity to work there because even though like everyone, I wanted to contribute to something that truly matters, I found that what I had to offer was less about what I could do and more about my posture of learning. In El Salvador I learned more than I ever imagined.
One of the roles I’ve had with ENLACE over the years is to help host service-learning trips. Our intention is first to encourage the local church and community leaders as they serve their community. To that end, every international service team is challenged toward three goals:
And while we know that everyone who comes on these trips has something to offer—so many incredible people with skills, gifts and abilities have visited!—we know that without an attitude of learning, encouragement and fellowship do not follow.
Over the years I have learned first-hand that even if we do have something significant to offer, it is best presented with a servant’s heart.
While I’ve discovered this “in the field” it is also something I see in stories about Jesus in the Bible. In Matthew 16 we see this topsy turvy reality is on full display for Jesus’s disciples when Jesus takes his disciples on the roller coaster ride of the power-service continuum.
First, Jesus asks his buddies what people are saying about him (v13). When Peter finally says that he is the Messiah, Jesus makes it clear that Peter had given a divinely inspired answer (v 17). However, how is that in verse 17 Jesus hands the “keys to the kingdom” Peter declaring him the blessed rock that he will use to build his church. Then, six verses later, Jesus calls him “Satan,” declaring that he did not have “in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
What happens in between those two statements is that Jesus explains what the Messiah would have to endure. This information radically challenges Peter’s conceptualization of what it means to be “Messiah.” Jesus basically says, “I’m the Messiah, but not THAT kind of Messiah.”
So what kind of Messiah is Jesus? In the verses that follow, Jesus not only declares what kind of Messiah he is but he also describes who his true disciples are.
According to Jesus, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (v 24-25).
In the upside-down kingdom of Christ, we become most useful by submitting our talents to acts of love and service to others. We are most helpful when we’re learning. We are most impactful when we’re serving. It is with an attitude of learning that we end up empowering.
This is a truth that rural pastors and church leaders all over El Salvador are putting into practice every single day. And these are the beautiful people God has called us to serve.
I have learned that if you are blessed, it’s time to be a blessing.
I challenge you to turn your world upside down this year and become THAT disciple to THAT Messiah. In this way, God’s kingdom will continue to grow and transform the world in 2020 and beyond.
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