1:30 AM: I should be taking advantage of the priceless sleep that I desperately need; however I find myself reading through the blog postings and writings of Jamison Pals at For the Joy of Japan. If you hadn't already heard their story, they were the missionary family of 5 that died last week while on their way to Colorado for their last missions training. My heart can't stop comparing their families journey with ours. So many similarities that this tragic accident hits me in a deep way: a heart for another nation, a new baby born just in May, Midwest roots, goals to depart in October.....its like a part of me was reading our very own story. John Piper delivered an amazing prayer at their funeral in which he said, "...we give thanks for the lives of Jamison and Kathryne and Ezra and Violet and Calvin, who did not count their lives to be more valuable than obedience."
Because like most people, specifically in First World Countries I desire things like comfort and security. So in the last 3 years God has been working on my heart about moving to Nicaragua and things like this race through my head: will we be safe? what if we get sick? will my kids lack things I want to give them? how will family and friends feel about the big move? All valid, honest questions and thoughts, yet selfish...selfish in the way that we are called to value obedience higher than comfort. So it's in the Pals' lives and now deaths that I'm humbled and again reminded that we can do nothing about how and when God calls us to be with Him. Our mission is to live in obedience daily. To value His call more than our comforts. His timing more than ours, His paths and directions more than our plans. He is faithful. I'd encourage you to read through their amazing blog. So much of his writing resonates with me. And if you don't have time to read any of it, let me quote a few things that I believe ring true of our hearts as well.
"Therefore, we aim to reach the unreached by establishing local, visible expressions of Jesus Christ."
"And, if you care about the poor, needy and destitute of the world, you should care about church planting...Church planting, then, is a work of compassion–the ultimate humanitarian work–through which people come to be loved and cared for by their Savior."
I think it can be easy to see Nicaragua just as a list of statistics such as below and forget that spiritual poverty is the worse kind. That unless we are sharing of His grace and purpose we will have missed it.
roughly 6 million people
second poorest country in Latin America after Haiti
ranked 125th out of 188 nations on the United Nations Human Development Index
ranks 4th in the Long-Term World Climate Risk Index
almost 30% of Nicaragua’s households live in poverty
over 8% struggle in extreme poverty, surviving on less than US$1.25 daily
17% of children aged under five in Nicaragua suffer from chronic malnutrition
So yes, in any way that we can tangibly meet physical needs while in Nicaragua we will do so with joyful hearts but even greater is meeting the spiritual need that so many have. To be a representation of His grace, to see people gather and find hope in Him and for healthy churches to be an expression or outcome of disciples being made.
So thank you Pals family for your obedience, your dedication and your example. For maybe it was less about the final destination of Japan and far more about the willingness, the submission and the daily steps of obedience as He was working out your story.
I'll finish with this excerpt from a blog post in April 2016 as part of a "proposal" letter he wrote to his wife in regards to living as 'missionaries':
"I do not know how things will turn out for us. As a husband, I feel obligated to lead our family toward obedience, whatever the end may be–whether it is life or death or discomfort or disappointment. It is clear that the Lord Jesus calls us not to an easy life, however he calls us. He bids us to take up our cross–just as he did–to suffer and die. Perhaps we will toil for years to raise support and never make it overseas. Perhaps we will go and utterly “fail” as missionaries from all worldly perspectives. Perhaps we will labor for decades without any visible fruit. Or perhaps through willing obedience, many will pass from death to eternal life."