Friday, January 14, 2011

God's theme for my 2011

A few days before Christmas I read a monthly letter from one of my favorite authors, John Eldredge. He encouraged readers to ask God a specific question regarding 2011. “What will the theme of 2011 be for me personally?” I must admit, I was a little overwhelmed by the suggestion. However, when I took some time to think about it God showed me that He had given me themes in previous years. Why wouldn’t He want to do the same for 2011? Life moved on, Christmas came and before I knew it I was on a plane to Guatemala with eleven women. As we left snow covered North Carolina I whispered to God, “What is Your theme for my 2011?”

I always approach short term mission trips with an attitude of expectation. What does God want to teach me? What one sentence would sum up the experience? How should my life change because of this time away? This trip was no different. There was plenty to be excited about! The church and school that we partner with had been busy. I was amazed and blessed to walk into the building and find that they had spent several months building new classrooms, installing new bathrooms and working overtime to get accreditation from the Department of Education in Guatemala. My heart soared as I was greeted by the children from the school and was able to tell many of them that they now have a sponsor in the States who love and support them. I celebrated with them as they put two and two together, realizing that they would be able to attend the school another year. I was blessed when the teachers, who at one time were “stand-offish” were now connected and open to relationship. God confirmed once again that this is where we should be; partnering with this Church, investing in these vulnerable children and their families.

My joy soon turned to a sense of being overwhelmed. As we heard the stories of the children and I began to count the number of sponsors we still needed, my heart sank. I know myself well and one of my strengths is being a visionary. It can also be one of my weaknesses. I have a hard time resting in what has been accomplished and a much easier time focusing on the great needs before me. We had begun the sponsorship program in November and 18 people had committed to sponsoring children. I fought hard to celebrate that number and not become overwhelmed by the 59 that still needed sponsors. I won’t lie. It was a battle. I cried out to God, “Please send me some people who can help promote this ministry.”

That evening we ministered at Kairos House. There are no waiting rooms in the hospitals in Guatemala so many families live on the streets while their children are receiving treatment for cancer. Kairos House is a safe haven where they can sleep, eat and rest as a family, free of charge. As I listened to the founders share their story, God spoke directly to me. Early in their ministry when they found the house to rent, the husband was excited at what God had done, but the wife could only focus on what they still needed. “We have the home, but we don’t have money for electricity, food, or furniture” she said. His response was, “Is this your problem or is this God’s problem?”

I felt conviction and encouragement at the same time. Of course I could not go through life, trying to meet all the needs of Caroline’s Promise on my own. How many times does God need to teach me this lesson? I’m thankful that His reminders are gentle and consistent. “Is that the theme of 2011, Lord?” I asked.

The next day I was talking to a team member and sensed God calling me to share with her. She was not there by accident. This young woman has had a difficult year. I met her in May as her mother was dying of breast cancer. As we shared I searched for an analogy that would make sense to her. She lives on a lake and God began to give me an image of skipping stones across the water. I shared how her mother started this process by calling me. In that moment it was like her Mom put the stone in the water. The next ripple occurred when the team member and I met and began a relationship. Then she went on the trip to Guatemala, met a little boy named Mario and decided to sponsor him. As I looked ahead I saw amazing ways that Mario would continue the ripple effect; how his life would change and the ways that he could possibly impact others. “Your mother began this process” I said. “She was responsible for throwing the stone in the water. God is responsible for the ripples.”

The next week I saw this analogy again. I received an email from a family that Caroline’s Promise had given an adoption grant to several years ago. I guess you could say that’s the point that the stone was thrown into the water. The father and their oldest child, Anna joined us for a mission trip the next year. Now Anna is pursuing full time missions for her future, has a huge heart for orphans and has decided to sponsor a child. In the email her Mom shared how the child I chose for Anna to sponsor has the exact birthday as Anna. A coincidence? I think not! I heard God whisper, “Lisa, your responsibility is to throw the stone into the water. The ripple effect is MY responsibility.” That’s the theme!

You would think it would be enough for God to give me this beautiful picture of 2011. But He wasn’t finished. A week later I was on the phone with a ministry, discussing partnership. I shared with my new friend how God was giving me this theme for the new year. There was silence on the other end of the phone and then he said, “Do you want me to share what I have on my desk?” “Sure” I replied.

“It’s a quote from Roy Lessin.” He shared.

The Impact of One Life.

“When a stone is dropped into a lake it quickly disappears from sight, but its impact leaves behind a series of ripples that broaden and reach across the water. In the same way, the impact of one life lived for Christ will leave behind an influence for good that will reach the lives of many others.”

I was amazed once again by God’s timing and His love for me. So what about you? What is your theme for 2011? How will God use your life to impact others?