Community First Village: Week 6

The past week has been a little off for me. I have found myself easily frustrated, tired, and just generally a little grumpy. Some of that comes from Truma not sleeping very well this week, but I think the majority of it has been due the condition of my heart. I have kept up with my Bible reading plan, but really haven’t spent much time in prayer or absorbing what I read, and I could feel it. It has been a busy week; most every minute has been accounted for, and while the things on the schedule are good things, it is a struggle to step back and care for ourselves, especially since we live where we work. When we get the village in Midland established, this is going to be the way of life for the foreseeable future, so it is good that we have the time and space to learn these lessons now.

I’m sure anyone involved in full time ministry will tell you that it is a difficult balance between working in your calling and taking care of yourself and your family; fulfilling obligations while avoiding burnout. The truth is that it is impossible to do on our own, and we are so thankful that we have the Lord to help us and that it is possible with Him. Our responsibility is to make Him our priority, and He will walk with us through it all.

Not to say that there weren’t a lot of really great things happening this week! I have learned so much working in Property Management and Resident Care. Each day is different, and I am constantly seeing different aspects of the community. The motto here is “Semper Gumby,” meaning "always flexible," and we live that out every day. Some days I am sitting in with people going through their housing contracts and next thing I know we are chasing donkeys who have gotten out of the pasture, or teaching someone how to use their cell phone.

Some moments are full of happiness as we welcome people home, and others are emotionally draining as we do our best to care for people who have experienced tremendous suffering on the streets that we can't even imagine. We are learning to be joyful and to weep simultaneously; something all Christians must learn to do in a fallen world, with our joy being rooted in the unchangeable God of the universe, amidst the suffering we see all around us every day. Just yesterday we were faced with several difficult instances of neighbors struggling to adjust to living in community. It was a hard day, but the Lord shone through the darkness as He provided an opportunity to sit and pray with one of those same neighbors later in the evening.

Both Briana and I have felt so welcome in our serve duty roles. We have been offered a valuable inside look with amazing access to people and resources. We are so grateful for the full opportunity to experience the ins and outs of community life! The people we work with have quickly become our friends and they are doing all they can to help us be successful in starting a community in Midland. We are so thankful for the privilege to participate in a program with people who live out their love for the Lord every day.

One of our neighbors was hospitalized last week. She was having a pretty frightening heart episode and we had to call an ambulance. It was amazing to witness and be a part of the response to her emergency. Had this happened while she was on the street, she could easily have died, yet in this community setting, we were alerted that she wasn’t doing well and were able to get her the help she needed.

We got to meet up with my cousin and his wife for dinner on Wednesday and catch up with them over some hearty chicken fried steak and pie. Earlier that day we signed a contract for the sale of our home in Midland. Thank you all for praying with us over the last 10 months for the house to sell. Please continue to pray that everything goes smoothly and we are able to close by the end of March. We feel a huge relief from the financial burden and also gratefulness for the memories we made there. Initially, we figured that as soon as we were called into this ministry that the house would sell quickly, but we had a lot of invaluable lessons to learn through the waiting. The Lord’s timing is always much better than our own.

Briana didn’t have to work on Saturday so we spent the morning together at the village. We went to the playground, got some fresh veggies for the week from the farmers market here, and saw our neighbor who had been hospitalized earlier in the week. She gave us big hugs and I am thankful to report that she was released from the hospital with a clean bill of health and back to being her sassy self. When we saw her, she was leading a group of volunteers, hauling buckets of chicken feed in the garden and telling her boyfriend to leave her alone while he tried to help her!.

The girls laid down for a nap and I went to the house blessings of two new neighbors that moved in this week. It is one of the highlights of the week to celebrate the people who are coming home. I was asked to take the photo of one of the new neighbors in front of his house so he could send it to his mom; he said she would be proud of him and also relieved that he wouldn’t be on the street anymore. There have been countless stories of family reunification here and I hope that photo is the beginning of another.

Saturday afternoon we took an outing to a nearby lake. It felt like summer time and it was hard to believe that we had eighty-degree temperatures in February. We set up our chairs and blanket by the water and our dog Waylon played in the waves and barked at the ducks. We should have known that before long Truma would be in the water. It didn’t seem to phase her that the water temperature was probably in the low 50s, but we only let her get in up to her ankles and we couldn’t let her stay in long, much to her dismay. We finished the day by going up to Pflugerville and chowing down on some Raising Canes chicken fingers.

I haven’t made it through one Sunday worship service without tears. Truma kept us up most of Saturday night and we were exhausted from the week already. I knew that my heart needed to reboot and worship and that I needed to refocus my attention on the Lord. I also knew that our sermon would be deep and intense again as we were going to be in 1 Peter 1 for the 6th week in a row. Through the music and the message, I felt the deep reminder that the Lord is always with us and that our trials sanctify us and prove our faith.

We also were reminded that there is such a thing as belief in God that is not a saving faith; that we can know God exists without being in relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, the only way. This truth is controversial because of its exclusivity but Jesus says it himself in John 14:6. Not only is this scripturally true, I have experienced it myself. I believed in God from a young age, but when trials came, I tried everything to get through on my own. It was impossible for me to ignore that there was a Creator, but I had no relationship with Christ and therefore no faith. I was lost and on a dark path towards destruction and eternal separation from God.

This is the story of so many people that I know and I feel a great conviction and honor to proclaim the good news of the Gospel and to participate in His salvation of the lost. It is easy to get sidetracked from that, and that is exactly what the enemy wants; for us to get wrapped up in ourselves and be ineffective for the Kingdom. I even find myself so consumed with learning about Christian community that I neglect my duty to take part in loving my neighbors by sharing the Gospel. That’s just want Satan wants, for our hearts to be misaligned, if only by one degree from our true purpose, and for us to be satisfied with something less. Learning about intentional Christian community is tremendously valuable, but we must love the Lord our God with all our hearts before we can love our neighbor as ourselves. That is going to be my focus this week.

Our Pastor at FBC Midland, friend, and mentor Dr. Darin Wood was hospitalized last week and he shared with the church that he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Type B. He will be seeking treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, the same wonderful hospital that cared for my mom while she had colon cancer. While we don’t know how the Lord is using this for His glory, we can rest in the fact that He is at work and that He will be with Dr. Wood through the trials ahead.  Please join us in praying for healing, for his family, and that the Lord will be greatly glorified. 

We are humbled by all of you who read these posts each week and are greatly blessed by your calls, texts, comments, and prayers. Here are our specific prayer requests:

·      Our family members who are missionaries in Southeast Asia. That they continue to learn the language quickly and that the Lord prepares their hearts and encourages them for their upcoming immersion and ministry on an island of unbelievers.

·      Dr. Wood and his family through his battle with cancer.

·      People around us who do not know the joy of salvation.

·      That in all aspects of our lives we will be fixed on the Lord and His promise from Matthew 6:25-34, to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”

·      Praise for our house being under contract and for all of the people He is putting in our path to walk alongside us in His calling.