Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What does it mean to Release???

As we begin a new year, we are excited about how God is at work in Guatemala. At RHI, we have three words that help us define what we do and how we serve those around us. 

Restore - Redeem - Release

We spent the first year trying to understand what it looks like to restore some measure of dignity and stability in families at the very edge of poverty. How do we help without hurting? What are the greatest needs and what can we do about it? We have learned so many invaluable lessons as we have sought the Lord’s wisdom. Sometimes, we learned from our mistakes. For us, Restore is about addressing some of the most basic and urgent needs of families: nutrition, safe housing, and access to medical care and more.

In year two, we began to intentionally focus on the Redeem phase of ministry. How do we build deep and meaningful relationships with these families? How can we encourage and challenge them in their walk with the Lord? As we pray, read scripture and sow seeds of truth in their lives, we have seen many hearts encouraged to press on another day; do the next thing. So often, I too, have been the one challenged in my faith.

As we begin our third year, we are asking the question, “What does it mean to Release a family?” Does it mean we stop working with them, we stop bringing nutritional supplements? Do you stop serving those in need? How do you know when to transition into a new or different phase of ministry? What does it look like?

We have always been mindful about creating a dependency with these families. We do not want to do so much that they are unmotivated to do for themselves. We do not want to reinforce the misplaced hope that we, (the gringos) have all the answers or resources to fix everything. We want to help, but we don’t want to do more harm than good. 

As with most ministry work - it’s messy. It’s not a clear path with 10 easy steps. The “phases” of Restore, Redeem, Release overlap. They don’t have clear boundaries. Lives are fragile. There are times when you take a few steps forward, and other times when you take a few steps back.

Maria sharing about how God has changed her life.

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to begin the shifting of gears into Release. Several months ago, my friend Maria shared with me a dream that she felt the Lord had given her three years ago. She has been burdened for the men who work in the river of Panajachel, sifting rock and sand that they sell for construction work. She knows that many of them have hard lives. They work hard and they live hard. So many have little or no education, complicated family situations and little church or faith influence. Alcohol and substance abuse is rampant. She sees their need for a Savior, but also their need for someone to care.

Maria desires to serve these men and there families. She wants them to know that God sees them in their darkness. He loves them and desires to know them. He can heal them and change them. She knows this because he has done it in her life and in the life of her family.

One gigantic pot of Chicken Pepian - delish!

Neighbors serving neighbors.

I told Maria that I want to help her pursue God’s dream for reaching out to the hurting people around her. I asked, "How can I help you reach out to your community?" That’s when I realized, this is the Release phase - partnering with families as they serve other families they see in need of God’s restoration and redemption. Maria and her family can be much more effective in reaching her community than I can. She has the dream; the Lord has given us a few resources with which to remove an obstacle. We can multiply the kingdom work, if we work together. 

What a joy it was to watch Maria, her family, her friends, her church body work together to feed and encourage close to 100 people. They shared songs, they shared the Word of God and they shared life-giving sustenance. They were lavish in their giving. They spent much time, energy and resources making a traditional meal and planning a service to honor God and his people. It was beautiful to see the dream become a reality.

Rice w/veggies, chicken pepian and tomalitos.

Hungry bodies and souls being fed.

I know this journey to Release families is like Restore and Redeem - it’s not linear, it’s messy, it’s forward and backward. It’s unique to each family, not cookie cutter. But isn’t that true of every one of our our own faith journeys - we all take steps forward, steps back. We all have seasons when we need to be served by the body of Christ and seasons when we look beyond ourselves to serve others. That’s the process of being transformed. We are all being Restored, Redeemed and Released.

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