…I labor on in weakness and rejoicing, for in my need His power is displayedCity Alight, Yet not I but through Christ in me
We were on our way to distribute and invite the other day when this song came up on David’s shuffle. It encouraged me in the moment but I didn’t realize that the next day was when the full force of those words would fill my soul.
I knew the moment I woke up something wasn’t right. Lupus flare. I don’t often talk about my diagnosis or life with lupus on here. Maybe I should. There are a lot of silent sufferers out there with many different diseases and I hope this can encourage you today. When your body fails you, when this temple of dust seems to crumble, when you feel like a burden and a waste, like you’re holding everybody back, I want you to know I’ve been there. Many, many times. It’s a hard place to be. I often find myself apologizing to David. I’m so sorry I’m sick. I’m so sorry I hurt and can’t move. I’m so sorry I can’t walk up and down the streets in the glaring sun with you for hours and hours, smiling at the world and telling them of the love of God. I’m sorry I’m only 28 and already totally falling apart.
The disease is under control thanks to God (and Dr Benavides Brito and his impeccable care) and I can usually live a normal life. But sometimes, I over-do it. I don’t apply enough sunscreen, I forget my hat, I walk too long and become inflamed, I don’t say no, I feel pressured and tense. Then, I collapse.
It’s hard enough in my normal life (whatever normal is supposed to mean). We skip school for the day, have leftovers and I live on the couch. But when we’re in a new place, buried in pioneer work, breathing the gospel and basic teaching, meetings and visiting it’s not just hard. It hurts. Why, oh Lord!??? Why did you ever allow this debilitating disease to enter my body? Why can I not be strong and robust in body as well as spirit and mind? But then those beautiful words from Galatians “yet not I, but Christ lives in me” fill me with hope, with purpose, with joy. Because, see for me, maybe it’s lupus. But for you, it’s something else. Maybe diabetes, maybe cancer, maybe infertility, maybe……you fill in the blank. And we want to work, we want to be used by God but He chooses to use us instead in our weakness and in His strength.
So we labor on in weakness….yes, lots and lots and lots of weakness. But, we labor on in rejoicing because I want to tell you how HIS power has been displayed.
The last week of meetings has been very encouraging. The family of the house were very hurt by a pastor and congregation several years ago. They have both been saved for 16 years and the power of the gospel in their life is…powerful. A man who was a complete drunk, who lost a house because he drank away everything they had, who had another home that burned completely to the ground and they lost everything again. A family who lost their two first babies. A family who states matter of factly, “our daughter had completely different parents from our son” are a total testimony to the power of salvation. Their daughter and son -in-law were also at most of the meetings. He invited his family, who are very religious, and they came to one of the meetings. The group from the first house came each night as well, so it was a good group.
A girl in her early 20’s who thought she was saved realized she wasn’t and has professed faith in Christ. Some want to be baptized, so Lord willing that will happen soon.
Another lady had mentioned before we came that she would have liked to have the meetings in her home. Her husband is unsaved and she unhappy in the place she had been attending, a place with a controlling, demanding leader. She is loving the meetings and realizing the liberty there is in Christ and a true New Testament assembly. Her father is incredibly religious. Every year, he personally puts on a huge religious festival for the entire town and opens up his private chapel for worship. She worked for a visit to be made with her dad yesterday. How it all turned out was that he is willing for us to use a large space that was originally built to be a restaurant, for as long as we want. The daughter was ecstatic. She would love (and us as well!) to see her dad reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Tonight we begin at the new place.
God is clearly working here. He is working in unbelievers to convince them of their need for salvation. He is working in restoring believers, in opening their hearts to the apostle’s doctrine and not man’s imaginations. We see them hungry, growing, anxious to learn more and more. We are grateful for their evangelistic interest in seeing others reached for the glory of God.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, but we can’t leave. This work, in the grace and power of our Almighty God is taking off. Please, please pray. We need a lot of wisdom, a lot of God’s strength. Seeing a new work established isn’t just about preaching and seeing people saved. We constantly have to consider the long term. How will this decision affect the way the believers will view this or that for years to come? What teaching needs are most pressing? What kinds of precedents are we setting?
Aside from the spiritual side are the practical implications which require a lot of grace and wisdom. The last time we lived in another city in a rented house on air mattresses for several months were when the two oldest were 1 and 2. When we began working more intensely in Emiliano Zapata we built and moved there. This time, though, our family dynamics are substantially different. We’re going to need a lot of (again) grace and wisdom so please pray for us.
Pioneer gospel work can be challenging on many fronts but I believe it is one of the occupations that brings the most joy in the world. The privilege it is to sit in the front row and watch God’s stage come to life, to see Him moving people and governments and defeating the greatest enemy of all over and over again is not something I take lightly. It is an absolute joy to labor on in weakness and rejoicing.