"Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words." Saint Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Acuña, Mexico

When my girlfriend and I were growing up we didn't know many people who went out of the country to do mission work.

I, honestly, didn't know anyone who felt called to move to another country to share the love of Jesus. I knew the missionaries when they came to visit our church family but I had no real relationship with them. I wasn't close to any missionary. 

I didn't have a world view back then. I didn't know many people who talked much about stuff in the world or carrying the love of Jesus to other countries.   My personal world revolved around the U.S. and, more importantly to me at that time, Memphis, the city I was raised in. 

My parents showed me the country. I can remember trips to New York, West Virginia, Washington D.C., Florida, Arizona, Colorado and Illinois. I can remember me and my dad doing "guy trips" together. Football games in Knoxville and New Orleans. Final Fours in New Orleans and Lexington. Baseball trips to see the Cubs and Yankees. I won't ever forget those trips. 

I don't, however, remember being too concerned about visiting other countries. To get to know them, the culture and the people. And I never thought about going to share Jesus with them. Just being honest. 

I can remember in college our school had a study abroad program. I remember thinking leaving the fun of campus to go to Europe for a semester was completely dumb. And it was dumb. Dumb of me not to go and have that experience. 

I never left the country until I was 27. I went to the Ukraine on a short term mission trip. I went with 4 other people. It started out as something terrifying for me but ended up, literally, changing my life and the life and family tree of my family. 

My girlfriend didn't go out of the country (other than a quick visit to the Canadian side....what's up Tanya and Amy!.....of Niagara Falls in high school) until she was 34. We then went to Cancun. Not exactly a "non American" experience. 

You get the picture, we weren't exactly world travelers and that was okay. We could have been happy living in the states for all of our lives but God called us to Brasil and I'm so thankful He did. 

I'm obviously happy because we get to share His love with our Brasilian family. It's a very hard and discouraging and incredible and awesome thing all at the same time. I would not trade the last 11 years of our lives for anything. 

Our kids all know 2-3 different languages. Spanish, German, English and Portuguese. I absolutely love that! I remember growing up and hearing, and thinking, that if you came to the United States you better know English because we don't speak anything else here. 

Being the foreigner in another country and having to learn the language definitely takes some of that "has to be this way or else" out of your system.  It was very cool when we first moved here and met Brasilians who went out of their way to patiently listen to our horrible Portuguese and those that tried to speak English with us.

I wouldn't trade how growing up in Brasil has impacted our kids. They have all traveled internationally by the time they were 15-16. Garrett and Carys will be making their first solo trip to the U.S. in May. 

Bronwyn went to Rwanda for a couple of months after high school. Ansley spent 5 months in Ecuador last year at an orphanage. 

Our kids are seeing it all. Extreme poverty and kids that aren't wanted or loved on. People who think very differently than and sometimes even don't like Americans. They have learned how to deal with all types of people and places. They are learning how to not live in a bubble. 

I remember the first time I went to the Ukraine I had a conversation with one of our translators who was around my age. I was taught in school that everyone in the former USSR was our enemy. I shared that with her. I asked her about what she thought of Americans. She was taught that we were her enemies as well. All we needed to find out how wrong we were was to spend a little time together. My time with her changed my worldview. I never laughed so much in the Ukraine than when I was with this sister. I know the world would be different if we all took a trip to another country and got involved for a short trip/long trip or a move to another country. Nothing breaks down barriers like living together. 

Through my time in the Ukraine God gave me His "world view." He took away my "American view." I saw people who literally had nothing, but smiled and laughed more than I did. They grew crops in the summer so they could have food in the winter and they laughed on the way to their summer gardens. I, embarrassingly, complained if I had to wait too long for a Whopper at Burger King. Seeing all that there messed my world up. In a great way. 

Our kids have been blessed to see the world in a much different way than I did growing up. I had an amazing childhood. Amazing parents and friends. I grew up in a Christian home. A home that prepared me for where we are today. But I wasn't able to see the world differently until much later in life. 

My kids get to live that all the time. Just yesterday my kids worshipped and shared in the Lord's Supper with 3 former alcohol,cocaine and crack addicts. They (these brothers and my kids) hug on each other, laugh with each other and are real church with each other. It's an amazing thing to see and I wonder if our kids even realize how cool it is. I think B and Ans see it more now that they are out of the house and on their own but sometimes you don't see things when you are up close to it. 

Our house church isn't perfect but we are trying to live as close to Acts 2 as possible. It's isn't easy. Family never is. It isn't always pretty. Family never is. The world (both Christian and not) tell us to be superficial. To just show up and get your shot of adrenaline at Sunday worship and think it's all good. We are trying to not live superficially. We confess our sins and confront in brotherly love. It's tough but so good. 

Our kids have seen that and are living that. They aren't afraid to be with the poor. They aren't afraid to sacrifice for Jesus and they are learning to be okay with being uncomfortable in a situation if that's where God has put them. Even if it's not where they thought they'd be or even wanted to be. What more could a Christian couple ask for their kids than that? We are very thankful that they aren't afraid to get out of their bubble. To get out of their comfort zone. 

So....Why in the world was this post labeled Acunã, Mexico? 

Great question. 

This week Ansley was, once again, asked to go out of her comfort zone. God has chosen to put Ansley in Acuña, Mexico. She was asked to help with a mission team, on their spring break, as a Spanish translator. 

We would love your prayers for her and this team. That they are able to bless and share God's love with many people this week. 

And as you pray, be daring and ask God to get you out of your comfort zone. Don't question, just go wherever He tells you to go. 

I speak as someone who was pretty comfortable in his comfort bubble before God blasted me out of there. You won't ever regret going where He sends. 


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful testimony!
God bless you & Benay...

Anonymous said...

I had the privilege to go on this trip with Ansley. I can say it was a true honor and blessing to get to know your daughter. Everyone who went and everyone at the church we worked at in Acuna fell in love with her from the start. Y'all should be nothing but proud of her and the way she opened herself up to serve God. I hope and pray that my daughter turns out just like Ansley.

B. Roberts