"In the presence of our God and Father, we constantly remember how your faith is active, your love is hard at work, and your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ is enduring. Brothers whom God loves, we know that he has chosen you, for the gospel we brought did not come to you in words only, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit, and with deep conviction. Indeed, you know what kind of people we proved to be while we were with you, acting on your behalf. You became imitators of us and of the Lord. In spite of a great deal of suffering, you welcomed the word with the joy that the Holy Spirit produces. As a result, you became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia." (1 Thessalonians 1:3-7 ISV)
"We find ourselves in the middle of a story that is sometimes wonderful, sometimes awful, often a confusing mixture of both, and we haven't a clue how to make sense of it all. It's like we're holding in our hands some pages torn out of a book. These pages are the days of our lives. Fragments of a story." John Eldridge writes in his devotional from his book EPIC. "They seem important, or at least we long to know they are, but what does it all mean? If only we could find the book that contains the rest of the story."
Coming from the disappointing 'orientation' at Madonna University where I've found out I am not 'officially' a student yet (transcript problems) and that the scholarships I applied for were meant for high school students who haven't attended college, I was feeling really defeated. It is going on month 3 of the unemployment and the 'benefit' of the funds from the unemployment office have merely slowed the slide into the oblivion of failure…..not just defeating failure that one can recover from, but the absolute and complete ending of any semblance of life. Already I am $300.00 behind on the minimal bills that I need to keep my family going for the month and struggle to bring a realistic outlook to a budget that is too out-going and not in-coming.
""To be, or not to be?" That was the question in Shakespeare's classic soliloquy, asked by brooding Hamlet as he contemplated suicide." James Ryle, founder of Promise Keepers and President of TruthWorks Ministries, writes in his devotional "Rylisms: Steel In Your Convictions." "But the nobler question for those of us who choose to live is, "What to be, or what not to be?" That's the real question."
In the postmodern world we live in, far removed from the simplistic lifestyles of those who walked with Jesus Christ and sat down at His feet on the Mount, we have lost the meaning of who we are and what we are meant to be. In a world where we seek selfish things and demand the comfort of our economic lifestyle of nice home, car, job and family, such defeats like the one (of many) I have faced in the effort to obtain a degree so that I might be able to find the employment capable enough to propel my family back into our own home, maintain the vehicle and provide for them a life that is far from ideal but ideal in its objective: to live for God and bring Him glory.
"What not to be…." Ryle writes.
There is a song that has been haunting my soul lately……one that I know of, but for some reason, the words seem to leap out of the radio and pierce my heart. "There is hope for me yet, because God won't forget all the plans He's made for me….I'll have to wait and see….He's not finished with me yet."
It seems doors are closing everywhere I turn lately. College, degree and even the more noble charge of following God's purpose into full time ministry – a destination I thought would spell itself out in the comfortable surroundings of a church that 'gets it' with an eventual journey to Australia as (what I have been corrected on) is an apostle position in the missionary field. There has been silence on the fronts where I serve; my home church is yet too new and we have yet to build a relationship that would preclude pastorship…the Men's ministry hasn't yet finalized what part, if any, I will play in the 'new' direction it is taking with those of us who have committed to its mission: to build up men who are godly, masculinity as designed by God's own hand. The hope in God's plan remains even as my heart whispers that there is no way 'man' will ever back God up.
And yet God keeps on calling me to 'dream the impossible' and dare to live with the possibility of 'absolute failure.'
Months ago, when the 'vision' of being an apostle to the country of Australia, a country where the idea of religion has become a 'yeah whatever' kind of attitude, I dreamed and dared to express it to those who knew me. As is my 'mode of operandi', I began researching missionary groups that would get me there…..to Australia….even mentioning it to the group I belong to, wanting to take the aspects and teachings of godly masculinity to a world where such a concept is direly needed. I discovered two things in that research; most ministries want indigenous missionaries (country-born) for Australia due to its visas rules (missionaries must reapply every three months….leaving the country and returning when the visa is approved), and there are a lot of people who don't believe that a single father of two children (one special needs) could effectively be a missionary. I filled out a questionnaire and application with a 'clearinghouse' group called the Finisher's Project anyway and left that dream alone, to fall silently upon the pile of impossible goals that God seems to drive into my head. Rather than daring to question "what to be," I have gotten into the depressing loop of "To be, or not to be" that dominates my waking hours lately.
Then I get a call, which I didn't take at first…..it showed up as an "Absent Number" on the caller id….I listened to the message several hours later when my son and I were sitting in the circle at my daughter's school to pick them up for the day. I really didn't catch the company's name, it sounded like something like Whitley and Associates, but the message captured my heart and I found myself once again thinking of the foolish impossibilities of God and what He seems to constantly be throwing into my vision. The Director of Mobilization wanted me to call him back; he wanted to discuss some possibilities in the Asia and Pacific areas of the world and had found my application through the Finisher's Project. Australia falls into the Pacific area.
God is up to something…..in each and every portion of our lives where we open ourselves to Him. He doesn't dream the impossible, for nothing is impossible for Him, but to our foolish and fragile hearts such epic tales that He wants to write in our historic tale (a chapter in His larger and dynamic story), such visions seem too impossible, too unrealistic and therefore lie undone, dormant in the 'regrets' department of our hearts.
God doesn't forget….He is faithful, loving and hopeful even in these days of impossibility where people dare to dream of reaching out from an established plant into the community around them to reach a demographic that has chewed up and spit out others that have spoken the Christian message….who love without reason….who serve with sacrificial service….He doesn't call us in these challenging times to the creature comforts of our life, our nation and our world but calls us to breach the borders of our hearts and dare to dream the impossible dream…..serving at His behest where He would have us go. As Henry Blackaby says in Experiencing God, when God does this enticement, the demand carries an automatic 'major' upheaval of our lives. In a world where hopelessness overcomes fragile hope and 'anything to relive the sorrow of the world' is the norm, such people stand out: daring, foolish, and even a bit crazy. The Shadrachs, Meshachs and Abednegos of our world stand in the face of certain censure and refuse to dream the mundane of life.
They cannot sit in the church pews of their congregations and be silent. They cannot relax each Sunday as others struggle in the needs of the ministries it supports but they become driven doers of the Word they have taken into their hearts, instead of relying on the mere utterance of its application. Paul identifies the character of these 'crazy people' who work the 'work of faith, labor of love and patience of hope' in the paths that God has enticed them to journey with Him and for Him. God has placed His hand upon each of us, and by the laying of hands has set us aside like Paul and Barnabas to be something special, something more than what we are because we were meant to be so much more……and in the ferocious winds of these times, to have the strength of God steeling your backbone and fanning the flames of impossibilities….such daring visions of what 'could be' far outweigh the possibility of what 'isn't possible.'
All of us are to leave a legacy……and my legacy I want to leave my children is that their father was known not for his impossible dreams but the labor of love that was sustained by his faithful work endured with the patience of hope eternally known.
Papua New Guinea, the second largest island in the world, is home to 6,057,263 people in an area slightly larger than the state of California. In 1975, it gained independence from the administering nation of Australia, who had governed the northern half of the island through a UN mandate after German rule and governed the southern half at the behest of Great Britain. It is located 'above' Australia and is 462,840 sq km as measured by its island group between the Coral Sea and the South Pacific Ocean. It has 5,152 km of coastline and is a tropical climate that consists mostly of mountains with coastal lowlands and rolling foothills, with Mount Wilhelm being the highest point at 4,509 meters. It is a land of active volcanism as it lies in the Pacific "Ring of Fire" and has frequent earthquakes, mud slides and tsunamis. Its rainforests are being depleted as the world demands tropical timber, pollution is a problem from the mining operations and the land is experiencing severe drought (as is Australia). The island of New Guinea is shared with the nation of Indonesia, a source of illegal cross-border activities including goods smuggling, illegal narcotics trafficking, and squatters and secessionists
It is a country that suffers a 1.5% HIV/AIDS rate with 54,000 of the population infected and major infectious diseases like bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, dengue fever, malaria and typhoid fever are of a very high risk factor among the ethnic groups of Melanesian, Papuan, Negrito, Micronesian and Polynesian people who call 20 provinces; Bougainville, Central, Chimbu, Eastern Highlands, East New Britain, East Sepik, Enga, Gulf, Madang, Manus, Milne Bay, Morobe, National Capital, New Ireland, Northern, Sandaun, Southern Highlands, Western, Western Highlands, West New Britain their home.
The indigenous population of Papua New Guinea is one of the most heterogeneous (unrelated or unlike each other) in the world; Several thousand separate communities, most with only a few hundred people are divided by language, customs, and tradition. 37% of the population lives below the poverty line and 1.9% are unemployed with an average family income of 50.9 gini. Agriculture is the lifeblood of 75% of the population and consists of coffee, cocoa, copra, palm kernels, tea, sugar, rubber, sweet potatoes, fruit, vegetables, vanilla with shell fish, poultry and pork being the meats. The major industries in PNG are copra crushing, palm oil processing, plywood production, wood chip production, mining of gold, silver and copper; crude oil production, petroleum refining, construction and tourism. Telephone service is minimal with a 'teledensity' of 11 per 100 persons. International radio communication is the prevalent source of communication.
The country's main source of transportation is aircraft due to the rugged terrain and high cost of infrastructure development; major areas are inaccessible by foot or vehicle. There is only 19,600 km of roads in the entire country with only 686 km paved but there are 560 airports with 21 paved and two heliports. Into this land comes the ominous trafficking of women and children from Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and China for commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary domestic servitude because of government inaction to cripple the criminals with legal punishment, protection services for the victims and identification of anyone engaged in its commission.
Into this country is where Wycliffe Associates wants me to go. Founded by Bill Butler, Dale Kietzman and Rudy Renfer for the sake of increasing Bible translation hours by the thousands through the removal of non-translation tasks by the translators themselves into the hands of laypeople whose variety of skills and servant hearts who were personally involved in fulfilling the Great Commission….bring God's Word to every tongue, tribe and nation.
Vision 2025 is a worldwide effort to bring a translation of the Bible in over 2,393 languages that do not have a adequate Bible which is instrumental to the teaching, understanding and discipleship of all people….fulfilling the Great Commission in its entirety…an effort supported by construction workers, Vacation Bible School volunteers, accountants, mechanics and a wealth of other necessary support services provided by Wycliffe Associates that enable the translators to perform the laborious work of providing God's Word in a native tongue.
I could be a vital part of the servicing of electronic equipment for the Papua New Guineans and the missionaries in the field; help maintain the 300 airstrips that provide these translators access to the people they are working with; be a gopher for the staff; or a host of other support skill areas. The need is great and the harvesters few. So I have given them permission to start the process of 'qualifying' me for missionary service and will begin the process of finding support and gathering together the other many things that are needed for my family to serve in the country of Papua New Guinea as part of the worldwide effort of the faithful to reach all the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Impossible, certainly but only improbable if I don't dare to risk absolute failure for the certainty of God's glory by not giving God an opportunity to once again show His faithfulness in the provisioning of the vision.
Who knows where daring to dream the impossible may take me and my children……and what life lessons we will be taught by the people actively engaged on the frontlines of the battle for the world. God's not finished with me yet. As He entices me into the greater story of His plan, purpose and vision, those pages yet unwritten beat of a grand adventure into the heart of our Savior and King's purpose that was set aside for me from days before time.
…..all that's left before the first stroke of His pen upon that empty page is my dreaming the impossible.