The Gift

This is an article I wrote for our church newsletter with some minor additions near the end.

Christmas is nearly here.  That period of the Christian calendar when we celebrate and remember those moments when God’s sent the world the gift of Jesus, his son.  I spend a lot of time thinking about Jesus, about what his “becoming human” meant and what it means for us today. I think about what he knew about God’s plan for his life…and when he knew it…and how he came to know it.  Was it crystal clear to him because he was God’s son or did his “becoming human” mean that he had to go through the same processes of discernment and experience the same struggle to understand what God was asking of him as we do?  I think about what God’s purpose in sending Jesus really was?  Was it, as so many believe, so he could become the ultimate human sacrifice and pay our debt to God for our sins against God?  Was it, through his words and deeds to give us an example of how we should live, of how we should treat others, to show us how difficult it can be to live our lives as God would want us to? I don’t have all the answers to these questions and I find that my answers don’t always match up with what the authors of the Bible wrote.  To some, that qualifies me as a heretic and non-believer. To others, I am a searcher for truth in my journey through life.  To me, I am a follower of Christ trying to understand and live out all that this means.

As a part of its budget process, the leaders at Christ UMC recently asked us a number of questions about our mission, its purpose and what value we provide.  These are good and appropriate questions, but can also be very difficult questions to answer especially as we serve in primarily administrative roles.  Some of them are as hard to answer as my never ending questions about Jesus. In the past two months, I have had the privilege of “being present” for at least three events which helped me to understand more about an incredible gift of “being present” that we give and that we receive serving as missionaries. The first event was turning over the keys to a new house (that Salud y Paz built with the help of hundreds of donors and volunteers including us) to a lady who is a battered wife, who has 6 children at home, who was living in a single shack of about 9×9 feet with a dirt floor and an open fire, while her husband slept in his mother’s more sturdy and sheltered house a few yards away.  Their pride and excitement in their new home was obvious.  They dressed in their best clothes and served those of us who were blessed to be there a meal.  The second event was the opportunity to take the wife of our operations director to the hospital for her radiation treatment while he attended the Guatemalan equivalent of high school graduation for their oldest son.  Spending time with God thinking about what she must be feeling during this long day away from those .The third was the celebration of the 15th anniversary of Salud y Paz. This was celebrated with and in the community of Camanchaj where our main clinic is located.  My thoughts turned to all those thousands of people who had been helped by the organization in that 15 years.  Thinking about these three events continues to touch me deeply, reminding me that for those involved, receiving a home, a ride or medical care can be a life-changing experience.  An experience that that is only possible because others chose to “be present” in their lives and in their country.  I think Jesus tried to teach us the importance of the gift of “being present” as a key ingredient to living a God-centered life. He attended weddings, shared meals, lived life and served those around him in so many ways.  Jan, John Edmund and I would like to thank each of you for your continued “presence” in our lives through your financial support , your hugs (both physical and long distance) and your prayers.  Without your “presence” in our lives, we couldn’t “be present” here.  Merry Christmas!

May you feel and recognize God moving in your life today and always!


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