Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Where Do We Begin?

Sunday afternoon Pedro and I were returning from a wonderful 48-hour "escape" for just the two of us. We had relaxed, played, visited new places and also spent time reading, discussing and praying about our family and future ministry. My heart felt full and focused as we took our time winding through the city streets of Iquique on our way home.

Soon, however, my thoughts were distracted by sights outside my window. We had visited a monument on the outskirts of town and were now passing through the "free trade" area with its crowded car lots and dusty shops. Just beyond lay the ramshackle houses characterized by slipshod cardboard construction and half-finished windows and walls. Under the bleachers of a shabby soccer field, two homeless men sprawled sleeping. A few corners down one tightly-clad woman strode by, her clothes a second skin and her movements drawing stares from other pedestrians. At another intersection cars carefully avoided a dirty, thin man stumbling in circles on the street with vacant eyes and unintelligible mumblings.

These sights were not unusual; on the contrary, we see them each and every time we drive through town. My reaction is always the same: sadness, worry, empathy, frustration, even guilt. Often my stomach hurts as I let the vastness of the need sink in. So many people view Iquique from the outside as a beautiful vacation spot with great beaches (albeit shamefully cared for) and a "happening" party scene for the younger crowd. Yet the reality that rests shallowly below that facade is the one I am describing here. Desperate, dirty lives devastated by drugs, alcohol and choices that rock the foundations of families and destroy any pattern of healthy living.

This city needs the Lord.

The overwhelming need therefore begs the question, Where do we begin?? And it is one we have asked ourselves time and again in our 2 1/2 years here. Because it is not just the downtrodden and the poor who have needs. This past week circumstances have been such that we've had over a dozen people into our home for Bible studies or simply to visit. In so doing we've heard stories of dissatisfaction, hopelessness, struggles with alcoholism, struggles with children, struggles with spouses. These are stories coming from people who in the world's eyes "have it made" - they own houses, work for the mines, have their kids in private schools. They may not be the richest of the rich, but they're certainly better off than the next guy.

I am so thankful God has been opening doors to allow us into people's lives. As Pedro said recently, finally after two years we don't get a "cross-eyed look" when we invite someone to our home or a special event at church! We chuckle but what he means is that it has taken this long to build trust to the point where people will listen to what we have to say.

It is a blessing, and it is also a great responsibility.

Please pray for us to have the words - not our words, but God's - to share in each moment of crisis. Please pray that hearts will be receptive to His message of love and hope and forgiveness and salvation. Please pray that we will know where to focus our time and resources, and how to balance it all. Most of all, please pray that now would be the "day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2) for so many who desperately need to lay their lives at Christ's feet.

Yesterday I spoke with friends who are hurting and I shared with them the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28 - "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." We have shared the gospel with them in the past but they have yet to embrace it. They moved away this summer and have returned to town only this week for a visit. Tonight we have invited them over to talk some more. My heart's prayer is that today would be the day of their salvation!

Because that is where we all truly begin.


Erin said...

praying for your visit with them tonight steph! that God will you both words to glorify Him and today will be the day of their salvation! love you friend!

StacyandChad said...

Praying for you on a daily basis as you share God's words with a hurting city!!

tonya latorre said...

Steph, I have prayed each time I thought of you today for this couple to have ears to listen and a surrendered heart to the only saving grace on this side of heaven. And be assured, dropping more seeds won't be in vain.