(Originally posted February 12, 2020)
This past year has been filled with many things- joy, pain, slaps in the face, kicks in the bum, but above all I would say it has been a year overflowing with surprise blessings that humbled us and brought us to our knees time and again. These blessings came in many forms.
They came in the faces of friends who brought food to feed my family when I had an unplanned gallbladder surgery. They came in the hands and hearts of people who chose to serve beside us in ministry by preparing food for kids in Panibaj and Chuchucha, teaching Bible stories, building houses for families so they would have a concrete floor and a dry roof over their heads. They came in the form of prayers for our family and they came in the form of financial support so we can continue to serve the people of Guatemala. We are so grateful for all of it. It has been a year of learning how to be a family of five instead of four. It has been a year of learning to trust God and HIS plan, rather than trying (unsuccessfully) to do it all on my own. I am a weak and flawed woman who is learning to embrace those weaknesses so I can lead others, but with a limp.
Leading with a limp means being a reluctant leader, perhaps an introvert, or “ambivert” (like me) who is very comfortable leading a classroom full of 4th graders but less comfortable leading adults. Five years ago when we were contemplating moving to Guatemala, I asked God to use me, but I did not want to be uncomfortable. Who does? I wanted the remainder of my life to be about more than meeting my own selfish needs but I certainly did not want to be a leader. Yes, I see the hypocrisy. Use me, God, but on my terms. I have always been much more comfortable in the back of the pack, following, keeping others in front so I didn’t have to be the one making the tough decisions or ever be in the direct line of fire. My thin skin could never handle the criticism that is inevitable in any position of leadership because it is impossible to please everyone. Impossible. With every decision, some will be happy and others will be disappointed. If you’re leading well, it’s inevitable.
In his powerful book, Leading with a Limp, Dan B. Allender says, “Paul calls leaders not merely to be humble and self-effacing but to be desperate and honest. It is not enough to be self-revealing, authentic, and transparent. Our calling goes far beyond that. We are called to be reluctant, limping, chief-sinner leaders, and even more, to be stories,”. Real stories, not the stuff we are eager to share on social media but rather, the nitty gritty.
The Nitty Gritty
Many of you may not know that last year I accepted the position of Director/Principal at the Christian Academy of Guatemala, (C.A.G) a K-12 school with a primary mission to provide a Biblically-based English education to prepare lives for Christian service. We had recently adopted Pedro, and were trying to grow our newly formed ministry, Least of These Guatemala, and quite honestly, I did not want the job. No thank you. Too much stress and responsibility for this 50 year old mama who was already tired all the time. I couldn’t do it. I am a teacher, not an administrator. Lots of negative dialogue in my head all based on fear.
After tremendous prayer, I felt God pulling me and I agreed to take this position at the school that my children had attended and loved for four years. I had to really dig deep to understand why I did not broadcast this new role, even though I believe with all my heart that God wanted me serving in this ministry because I do believe that the mission field is the space between your own two feet. We are all called to serve where He plants us, whether it’s in your job as a bank teller, as a police officer, a mother, an electrician or simply lovin’ on the people God has place in your life.
The teachers who serve the students of C.A.G. are not paid for the work they do. Let that sink in… teachers must raise their own support to be able to live here and serve the missionary community of Guatemala by educating their kids so they can continue to serve in their own ministry and it is an honor for me to serve alongside the Jesus-loving teachers of C.A.G.
Let me be clear- when I say I am a reluctant leader it is not to draw praise and encouragement but rather to demonstrate how God can use us, ALL of us, including the weak, broken, tired, afraid, introverted, to do His work. If He can use me people, He can use anyone!
It has been a year of being s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d beyond what I ever thought possible, yet I realize now that I was still trying to do it all on my own, without God, and when we do this, it’s only a matter of time before we crash and burn. It’s inevitable. For me the crash came in the form of health issues- thankfully nothing with permanent damage but a wake-up call nonetheless. I can’t do this, any of this, (motherhood, ministry, being a wife/friend/leader) on my own, and God doesn’t want me to. The only way for it to work is to lean into Him.
My husband, Phil, has always been able to trust and have an unquestioning faith in God’s plan for our family and our ministry but I am still learning how to do this- it will likely take me the rest of my life to really nail it. I was not raised in a Christian home, am not as well-versed in scripture as I should be, was raised to trust in my own abilities and not to rely on others or God. But as long as I rely only on myself, I will always fail.
We need all of the friends and faithful supporters God has provided to serve alongside us. We need you, people! You lift us up and carry us through the dark times of doubt or pain or worry. We can’t do any of this without you.
It is our desire to faithfully and fearlessly allow God to lead the direction of our ministry here in Guatemala. Often, we have had to step first and then have Faith that God would provide the funds, or the people, or the way, and He always has done so. When we wanted to start our first feeding program in Chuchuca, we didn’t have the money to buy the food, but we leapt, and started feeding and providing spiritual teaching to 29 kids once a week. God provided the money and people to cook. He provided Guatemalans to partner with us to love on His beautiful people.
Now we are feeling led to start another feeding program in the neighboring village of Popabaj, with a school that serves 114 children.
Again, we do not have the money but we are ready to leap and we need you to leap with us! Who’s in?
We have also been praying for over a year about a property located in our ministry area (between Patzun and Lake Atitlan) that could become so many things- a school, a medical/dental clinic, a place for fellowship, a team house…. Right now it is a vacant lot with empty, broken buildings. Transforming it into a Godly place to use for His work will take money, people, prayers and a LOT of muscle.
Again, we are ready to leap, because we know that if it’s His Will then God’s got this, but we need people like you to leap too. We need money to buy the property and fix it up. We need teams to come and do the work with us. We need constant prayer for us and we try to follow His lead. We’ll need many more partners to share in this dream. Who’s in?
Being a servant-leader means leading others with a humble heart, prayerfully making decisions that are God-honoring, sharing the burden by lifting up others to use their God-given talents, loving people, leading with a limp. Thank you to all of you who continue to lift us up every day. We love you. We need you.