About half of the time I can only function at about 4 on a scale of 1 to 10. Then, with no warning I crash to about 1 or 2 in 10. I lose the tiny bit of feeling in my hands, the bands around my body begin to clamp down so tightly that I go into spasms just trying to stand up. But worse than the physical torment I struggle with, the increased pain is accompanied by an involuntary hardening in my “heart”. I sing along in church and hear preaching that used to move me, and I feel nothing.
But, the physical pain and spiritual feelings take second place to an almost constant sense that my life has no significance anymore. But I’m not the only one struggling to have my life count. THE SEARCH FOR SIGNIFICANCE IS THE GREATEST COMMON HUMAN NEED AFTER FOOD AND SHELTER!
For example, the man down the street from us watched his substantial assets morph into debts so he took his life. Not long after that our back yard neighbor, once a successful rancher, got to the point he couldn’t physically manage his house and 8 acre mini farm. He called the local fire station and asked them to drop by his house at 4:00 to pick up a body. Thinking it was a prank they nevertheless stopped by and sure enough, there was a body in the house. It was our neighbor.
The senior member of our ITEC staff, Gene, is struggling at 91 with knees that don’t work and back troubles that are making it difficult for him to keep a regular work schedule. On the other end of the age spectrum our teenage grandchildren struggle to fit in and feel accepted, while simultaneously fighting to stand out so they will feel significant.
Now for the point of all this. Most of us spend our lives falling prey to one or the other of Satan’s top tricks. We either think we are big stuff or we feel insignificant. This isn’t a new problem. People in the fledgling Christian church in the “Las Vegas” of two thousand years ago were obviously falling prey to the same two traps. So the man who had planted the church there wrote them a letter which applies to us as well. Are you feeling either indispensable or insignificant?
The letter condenses church anatomy into one short chapter. It goes something like this: “Dudes, what is goin on? The church is like your body, lots of parts working together to get the job done. What is up with a foot feeling left out because he or she is not a hand. And you ears who wish you were eyes? How many eyes do you need. What if everyone wanted to be an eye, how would you hear? Next you all want to be ears, and you won’t be able to smell! Believe it or not, God knew what He was doing when He designed each of you to act as different parts and put you right where He wants you.”
Don’t feel insignificant because you aren’t some more important part of your church body. On the other hand, some of you seem to think you are hot stuff. Get real, your eyes can’t get along without hands. And the head can’t say it doesn’t need feet.
Pushing the analogy of the church being like our body, Paul writes, “try living without a working anal sphincter!” Well, he wasn’t quite that specific but forgive me for being personal. Shortly after my spinal cord injury I told Joni Eareckson Tada that I would just as soon be a complete quadriplegic as an incomplete one. She chewed me out for being naive and explained to me how valuable that little muscle at the end of my digestive system is. The ability to control that little muscle, it turns out, distinguishes “Complete Quads” from us “Incomplete Quads”. I understand now. That little unmentionable muscle makes my life lots easier than Joni’s has been. In a similar way the letter to the fledgling church in Corinth points out that the body parts we spend greatest effort to hide and protect are the weakest and most private parts. They are also indispensably important. And so are you and I.
This unusual letter finally points out that, “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts get happy”
ITEC is growing in size and making a bigger impact in closed countries in West Africa and the near east, as well as the wide open Amazon. Now, ITEC is training and equipping Christ Followers in refugee camps in Europe and aid workers in Ecuador and Haiti. ITEC tools are being used in India, Mongolia, and tiny island nations. More and more Indigenous ministries and missions are asking ITEC to partner with them to train national Christians to use ITEC’s creative programs in medical and dental care, mechanical repair and maintenance, unmanned aerial vehicles, ministry aviation, and on site video production.
All this is happening while I largely sit on the sidelines. I once got to travel and speak to as many as 45,000 young people in one place. Now, I meet with a few people at a time in my home office. It is hard to feel very important when Ginny has to help dress me and when I need a bib at dinner time. But then when I’m lamenting that I no longer count I’ll get a letters from someone thanking me now for trusting God in suffering. Go figure.
Here is my point. Team ITEC is also a body with many parts and you are an important part of ITEC or I invite you to be.
At the end of each year we usually receive a significant number of donations. Thanks for doing that! Let me tell you about a gift so huge that it profoundly affected how carefully I spent ITEC money and which still impacts how I give to ITEC and other ministries? After speaking at a church in Michigan, when ITEC was just a tiny ministry swimming against a strong current that believed North Americans should keep doing traditional missions instead of equipping indigenous Christ Followers to care for the physical and spiritual needs of their own people, a little boy whose parents were incredibly wealthy came up to me and started to hand me a little tube full of coins. His mother gasped and grabbed his hand before her wide eyed son could put his savings in my hand. Without thinking she blurted out to her little disciple, “No son, we give part of our money but you need to keep some to buy the GI Joe you have been saving for.”
The little boy responded with emotion, “But mommy, I want to give it all!” I still have that roll of coins on the bookshelf behind my desk. It was $12 and a few cents. His parents, moved by their sons generous spirit, gave ITEC the first game changing donation from a non staff member. The parents gave more dollars but their son gave an even bigger gift. He gave all he had.
Have you fallen for one or the other of these two tricks Satan uses? Honestly, I never was tempted much into thinking I was really important. But I fight the “you aren’t significant because you aren’t doing anything significant” feeling all the time. I fight the traditional belief that we are what we do, even though I know: GOD IS MORE INTERESTED IN US BEING WHO HE WANTS US TO BE THAN IN DOING SOMETHING FOR HIM!
In closing, I just had two experiences that helped my thinking on this subject. First, I called the elderly widow of a missionary who translated for Pastor Nouh Ag Ingfa Yattara and me when we met long ago in Timbuktu. (see the chapter titled “Timbuktu – To The Ends of the Earth,” in Walking His Trail). This woman left her home here in “Disney World” as a young woman to spend her life in a staunchly Muslim, fractious, corrupt, backwards country. In our conversation she lamented apologetically that she can’t do much of value any more. Then she ended our conversation with this little nugget; “NOW I JUST DO WHATEVER GOD PUTS IN FRONT OF ME.” That is a sermon in one sentence.
The second experience that reminded me that “BEING IS MORE CRITICAL THAN DOING” took place while I was taking a nap on an especially painful day recently. I was awakened by my six year old granddaughter shaking me. When I finally managed to roll over toward her, she handed me a piece of folded over black construction paper with a piece of scotch tape holding it together. She almost vibrated with anticipation as I fumbled to pull the tape loose. There was a message inside. In a beginner’s printing, some big letters and some small, running up hill and down, it said; “PEPO (Pipa) I LOVE YOU GLORY FROM”
This Christmas season let’s remember and remind each other that the message to us is; “I LOVE YOU GOD FROM”
ITEC Training Trip Fund
God is opening doors for ITEC to train and equip local Christ followers in various places around the world. Please join us in praying for these upcoming trips, and prayerfully consider donating to help fund future training trips.
Upcoming Trips in 2017
Uganda – Funded – I-DENT
Liberia – Funded – I-DENT, I-MED, I-SEE
Ghana – Funded – I- FIX
DRC – Funded – I-DENT
Haiti – Funded – I-MED, I-DENT, I-FILM, I-SEE
United Kingdom – Funded
Madagascar -Funded – I-DENT, I-SEE
Egypt – Funded – I-DENT
Ecuador – Funded – I-FIX, I-MED, I-DENT
Lebanon – Funded – I-FILM
India – Funded – I-FILM
Paraguay – Funded – I-FILM
Ecuador – Funded – Wao Vision
Kenya – Funded – I-MED, I-DENT, I-FILM, I-SEE
Nepal – Funded – I-DENT, I-MED, I-SEE
Uganda – Funded – I-FILM, FIX, DENT
East Africa – Unfunded – I-DENT
Jamaica – Unfunded – I-FILM