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Easter weekend we were able to join a short-term group and some of the Extreme staff from Arequipa in Puno, Peru near Lake Titicaca to celebrate Easter and the first official service in a new church building constructed by the short-term volunteers and funded through donations to Extreme Building projects. It was amazing. It was very cool to see Lake Titicaca, as it is the world's highest navigable lake...but I personally was touched most by the volunteers there (short-term and long-term) but especially by the pastor's wife. I haven't talked to her ahead of time for permission to share what she shared with me, but I will just say that it is so crazy how God works years and years in bringing his plans together. He began working in the life of a little Peruvian girl years ago and calling her to minister along with her husband and family in Puno, Peru. It is beautiful.
So Sunday morning, Easter morning, I woke up and started reading in Luke about the crucufixion. Of course there are so many things that are striking about that strange time. During the last supper Jesus is speaking about being betrayed and he says "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you turn back, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:31-32). Of course Jesus said this knowing that Simon Peter would deny him three times after Jesus' arrest. It reminds me of Satan's asking permission to toy with Job and test his faith in hopes that he could destroy it. The cool thing about this is that in spite of the fact that He knew Peter would fail, He still prayed for him that his faith would remain strong. Right after he says he has prayed for him Jesus basically says that his faith will fail by saying "and when you turn back"... Jesus knows that we do fail and yet He is honored by our desire not to fail (Not that we do always fail of course because there are a great many times where our victory is completely secured by Christ!). God intends to change our lives, teach us, and teach others through our failure. It got me thinking about this whole story from Peter's perspective. Later on in verses 54-62 Peter denies Jesus 3 times and in that moment right after the 3rd denial, the rooster crows and it has all the drama of a movie...I imagine all sounds and movement halting except the sound of the rooster crowing and the electric gaze of Jesus piercing the heart of Peter (Lk 22:61). In that moment, Peter must have felt like the most horrible, disloyal, unfaithful friend in the world - a huge failure...small as a speck of dust...and yet, Peter is the rock upon which Christ will build his church (Mat 16:18). Christ knows exactly how we fail, He prays that our faith will remain strong but He uses us in spite of the failure and I would even say He uses us because of our failures. Peter in that moment of desperate humility must have walked away knowing his weakness in a way he could not have known before and enabled to increase in faith at having seen Christ's unwavering love and forgiveness. At the end of those verses, Jesus says "strengthen your brothers." Our failures are able to create strength!
The teams that are working down here go through so much. There are so many ups and downs and times when they may feel disappointed in themselves or in their team. I believe that these things are definitely more about the strengthening that comes after rather than our dissapointment at missing the mark we had set. We can never see all that Christ is doing. I am praying, right alongside Jesus, that our faith may not fail, but where it does let us be strengthened.
After the Resurrection, he appeared to some travellers walking on the road to Emmaus. This whole time they had no idea who He was even though they were among his followers. Now, they were kept from recognizing him until he chose to reveal himself... the women realized later that during their visit, their hearts had been burning and they knew at once why...it was because their Lord had been with them! Sometimes we don't realize what the Lord is showing us until we are able to look back on it. I hope that we have the wisdom to recognize Christ, even if not in the moment... Let us not ever become discouraged for His plans are undoubtedly unfolding as they should. When we are walking along the road to Emmaus and we feel that all is lost, I hope we turn around and realize that Christ is Risen! He has conquered it all and "now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."(2Cor 5:5).
Easter is so emotion-filled...but awesomely beautiful at the end.
We are finishing up our time here in Arequipa this next week. We will be visiting Machu Picchu as a special little segue between our time in Peru and the beginning of our work in Paraguay. Oh my goodness it was so hard for us to get here but now I see fully in this moment that God has definitely ordained this for us and has already opened up blessings for trusting in His plan. I think this is our calm before the real work begins. Our team in Paraguay is working so very hard and they have already seen some amazing growth there but at the same time they are experiencing many challenges. Please be in prayer for them. Pray that they will not feel discouraged or incapable. We need only be willing and God will form us.
Thanks for reading all of this if you have gotten this far : ) In closing I am including a clip from David Platt, author of Radical. This is what Easter is all about...what Jesus died for, and what we are going to Paraguay for. Even here, on the mission field, we need to remember to give it all. Each day we may fail, but each day we may grow stronger. Let us be passionate in our living and bold in our faith! Let us ask of God for God...not for ourselves.
Lots of Love to you all and Thank You most whole-heartedly for your support.
**We need some of you to sign up for our Kid's Prayer Team. We have all months after May open. See http://jesusadventure.blogspot.com/p/kids-prayer-team.html to sign up. We have a few unfulfilled pledges and so are in need of a few more monthly sponsors. We are also praying about schooling for our children which would mean an additional monthly expense that does not qualify for tax-decutions for any donors. Please join us in praying for these needs.