Sunday, May 31, 2015
This is written on the mural that greets people as they walk off the dock at Esperanza. Esperanza is a place where people come to rest, start over, renew, grow strong. In our first month here, we have seen people rest, grow, change, and be renewed. We have heard stories of hope. We have seen burdens lifted.
One couple is in transition from mission work in Southeast Asia trying to ascertain God's next step for them. With their young son in tow, they arrived at Esperanza around the same time as us. We have had the honor of spending time with these two, listening to their stories, watching them recuperate from the bug that is traveling around Esperanza, and looking to God for direction for their immediate future.
A local woman also came to Esperanza shortly after we arrived. She brought her young daughter and younger son to find a place to work on some personal things with a couple of our staff. A friendship blossomed between her and Laura Jane and between her daughter and our twins. At one point, all of them were outside - moms on the grass, and kids, shirtless and in swim trunks, swimming in our wading pool. Later that day, the daughter brought a bunch of raspberries over to share with "her sisters". (She was including Wesley in that). In the two weeks that she was here, the staff, particularly the women, were able to encourage her in her life, her faith, and her future.
Today, I was able to listen to some of the women and men at Ehattis at church talk about hurt, broken families, disappointment, and being strong. And they thanked Esperanza for coming and being part of their lives, for being an encouragement to them. We were reminded that we are not coming to them bringing something. We are all in this together. We are the Church. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are one family. That's what we do.
As I listened, a picture of the Church began forming in my head. The Church is multi-denominational, multi-ethnic, and multi-lingual. There are many cultures, backgrounds, and expectations. Much like a blended family, we often bicker between the "step-children" about which theology is the "right" one. We argue like parents about what is right for our congregation. We protect "our kids" (those who believe the same as us) and struggle, at times, to love those not "biologically" connected to us (with different backgrounds).
But when you think about it, aren't we all here to be a lighthouse to those hurting, even if they don't share the same belief about the "right" size for a church? Aren't we to consider others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3) instead of making sure that we all agree on the proper timeframe of the Tribulation? That is why Esperanza exists. We may not all agree on everything - even what may be considered sin. But we do agree that people are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). He loves each person dearly, more so than any of us could even imagine. An immense, wild, just God LOVES us - you and me, your best friend, your worst enemy, the Pope, and each member of ISIS. He calls us to love others.
As the Church, we are a big, disfunctional, often in-fighting, family. At least we are when we think about ourselves first. But when we focus on others, on their hurts, needs, failures, and even successes, we become beacons of hope. We become agents of change in our world. We get to be part of the hope that allows one's strength to be renewed, that allows them to soar like the eagles I see here daily.
Last weekend, the women of Esperanza and 20 members of a mission team from Cornwall Church in Bellingham put on a Women's Retreat here at Esperanza. A couple of staff made the observation that the women who showed up were not the same women as those who left. Many came here that Friday burdened from life. There was a visible weight on them. When they left Sunday afternoon, that weight had been lifted. Through fellowship, singing, laughing, eating, and learning together, the Church was able to encourage each other, share the burdens, ease the load, and refocus. Strength was renewed and women soared home. Yes, many of those burdens were waiting for them at home. But God used His Church, people with different backgrounds, beliefs, and even nationalities, to share that burden and bring glory to His name.