Spencer Paveley, one of our base administrators, spoke this week about worship. We usually think of worship as singing songs, eyes closed with hands raised, and within the four walls of our sanctuaries. Spencer challenged us with the idea that worship is actually meant to be a lifestyle. He described worship as a "response to the revelation of who God is." This could look different depending on the situation, because we respond appropriately to things provided our understanding of something.
Worship is an expression of appreciation and admiration. Although God did not create man solely for the purpose of worship…He actually doesn’t need our validation, or anything really, because He is self-sustaining…it is actually beneficial for us to do so. When we direct our attention on who God is, it changes our perspective. This is because we’re choosing to focus on the best thing there is; the most faithful, the most lovely, the most excellent thing in existence. When we fill our mind with God, we find in Him the peace and freedom we are searching for. It’s good. It’s healthy. To emphasize the benefits, we worshiped significantly more this week through music. It was awesome.
Our responses can vary so much. Some sing their praises. Some dance. Others serve the poor. Others teach or preach about their revelations. You can respond to God by using your gifts. I love to sing in church. I love to write poetry. Perhaps what is truly worshipful is the reason behind our actions. The response is born from a thankful heart.
A thankful heart. Interesting, huh? Spencer challenged us with the idea that we come before God in one of two conditions: gratitude or complaint. He said that there’s no middle ground. Either you are satisfied or you are not. Wow. You know what I realized this week? I am not a grateful person. I always seem to be thinking about what I don't have, or what I could have, or am not, or could be or whatever. It's not very like me to focus on what God has blessed me with. Maybe this is the key to my dissatisfaction; I’ve been struggling a lot with boredom. Lecture has been too basic for me. Our schedule is getting kind of dull. Feeling like what we’re doing has no value. These thoughts are coming from a heart filled with complaint!
But is not God the giver of good gifts, like it says in the book of James? Does He not lavish His love on us continuously, every second of every day, like it says in Romans? Every breathe I take, every beat my heart makes is all because of His grace and love. He has abundance for us. He said, in John, that He came to bring us life to full. This word from Spencer was very, very convicting. Something to pray about, for sure. Something to
Wednesday night we had a really fun time. These are designated as our Family Nights. We had a team of high school students from Colorado with us this week, so we had a full house. We had music going on and dancing. There was a spontaneous jump rope competition, after an intense limbo session. People were playing hacky sack and foosball. Lots of laughs.
Vanessa, Spencer’s wife, invited us over to their house to hang out one afternoon. It was really relaxing. She had tea and bread for us, and we all just kind of hung out for a couple hours. We watched youtube videos and played hacky sack.
After that, we had lunch and had a bonfire at the base. Why, you might ask? In the middle of the day? We were burning our “soul ties.” Vanessa introduced to us, back when she spoke in week three, the idea of “soul ties.” As cheesy as I think it sounds, it’s actually a really heavy topic. A soul tie is an intimate connection human beings make with others. They can be healthy or unhealthy, but either way they are influential in our lives. Healthy soul ties occur between loving parents and their children, or loyal friendships. An example of an unhealthy soul tie would be a negligent or abusive parent or even a cheating lover. The fire was open to anyone who wanted to proclaim freedom from their past; any abuses, heartbreaks or regrets that plagued us. It was really cool to see people write these things down and throw them in the fire. Some people even threw out clothing. We got to pray for them, and exalt healing and freedom in Jesus. I’ll say that I even made a step in that direction…but that’s between me and God. Hallelujah.
I got a new backpack after the fire. Isaac, the guy who runs the kitchen, took me downtown to buy a good backpack for traveling. We took the bus to the main shopping strip, and we bought this sweet, black high sierra 75-liter backpack at a gun shop. Kind of a random place to buy it, but I finally got it! It made this weekend so much more enjoyable.
We went downtown again to feed the homeless, this time to the red light district. It was a little more sketchy than the first time…just because of our location…but it went so much better. I prayed beforehand that God would reign and the enemy would be silenced. I proceeded with caution, nonetheless, but ended up having a cool encounter with an older Nicaraguan man named Victor. Carole, one of my leaders, and I chatted with him while one of my friends Luis translated. For a while, he was trying to teach Carole Spanish, and pointed out to us that we were gringos...but then all of the sudden he started asking about Jesus. He said he didn't know Him, but he wanted to.
Victor started crying and hitting himself in the chest, because his "heart was empty and longing." We asked him if we could pray for him, and if he wanted to accept Jesus into his heart. He said yes, so we laid hands on him. Luis led him in a prayer in Spanish while Carole and I held his hands. At some point during the prayer, as Luis and Victor called on the Holy Spirit, I felt something descend on us. Something so contrastingly opposite of what I felt the last time we went to the streets; light. Every hair on my body stood on end, a chill of excitement ran up my spine, my hands tingled and I couldn't help but smile. I really think Victor met Jesus that night. Before he left us to go find somewhere to sleep, Victor asked us to pray for his asthma. I prayed for healing, while Luis translated, and declared wholeness and peace in his life. He thanked us with some sincere fist-bumps, and told us he believed he would be okay. He was exhausted; Luis walked him to the shelter around the corner where he could sleep. Highlight for sure.
Eight of us went backpacking this weekend to this little town called Montezuma. We took a bus to the coast, and then a ferry across the peninsula to another bus, finally to arrive at our destination. I think I liked the traveling aspect more than anything this weekend. I got to spend some time with Merlin, our non-English-speaking friend from El Salvador for two hours on the bus entirely in Spanish. I loved the boat ride, too. It was simply gorgeous. The sun was setting and the clouds were ablaze with color.
We spent most of the weekend just walking around and exploring the beach. We played in the waves for a little while, before coming back to the hostel to make lunch. I think a lot of us were pretty tired, so we didn’t end up doing very much. Nonetheless, it was very nice. I must say, it was kind of strange, too. I’ve never been to a place like this before. Montezuma is a party town on the beach. The downtown is about as big as our YWAM base, full of souvenir shops, vendors, restaurants and hostels. You can do pretty much anything during the day. You can go for a hike to the waterfalls, rent motorcycles, go snorkeling, go horseback riding, go zip-lining, learn to surf or even take a yoga class. At night, everything shuts down except for one bar in the center of the town. Everyone goes to the bar at night. Everyone. Alcohol is cheap. Drugs are cheap. Prostitutes are cheap. It’s really hot in Montezuma, so most people walk around in their bathing suits. There are a lot of young singles with gorgeous bodies running around in the jungle and the beaches. Our first night there, I actually saw two people having sex on the beach right outside our hostel. We were offered marijuana and cocaine like three times in one hour when we went downtown to check out the vendors.
Someone said that Montezuma has a population of under one hundred, and the rest are all tourists and backpackers. We met a lot of Canadians and a lot of Europeans. They were all either on vacation for the weekend, or fleeing their home countries to do something different than what they have been doing. Some were in Costa Rica for volunteer work, and taking the weekend off to party. We got to talk with some people here and there about it and it was very interesting. There was such a vibe of waywardness to this place. Not a lot of people knew what was next for them.
After exploring the beach, dinner and a worship session, we went downtown for the evening to “practice” loving on the travelers. Like I said before, everyone was at the bar. If not inside it, they flooded the street outside. Loud reggae music was playing across the street, combating the hip hop and r&b blasting from inside the bar. We prayed and split up into pairs, hoping God would cross our paths with someone to bless. Julia and Val, our leaders, told us to look for opportunities to get to know people and look for opportunities to share God’s love with them. They suggested buying someone a drink or dinner, or inviting them to hang out with us tomorrow when we went hiking. Bold moves, huh? A little intimidating, I would say. Val and I bought some guy a beer, but it didn’t go anywhere. We ended up sitting on the sidewalk with all these other people drinking and smoking. Val said sometimes it’s best just to pray for the others. We could see our friends talking with people, so we just prayed that they would be able to share God’s love with them. My friend Aryk, from Canada, was on fire this weekend! He was so bold, and got into so many rich conversations with the travelers.
It was a strange experience. I had never been to a place like this before. At first, I found myself judging the people around me. I would never do any of this. Why would I leave my home to come all the way down here to get wasted and hook up with random people? Why would anyone want to invest in such a journey? As I sat there on the sidewalk with Val, the clouds started to part in my mind. They’re looking for pleasure; they’re looking for satisfaction. They want to experience something more than what their normal lives offer. Some want to see something beautiful; human beings, mountains, rivers, the ocean. Others want to feel significant, like they’re doing something matters; volunteer work, language school. They want to feel joy, unspeakable joy; cheap alcohol, plentiful drugs. What can placate these thirsty and hungry people? God. They’re looking for God. They don’t know it, and maybe I don’t either, but I think that’s what they’re ultimately searching for; the love of God.
I felt God speak to me as I looked around at the partiers. Luke 15 came to mind, where Jesus tells parables of the lost sheep, coin and prodigal son. The shepherd leaves the ninety nine to find the one lost sheep, and the widow sweeps here entire house until she finds her coin. The Father rejoices and throws a party when His son returns to Him. God reminded me that these people before me were His lost treasures. They were His sheep and His coins. They were His sons and daughters. He wanted them back. He didn’t want them to numb their pain with substances. He didn’t want them to give away their bodies for validation. He wanted them to know that He loved them.
Pray that God would give me His eyes and His heart for the backpacker community.
The next day, we were going to go see the infamous waterfalls of Montezuma. You could get to them by walking upstream along this little river by the hostel. It was beautiful. Chris and I never made it all the way there, unfortunately. We only saw a little one, but there were supposedly bigger and better ones further up. We walked along the riverside trail for a good while until out of nowhere it started pouring rain. You guys, this was what I envisioned the Great Flood to have been. I was drenched from head to toe within seconds. I got water in places I never knew I had! Chris didn’t feel like trekking through the storm, and I had my camera with me, so I thought it better to just go back as well. We walked through the shower for like twenty minutes and got back to the hostel to dry out our clothes.
I thought my daypack was waterproof, which is why I brought it, but it apparently is not. My camera got soaking wet, and no longer works. Of course.
-God is speaking to me. Very clearly. I’ve been receiving so much revelation.
-Great time with the homeless this week.
-We got to experience God’s glorious creation on the beach this weekend.
-Pray for Victor, wherever he is. Pray for God to lead him, and to heal him.
-Pray for a thankful heart. I want to be grateful for every breathe.
-Pray that I would have God’s eyes and heart for the backpackers.
-Finances, as always. Please pray for provision.
-PRAY FOR REST.