In 2006, my wife and I moved to Guatemala for a couple of years, largely motivated by the desire to be part of what God was doing in the lives of a bunch of kids at New Life Children's Home. We were at a point in our lives when we were pretty free to make a move like that. We didn’t have kids, we didn’t have any debt, we were finished with school, and when the opportunity came up, we thought, “If we don’t do this now we never will.” Our attention had been grabbed by the good ways that we had seen children's lives impacted at NLCH and we wanted to be a part of it, so we went. Like anyone would, we went into that with such high expectations. And it really was a great experience for us, but it’s almost inevitable that at some point, those high expectations are going to come crashing down with a loud thud, and for us, it didn’t take long. We had been in Guatemala three days when we both got sick, and I mean sick. Intestinal infections, amoebas, the works. Not exactly what we were hoping our first week in Guatemala would be like.
And to add to the situation, we knew that the area around where we were moving to wasn’t the safest place on earth. We felt reasonably confident in our safety on the grounds of the children’s home, but the city it’s in isn’t the kind of place where you want to spend much time out after dark. We were aware of that when we went there, but it’s a very different thing to know it and be okay with it while being in another locale than it is to be there and have trouble falling asleep because of hearing gunfire.
The rubber had met the road for us in that first week in Guatemala. We had paid a high cost to get in on something God was doing in the world. Now- was it really worth it?
As you can imagine, we were a bit discouraged. I’ll never forget being at our lowest point one morning when one of the missionaries we were working with, who is one of our heroes, came over to check on us. She’s a nurse, so she was keeping us on the road back to health, but she also knew we were just having a hard time. My wife mentioned the gunfire to her, and she made a comment that made me mentally stop in my tracks (even though I certainly wasn’t making any actual tracks because I could barely get out of bed). But here’s what she said: “Yes, I might get gunned down in the streets of Guatemala tomorrow. But following Jesus is worth it.”
Now, let me be clear. She hasn’t been gunned down. No one from the children’s home has ever been gunned down, but she got the point of two of Jesus' shortest parables from Matthew 13:44-46, in which Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven (or what God is up to in the world) to someone who finds a treasure hidden in a field or a merchant who found an incredibly valuable pearl. Both unhesitatingly sell all that they have in order to get the things they'd found.
Our missionary friend was able to say such words because was in on God’s kingdom. She was part of what we pray when we say, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” She was in on something God was doing in the world, and she had found it to be so good that any price that may have come along was worth it.
Being part of what God is doing in the world doesn't necessarily mean that you'll go live in a third-world country. For some, it will mean doing something like that. But what matters more than whether or not you would ever do something like that is how, in our real lives that we're really living right here and now, that you and I can get in on what God is doing, cooperate with it, and help to further it.
What would it take for you to be fully in on what God is doing, and is it worth it?