After an amazing summer visiting with family and some friends (and sad that there was simply not enough time to visit with many others) we are now back in Costa Rica preparing for new classes and a busy year. Christina has decided to take a job teaching at a local Christian school called Sojourn Academy. This implies that Tyler and Kira will be moving over to this school with her. She is looking forward to the challenge. I am preparing for three new courses set to begin in early September. The courses are: 1) Urban Community Development Work, 2) Mission to Children at Risk, and 3) Social Science tools for Ministry. These courses, several upcoming ministry trips and the launching of a new certificate course in Holistic Child Development at ESEPA should keep my days going.
Among other events, one of the most rewarding events this summer were the ceremonies surrounding Fuller’s commencement in which I was able to participate. This included the opportunity to share a small reflection with those in attendance. Several people have asked about what I shared. I will include the remarks below in full text. We continue to be grateful for the prayers and support of many of those who believe in our calling and work here in Latin America.
Fuller Commencement Reflection
It is an honor to share with you this morning.
My wife, children and I were privileged enough to serve as missionaries in Caracas, Venezuela for a number of years with children and teenagers who lived on the city streets. This past year I had the opportunity to return to Venezuela after a two year absence. As I walked around the premises of the children’s community where we use to work one tree in particular caught my eye. When we lived in Venezuela one of the teenagers and I attempted to remove what we thought was an old dead tree stump…killed by parasites and lack of attention. We worked together throughout the day trying to eliminate the obstacle. After nearly a day’s work, there laid the trunk, beaten, bruised, exposed and left for someone else’s hatchet in the future. The stump won the fight to remove it from the earth…its roots reached deep into the red Venezuelan soil.
On my recent trip to Venezuela I once again had the opportunity to visit the place where children play. As I looked from afar appreciating the new landscape I noticed the old tree trunk with new life. Impressive life! I approached it and saw small fruits beginning to hang from its branches. It must have been fifteen feet tall, looking down upon me from where it stood. The old tree stump had given new life for all to enjoy. The avocado tree now stands proud and beautiful.
My studies at Fuller mixed with opportunities such as this, have awakened something new within me as well. As I have looked to Scripture to answer those deep and difficult questions about my purpose here, God has softly spoken inspiring words of hope. He has birthed within me a new sense of calling and direction.
Despite my doubts and discouragements in this ministry, God has reminded me that he desires to continue to use me and others who are called to care for these young people. I am reminded that the answers for the injustices we witness today are found in the old story. The Calvary story. A story of incarnation and sacrifice.
Like that old stump, children around the world now shout to us that they are ALIVE again. They are alive because God is using his People, to speak words of hope into their lives. Millions of children and teenagers live on city streets around the world. Many of them are hurt and bruised and exposed to the dark side of humanity. Our stories and their stories are weaved together by a common need for reconciliation with our Creator. The biblical narrative also reminds us that we, the Church, are part of the solution for these young people.
The opportunity I have had here at Fuller to research street children in Latin America connects with the ministry I am now in as I focus on training and preparing Christian workers to care for children at risk. Given my studies and the research opportunities I have had, I am encouraged to continue to move forward preparing leaders, pastors and missionaries to care for this important group of people.