Back home there is a small family owned amusement park. There are a couple of old school wooden rollercoasters there that must have been devised by chiropractors in order to assault people’s spines and drum up more business. Useless fact of the day: one of the rides was called “the Phoenix”. That specific ride has all the normal drops, twists, turns, etc., but its main feature is a long straight stretch where the coaster goes fast through multiple swooping ups and downs.
There was a time when me and my brothers went to the park with some family friends. We were big enough to ride the Phoenix, but we were too small for the lap bars to actually hold us in very well. So on the swooping ups and downs my younger brother would nearly fly out of his seat each time the ride would change directions. Luckily he was sitting next to an adult who could keep a hand on the top of his head and hold him down.
We thought it was great at the time. We would all laugh and complain a little about how jarring the ride was. Since that trip I’ve ridden that roller coaster once or twice … let’s just say I don’t ever need to do it again. As an adult it felt like every bone in my body was playing musical chairs.
Not worth it.
As we worked so hard the last few years to learn the Konomala language and build friendships in our community, we always wondered “what it would look like” when we started to lead our friends into scripture. We often talk about how we know God will have to be the one to work in peoples’ hearts … our energy, ideas, and hard work is worth nothing on our own. It all comes down to the Spirit working in people as they humbly open themselves up to Him and His word.
Those times of plodding through language, long days, and unknowns felt like the clanking roller coaster climbing to the top of the first big drop. Then like the Phoenix, we finally got to take the first drop and start opening the Bible with our friends … now we’re in the swooping up and down part. That memory of the Phoenix feels like a fitting image for our emotions over the last month or so.
We are meeting on Sunday afternoons then again on Tuesday and Thursday night. There are some times we come home late at night and feel so encouraged about what God is doing in the hearts of our few friends who keep coming back to hear more. There are moments and conversations where people blow our minds and fill our hearts with thankfulness at the things they say. Those are definitely “up” moments.
Then there are times like this whole last week where things seem to totally stall. The weather is bad so no one comes … it’s too “cold”, so people don’t want to be out at night … everyone gets sick at the same time … people with so much “potential” seem to have no desire to humble themselves and listen … certain people keep showing up multiple hours late …
The list could certainly go on, but regardless of what it is, there are many things that can feel like “downs”. Most of the time it’s just a bunch of little things, but some days we feel down and frustrated. That’s when we have to help each other remember the things that are true.
God is is the only one who can change hearts.
He knows; He sees; He’s faithful.
His word and His Spirit have amazing power.
Each individual has to recognize their need and humble themselves under His work.
Our good Father is working in us too through all of this.
We have the same decision to humble ourselves under His work as we walk alongside our friends.
We get to be His ambassadors here in this far away community.
The hardships we face daily are only a momentary thing but they have eternal weight.
Soon we’ll be with Him knowing that it was all worth it.
Remembering the truth brings the discouraging struggles back into the right frame.
We can keep going. We can rest in our good Father’s hands.
That each of our friends would continue to humbly open their hearts to God as He reveals Himself to them through the Word and works in them through His Spirit.
That we would choose the same humility as God is working in our own hearts each day as well.
That God would continue work in the hearts of the individuals who are closing themselves off to His truth and work. Dare I ask that they would be so bothered by the truth that they are forced to consciously make the decision to accept or reject God.
That we would learn to live in the space of deep dependence on God for wisdom and clarity as we lead our friends into His word.
That God would protect us and our friends as the physical, emotional, and spiritual battles are very real.