Pimps and Mission Trips

As my daughter and I, and 50 other servants, exited the newly constructed 400 square foot house built for a beautiful family of seven in the barrios of Puerto Penasco, Mexico, I humbly said:

In every way I have talked and written about how misaligned the Church is… what you just experienced is the very essence of the Church in all her beauty.

Quizzically my daughter replied, “What do you mean?”

The unity in Christ.
The self-sacrificial love.
The selfless service.
The worship in Spirit and Truth.
The fellowship and community.
The grace and mercy extended.
The joy embodied.
The gospel preached in word and action.

That is the Church of Jesus Christ.

And it was magnificent and beautiful.
It was heaven and earth coming together as one.
It was everything we long for in it’s fullness… and more.

And this was significant.

Not for what we were able to experience and receive as a result of God working among us, but significant for what God was doing through us- the Church.

Two weeks ago I watched a documentary called Tricked, which details sex trafficking in the United States. The victims, law enforcement officers, parents of the victims, and pimps were all interviewed. While listening to, and looking into the eyes, of a particular pimp who was being interviewed… all I could see is emptiness, brokenness, and darkness.

The way he viewed and spoke of the women as products and objects to be used and then discarded to make money without any regard for their welfare, emotions, or humanity was the very embodiment of evil (you can view that video here but be warned that it is explicit). I am not talking about dirty jokes or stealing a candy bar here, I am talking about an all-encompassing and pervasive darkness and evil that blankets and covers… and that works to destroy, not just our relationship with God, but our relationships with others and then ultimately ourselves.

All I could think while watching this documentary was- My God, I am utterly powerless against this evil. What can I do of my own accord, in my own power, to push back this evil? How do I even stand a chance against such a destructive force?

The truth is that I am utterly powerless against it.

We, together, are powerless against this force that works to break and destroy us.

And the only power in all of existence that can confront and defeat this evil… that has the power to turn hate to love, that has the power to mend what has been torn to shreds, that has the power to repair that which has been broken, that has the power to bring to life that which is dead, and that has the power to bring light into the darkest places on earth… is the power of God.

But that seems to be our greatest struggle. We limit God with our perceived adequacy, our man-made self-sufficiency, our all-too-convenient logic and convention, and our failure to see that the world is caught in a spiritual battle with evil forces that work against everything good that God intends for his creation.

If we simply trusted the power that God has given us, I wonder how much differently our world might look. Rather than believing that darkness is more powerful and is diminishing the light of Christ in the world, what if we realized the power God has given us and then became the means through which the light of Christ breaks into the dark places on earth?

In the same way that the people in darkness saw a great light in Jesus Christ, so the world today will see a great light again shining in the darkness through the Body of Christ- the Church.

How would that change you individually?
How would that change your church?
How would that change your community?
How would that change the world?

In the barrios where drug abuse, alcoholism, and physical violence continue the cycle of extreme poverty, the Church my daughter and I were a part of that day was the light of Christ breaking into darkness.

The hands that hammered nails and feet that kicked the soccer ball with the children of the barrio was the light of Christ piercing the darkness.

The songs of worship and praise that we sang within the newly constructed home was the light of Christ invading the darkness.

The words of prayer and petition prayed over the family in their new home was the light of Christ pushing back the darkness.

The communion that we took together in unity within the home proclaimed the Good News of Christ and was the light of Christ that extinguishes the darkness.

That is what I long to be a part of every day of my life (and not just on a mission trip)- the great light of Christ shining through the Church in all the dark places of the world.

And that is what others long for as well.

But will we take the light of Christ into the darkness of the world?

What does it look like in your own life, in your small group, and in your church to take the light of Christ into the darkness? To what dark areas are you being called? What is the first step?

I would love your feedback.

Peace and love…

Brandon

For information on the work of i6eight in Mexico visit their website here

GUEST POST: In Which We Eat Nachos and Fall in Love by Emily Wierenga

trent bursts into the room and asks me to pray and so i bow on the bed, in this retreat of a home called Young Life. a place where staff spoil unchristian kids in the name of the gospel. a place where God emerges in the form of pool parties and walk-on skits and water-skiing and five-star accommodation and zip lines. a place where you can almost HEAR the mountains and lakes clapping their praise.

and trent is head leader here, and a boy named emerson is a camper. a boy who hasn’t eaten in two days. he wants to get back at his dad for sending him here. he wants to hurt his parents who are going through a divorce, so he’s smoking pot in the guts of the rocks and hiding behind shower curtains when trent comes looking for him. and he screams and swears at trent when he finds him.

soon he’s running across the cliffs and trent is following him and talking into his walkie-talkie and it feels like a man-hunt. and so trent slows down. he’s lost sight of emerson, and he prays, and he sights a sliver of black jacket from behind a tree. so he stops, and he sits,and he prays, and he waits. and emerson sees this, and eventually they talk.

trent apologizes. for it seeming like a man-hunt. for all of this, but they care about him, he says. then God tells trenton to bring emerson some pizza (trent not knowing emerson hasn’t eaten in two days) so he does, and they talk some more.

this goes on for the next two days, this chasing and hiding and not wanting to be at camp and trent praying and seeking emerson out. and then someone reports three i-phones missing, and cash. and emerson is the only suspect.

he says he didn’t steal them, and then trent sees him leave the cabin and scale the mountains and trent and the other head leader follow him. pray as they follow him and God leads them to a pile of rocks and wood and grass and they dig beneath it and find a bag with three phones and the cash.

and emerson is sent home.

but before he is, we make him sandwiches and we tell him we love him and we wish he could stay. and trent fairly cries for it all, for the way this boy refused to let them in.

late that night trent bursts into the room again, and he’s holding a plate of nachos, and he says, “emily, come have some nachos with me, and let me tell you how much i love you.”

so i do. we sit in the moonlight, in the kitchen of the lodge, the campers partying below, and we eat nachos and he tells me how much he loves me. for praying for him this week. for loving emerson alongside him. for letting him sleep in after he’d been out late searching for the boy.

and i tell him i love him too. for the way he loves on others. for the way he loves on God.

and this moment, it fills us up more than any nachos ever could.

Emily Wierenga is the author of Chasing Silhouettes: How to Help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder (Ampelon, September 2012). She is wife to Trenton (a math and science teacher), mother to Aiden Grey and Kasher Jude, foster mom to Joey and Jin, a freelance journalist, and a commissioned artist. Emily also volunteers as a counselor for families with eating disordered loved ones, and in quiet moments, she runs, plays guitar, kisses her babies, and travels. For more info, please visit http://www.emilywierenga.com.

Blog: http://www.emilywierenga.com

Twitter: @emily_wierenga