Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Sierra Tarahumara - A sovereign and clear calling

After my time in Mexico this month, I believe that God is calling me to work in the Sierra Tarahumara among the Tarahumara Indians. God's guidance in this matter has been remarkable, not just in the past month, but over a number of years. Although I have often been unsure about my future and how God would lead me (and still am in some matters), looking back, I can clearly see God's hand at work in my life, sovereignly directing circumstances and leading me into His perfect will.

After many years of wondering about God's will and, in particular, the question whether I should go serve Him full time in another country or not, God made this calling clear to me during my time in Papua New Guinea at the Interface programme of NTM in the summer of 2007. I received my calling first and foremost from the Word of God, not from other circumstances. One of the Bible passages that spoke to me in this regard was Jesus' promise in Luke 10:29-30:

And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

It was also during that time that God gave me a burden specifically for Mexico, when I first heard that there were about 200 languages there without a translation of God's Word. Although I had never been to Mexico (or any country in Latin America) before, I knew that this could be where God would want me to go. I did not need any further challenge or motivation to prepare to go to the field. On New Years' Eve 2007, I was reading a blog post that was challenging people to go on short-term cultural exposure trips. As I was reading it, I thought to myself that that was all very nice and good, but I didn't need that since I already knew that God wanted me to serve Him abroad and I wanted to obey Him. Then I came to the end of the blog post, where they listed the various destinations where the short-term trips would be held the following year and I startled when I saw that Mexico was one of them. I saw this as from the Lord, not as a way to consider the question of whether I should go serve God long-term in a foreign country, but as an opportunity to get to know the country and the people of Mexico, for which God had given me a burden.

So in the summer of 2008, I visited Mexico for the first time, working together with a team at the contstuction of a training centre in the state of Chihuahua, in the north of Mexico. During my time there, God gave me a greater love for the country and its people. We were also able to visit a tribal group who were still in need of the gospel - the Tarahumara Indians. As I was speaking with some of the workers towards the end of my time in Mexico, I told them it could well be that I would be back in a few years time. Little did I know then how some circumstances would change for me and yet how my words would still be true and God would sovereignly and clearly confirm my calling to work among the Tarahumara.

After becoming acquainted with another organisation and interested in their work, I was able to attend one of their conferences at the end of last year. While at the conference, I met with one of the leaders of the organisation and enquired specifically about the work in Latin America. He told me that they were only ministering in two countries in Latin America: Peru and ... Mexico! So at the beginning of this year, I got in touch with a team in Mexico and was amazed to find out that not only did this team work in Chihuahua, the same state I visited in 2008, but they even worked among the Tarahumara, the very same people group I had visited! I became very interested in their work and was then invited to come and visit.

In God's providence, another conference of the organisation was to be held around the time of my visit, so I was able to attend the conference before going down to visit the work in Mexico. While at the conference, I met all the team members who are working among the Tarahumara and heard them giving reports of their ministry. But what impressed me much more was to see and experience the great love, respect, unity and passion for God among the team members. I quickly knew that I would love to work with them, no matter where! Different team members also told me how they had been praying for several years for someone like me to come - someone with an interest in learning and working with the language and in doing translation work. I already knew that they had started praying for me after hearing about my interest and already felt part of the team before even meeting them! But after meeting them, I already knew that I wanted to join their team and told them that I did not even need to visit the work in Mexico in order to know that.

Still, of course, I was very thankful for the opportunity to go back to the Sierra Tarahumara with them and get to know their ministry and the Tarahumara Indians better. The time I spent there was further confirmation that God has a place for me there where I can serve Him with the gifts He has given me. The Tarahumara language will be challenge, but I am very thankful for the ground work that has been laid by the team in creating a dictionary and grammar book and I hope to use these to study the language during my final year of studies in England (in Applied Linguistics).

While there have been numerous times in my life when things were difficult and the future was unclear, God always knew about all the circumstances and faithfully led me in His way. Proverbs 20:24 says,

Man's goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?

How good it is to know that God is in control of our lives and our future! We do not need to - nor can we - know all the details of our future. And when we are confused and do not know why certain things are happening in our lives, we can completely trust and rest in God. He is a good and sovereign Father who cares for His children and works all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). And God will accomplish His purposes.

Psalm 37:23-24 says,

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.


Anonymous said...

Hola Michael,
El Señor te ha bendecido con un hermoso don y tú lo has puesto a Su servicio, gloria a Dios.
Seguro que tu trabajo será de gran bendición en Sierra Tarahumara así como en cualquier otro lugar donde nuestro Señor te envíe.
Antes de encontrar este blog nunca me había planteado pensar en las personas que se dedican a traducir las Escrituras en todos esos lenguajes poco conocidos (tampoco había pensado en la cantidad de lenguas que existen). He investigado un poco y leído algunos testimonios de pastores que ahora pueden mostrar la Palabra de Dios en su propia lengua, lo que ha sido de gran importancia para el crecimiento espiritual de la congregación.
Doy gracias a Dios por las personas que como tú hacen que esto sea posible.
Mis mejores deseos para ti en este curso y en tu llamado.
Saludos y bendiciones,

Michael said...

Hola Cande,
Muchas gracias por tus palabras de ánimo y los buenos deseos. Si, todavía existe una gran necesidad para que personas tengan la Palabra de Dios en su propia idioma. Doy gracias a Dios por los dones que El me ha dado y quiero usarles por Su gloria.
De que país vienes tu?

Anonymous said...

Hola otra vez,
pues yo soy española, como ves soy de las personas afortunadas que pueden disfrutar de la Palabra de Dios en su lengua materna, incluso puedo escoger entre varias versiones... Es increible lo bendecida que he sido sin ni siquiera darme cuenta.
Saludos y bendiciones,