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Day 3 – Monday, 4/24 – Reflecting on Mark’s Sunday Morning Devotional

My daily blog entry normally focuses on one or two patient-related stories. However, because I’m still waiting for a few of those stories to develop further, I’d like to return to Mark’s devotional message Sunday morning and touch on how it spoke personally to me.

Mark began by leading us to Matthew 14:25-32, where we find the disciples in a boat on the water in the middle of a violent storm and their encounter with Jesus, who was walking on the same water that was tormenting them. When Jesus reassured them that it was He whom they saw, Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And Jesus answered him, “Come.” When Peter got out of the boat, at first, he too was able to walk on the surface of the water miraculously, but his human-inspired “courage” soon gave way to fear, brought about by the strong winds of the storm, and he began to sink. Just when all seemed hopeless for Peter, Jesus reached out His hand and saved him, just as He has done for so many of us, time and time again, throughout our walk with the Lord.

I find this Biblical event personally convicting because, unlike Peter (and unlike many of our team members who have spent much of their lives serving in missions), I was *not* willing to “step out of the boat” and enter into missions, resisting God’s unrelenting but patient call into His service for HIS glory between about 1998 and 2005. Let me back up just a bit to help explain.

Between 1995 and 1998, God led me through one of the most unexpected journeys in my life, which led to eventual fluency in the Spanish language. To recount the details would take too long here, but it was a process that fundamentally and beautifully altered the course of my life, one for which I thank God enormously nearly every day.

Soon after learning Spanish (ironically not something that ever interested me), I began asking myself, “Why?” Why did God lead me through such an arduous, life-changing process filled with so much blessing but also personal frustration? He *had* to have a reason for such a “detour,” at least as I saw it. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I have since concluded that He was trying to answer me through the testimonies I heard from the many missionaries who visited our church between the late 1990s and 2005. As they spoke to our congregation, I felt the uncomfortable pull on my heart to answer God’s call to serve . . . but I foolishly, selfishly, and fearfully resisted. And I resisted over and over again. The cold, hard truth was that I was afraid. As an introvert, I was afraid of going with a bunch of total strangers to a foreign country that I had heard was profoundly corrupt and dangerous. In my mind, there seemed to be so many variables outside my control that could jeopardize my health, safety, and comfort. So I refused. Peter at least had the initial courage to step out onto the water before his fear overtook him! Not me. But God is patient, gracious, merciful, loving, and kind; and He never gave up on me . . . thankfully.

And then, a friend and work colleague of mine invited me to go with his church to Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2003 on a medical mission trip. I made up some lame excuses and declined. In 2004, he invited me again to join his church on the same trip to Oaxaca. I found yet another excuse not to go. In 2005, he asked me again, but that time, I could no longer say no. God had been patiently and unceasingly working on my heart, and as hesitant as still I was to go, I could no longer say no.

So, in September 2005, I joined my friend’s church to travel to Oaxaca, Mexico, to serve as an interpreter. In the middle of the week, it became apparent that then-category five hurricane Rita was going to strike a direct blow on the upper-Texas coast and, most likely, the City of Houston. Because most of the team came from the Clear Lake area in the “bullseye” of the storm’s path, half of the team left Mexico on Wednesday to fly back to Houston to get their families out of town. Because my family was already on their way to Austin and thus would be safe and sound, I didn’t need to return to Houston, so I stayed in Oaxaca to complete the second half of the mission that our Lord had ordained. By the time I returned home in the middle of the next week, my eyes had been opened . . . wide; I realized, as hard as it can be for us to believe at times, that we are never as safe as we are when we are in His will, wherever that may be. And during those 11 days, I saw God work in ways I had never seen before. It wasn’t that He hadn’t been working in my life before then; it was just that I wasn’t looking.

Since that initial trip in 2005, God has since led me to join dozens of teams to Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and Cuba. He opened my mind and my heart, and He even modified my very personality to “fit” a role that, before He began His transformative work in me, I would never have accepted. Has it always been easy? No. But I know now that God is persistently working to stretch us beyond our so-called “comfort zone” so that we will trust in Him for the strength, courage, peace, and wisdom that can only be found in Him.

This brings me back to Matthew’s Gospel and the story of Peter, who stepped out of the boat on the raging waters in obedience to Jesus’ very personal call to leave the “human” safety of the boat (which in reality wasn’t safe at all), so he could go to Jesus and know Him even more for who He truly is – the God-Man, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, Who wants so much to have a personal relationship with each one of us that He died on a cross, paying the price for our sins so we don’t have to.

Will I always answer “yes” to His call in the future? I can’t say for sure. Will I falter as Peter did? Most likely so. I’m just as flawed as he was, maybe more so. But despite my future responses to His calling, I know He loves me and desires for me to share in His ministry for my blessing and His glory.

To close, I’ll borrow from the miracle of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 that ironically, but not accidentally, occurred right before Peter found himself sinking in the water. One of the lessons I learned from that miracle is that all we need to do is bring the fish and a few loaves of bread (ironically, He provides), get out of His way, and watch Him do what we think is impossible.

I am forever grateful that He has changed my heart and my life in this way, partly through missions, particularly Faith In Practice. All glory to God!

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