Why We Go “There And Back Again”
It’s surprising the multitude of sources of inspiration the Holy Spirit can use. An unusual quote has guided a lot of my praying for ministry, especially over the last eight years of missions trips.
After the climactic battle in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, the victorious survivors (including, thank goodness, our hero Bilbo Baggins) journey together to their respective homes. Coming to a place where the Elven host turns off for the palace in Mirkwood, the Elvenking's farewell to Gandalf, like a benediction, has always captured my imagination. Here are his words as they are underlined in my delapidated, fifty-year-old hardback copy of the classic:
“May you ever appear where you are most needed and least expected! The oftener you appear in my halls, the better shall I be pleased!”
Thus I often find my heart expressing itself before the Throne in almost those exact words: “Lord, please send me where I am ‘most needed and least expected.’” Perhaps that oft-repeated prayer is the reason why I wind up in such out-of-the-way places as Quilalí and Ocotal, Nicaragua.
The Lonely Mountain?
For several months, our travel has been confined to the eastern United States, but in early May I return to Central America. For this leg of the journey, I will once again be traveling with a small squad from LendAHand Mission Teams, led by its new president Denise Abner.
What “the Lonely Mountain” was to Bilbo and company, the remote Nicaraguan town of Quilalí seems to me. It's a long, overland trek that takes most of a day, much of it over winding mountain roads. During three days in Quilalí, we'll be teaching Assembly of God and independent leaders, a group that normally averages above 80 attendees.
Then we'll double back over the mountain roads to a new assignment in Ocotal (not far from the Honduran border), where we'll be teaching a cadre of Baptist leaders for another three days (plus an intervening full day of preaching on Sunday, May 14th).
Like the parting of the Elven army from Gandalf and Bilbo, the rest of the team will return home on Wednesday, May 17, while I pack up to fly on to Guatemala for about 10 days of ministry, including a joint pastors' conference, May 22-24. But more on that in the next newsletter…
Baggins’ Bags and Bag Bottom!
You may recall that Bilbo returned at last to Bag-End (the name of his comfy home in Hobbiton) with bulging bags of treasure and gold enough to last him his long lifetime. We live on a financial plane which might better be called “Bag Bottom”; which is another way of saying that we make these trips in dependence on the Lord, trusting that He will provide sovereignly. And He does that through your prayers and sacrificial giving; He uses your participation to carry the teaching ministry to these leaders. Here are several points of praise and prayer:
- Praise: Just yesterday I learned that a brother who was going to provide my plane ticket for this trip has been prevented from doing so by unforeseen circumstances. How does “losing” around $1500 in airfare qualify as a praise report? I'm not certain; it just has the hallmarks of a “blessing in disguise.”
- Prayer: Other expenses for the Nicaragua portion of the trip could be as high as $1000.
- Praise & Prayer: Lord willing, Denise will be joining me for the Guatemala portion of the trip to be part of the teaching team. But here again, there's more airfare involved – about $900 at today's price.
Praise: All right, this has nothing to do with missions, but you can praise God with us for the safe and happy arrival of our new granddaughter, Alyson Cherie Blythe, the daughter of Michael-Davin and Kristen Blythe. “Grandma Denise” is away helping for a few nights, even as I write these words!
- Praise: Despite our upcoming travel expenses, we felt led to honor an important request, making what we consider a strategic investment. The leaders' teaching team FROM Guatemala is traveling to flood-ravaged Perú next week to teach pastors and leaders in several parts of the country. They asked for help with a third of the group's airfare and after seeking the Lord, we couldn't say no; so we sent off $700 to make the trip possible. (The Guatemalans are providing a third and the Peruvians are providing the other third.) This team is so dedicated and effective – and the Peruvians are so hungry and open and eager – that I would have happily sent the money even if it meant that we could not make the Nicaragua/Guatemala trip! Please pray for these pastor-training pastors from Guatemala!
- Prayer: Most folks forget that The Hobbit has a subtitle: There and Back Again. Thus, it's fitting that I come “back again” to the Elvenking's benediction and my prayer. Please pray that what we teach will be what's “most needed,” and, in the sense of deep heart needs, “least expected.” And pray for traveling mercies, physical protection, and especially sensitivity to the Holy Spirit as we go… well, “there (and there) and back again” all over again!
Much love in Jesus,