Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A Time of Change (Late Publish)

James and Ellie Carr

***Written several years before publish date***

2016 was a year of change for our family.  Although still in Guatemala, we changed our location.  Although we are still working with children, mostly from Zone 18 of Guatemala City- one of the nation's most crime ridden zones- we changed the capacity in which we worked with them to being orphan and abuse faith-based care rather than English classes and poverty tourism.  We changed from having job tasks that kept us busy, to having job descriptions that are more honoring to the Lord and focused on bringing Him glory.  We changed from being in the business of advertising, filtering our speech, and being on the side of missions focused on business and dollar signs to being in a place where we can not only talk freely about what we believe, but we can also live it out, share it with you- our friends and family- and have a Biblical purpose behind our service.

When we answered the call to be missionaries in 2014, sold our possessions, and moved to Guatemala, we had no clue about what an industry it really was.  We had jumped to answer a call in our lives, and had landed in a dog-eat-dog pool of missionaries who will do and sell almost anything to stay alive- and while it seemed foreign to us, before long, it became the norm surrounding us.  Missions quickly became a fend-for-yourself-world in which missionaries and organizations fought tooth and claw over any donor or dollar, words are twisted and filtered to borderline untruths, all while the poor and needy who they claim to serve have received neither physical benefits nor spiritual guidance and truths.  We knew something wasn't right.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
Many of you are familiar the verse, Isaiah 61:1,

But can I ask you to take a moment to read a similar almost paralleling passage, Ezekiel 34:1-10?

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GodAh, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.
“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 Thus says the Lord GodBehold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.

When I first read this passage in 2015, it scared me.  I saw around me people who were claiming to serve "in God's name," but were instead taking the lion's share of the food, acquiring personal gains through missions such as high-end real estate, and bringing no real or noticeable change to those whom they claimed to serve.  I questioned whether we had fallen into the trap, and knew that that was not the reason we were called to leave everything behind and come to Guatemala.  I knew our calling was more genuine than that.

As the weeks and months passed, James and I had heated, tearful, conversations daily and nightly about what it truly was that we had been called to do here, and whether or not we were doing it to the best of our abilities.  As time passed, the answer clearly became, "No."  So we began searching.

Did we come to help the poor?  Although it seemed like a good option here in Guatemala where poverty is a massive issue facing society, we knew that it was not something we could solve nor did we feel that it was the problem we had left everything to remedy.  While helping poor neighborhoods seemed like nice thing to do, there are numerous other humanitarian and urban development organizations specifically working in Guatemala City, and even in Zone 18.  It seemed silly to reinvent what they were already doing well.

While it was clear that we were supposed to work with youth, we had yet to figure out what capacity we were able to do so.  We knew it was to go deeper than simply teaching English classes, building playgrounds, and hosting fun outings with poor children, so we turned to the Bible for an answer.

Month after month we were drawn back to two main objectives:
- First and foremost- making disciples.  We knew this was a non-negotiable in any job or service here in Guatemala.
- Caring for the widows and orphans.  You can read about how we were convicted of this here.

While we thought it very virtuous to care for the poor, as the church should, we knew that "the poor" as a relative state of being would always be among us, and as a couple, our specific area of service needed to go deeper than that.  James and I at different times, but for the same reason, came to the same conclusion-
"We have been commanded to make disciples, are living in a country truly and undeniably lacking in orphan care, yet see the poor surrounding us daily.  We are to carry out the Great Commission always, can love and serve God by loving the orphans He holds dear, and meanwhile can love others through serving the poor."

Many people have been told that there are hundreds of orphanages in Guatemala, so there is little need for more orphanages and orphan care.  Friends, that is simply a lie.  There is a government run orphanage behind us that James visited a couple of days ago.  The home has the capacity for 400 children and adolescents.  Unfortunately there are currently about 750 children living within the tall, overcrowded, razor-wired walls.  When James entered he heard no laughs, yells or giggles- just silence.  There were no children playing out doors- just barred windows of packed "homes" where the kids will likely spend their entire childhood.  In October, over 30 children "escaped" from the orphanage.  It is suspected that they were sold into trafficking.  I digress.

Folks, there are many needs here in Guatemala.  I don't write to say that any is more important than another.  I write from the burden I have here for the sheep who are not fed while the shepherds are getting fat.  I write to tell you about our own struggles that we've faced and how we've dealt with them over the past year.  I write to hold our family accountable before you.  I write to challenge you to not let your passion and service towards God falter while you focus on your own excess.  Lastly, I write to you to challenge you to hold your missionaries and nonprofit organizations accountable- what progress have they made in the last three months? what is their budget breakdown? are they accumulating more wealth than they are aiding others?  Please, I encourage you ask the tough questions, and if something doesn't feel right, maybe it's the Spirit and your own discernment guiding you.

Thank you again to those of you who pray, give, and encourage so we can continue to serve.  We'd love to hear your thoughts if you would like to share below!

James + Ellie

James and Ellie Carr / Author & Editor

James and Ellie Carr have been missionaries in Gautemala since 2014 and write to share their feelings and how they have experienced God's goodness and mercy on the mission field.


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