Updated: Mar 31
October 24, 2018
I remember when I started working as a missionary a few different Rehab Centers down in Ensenada, Mexico. It was early December in 2017 when I gave my first message to a group of kids about the ages of 13-25 in a little place called Vida. There, it looked like a step above a juvenile hall. Almost everyone had been sent there against their will, the majority with a bit of fighting involved. Many of these kids had experienced pretty rough lives. I definitely have not experienced the kind of life that they have had. But, one thing I had was a degree from the Bible College on the outskirts of the city and I figured that would help me out. That would give me the edge I needed to impact these kids lives.
Wrong!!! I was so wrong! Not only was it not the case that I could impact them by my big theological terms, any kind of words had hardly any effect. The one thing that I did notice as having an impact was the works that presented themselves along with my words. In this place was where I realized that people are more impacted by your actions than the words that you can give them to “minister” to them. These two words stuck out to me the most: consistency and with.
No longer was I convinced that if I could just say the right things or use the profound words that I had learned would a life be changed. Through spending loads of time with the kids and just living life with them, I discovered the key to real ministry.
Let’s be real, people don’t want inconsistency. I don’t know how many times I have heard the word hypocrite attached the word Christian. The reality is that oftentimes the description of a typical Christian is justified. For example, in the rehab centers we see a lot of people who are really amazed by the work we are doing. They help out a little bit, and we love that, but then within a few weeks or a couple months… nothing. The passion to help these people is quickly overwhelmed by the disappointment of the lengthy process of recovery that is involved in addiction. The passion just seems to vanish and this leads to the idea that Christians are inconsistent, leaving a sour taste in the mouth of the person who experiences it.
It is really easy to get discouraged in this ministry. One person leaves and you believe that they will do well. You take them to eat tacos and you speak into their lives, you send them verses. Then, little by little, they stop responding and just a few weeks after they left you see them back in the same place, skinny and pale after heavy use of Meth for the last week. Yes, I talk from experience.
This is not a very pretty ministry. We work with people from the streets who have gone just about as deep into the hole as you can get. They have completely destroyed relationships with those who were closest to them. Many have deserted jobs, friends and families–including children and wives–to follow after that which has enchained them(drugs). It is difficult and oftentimes, the current seems to be moving hard against you. I don’t know if these are the worst times the world has ever seen, but I can definitely tell you that I can’t imagine it getting much worse.
Because of the fact that it is such a difficult ministry, the disappointment seems to kick in very quickly. That’s “a lost cause” or “what a waste of time” are things that are often heard spoken about these people. Sometimes they even identify themselves as waists of time, which is honestly unfortunate. I have to tell you that the only headway that one can attain is through consistency and doing life with. Let me explain why it has become so important to me.
Being consistent with someone who has never had consistency is impactful.
I have never been around drugs. My whole life was somewhat sheltered. I was homeschooled till my twelfth grade–largely by my own choice. I spent most of my time in the church. My parents did not drink and nobody smoked around me. Now I work with some people from a completely opposite world. Many of them know nothing but lives around drugs, parents who have done drugs, been around people in the neighborhood who sold drugs. That is normal… How can someone like me minister to that side of the world that I have never experienced first-hand?
I believe that one of the most important things where I am at is that there is consistency. If you want to win someone’s heart, be consistent even when it’s hard and it seems like nothing is happening. If they have had such difficult lives, then expect that a quick fix is not possible, it takes some serious time and consistency. Peoples lives are often changed, not by something quick words or one-time actions, but by someone who has learned to be consistent with them in their difficulty. The next goes hand-in-hand with consistency and that is…
2. Living life with them.
I have a friend who has lived using drugs for years. Her concept of what fun is has to have drugs involved. Fun does not exist without drugs. This is not a foreign concept. Many people have to deal with this because oftentimes, drugs are the only thing that they know. It is because of their environment that they grew up with and that’s totally understandable. How then do you show someone that they can have fun without drugs?!?!?! By having fun with them! This is where the with comes in. Think about it.
When you think about a complete change in occupation, where you have to go back to school and learn a whole new set of skills, does that scare you a little bit? Maybe seriously consider moving to a completely foreign country like Tanzania. How does it make you feel? I’ve been there and it is a lot different than our beautiful America! A complete life change is what we seek in ministering to people in recovery, but it can be SOOOOOOOO SCARY!!! That is why it is important to walk with them. Doing life with someone requires a lot of commitment, but it is well worth it. When your friend says that you have changed her perception of fun, just because you choose to have fun with her, it makes it completely worth it (and this has happened).
Oh how important it is to maintain these two things in mind when loving people who have never received real love before. There are so many broken people, but God can use us to bring this love to their lives. God is working and will continue to work in and through us. Be consistent and do life with people. I have faith that in God that He will change people. I have faith in God that He will show you His faithfulness. You and I need to stay faithful with the people that He as put around us. Let us be patient as you are patient God; as you were with the disciples. Even up until the last night before You were sent to the cross Your disciples were arguing about who would sit at your right and who would sit at your left!!! That’s crazy that after three years they would still argue about that. Thank you for being patient with them and patient with us. Let us be the same with others. Help us to be ok with the fact that the art of changing lives is not a quick-fix solution, but it is a process, and oftentimes a long one at that. Make us grateful for the process.