Thursday, June 11, 2009

When The Lord Spares You From Death-June 11, 2007

**Two years later, this still isn't easy, but the Lord is continuing to heal me and use this significantly in my life.  I normally don't "type" out what I'm going to preach on--but I knew I would never make it through the day, so below is the "sermon" documenting our trip...

The team--the day before our accident:
When the Lord spares you from death:

In the airport heading home:

Upon our return from Honduras I was asked to give a testimony at the following Sunday morning service...given no time limit and asked to do what the Lord told me to do....below is what ended up being the "sermon" for the reading this and not hearing the tape you miss all the tears and snot that went with it! :-) 

I have pondered over and over again and have prayed as to how to start this testimony this morning. My thoughts wander to the very beginning when the Lord chose His people to be apart of this team. The Lord is very specific in Who He wants to send and He had 25 people chosen to be apart of the amazing work that He was to do. As I watched the Lord place His team together, I was overwhelmed by His goodness, His faithfulness, His grace and His mercy. It was during this preparation of this team that the Lord confirmed in me once again the calling that He has on my life. I can now say 4 years later that I am grateful that Jesus called me to my hometown. He has uniquely created a place for me in which I am surrounded by amazing youth, while still allowing me to go to the nations and take these amazing people with me!

Two weeks ago we stood in front of you at this altar and you prayed over us…you asked the Lord to commission us into the mission field of Honduras. We asked you to pray for a miracle to happen with passports. You asked the Lord to protect us as He sent us. You prayed specifically for me as a leader and as these two weeks come to a close I want to thank you for your prayers.

In some ways these past two weeks I feel as if they have been the longest two weeks of my life. We started our journey on June 6th with 21 team members knowing the Lord had called 25 people. This was lesson number one for me to trust the Lord. Our journey included a broken airplane in Savannah, a drive to Atlanta, a run through the Atlanta airport, a flight to Miami-a city I might add we were never suppose to go to, with many runs through the very large Miami airport, a hotel in Miami…a night of taking the kids out to show them Miami in which our team was able to witness to a man on the street-which might have just been the reason the Lord took us to Miami-continuing Thursday morning of hearing yet again that we were "not in the system" to issuing tickets and having 20 minutes to make it through security and to make the flight…which was yet another run through the Miami airport. Did I mention that I could not see over any of these delta or American airline counters in all three of these airports? We then proceeded to have a flight from Miami to Honduras in which we met up with team member number 22 who landed the same time we did and we went through customs and claimed our luggage that made it to Honduras the day before we did. Day number 2 in Honduras Jesus brought us team members number 23 and 24 when their passports showed up on their doorstep from some unknown independent carrier. And day number 3 Jesus brought us team member number 25, brining us each team member that He called…and even though we don't understand His ways, He brought our team together in His timing, not ours, which always ends up being the best option anyway! I recently was referred to the book "Intercessor" by Rees Howell and 2 days before we left on this adventure I read and wrote in my journal, "But is it not God who turns the ordinary into the extraordinary when He is given a chance?" Jesus turned our situation of passports into something extraordinary that taught us how to trust Him. For this we are grateful.

In the beginning of planning this trip, our number one prayer for this team has been unity. I watched the Lord unify this team in a way that I have never seen before. The team was absolutely amazing. There was never a complaint, there was never whining….they all trusted God in knowing He had called them to this mission and He was and is faithful and everything happens in His timing. 

What is always truly amazing to me with these trips is that we always think we are going to change the people that we are going to minister to. It always ends up being the same situation in which they end up teaching us more than we could ever imagine, but this trip was even more extreme. We prepared lessons to teach the children and they showed us that they had more faith than we could even imagine or comprehend. We saw a new level of what it means to trust in Jesus. They believe in a Jesus that we read about in His Word, but rarely believe with our hearts. We taught the kids about Noah's ark and the Vine and the branches, in which they had a great time running around with animal paper plates we had made into masks for them and putting their hands in paint to show they are the fruit around a banner we had painted for them…but in return they sang songs to us about Who Jesus is. Not who He was, but who He is…that He is the One who provides for every need…including every meal, even when they don't know where it's going to come from, to providing shelter for them, even if it is a couple of sticks put together and called a home, to telling us about the Jesus that lays His hands on the sick and they are healed. They believe in a Jesus that is Lord of their everyday lives. Their faith does not consist of only sitting in church on Sunday morning. On the Sunday morning we were in Honduras, we watched children that are in pre-kindergarten sing a song to us and act out a drama about laying hands on the dead and praying for Jesus to raise them. These pre-k's believe in a Jesus that raises the dead. They believe that they can lay their hands on the sick and they will be healed. That they can lay hands on the dead and they can and will be raised up. I sat in amazement and astonishment and started to weep as I watched these children have more faith than I do. I wept as I looked upon them realizing this is the lifestyle that Jesus has called us to. A radical lifestyle in which we trust in Him. A lifestyle in which we are willing to give up everything for the One who has called us. The Lord used these pre-kindergartners to rock me and my faith.

Each day was a new day in which we got to experience God's faithfulness. We were in our cabins every night by ten, falling asleep to toads that sounded like goats that wanted to eat me for dinner, to waking up to the sun and birds every morning around 5:30. Each team member was required to spend a minimum of 30 minutes each morning with the Lord before they came to breakfast at 7. The most beautiful thing about the week was watching the team get up earlier and earlier because they were no longer satisfied with only giving the Lord 30 minutes to sit in His presence in the morning. The Lord gave us a beautiful hotel with His beautiful creation to look at every morning in which He used that time to romance each one of our hearts. My prayer for this team is that this hunger to sit in His presence continues here at home. That they would not be satisfied with a quick prayer, if any, to start their day. Instead, waking up early to give the Lord their first fruits of the day would be a staple in their everyday lives. 

While in Honduras we had several different projects from putting up a fence, preparing a garden for planting, staining cabinetry, to interacting with the people of Honduras, but our biggest lesson in all of this was for us to trust in Him.

On our way home on the afternoon of Monday, June 11th, we were approaching the next to last curve from our hotel and around this curve came a semi-truck that was passing another car and was completely in our lane. Our driver reacted in the best way he possibly could by angling us off of the road which prevented us from being hit head on. The semi still hit us and sent us even further off the road in which the bus proceeded to flip over on its side. People now ask the question, did you see it coming, what do you remember, how did you react? Yes I saw it coming, yes I saw it hit us, yes I remember screaming Jesus and calling on his name as the bus flipped and we all flew through the air. Never in my life have I experienced the Lord in such a way. I literally felt the hand of God guiding our bus off the road and preventing what could have ended very, very badly and really honestly should have ended badly. I am still in shock of God's faithfulness, His grace and His mercy. I know that I haven't actually processed all of it and when I think of how He saved us, it brings me to tears. I don't understand God's faithfulness. I don't understand why He decided to save all 29 people who were on a school bus that was plowed into by a semi truck. I do not understand how we didn't have to use a single bandaid. I don't understand how we all walked away with bruises and a few minor scratches. Our missionary Hope suffered a broken collar bone and our beloved driver Pablo suffered a separated shoulder, both of which are doing well and praising Jesus for His faithfulness. 

At this point in our journey we still had 48 hours till we were home. It was in these 48 hours that each of us experienced a new level of who Jesus is. The day before our wreck we watched 4 year olds believe Jesus raises the dead and then we experienced Jesus sparing us from death. The night of the wreck was a powerful time of worship for each one of us. We couldn't rely on anyone but Jesus in that moment. We couldn't rely on the comfort of home and our parents and loved ones. All we could do was sit at the feet of Jesus and weep and thank Him for His mercy. One of the missionaries asked us a very hard question that night. We were able to praise Him because everything ended okay…but the question is would we still praise Him if someone had died? We all would like to say we would, but truly would we still praise Him or would we be angry? Our worship leader, Kelli then led us in the song, "Blessed be the Name of the Lord." I've sung this song a hundred times before, but on this evening this song had a whole new meaning. As we sung Blessed be your name something in the spiritual realm broke over this team. We sung, "Blessed be Your name in the land that is plentiful, where your streams of abundance flow, blessed be Your name. And blessed be Your name when I'm found in the desert place, though I walk through the wilderness, blessed be Your name. Blessed be Your name when the sun's shining down on me, when the world's all as it should be, Blessed be Your name. And blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering, though there's pain in the offering, Blessed be Your name. Every blessing You pour out, I'll turn back to praise and when the darkness closes in, Lord, Still I will say, Blessed be the name of the Lord, Blessed be Your name. Blessed be the name of the Lord, Blessed be Your glorious name." 

The reality of how big our God is hit home that night. Jesus is such a loving and personal God that He had something in store for each one of us on this trip. He's so personal that He had something different for each one of us. For me, He wanted me to learn how to trust Him. I thought I knew how to trust Him. But I literally had to trust that He was in control. From knowing He was in control over passports, to getting us through four different airports, to allowing all 25 team members arrive in what was His timing, to delivering us from death, I had to trust Him that He is in control. I had to learn how to surrender and let Him do as He pleases. I had to learn how to sit still and let Him take over. I had to learn how to give Him praise even when things don't go my way. I had to learn how to give Him everything. I had to learn how to trust. I had to learn how to trust when the sun's shining down on me and the world's all as it should be and I had to learn how to trust on the road marked with suffering, though there's pain in the offering to say Blessed be Your name, I trust you Jesus.

By the time we returned home on the evening of June 13th we were a team full of joy. We were the people that Psalm 34:5 talks about, which is a verse the Lord gave me on our first full day in Honduras, and I wore on my flexibility bracelet all week, which reads, "Those who look to him are radiant." We were all glowing with His Holy Spirit. Jesus gave us His peace. He is the peace that passes all understanding. We don't understand His ways, but we know they are perfect. We know that He isn't done teaching us things.

Upon our arrival home, just when we think we have escaped death, we come home to learn that a huge tragedy had happened. A dear friend, Ashlee Kraft, age 19, a friend to all of us, a young woman who was head over heels in love with Jesus, was killed in a one car-car crash late Saturday night. I've laid in bed every night since arriving home asking the Lord how and why He would spare the lives of 29 people who were hit by a semi and not spare the lives of 4 young people, one of which was very close to us all, in a wreck that involved only their car. I've cried and said to the Lord, I don't understand your ways, but I will trust you Jesus. 

Monday was our own wreck, Wednesday we returned home to hear about our friend Ashlee, and Friday marked 7 years since my dear friend Katie Brookshire passed away. I've always said that Romans 8:28 is Katie's verse in which it reads, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." I am in love with Jesus today because of the way Jesus used Katie's death in my life. I know God is in control. I know that He is and will be glorified through Ashlee's death. I know Jesus will be and is glorified by our own near death experience. I trust You Jesus. 

In closing I would like to read a Psalm to you that the Lord gave to one of our team members the morning after our wreck. She woke up ready to seek the Lord and she opened up the Word and the Lord gave her Psalm 116. The heading over this Psalm is "When the Lord spares you from death."

Psalm 116
1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; 
he heard my cry for mercy. 

2 Because he turned his ear to me, 
I will call on him as long as I live. 

3 The cords of death entangled me, 
the anguish of the grave came upon me; 
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. 

4 Then I called on the name of the LORD : 
"O LORD, save me!" 

5 The LORD is gracious and righteous; 
our God is full of compassion. 

6 The LORD protects the simplehearted; 
when I was in great need, he saved me. 

7 Be at rest once more, O my soul, 
for the LORD has been good to you. 

8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death, 
my eyes from tears, 
my feet from stumbling, 

9 that I may walk before the LORD 
in the land of the living. 

10 I believed; therefore I said, 
"I am greatly afflicted." 

11 And in my dismay I said, 
"All men are liars." 

12 How can I repay the LORD 
for all his goodness to me? 

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation 
and call on the name of the LORD. 

14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD 
in the presence of all his people. 

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD 
is the death of his saints. 

16 O LORD, truly I am your servant; 
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; 
you have freed me from my chains. <> 

17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you 
and call on the name of the LORD. 

18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD 
in the presence of all his people, 

19 in the courts of the house of the LORD—
in your midst, O Jerusalem. 
Praise the LORD.

I have pondered over this Psalm since Tuesday and thought about what it really means to fulfill my vows to the Lord. Jesus is the bridegroom. I am the bride. I stand here this morning changed, knowing Jesus is not done with me yet. I know He is faithful, I know He loves me, I know He loves me more than I can even begin to comprehend and my prayer for all of us, not just the team, but for us as the Body of Christ that we would allow Him to use this in all of us. To romance us into Who He is. To not take Him for granted. To not take every day for granted. To not take our relationships and our loved ones for granted. To not take every day for granted. To wake up every morning and allow the Lord to show you a new piece of His heart with each new day. 

Looking back, I would not change a single thing and I mean that. God uses everything to bring us closer to Him and I am grateful that He chose me to be apart of this adventure to draw me closer to Him.


.........Bill......... said...

Yes, Blessed be the name of the Lord! Yes! Blessed be His Name!

Luke said...

Just realized this, may seem silly, but I showed up the 3rd day and was the 25th member. I was born 3/25. Strange.