Encouraging Hearts (4 of 8)

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

Day 1 we visited a local church Compassion project and that afternoon began a three day conference with 75 Compassion staff who serve in the Manila office or in the field to support 330 projects.

Working to release children from poverty is hard work. Those in the office support the mission through administrative roles like translating letters and accounting, and others in the field as project specialists, working with local churches to develop partnerships with Compassion. 

The Philippines are made up of 2,000 inhabited islands, so churches are spread out in long distances, which means staff are away from their families for sometimes a week at a time, then return for church on Sunday, where they often have responsibilities in ministry.

In addition to the challenges of their daily work, they are engaged with the aftermath, clean up and rebuilding in the wake of the typhoon last November. It was all hands on deck last November loading planes with supplies, visiting the devastated villages to support the church, removing the debris, and now rebuilding homes and churches.

The elements of the conference are FIT: fun together, inspiration, and training.  This is a fun group of staff who enjoy to laugh, don’t take each other too seriously and are fiercely competitive at indoor beachball volleyball, man-gun-gorilla, outdoor dodgeball, paintball and karaoke!

The inspiration comes from band-led worship, videos, and teaching by the Hawaiian Island Ministries team. Our goal is to give encouragement and build up the staff during this difficult season. 

Dan Chun kicked us off with The Power of Encouragement, focusing on the impact of Ananias and Barnabbas on Saul, the future Paul. Tim Shaw asked What is Your Name? in a message emphasizing Jacob’s wrestling with God for a blessing. Laura Boyer, lay leader of prayer ministry at First Pres Honolulu talked about the Healing Prayer from the gospels, inviting us all to trust Jesus to heal us and bring us wholeness. 

Last night Tex Texiera, pastor on the big island of Hawaii, shared about being strong in the lord, like David and Paul, desiring to know God and gain strength from his strength. This morning Bob Davis, fellow San Diego pastor, will share about seeing God at work in little miracles in our lives. 

I am the last speaker of the conference, wrapping up with three things every leader needs to know about God: God is always present (event when I feel alone), God is always at work (it’s not all up to me, so I can rest), and God is always making things new (in the people I serve and even my own heart).

The teaching has been in the form of hour long seminars, ranging from themes of friendship, healing prayer, intimacy with God, how to choose a mate, and healing prayer. Amy and I did two seminars.

"Growing your marriage" was full with about 30 people--not all of them were there with their spouses. We emphasized time alone with your spouse to grow in your intimacy--taking a Sabbath to invest in your marriage and family.

One woman told Amy she was considering quitting her job with Compassion because she's apart from her husband for two months at a time because he's starting a new business elsewhere. She was thinking divorce was the only option, but now she believes God is asking her to sacrifice her work for her marriage.

Another woman told Amy she was inspired to love her husband differently, and appreciated the Amy loved me and what I we do to make time for our marriage. We had dinner with a couple who struggles with time: he’s in the field away from home six days a week. He loves his work, but he comes home exhausted. His wife and 13 year old daughter need his attention, but he’s been talking and traveling all week long.

We also gave a workshop called Serving with Purpose and Passion, helping them to see their identity as loved children of God, their calling by God to serve, and their spiritual gifts, heartfelt passion, abilities, personality and experience (SHAPE) helps them to understand God’s unique design of their lives.  

We broke them into pairs to share with each other each aspect of their SHAPE, then we asked them to share their Heartfelt Passion one at a time for the whole group. It was inspiring to hear them share aloud their heartfelt passion to change the world:  release children from poverty, the unity of the church, helping youth have dreams, children coming to know Christ, the Philippines reached for Christ, and as each person I had chills. God has placed in each of their hearts a piece of his own heart for a broken world, and they have committed their lives to making it happen.

After the evening session last night there was an opportunity for prayer and the team made ourselves available. Amy and I had the privilege of praying as a couple with others. 

Last night was Valentine’s Day and a couple asked us to pray for them. They were married in November and pregnant with a honeymoon baby. They wanted us to pray for them because "we want to be just like you--get old together and really love each other." We prayed for the safety of their baby and their new family together. What an honor and humbling privilege.

We prayed with a woman who grew up a sponsored child, worked at her church project for and now is in the field overseeing 12 churches. She was on the ground on the first day of the typhoon last November and saw all the devastation. 

It's exhausting, stressful to be out in remote churches, sometimes in dangerous areas, dealing with applications, money, pastors, grieving congregations and families being served. She described back pain because she carries a backpack everywhere she goes and sits for 6 hours straight traveling to another church. Compassion has helped remove all the debris and how they are in the reconstruction phase. I prayed the Lord would lighten her load of her backpack filled with fear, anxiety and fatigue. She loves children, she wants to give back. This is hard work.

Yesterday was a full day. We are building relationships, hearing stories, encouraging hearts, praying together for God’s strength in their lives.  As I share with them this morning, I pray we would all believe this simple affirmation about God:

God is always present.
God is always at work.
God is always making things new.

For information on making a difference through sponsorship: http://www.compassion.com/solanapres

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