Well, dear reader, I have returned. What has caused my return? I have found something worth writing about.....
Some of you reading this knew I made the last minute decision to come. Many of you helped me to actually get here. What follows are my thoughts after day one....
....this world is jacked. Seriously. Evil has a stronghold in this world, and it is employing devious and deadly tricks to grasp desperately at its power. And when one looks at it as a whole, one can get discouraged. One can begin to believe the lie that there is too much to be done, that this Hydra cannot be killed. That as soon as you cut one head off, stop one brothel, shut down one sweat shop, three more will rise up.
One can look at the growing darkness and begin to become afraid of what is out there.
Today, I sat and spoke with an awesome woman who has been serving the cause for child justice in Cambodia. Her organization had been centered in the main cities there, but had found that they were in competition for the kids with other aid and justice organizations. They decided that they would leave the cities and head into the rural villages. They thought they would walk in, tell these villagers that they were there to love them in the name of Christ, and that they would be accepted.
This is when they discovered that Satan had a new ploy, one so devious it made them weep tears of frustration (and nearly me as she told me). What they discovered was that the slave traders had beat them to the towns. And what they had done there was deplorable. They walked in, set up a "mission" and stated they were missionaries. They stated they were there in the name of Christ, and that they were there to teach the children. They then had the kids come in for Sunday school. They earned the family's trust. They then took the kids on a retreat....where they abused them, sold them into slavery, and used them up.
Villagers were being warned to not trust Christians, that Christians would steal their children. That Christians would destroy their children.
And rage built in me. And I could feel Christ's rage. His name, His church, His reputation has been tarnished so that evil can better succeed in its destruction.
The woman I spoke with explained that her initial reaction was that she was crushed. That she felt absolutely defeated. That she felt that this was a blow that she did not know how to overcome.
But she kept working at it, The only answer was to keep loving. To love stronger, harder, better. To commit to staying in each community until the real love of Christ showed through. Her answer was to strap in, put on her big-girl pants, and get down and dirty in the fight against evil. Evil wanted to present itself as Christ, and tarnish the name while doing it. She fought back by letting the truth of who Christ is shine through.
What a humbling moment. She looked at me and said, "You cannot give up. People with our hearts cannot give up. These children need to be heard." She had been faced with the devil's terrifyingly brilliant scheme, and she chose to follow through. The road was longer, harder, and much more dangerous than she had expected. The earning of trust, the attaining of the goal, the saving of the children, was not immediate, was not obtained in a month, or two months. It took considerable time and effort.
And that is what I am learning thus far. I have always known that following God can be hard. I have known that to follow the Lord requires a commitment of high and demanding standards. but what I am seeing at this Urbana thus far is that evil is trying to outwit, out do, out think the kingdom of God. I have no doubt that God will win. I have no doubt that the evil in this world will be brought to justice. I don't even doubt that some of that justice can be accomplished by men and women on this earth. But it will be a hard go. The commitment level is unbelievably demanding. Jesus told me it would be this way. He is not surprised that evil is getting smarter, that it is masking itself in a prettier package so that more will be sucked in. He is not surprised, and he is not scared, but he knows what it means. He knows that in order to see justice done, all other desires must be abandoned. He warned me I would not have a hole to live in. he warned me I would not have a family. He warned me I would not find my joy here, and that death to myself would be the price.
But he made in me a heart that yearns for His justice, and therefore, He has given me His family. Within that, thankfully, I have my own blood family, for they support my heart, and encourage my passions. But He has also given me an extended family in Him. He has provided those who have gone before, those who can encourage and call out. Those who can tell me that it has been difficult, but also that it has been worth it.
That is Urbana folks. Darkness is identified. Darkness is recognized. Darkness is given the degree of seriousness it demands. BUT, those who have gone before stand proudly and say they have looked into the eyes, the heart, the terrifying mass of darkness, and they have seen that there is one thing it cannot overcome. It can overcome man. It can overcome theological debates. It can overcome missionaries intending good. But it cannot overcome The Light. The Light which came into the world, which headed straight for the darkness, but the darkness could not overcome it.
And when the darkening world begins to look a bit to powerful, too terrifying, too grand. When my strength gives out, and it is easier to stay in my job and live my simple life than struggle against the darkness. When I want to run and hide and pretend that darkness cannot catch me, has not begun to creep into my bones, my mind, my heart. When all this is true, the Light rushes out, screaming at the darkness, terrifying IT with the strength of the one true God. And I am reminded that my puny strength is not what will hold back the darkness. That was taken care of on a cross many years ago.
I am not called to fight of my own strength, but to fight with the Light of the World. And to be in it for the long hall. Evil has some fancy moves, but my team has the stamina to stay in the game and wear evil out. They can use every trick play in the book, my team will run them down with solid play and truth at the forefront.
So far what I hear Urbana saying to me is, don't watch the world and shake your head. Don't wait for the easy time to plunge in.Don't fear the growing darkness, for it already fears the name you carry.
So, here I go, to spend my week looking into what that means.