Sunday, January 27, 2008

Trials, Scandals and the Grace of God

We are so sorry that it has taken so long to post a new blog, but after this entry I’m sure you’ll understand why things have been a bit hectic on our end!

First off I just want to say that I love my God. He is eternally faithful and He has always been there for us. I am daily in awe that He would look upon me with desire and love in spite of my continual blunders!

So here is another one for the books…Two weeks ago Jess, Sunda and I went into town to do some grocery shopping for our outreach to one of the villages on the farm. We parked at one of the busiest spots in Livingstone, the post office, and jumped out to go to a couple shops. Twenty minutes went by and I had enough bags in hand to need to return and dump them off with our Land Rover. Upon returning, I found that one of our windows had been forced open in the back of the vehicle. Well, you know how you get that sick feeling in your stomach when you know you’re about to hear/see some really bad news…let’s just say my heart was beating out of my chest. I unlocked the back door and to my astonishment found that someone had gotten into our vehicle, gone through our things and stolen our laptop. Immediately I jumped out and began questioning all of the venders who are set up RIGHT IN FRONT of our vehicle. Of course, their response was “I saw nothing…” At this point I realize that I’m going to lose control on someone (the great missionary that I am) and so I return to the vehicle and wait for Jessi. She returns and I give her the story and we sit down for a minute speechless. Now I understand that some of you are thinking…it’s just a laptop…but when that small machine operates as our database for ministry, music, and entertainment in the bush it had become a whole lot more central to us than ever before. Our first discussion revolved around notifying the police, which here is quite frankly useless (a day full of questions and paperwork in a Zambian police station would have only escalated my frustration). We decided to spread the word to some of our Zambian friends in town and let God bring it back to us if it was His will.
We went on to have an excellent, but difficult week out in Peter’s village. Excellent because we had some great times fishing, eating together and studying the word of God. Difficult because living in the bush brings on a whole new dimension of living. It is a “slower chaos” as Jessi puts it. It’s like putting all of your effort in a day just to…survive. Cooking takes a lot more time when you are doing everything over a fire and sharing that fire with other families. The chickens, dogs and cats constantly trying to steal whatever they can get also poses as a constant nuisance. Zambia has also declared a national emergency due to more rain than people have ever seen here so simply keeping out tent clean from mud was a chore (especially with a silly, excited 2 year old!) We returned from our outreach very excited and very worn out all at once, but we managed without a laptop and we knew that things would work out.
A few days after arriving home I arranged a trip to Lusaka in order to try and get our adoption further along. I arrived and after a long conversation with our social worker I had to accept that Zambia has simply put a temporary hold on adoptions. We are legally fostering Sunda right now, but the adoption will have to finish once the ban is lifted (please pray hard for this!) After that meeting I went to Lusaka’s nice shopping area and visited the internet parlor. I had spoken with a missionary friend who told me he had done lots of purchases off of eBay and that I should check there for a laptop. I had been doing some research and decided that Jessi and I were going to switch to an apple laptop because of several reasons. I knew the prices of most of the apple set-ups and so I began searching through eBay to find a deal. After just ten minutes of looking around I came upon a fully loaded, brand new apple laptop that was been sold a nearly a fourth of the price. The ad said the seller wanted to be contacted through e-mail in order to discuss things with the buyer. I contacted the seller and asked why it was so cheap and all of the details with the purchase. We agreed that we would only make the purchase through eBay, but the seller from Romania asked me if I could please pay using Western Union because of the difficulty with drawing money using Paypal (which we understand the difficulty drawing money thing). I agreed and received a confirmation email from eBay indicating the item had been sold to me and all of the directions for payment (all verified by eBay). The item was purchased at $1200 (a laptop at $4400 value!) and I sent the first $1000 through Western Union immediately. I returned to the farm that night by bus and the next morning I told Jeff, our director, all about my great purchase. I believe his first words were, “you didn’t send the money did you!?!” You know that sick feeling I talked about earlier…well it returned. “Of course,” was my answer. He went on to tell me about how anyone requesting to use Western Union on eBay is usually a scam. I assured him that eBay sent me a verification that it was all done through them and I was protected. He told me to check it all out. I went into town in order to check e-mail and I looked over the verification e-mail from eBay and was convinced that all was ok. I got onto my eBay user name and it said that I had made 0 purchases on the account. This was puzzling. eBay had sent me verification to my e-mail and yet my account said I hadn’t purchased or won any items. I began to open a bunch of the “common questions” on eBay to find that people are able to send “fake” eBay verifications to your personal e-mail and that you are only supposed to go through your eBay message board. As I continued I came to find that if you use Western Union then eBay has no ability to get your money back if you are swindled. So there I was, laptopless and now swindled of $1,000. I thought I was going to bust. GOD…WHERE WERE YOU ON THAT ONE…was one of my first thoughts. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME! Was probably a close second.
I went home angry and sad and confused all at once. But I also had another thought in the back of my head. It seems that every time these kind of catastrophes happen in life, we have a chance to learn something incredible from God who is never closer than at these times. I just spoke a message concerning the grace of God and how it is actually the grace of God in our lives at times when bad things happen to us. Well, this was one of those times.
I was preparing for a bible study the next day and totally clueless as to how I could teach anything with the way I was feeling. And then I had one of those moments. You know. The kind of moment where God reveals himself to you and “sobers you up” from that woe is me garbage. He simply asked me the question, “What really matters?” I was stunned and excited. I knew it was a rhetorical question that my Father was eager to show me. I sat there in silence and that inner voice began to remind me of a verse that has carried me through so many times in the last several years.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…” -Phil. 3:7-8

To know Him. To be invited to gaze upon and know the One Who has no end. Paul had it all. Popularity, prestige, wealth, power. And what does he say? It is ALL rubbish compared to knowing Jesus. If everything I own is taken from me tomorrow, I can stand without offense in my heart because no one can take my knowledge of God. No one can separate me from my King. He even says in Bible, “No one can snatch them (his children) out of my hand.” God set me free in that moment. I have every ability to fall more and more in love with Him every day and I don’t need money or a laptop. I don’t even have to know the right words to say or pray. I don’t need to have a perfect theology. I just have to have a desire to know Him and follow Him. He leads me from there. He reveals Himself to the one who cries out to Him. I get to wake up every day and journey into the never-ending depths of God. Love Incarnate. Mercy, Justice, Truth. He is the essence of reality. And He has chosen to reveal Himself to me. To us! And this is my life: consumed with one thing, namely, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord (Psalm 27:4). I will gladly lose everything that I may gain Him.

We had a great bible study. I was able to thank God for the mishaps because they brought that fresh, new perspective into my life. You can’t take Him from me. Hah! I win! God wins!
So with that long blog I invite you just as Jesus invites you:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I wil give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
If you can relate. If you are tired and overloaded. Cry out to Him. Just say God I want to know you! He is closer than you think!

With all of my love,

Jake

5 comments:

Mama S. said...

Jacob,
Once again, as awesome blog. You and Jessi really inspire us. We love you, Jess and Sunda with all our hearts and pray for you always.
Love
Mom

Beth said...

Wow. I'm speechless by the situation, but mostly by your perspective. I'm truly humbled, Jacob. May God bless you!

Brian & Brooke Barnett said...

J&J,

We are so encouraged & challenged by your lives.

Love,
B&B

stevecat said...

hey Jacob!
i am amazed here at the faith you have shown in the Lord that He will provide for you. of course, my heart goes out to you and your family for such losses, but praise Him that such losses are only of things that belong to this world! i am reminded of the words of Jacob in Genesis when he cried out that everything was against him (Gen.42:36). he believed that everything he loved would soon be lost, only later to find out that Joseph, his long lost son was the ruler of Egypt and was now promising the very best of the land of Egypt to his father. imagine that. from losing all to gaining all. Praise him for the encouraging words of Acts 20:24 - 'I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace!' amen! take peace and rest in knowing that the Lord works for the good of those who love Him. praying that the Lord would daily be your strength. blessings brother! - a canadian brother in the Lord, steve.

sweetpuck15 said...

Jake and Jessi!
Hello! I'm not sure about your current laptop situation, but here is how God works:
I have been in the market for a new computer and purchased a mac last night. I'm surfing the internet when I thought of you two and searched for your blog. Upon reading, I find out you've lost your computer. Last night, I bought a mac. I still have my dell pc that works. Are you still in the market? E-mail me at gretchen.hurley@gmail.com

Love you both and I think about you often.