Music blares from the little bus’s speakers, and my head is bumping against the metal pole running down the center of its roof. The ayudante whistles at the people on the street and convinces one more person to join me in standing in the center aisle of the bus. I’m watching my stuffed backpack, which teeters next to the steps and gets shoved back occasionally by the ayudante, and waiting for a seat to open up when someone else jumps off. And I’m wondering what on earth I’m doing by myself, lost in San Pedro Sula, supposedly the most dangerous city in the world.
During the last week, I’ve spent three days in Belize to renew my visa, visiting a children’s home and attending Bible studies with mostly aging American missionaries and easygoing Creole women rather than scuba diving around coral reefs. I’ve slept in a Honduran motel room hardly big enough for the bed from which I could stare through the crack between the door and the doorframe to a dusty square. A sailor has tried to romance me, and I’ve listened to a traveling evangelist preach that adding Jesus to my life will miraculously make me prosper financially and relationally. I’ve sat on a stone wall with a man who claims to be a murderer, an adulterer with two wives, and a currently practicing homosexual, and I’ve shared the bit of the gospel with him that I could with my broken Spanish and taking into account his intoxicated state. I’ve agreed with his statement that he is very sinful and deserves hell (which he doesn’t actually believe exists). And yet, the Good News is for people like him, like me. Jesus can love us, and that is a miracle enough for me.
I often hear stories from people about definite calls from God. I didn’t get one of those; I feel like I’m just wandering, and yet somehow my meandering path stays on the very narrow, taut line of God’s will. I am His child, so everything that happens to me is from Him, and He will “work all things together for good.”
In his definition of sovereignty, A.W. Pink explains, “Divine sovereignty is not the sovereignty of a tyrannical Despot, but the exercised pleasure of One who is infinitely wise and good! Because God is infinitely wise He cannot err, and because He is infinitely righteous He will not do wrong.” Charles Spurgeon insists that, “There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s Sovereignty,” and I have found that to be true. Spending the past year studying God’s sovereignty in the pages of Scripture is what brought me to Honduras, and it is what calms me right now, finally leaving behind a seemingly endless market in San Pedro Sula where people keep telling me my destination is two blocks ahead.
James 1:27 simplifies religion: in its purest form, this devotion to God will send me to visit the widows and orphans and will keep me unstained by the world. For the past two months, I’ve been working in a Honduran orphanage, fulfilling the first part of that description of pure religion.
I’ve found something, though: this kind of religion gives more than it takes from us. Eating the same food every day, peeling and chopping yucca and pataste every morning at 6 AM, getting persistent head lice, and changing diapers five in a row–yes, these are the hard parts. But those diapers are on precious children who bring me to tears with their trusting love in a world that has not been kind to many of them. The head lice is passed from group hugs from five-year-old girls who can’t remember their moms. The yucca and pataste remind one to celebrate the small gifts, like the days when we have enough salt or when someone brings us fresh cilantro.
Over two months after the bus ride in San Pedro Sula, I’m teaching English in a remote, mountainous area of Honduras. We’re a four-hour hike on a rutted dirt path from the nearest town big enough to be found on Google Maps and to have a paved road the buses can travel on. We can take cold showers when the pipes in the river haven’t been dislodged by heavy rain, and we wash our clothes on a concrete pila with that same river water. I’ve figured out how to make cookies in a frying pan on top of a wood stove, and I’ve learned how to make baleadas, although my tortillas still have a thicker rim than the my students’ perfect ovals do. I have shared my testimony in broken Spanish, and I have cringed under a mosquito net as a mouse rummages around my room–until he tries to take my precious Snickers bar!
Here, again, I am humbled by the generosity of the poor. Our cook, Candida, has patiently picked through my hair time and time again, because the lice traveled with me. She is very matter-of-fact about my infestation, never making me feel repulsive because my blood is “very sweet” to lice. How many American Christians would do the same for someone they had just met?
Where will I go next? It is almost time for me to return to the United States to spend some time with my family, and I still have not heard that voice from heaven. I’ve not had waves of peace, or “confirmations” about what to do next. I’m just taking baby steps, tapping on doors and asking God to open only the ones He wants me to walk through. In another week, I’ll hop on the next available ride to Tegucigalpa and buy something at Dunkin’ Doughnuts so I can use the Internet for an interview with a learning center in rural Costa Rica.
Once, I planned everything in my life. I had every five minutes written on a schedule, and I had a 2 year plan, a 5 year plan, and a 10 year plan. I had everything but God–and none of those plans came to fruition. Now, I have no plan, and I’m not anxious, because I know. My Father is the one who calls the end from the beginning, whose counsel stands forever, who creates light and darkness, peace and calamity, who knows when a sparrow falls and who has called me from darkness into His marvelous light.
Will I worry again? Of course. Will I make mistakes? Every day. Are there difficulties in this journey that I will push against instead of submitting to? No doubt, for I still am far from James’ description of someone with true religion. I am not unstained from the world, and I listen to the voice of my own pride and selfishness far more than I should. Sanctification is the one part of salvation in which I can take a part, yes, but I can’t even do that one part by myself. I desperately need Jesus to save me each day from my own sin and weakness.
I may never feel all those things that people say one feels when God is calling. The neon sign I used to ask for will most likely never appear on the horizon, and perhaps I will never be able to see that anything I’ve done has furthered the kingdom of heaven at all. No one I’ve shared the gospel with has ever been ready to repent and believe, and nothing I’ve done is anything that couldn’t have been done better by someone else. But it’s not about me. God is holy, God is sovereign, God is infinitely good. He deserves—and demands—obedience, and He cares for His children like a loving shepherd with his flock.
All I have to do is take the next step.
(I wrote the above article during my time in Honduras, in 2013-2014.)