In the past few years, by God’s grace and mercy, my faith in God was deepening — as my understanding and love for God has grown, I found myself on a plane headed for the Yucatan with this team that could only have been assembled by God. I was always a sender, never a go’er because of my very real, not exaggerated, palpable fear of going to the bathroom in gross places.
Although I found my faith growing, while in the Yucatan, I was faced with the reality that my faith in fact, was not charmingly childlike, it was bluntly childish. I had grown accustomed to a continuous diet of milk — and I do understand why I needed it at least initially. In the last few years, just as God promised in Psalm 147:3 to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds; He has been healing my broken heart and binding up my wounds. Over and over again in the Yucatan, Charles, Mary, and others would declare the greatest challenge to their ministry was how the people they serve would say, “yes, yes, yes” to them and then mix ancient Mayan superstitions with the Catholic faith, and Christianity. Their tolerance and acceptance of everything meant that they worshipped Mayan goddesses, Concepcion, Guadalupe and alongside all those statues, they placed Jesus Christ as yet another plastic statue.
I wondered if, in the name of tolerance and acceptance, I was doing the same.
When I didn’t really know the truth of things, I was untethered to the word of God, and I easily give in to my feelings and my Irene-centric experiences of things. The limitations of my superficial understanding of the bible came into real focus on one of our last days when we were faced with some disconcerting, charismatic stuff and I didn’t know why it all felt so uncomfortable. On the flight from Houston to LAX, Paul went through all the verses and explained the whole thing to me. I was so hungry for the solid food and that conversation was deeply satisfying – also assisted by this app on Paul’s phone that amplifies my whispered, quiet stream of questions directly into Paul’s hearing aide. I really recommend that for you all. We chatted the entire way home. He told me without my faith being anchored to the bible, sola scriptura, it was susceptible to feelings, experiences, and straight up wayward deception.
The trip made me hungry to go deeper into God’s word and learn more of the essential truths of the Gospel. I remembered Cindy’s prayer for the imprisoned Christians in East Asia. She didn’t pray for them to be spared from torture, beatings, for them not to be killed, she prayed for them to have a bible. It made me pray that same prayer again but with added desperation. What do people do without being able to read the bible? So, in the Yucatan, God gave me a hunger for His Word and a desire to deepen my faith and a heart not just for the folks in the Yucatan, but all of the people he loves in China, in Thailand, elsewhere.
The second lesson God taught me in the Yucatan was about lawsuits and rights-based vindication. When CrossWay first met Missionary Lee (just a little more than a year ago), he was tall, elegant, and articulate; his fluency with Spanish, English, and Korean was a marvel. In May of last year, he was lying in a hospital bed with a brain infection from a dental procedure. When Missionary Lee greeted us at the airport, he seemed to have shrunken in size, hunched over, he shuffled with a limp, and he struggled with word-finding. When they reminisced about this on our trip, Missionary Lee kind of chuckled and said, “I couldn’t speak a word. I couldn’t walk.” It all felt very unfair. Missionary Lee told our team “people told me, ‘why don’t you sue the dentist?’”
He said, “Why would I sue him?” I never thought he caused my pain. I never thought about him causing this problem against me. I can’t thank him. But I don’t fault him. It’s not my job. What God has done is for His purpose; it is still showing God’s will through this unfortunate situation.” For a long time in my first 50 years, I lived life focused on hurts I had been nursing and in many ways, they became sort of the axis around which I lived; I reacted or made strategic decisions on ways to avoid hurts and danger. Through this trip, God is teaching me to surrender to God and say, “what God has done is for His purpose; it is still showing God’s will through this unfortunate situation.” That Sunday in their worship service, Paul preached of the exceeding joy we have in God – in times of abundant fruitfulness and God’s provision as we see in Charles and Mary’s lives and in times of tremendous, bewildering suffering, as we see in Charles and Mary’s lives.
Psalm 16:1-4 Preserve me, O God [in the NIV, it’s “keep me safe, Oh God”] for in you I take refuge I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.
This is the Kinich Kakmo Pyramid upon which ancient Mayans offered sacrifices to their gods. During my time in the Yucatan, I saw our team, this rag tag group of CrossWay folks, all of us so broken, all in need of corrective eyeglasses, some with bad hearing, some floridly ailing (in Marcus’ case), the five of us beloved sons and daughters of our God, redeemed by Him, it seemed like our whole lives led to this moment in the Yucatan — where God would show us what great things He has done in our lives which we were eager to tell each other and the students — and how much more He will do as we continue to surrender our fears, our comfort, our lives, and our children to Him.
So I am moving from being a goer to a sender again – sending Noah and Olive into the work God calls for all of us.
– Irene Hong
* Read the Yucatan Mission Online Report here.