City of Hope: Musings on My Recent Trip to Colombia

All last week, I was away on a missions trip to Palmira, Colombia working at the Yo Soy el Camino Children’s home. The small team I traveled with and myself had an incredible time and I was so blessed to be able to be a part of the experience. As I was reflecting on my trip this morning, the song “City of Hope” by Amanda Cook came to mind. She sings, “Adoption is our heritage, chosen from the orphanage. The Father’s great inheritance, bestowed upon us all.” This line leads me to the following verses from Romans: “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children (Rom. 8:15-16).” The time we spent in Colombia became a tangible expression of this scriptural truth to me. This was my fourth time in Colombia at Yo Soy el Camino. There is something truly amazing about being able to share the heart of our heavenly Father with children who have been separated from their parents. The message we bring is one of hope, that Jesus has made it possible for us to be children of God. It is God’s desire for us to put our trust in Jesus, so that we might be adopted into His family.

This message though was not just for the children. It was one we sought to declare throughout the city. I believe as the song says that we have all been chosen from the orphanage. We were all separated from the Father at one time because of our sin. But the Father’s desire was to adopt us into His family, so we don’t ever have to live in fear again. So that we never have to feel abandoned or alone. Jesus made this adoption possible when he came to the world in human form and took the punishment for our sins upon himself on the cross. God desires to take an orphaned world and make us sons and daughters of God. This was a message we were able to share with over 800 people. We shared it in the streets. We shared it in local schools. We shared it with neighborhood kids.

The chorus of the song goes as follows:

“You are mending the broken-hearted. You are making all things new. You’re rebuilding out of the ruins. A city of hope with the ones you love.”

The Father uses us to be a part of his rebuilding plans. He uses us, those he loves, to help to mend broken hearts and to see desolate cities and lives be transformed into cities of hope. That is what this week was about to me. The incredible thing is that it is a road that goes both ways. As we bring hope to others, we grow in hope and faith as well. There was this moment on the trip that I won’t forget. We were coming back from an outing with the children on a bus we had rented. I was sitting by myself, resting my eyes and thinking about some life circumstances that weigh me down from time to time. All of a sudden a tiny hand slipped it’s way through the crack in the seat in front of me and held unto my hand as we continued our journey home. A sense of peace washed over me as the Holy Spirit gently reminded me once more of my purpose and why I am here. I am here to be an agent of hope to that little girl and many more like her. And in that moment, she was an agent of hope for me.

The Wilderness.

Yesterday I was reading the story of the 12 spies that explore the promised land. You may be familiar with the story. The Lord tells Moses to send out 12 men, from each of the 12 tribes, to explore the land of Canaan. Ten men come back with a negative report, focusing only on the giants of the land. Only Caleb and Joshua return with a sense of confidence and trust in the promise and protection of God. They know that if God promised it to them that He will help them to take hold of it.

The Israelites began to rebel and cry out, “If only we had died in Egypt.” They loudly complain, “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle?” They make a new plan. “Let’s choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” You can read the whole story in Numbers 13 and 14. Because of the Israelites complaints against the Lord, no one is able to see the promised land except for Caleb and Joshua. Although God has mercy on the people of Israel and does not choose to destroy them altogether, because of their rebellion they never make it past the wilderness. They die there. This one line really stood out to me, “As surely, as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very things I heard you say” (Numbers 14:28).

I was convicted by this passage. It caused me to reflect on my own times that I have journeyed through the wilderness. How often have I complained against the Lord? Maybe I haven’t come right out and accused God for my troubles but I haven’t always spoken the most faith-filled words either. Have you ever felt like the Israelites in the midst of your own fight? Have you ever struggled with feeling like God brought you all this way, but now you are going to die in the battle? Life is like that at times. It is filled with valleys and mountains. There are plenty of curveballs and plot twists to go around. Just when we think we have a handle on the journey, life causes us to take an unexpected turn. Some of those turns appear to be taking us even farther away from the promised land.

I have had a few of those experiences myself. But I have discovered that through each wilderness journey, God is making me increasingly stronger and is growing my confidence in Him. I had a conversation about this subject last night with a friend. I was sharing with her how God is training me to adjust my eyes in times of darkness in my life. Sometimes we have to give our eyes a second to adjust before we can really see clearly. For me I am learning that before I have time to retreat into a place of fear, insecurity and hopelessness, I have to center my focus on a few basic facts. 1.) God is good. 2.) He can be trusted. 3.) He is for me. If I really know these things, it will be much easier to see clearly even in the storms. If I don’t really know these things, this is where I need to start. Seeking God and asking him to reveal to you His goodness, His trustworthiness and His love, even in adverse circumstances, should be the first step in your wilderness journey. And trust me, that step is a shortcut.

Although it may be tempting to complain and only focus on the negative aspects or frustrations of the situation you are in, don’t do it. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that the power of life and death are in the tongue. I don’t think we realize that many times we are literally speaking death over our own lives. Negative declarations can be faith declarations too, faith that you will stumble, faith that you will fall, faith that you won’t make it. The question is who are these negative declarations putting our faith in? Faith is a powerful force and we need to make sure our faith is aligned with the nature, purposes and promises of God.

I believe that if we begin to train our eyes to see the goodness of God, train our mouths to speak the promises of God and train our ears to hear the voice of God as we walk through the wilderness phases of life, we will discover that God has never left us. His intention is not for us to die in the wilderness. Rather, His desire is to use the wilderness to prepare us for all that lies ahead and to draw us closer to His heart. With God holding your hand, are you ready to take the next step?

photo credit