What Are We Doing Here?
Perhaps that's a question on your mind?...mine too! I'm going to try and answer it for myself and possibly for some of you too.
I was just sitting in front of my computer filing insurance claims for patients one day last Summer. I still don't know how or what happened, but it was as if God had smacked me on the back of the head with His velvet 2X4 and laid some pretty thick stuff on my heart. He asked me to do 3 things...very distinct, and very specific. 1: get out of debt ($68,000 at the time!) 2: get licensed to practice optometry in New Mexico??? 3: go on a mission trip. Wow! Ok?! I might could do one of those things with what little was left of 2015, but where to even start?
Like all the massively important decisions that King David made in his battles, I decided to draw straws. The first thing to tackle fell to #2: getting a N.M. license. I had no idea why I was led down that path, but here we go! New Mexico is one of the most difficult states to get licensed in, 100 question jurisprudence exam, 18 case studies presented by doctors that can ask any and every question they want, and a clinical skills eval that would throw a 4th year for a loop! I studied everything I could get my hands on for an exam in August, and my sweet wife volunteered to be my patient for the clinical part. August came and we went to Albuquerque for the exam. It was even harder and more horrible than I could have imagined...but...purely by God's grace and the grace of the N.M. Board of Optometry, I passed! Wow God! I thought for a month or so that He was just trying to humble me more by making me take tests and fail...but I passed! Great!...now what? Why did He want me to do that? Was it just a test of faith? Was He checking His almighty microphone to see if I was listening? So...I started to look at the other two tasks He set me on.
I started to look online for New Mexico missions, or charity work, or something that would be along the lines of His call, and stumbled upon a group called the Fellowship of Christian Optometrists. They were not doing mission work in New Mexico, but they did have a trip pending for 'Old' Mexico. I thought, "Ok God, I can send this guy an email and pray about it...what's to lose?" I was right, there was nothing to lose, but I had no idea what was to gain! God used a N.M. license exam to draw me into His hands to receive the calling that He had for our family from the start! More about this trip in a bit...
The Optometry Mission was set for the end of December, but we still had the debt to deal with. I'm sitting here a year later, and I still have no idea how we did it. The first week in December 2015, we paid off every single penny of debt. God had to have His hand in it and the orchestra of things that lead us down that road had His signature on every page! He had brought about so many things in my life that I could not have done myself. What a great Master we serve. Amen!!?
Debt free, armed with a Texas and N.M. optometry license, and called to do a mission, I headed to Mexico for 10 days. I was the only Texan, there was one other doctor, 3 optometry students and about 15 members of a church from up north that I'd never met. We ended up seeing around 800 patients in 9 days and even saved a few lives! I had never felt more in tune or in-step with the Creator of the Universe then I did on that trip. On the last day of the clinic, a 70 year old man stood up on our bus and asked, "By a show of hands: Who here wants to die as a lazy bum sitting on your couch watching T.V.?" No one on the bus raised their hands. "That's what I thought," He continued, "Who here wants to die with boots on, doing God's work here on the ground?!" Every hand went up with much 'hootin' and hollerin''. Those words struck a chord in me, and, changed our life.
"I...hmmm...I don't know what to say." She replied.
We sat in silence for a while.
"I have wanted to be a missionary my whole life, but I thought that God wanted me to give up that dream when we got married." As those quiet words fell from her mouth, I was amazed!
I said, "We've been married for 12 years now, and I've never known that...you could have at least mentioned it over dinner some time!" - We laughed, cried, prayed, and both decided to seek more of what He wanted us to do.
I sent out over 20 emails. Emails to every christian mission organization that Google found that night until I was tired. We prayed, and we waited. By the end of January 2016 we had received a whopping 1 reply. It was from a gentleman that worked with something called Youth With A Mission (Y.W.A.M.) in Guadalajara, Mexico. I had wanted to do a week, possibly 2-week mission trip every now and then, but my God had much bigger plans for our entire family. With Y.W.A.M. I would need to take a 5 month Discipleship Training School program to join their staff. This was the 'game changer.' Were we going to follow God's call to Mexico?
Cassie and I fervently prayed and prayed and prayed over this, and we both knew that this was the call of God. He wanted us to meet Him there in Mexico for 'who knows' how long, which meant we would have to leave everything we had ever known! We had to leave our home, sell our stuff, my tools!, our extra clothing, my new business!...everything. That was quite the undertaking (I gained 20 pounds in three months from the stress!) but He brought us through it. Doors opened, and the first week of April 2016 we took off with all we could stuff in a Suburban around our 5 kids.
The Discipleship Training School (D.T.S.) was intense! It was a very difficult 5 months on our family, (I lost the 20 pounds!) but full of fellowship with one another, and times of amazing intimacy with Jesus. During that time we were able to focus on getting Christ back in the center of our family, finances, relationships, works, everything. We had gotten so off-course just living our lives in Texas. It was easy in my job, church, and hobbies to 'get busy' and not pay attention to the needs of our family. There in Mexico, with no connections, job, and in each others face all day, God revealed so much. We were a broken family, and were in desperate need of that time to heal and God has healed us so much. Don't get me wrong....there's much left to do! I'm just glad He's not done with us yet!
I graduated from the D.T.S. on September 1st 2016 and we are spending a few weeks 'state-side' before heading back to the ministry full time.
Finally, here's what we will be doing: (tl;dr)
Our main focus at the Y.W.A.M. base down in Guadalajara is to teach people how to know God. That is, how to have a relationship with the author of the Bible, instead of just reading the book! We are working with several local villages near the campus, sharing weekly bible study and fellowship with them. We work with a group of children from the area through a program called Kings Kids (Hijos Del Rey). They come to the campus every month (anywhere from 60-100 kids) to learn more about the importance of an intimate relationship with Christ. We host groups from all around the world on short term missions (2 weeks to 2 months), family conference weekends, worship conventions, and the Amish come down from Pennsylvania once a year to help us build homes for families! The part I'm most happy with there, is that the whole family can be involved. This isn't about Luke doing his thing with God...it's about our whole family helping spread the Good News and using what God has given us to bring Him glory. It's all about you, Jesus!
This is my prayer, "Father, I'm done living my life. I tried it, and it didn't work without You. I need you. Every day, every hour, every minute, I need you. Take my life, form it to yours. Everyday is a gift from you, and I want to use all I have to bring You glory. You, only You, are worth my praise, my time, and my effort. I pray that You would always stay the focus of my mind, heart, soul, strength, and family. Keep me humble, keep me real, keep me in the shadow of your wings. Thank you that we may become righteous through the gift of Your Son, and the strength of the Spirit that you've made available for everyone, everywhere. I want to be a better witness of Your love, Your crazy, relentless, never-failing love. To You be the glory. Amen"