Saturday, June 20, 2020

Costa Rica and the Ministry of Availability

I can't stop thinking about it.  I am supposed to be in Costa Rica.

We cleared our schedules, told friends and family members, and saved and fundraised for months.  I traveled to Costa Rica for the first time two years ago with my older son, and I was looking forward to my younger son joining us this year.  I've shared before about the team of forty local students and their families that I traveled with to Costa Rica in 2018.  From across the United States, teams came together to serve God in a beautiful land.
Here we are gathered for morning worship before one of our work days in Costa Rica.

As we prepared for that event, our plans changed regularly.  From week to week we wondered what we would actually be doing in Costa Rica.  Part of the frustration was a difference in culture; things are done differently in Costa Rica than they are done in the United States, and that's ok.  However, it created a time of uncertainty leading up to the trip. Our team lead, a local pastor, encouraged us to adopt a ministry of availability.  We should be open to serve however we are asked, and God will do His work through our willing hands.  That spirit worked well in Costa Rica, and at our local church we've returned over and over to that idea in the last two years.  Even this week I found myself telling a new neighbor that if he ever needed a volunteer force for his business, our church would love to partner with him.  We don't necessarily have skills specific to his company, but we have a God who equips us for doing good.

Just like the trip to Costa Rica that was supposed to begin today, many of us have seen our plans crumble over the last few months.  Events, trips, and celebrations have been postponed indefinitely or cancelled. I long for things I previously took for granted.  In that loss, I lose sight of the opportunities to serve God that are right in front of me.  I do not keep myself open to the ministry of availability.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
(Isaiah 6:8)

The words of the prophet Isaiah are a good place to start the ministry of availability. God is always asking who is available. I don't believe He asks because He does not know. God asked Isaiah to give him an opportunity to respond, and God asks us the same question for that same reason.

Our response ought to be the same as Isaiah's: Send me.  Sometimes God sends us to Costa Rica, but sometimes He sends us to the corner with a bagged lunch for a homeless person.  Sometimes we stay up all night to travel around the world, but sometimes we stay up all night to pray for those in need.  Sometimes we spend our vacation time to visit foreign lands, but sometimes we use our Saturday to visit a friend.  Sometimes we spend money, and sometimes we spend time.  This is the heart of the ministry of availability.

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