Sunday, October 27, 2013

Airport Trust Fund

There was a knot in the pit of my stomach, and the night was falling quickly. At the same time yesterday I was already heading away from the Quito airport, for the first time in my life having erred on the date and had shown up for my flight a day early. My embarrassment was only equaled by my feeling of helplessness, not knowing where I would stay, and... night falling quickly.

Trust is a big issue for me, and I KNOW God is good. He's proven Himself over and over... and over. But still I doubt. Not that He wouldn't be good, but that I won't hear Him correctly or that maybe this time I've messed up once too much and He'll leave me to my own devices. Which would really stink, because my own devices are pretty flimsy... even though when I start to doubt, I still think I need to lean on those splintered sticks.

So yesterday, one day too early, and today... well. God had provided a place to stay at the HCJB guesthouse last night and I had been able to pick up the bag I had accidentally left at the first hostal I stayed in. My email was nicely being caught up, and amazing Lois Price had appeared at the guesthouse too, a retired nurse who still lives in the jungle of Ecuador and sweetly invited me tolunch with her. My afternoon plan was to grab some snacks for the airport, shower at 5 and run to the bus stop. Lois thought that would be a bit late for my 8pm flight, but I was sure it would be fine. “You're the expert!” Lois remarked after I told her of my dry run yesterday. However, I hadn't counted with the rain. And the rush hour traffick. At 5:30 I was standing in the rain with Lois holding an umbrella, and every taxi that passed was full. So we walked to the corner. And to the other corner. And down the block. By the time I grabbed a taxi and made it the half-mile to the bus station, it was almost 6pm. And the ride to the airport is over an hour. In rush hour traffic.

Sitting in the bus, waiting for it to fill up and seeing the sky darken... I started to get that knot in the pit of my stomach. What if one day I was WAY to early... and the other day I missed it altogether? That would also be a first. 6pm. 6:05. At 6:10 we left the station and crawwwlled out of the city. My Dad's advice as a TSA agent were ringing in my ears... “Always arrive too early, rather than too late!” So? I prayed. At first I prayed my mantra, “Father, please open the door so that I can go through.” Then I prayed, “God, please delay the flight coming into Quito from Guayaquil.” Then I realized how selfish and well... panicky I was feeling. So I started to pray “God, please help me glorify you no matter what happens.” And I started to pray for ANYone who came to mind. Alli Mellon. The persecuted church in North Korea (THAT will put one's momentary troubles in focus like nothing else!), I prayed for people in Nauta, for youth that had left Nauta to look for work,... and the knot remained. God's still small voice broke through as I squirmed... “Do you trust me, Crystal? Do you trust me?”

Yes. No. Yes. No. “Yes” as I focused on my knowledge of God's faithfulness. “No” as the bus crawled through the jammed streets. 7pm. How far away were we? 7:10. The bus picked up speed. “Do you trust me?” Oh Lord. I had to confess. I don't trust very well. I was already planning how I would need to look for a bus to the Ecuador/Peru border back in Quito. At 7:23 we pulled into the airport and I sped up the stairs to the LAN counter. “8pm flight?” the attendant asked as I was whisked through... breathing sigh upon sigh of relief. Yes, God, Yes! I trust you!

And then I was miraculously in line, waiting to board.

“Reitsma, Crystal, please approach the ticket counter...” What was this? I haven't been summoned to the ticket counter since Februrary of 2008. “Your baggage has been selected for a random search” said the agent. “Follow me please.” Seriously? The flight left in ten minutes and... “Do you trust me?” Oh Lord. Yes. I do. So we ran down back through security, through the waiting people, outside to where the luggage was being... no, had already been loaded on the belts to the plane, and there sat my red backpack, lonely. It was opened, peeked in, questioned... and we were off and running again, back into the building, back up the stairs, back through security, and down to the very empty gate.

Last one on? Yes. On the plane? Yes.

 Oh Jesus, why is trust so hard? Why do I feel I have to figure everything out, have a plan B, and C... and maybe even D, doubting God's provision, His willingness, His very love. I don't know. Trusting Him comes hard, even with a mountain of evidence in His favor. Trust for the ministry when all looks sparse. Trust for friendship when friends are scarce. But I do know that I want to live out trust more. And live much less in the panicky, tight-fisted, close-hearted cynicism that I seem to have garnered over the last few years. He proves Himself over and over... and even if I HAD missed the flight, even if I had NO place to stay... would He still be good and trustworthy?

Sunday, October 6, 2013


"More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn't be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them."
-Henri Nouwen

Friday, October 4, 2013


This may be a bit over-dramatic... but here goes.

Half the time, if you don't hear from me, it's because my head is under water. Not the real, liquid type that gets in your ears and nose and makes your vision blurry, but the other kind. The murky water of life that gets in your ears and nose and makes your vision blurry. The kind that makes it hard to see where you're going and even harder to communicate that to someone. When your head's under water, it's hard to talk,... and if you do, it's hard for anyone to understand you. So if you don't understand this post, don't worry... it's because my head is under water.

On one hand, maybe that's a good thing because maybe, just maybe, I'm finally submerged in that glorious river to which Ezekiel 47 refers, in that cryptic passage about the river that comes out of the temple of God and runs deeper and deeper until you can only cross it swimming.

Or, maybe I'm not.

It sure doesn't feel like I'm being swept along by the Spirit of God, it just feels like I'm being pulled under. If it's the Spirit of God sweeping me along, then I'm humbly grateful. If it's the worries and cares of this life, if it's my like-a-top constantly spinning mind trying to figure out the whys and hows of life, if it's a wrong turn in the path, or a character flaw that God is trying to purify out of my slow-to-learn heart, then I wouldn't mind getting out of this whirling eddy and sit on the bank for a while.

These last few months have given me ample material for rumination. Nothing earth-shattering, like death in the family, or similar tragedies. Just a steady stream of unfortunate coincidences that have turned into a rushing torrent in my mind, and made me question which side is up. Four teams have failed to appear this year, two of which informed us of their inability/decision not to come, and two who just dropped communication altogether, no warning or explanation given. It gave me that same eerie sensation that I had as a child when I'd come home from school and no one would be there. I would be ok at first, then would start to wonder paranoically if the rapture had occured and I had been left behind... The paranoia that creeps in under these circumstances is a sneaky suspicion that God is telling people, “don't go to Peru with Crystal, because... (fill in any number of reasons here)

Now blend that with a visa that just refuses to be renewed, a diploma that continues to come back to me in Latin (this would require much more explanation), and patterns that I see repeating themselves in the personal realm (miscommunication, strained friendships and my aforementioned tendency to paranoia)... and I'm starting to wonder if perhaps --I really am the problem--. Confrontation and conflict resolution have never been strong suits of mine. I know I could use more work on those skills and lately I have been steadily presented with multiple opportunities to pare those skills toward perfection. Selfishness and self-pity, and a sense of futile inadequacy have also risen to the surface of this cesspool. God saying “no” to going home to my brother's wedding, the death of a dear pastor's wife here in Nauta, the knowledge that there are pastors who talk about me disparagingly behind my back (who DOES that, going about bearing tales?) and so on. All of which add together to lend a unsettling sense of being adrift in a troubled sea. What's going on, God?

The waters closed in over me to take my life;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head

Jonah. I must confess he has been a recurring theme in my life in the past. But I don't think I am trying to run from God's will right now... it's just rather murky, and currently indecipherable to me.

I resonate more with Psalms 42:7

Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.

And the same Psalm repeatedly voices,

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

Yet. I am convinced of this. That He who began a good work in me will be faithful to bring it through to completion. Today the birds are belting out their joy and praises to the king. There is much to do, but He who does the work is faithful. He is. And will continue to be.
...if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” II Timothy 2:13

Even if I fail. Even if I at some point in my life am faithless, wittingly or unwittingly. Even if I stumble, He still is able to sustain His work. This is my trust, this my confidence, this my undying hope. I rest in His ability, in His grace, in His unquenchable glory.

Are you also in turbulent waters today? May you and I, at the end of the day, be able to say with David,

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
- Psalms 40:2

Come, let us lift up our hands to the Father of Lights, and the Author of Life and cry out with the Psalmist,

from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
- Psalms 61:2