Friday, March 4, 2011

Fighting Losing Battles

 The intense heat and lack of water for the third day in a row has tested my flexibility! Throw in financial strains, heart breaking moments with the children and the inconsistency in attendance from the women on red street all taking place in a week's time and you've got an intense battling of the flesh! Everyone on the team has been such good sports though and I am grateful. Simply put, it's not easy. 
 I have been studying a battle story in Judges 20 for months. The tribes of Israel are about to fight their fellow tribes of Benjamin because of sin and crimes committed by the men in Gibeah and Benjamin's refusal to address the crimes. I have learned so much from this passage and taken comfort in the lesson's the Holy Spirit has revealed. Here is that passage:

Israel, apart from Benjamin, mustered four hundred thousand swordsmen, all of them fit for battle.  18 The Israelites went up to Bethel[b] and inquired of God. They said, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Benjamites?”
   The LORD replied, “Judah shall go first.”
 19 The next morning the Israelites got up and pitched camp near Gibeah. 20 The Israelites went out to fight the Benjamites and took up battle positions against them at Gibeah. 21 The Benjamites came out of Gibeah and cut down twenty-two thousand Israelites on the battlefield that day. 22 But the Israelites encouraged one another and again took up their positions where they had stationed themselves the first day. 23 The Israelites went up and wept before the LORD until evening, and they inquired of the LORD. They said, “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites?”
   The LORD answered, “Go up against them.”
 24 Then the Israelites drew near to Benjamin the second day. 25 This time, when the Benjamites came out from Gibeah to oppose them, they cut down another eighteen thousand Israelites, all of them armed with swords.
 26 Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD. 27 And the Israelites inquired of the LORD. (In those days the ark of the covenant of God was there, 28 with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, ministering before it.) They asked, “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites, or not?”
   The LORD responded, “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.”
 29 Then Israel set an ambush around Gibeah.

This type of ministry is hard, very hard. One day you are making progress, the type of progress you didn't dream possible and then, the next day, you are starting back at square one. I was hurting and angry over the situations that I was unable to stop and the injustice all around me. In frustration and desperation, I  texted my Dad the following:
"Pray for Olga today, I think someone beat her and she looks a little rough and so I just feel so angry...." 
Dad: " This is something you will continue to see, not trying to be insensitive, guard your heart always. Love you honey." 
Me: "No, I understand so maybe it's me who needs the prayer today. Love you too.
Dad: "Well I don't know that we ever get use to it but in your ministry it's going to come at you so what I meant was, learn from God on how to channel the anger the way He would want you to." 
I sat for a long time in prayer, reflecting on what my Dad had said.  I was so angry over the injustice I was seeing and my inability to do anything about it in that moment. His reply was so needed but hard to swallow. You see, Olga had started smiling and hugging and laughing. Progress! Then she retreated and wasn't reporting to me or Ana with her homework. We were winning a battle and now it felt like losing. Could God ask me to fight losing battles at times to teach me how to win the war? That question pounded away in my brain. After all, my prayer everyday for the last few months has been, "Lord, teach me how to fight sexual exploitation your way."  
I have learned so far in fighting losing battles, that every defeat is temporary; every victory is permanent. Discouragement will cloud our ability to hear God. While engaged in battle, our focus is refined and something profound happens to God's people when their focus is refined.
For example, Olga may have Appendicitis, Meybi is pregnant and we just found out she might loose the baby, Barbarita has a serious heart condition and she is only 8 years old, and the list goes on.......
We don't have a ton of money and many days I am saddened and overwhelmed by the reports of problems we face. These women and children have enough in the fact that they have been exploited, abused, starved, beat and then add the medical. When no one is looking I cry. Jesus, help please. Then I am reminded he loves these precious people around me more than I ever could. My focus get's refined and I know that only Jesus can save and restore, not me. What I can do though is love, and pray and tackle the problems one at time. Whether we win or lose a battle, I know we will win the war here and it is through that confidence in God that I am learning not to fear losing sometimes.