I am believing more and more every day that we never quit learning. Learning is not just for kids in school, it's for every one of us in every stage of life.
But I had no idea just how much I would have to learn when I left the U.S.A. and began living and ministering in Southeast Asia.
God has been teaching me lesson after lesson. Some of them are easy. Some of them are quite painful. All of them are helpful.
Here are three "life lessons" that God has been teaching me since our arrival in the Philippines.
This year I will be forty years old. The sound of that almost makes me cringe. I have been involved in ministry for over 18 years now, and most of that has been pioneering type ministry among the homeless.
I have done almost everything from scratch. I have built bus routes, Sunday school classes, a very successful Rescue Mission and more. I have responded to natural disasters and been a part of teams that have forged our way through the unknown, making a place to minister.
My family and I have witnessed God do some unbelievable things. I have been a part of two growing churches and attended all kinds of seminars, workshops, and conferences.
I could go on and on about my experiences and things I have done.
But here, in this country, it is as if I haven't done any of that stuff. No one here knows any of my accomplishments. And even if they did, I'm not sure that it would matter anyway. Everything is so different here.
Each and every day God humbles me.
A good example of this is our cooking and meal preparation. At home, April is well known for her ability to cook. We actually have friends in different states who brag about her biscuits and cream cheese rolls. She is one of the best. Her and I have even cooked for thousands of people during disasters. But here, we are having to be taught how to cook all over again.
The pastor and his wife are teaching us how to make rice, egg rolls, adobo, and many of the other dishes. While we want to scream "we know how to cook", the truth is, we don't know anything about cooking this kind of food. We have to be taught.
Last week we built a nipa hut for our ministry in one of the squatter areas. The whole thing was made from bamboo. Every time I tried to pitch in and help, they just asked me to sit down, have coffee and watch. I wanted to work but they wanted me to just chill out and let them do their thing.
I wanted so bad to give my "two cents worth" about how to square it up and lay it out. I thought they way they were doing it would never work. The reality though, was that they have building techniques that I have never even thought of. I would have been in their way and slowed them down.
Watching is humbling for a guy like me.
I guess we could allow pride to take over and we could proclaim how much we already know. But that would only be a recipe for a great fall. We have decided to humble ourselves so that we can learn even more than we ever thought we needed to.
Another lesson that I have been learning is trust. When you are 9,000 miles away from everything familiar, you are put into many situations where you have to trust.
We are learning to trust God and the people he has put into our lives to teach us.
For example, I have bought and sold and owned tons of vehicles. But when it was time to purchase a vehicle here, I didn't really know where to start. What kind should I buy? What is a good deal? Where to buy it? How do I register it? What about the taxes?
I had no clue about any of that stuff. I had to depend fully upon the pastor to guide me. I had to trust him.
We decided to purchase one from Manila. I had to trust the pastor to get me there and back safely (which is no easy task) and to do the negotiating like I wanted it done.
He did way better than I could have.
When we first arrived, we had to rely fully on the pastor to find us a place to live. He had already picked out the place and made the arrangements. I have never moved into a home without first giving much consideration about the location, the neighbors, etc. But this time, we had to simply trust that he knew better than we did.
There are a thousand instances like these but the key is that we are learning to trust.
Of course, we don't trust anyone and everyone, but God has put a select few people in our lives that we can and do trust and we are grateful for them.
The language spoken here is called Ilonggo. We have learned a few words and phrases and we are taking some classes to learn more. I want to speak Ilonggo now, but I only know a few words. It is frustrating when a five year old can speak very well but you can't.
A couple of days ago I learned how to ask "what is your name?". I thought I had it down pat and an opportunity presented itself for me to ask someone. Well, as it turns out, I asked him, quite perfectly might I add, how he was doing.
When he responded to me, I thought he was telling me his name. I had trouble understanding it so I asked him to repeat it. Finally he said "fine, I'm doing fine". It was at that point that I finally realized I had asked him the wrong question!
That was embarrassing, but those kind of situations teach patience.
We don't have a washer or a dryer. We send our clothes out to be washed and we wash our towels and wash clothes by hand here at the house. We have learned the hard way that when all the towels are dirty, you cannot wash and dry some in and hour and a half like you can at home.
It takes a long time to wash them, much less to get them dry on the line outside. I guess the Lord can even use towels and wash cloths to teach patience!
I'm sure there are many other life lessons that we will learn but these are the three that keep popping into my head.
I am reminded that if we had stayed where everything was familiar to us, we would not be growing. I believe that familiarity is one of the greatest enemies to personal growth that there is.
What could you do today to put yourself into a situation where God would teach you?