Friday, March 16, 2012

Roadblocks (physical & spiritual)

 Have you ever felt like Satan was trying to get in the way of something great happening in your life? Perhaps a job opportunity doesn’t work out or a deal on a house falls through. Maybe you’ve continually given into the same temptation and wonder when God will just “free you from it”. It is in these times when Satan can try to manipulate our thoughts to doubt our own strength and even worse to doubt God’s power in our lives. I was recently reminded of just how important it is to take control of our minds in difficult situations.
            Each year the Santa Cruz Christian Learning Center (SCCLC) has a 3 day long Junior High Camp and week long High School Camp. Molly and I both counseled at Junior High Camp. It was an incredibly fun couple of days. The mosquitoes were out in full force. The showers were ice cold. The bed was rock hard with a paper thin mattress.  And I had forgotten about “camp cologne”. You know that interesting mix of sunscreen, bug spray, and Axe deodorant? But all these things make camp so memorable. Yet the truly valuable memories will be of the great sense of God's spirit during the sessions. Junior highers might not always be the most vocal about what God is doing in their lives, but it was certainly clear that many of them were doing some serious thinking about their spiritual walk.  

            The following week I went to counsel at High School camp while Molly stayed back in Santa Cruz preparing details for “New Hope Tutoring Center” which launched on Monday, March 5th (more about this ministry in upcoming posts). It was clear from the moment we drove out of Santa Cruz heading for the campground in Buena Vista that there was a spiritual battle going on for the hearts of the youth. God had something great planned at camp and Satan was throwing up his roadblocks (quite literally).
            It just so happens that on the very day we set out for camp the Association of Motorcycle Taxis had organized a series of roadblocks all along the way to Buena Vista. Not only were there roadblocks ahead of us, but also shortly after we passed the airport on the edge of the city, the motorcyclists closed a roadblock behind us. We were stuck. We couldn’t get to camp and we also couldn’t head back into town. Roadblocks are fairly common things in Bolivia. They are organized for different reasons, but generally act as a way to protest a new local or national law. In this case the motorcyclists didn’t want to pay overdue fees for operating without licenses and helmets for the past several years. It is hard to explain this civil struggle to a High School student running low on “bus snacks” and patience.
            As we were waiting out the situation and figuring out our next step I kept thinking how incredibly grateful I was not to be the “man in charge” for this outing. I owe a ton of thanks to Mike Banks, former World Gospel Mission missionary to Bolivia, for agreeing to come back down from the states for two weeks to plan, organize, coordinate, and be the speaker for camp. Mike spent 19 years in Bolivia so he is far more familiar with these possibly stressful situations and he handled everything with a calm and collected nature. Mike brought with him a former SCCLC student, Ben Cooper, to help with games. It was great to get to know both of them. 
            There were many things that unfolded as we made our way toward camp. 
We took an alternate road around
the blockade and got stuck
in the mud and were pulled out
by a tractor

We got to the other side of the roadblock only to find out there were several more roadblocks all the way to our destination. We were able to get some lunch in the town of Montero. We found a local park for the youth to get out and relax for a bit. It was getting later and more apparent that the blockades were not going to lift. We made the decision that we would have to spend the night in Montero.

 Mike made the hotel arrangements while Ben and I got supper for everyone (fried chicken, rice, and french fries of course). As I laid my head on the pillow, I thought back over the day. The normal trip from Santa Cruz to Buena Vista is about 2-3 hours and we had been on our journey for almost 14. Sure I had my frustrations throughout the day, but then I thought that God must really have something great planned for camp if Satan was working so hard to keep us from getting there. I thought how utterly impressed I was with the attitudes of the youth. Through all of it they were united, upbeat, and resilient. Little did I know just how much more this resilience would be shown  in action.
            Early the next morning I got a call from Mike letting me know that we had a chance to get through to Buena Vista because some of the roadblocks had been taken down. We got the buses loaded and got on the road. Everything was smooth sailing right up until the city limits of Buena Vista. There was still a remaining roadblock on the bridge at the edge of Buena Vista. This resilient group was determined to get to camp. Everyone grabbed their stuff, got off the buses, and started walking. 

In total we walked 4.5 kilometers (approx. 2.8 miles) to get to the other side of the roadblock where we met up with vehicles to take us the rest of the way. It was nearly 24 hours after we had left the school in Santa Cruz when we finally arrived at the campground.
I'm sure as we all set out for camp we anticipated the great things God was going to do when we got there. None of us were prepared for all the lessons He had to teach us along the way. I'm sure satan had this picture in his head of us all getting frustrated and being at each others' throats. He wanted to cause division and get us distracted. God turned all of that around and made this group more united and focused. It has encouraged me to constantly keep my eyes open for all the lessons along the way instead of just focusing on that destination up ahead. What is God teaching you in the stressful moments? Are you able to have joy in the midst of chaos? My prayer is that we can all get to that point and give all glory back to God.


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