Dave Ian, one of the Discipleship Training School (DTS) students, ran inside waking me up. The sun was up, so it was clear that I have overslept as I was laying down on the bamboo floor in the mountains of Abra.
While waking me Dave Ian stated, “Don't go outside. Two NPA (New People's Army) soldiers just walked by. They are in the house where the girls are staying. They are there drinking coffee with the owner of the house.” Dave Ian did not raise his voice. We were in a one room nipa hut made out of a wood frame, wood floors and walls, and coconut leaves for a roof. Whatever we said could easily be heard outside.
With me being the only white man in the team and for kilometers around, it was especially important that I know about the NPA soldiers. We were told that there was tension at the time between the Philippine Army and the NPA. If they were to find an American in the tribe things could go bad quickly. They could think I was some informant, or an American soldier there to train the Philippine army. It just would be best if I kept quite and wait for two NPAs finished drinking their coffee and then move on to the next village.
It was October of 2000 and I was 27 years old. When growing up I would have never had thought I would have become a missionary, living the in the Philippines. Now here I am in a tribe who does not speak my language with two Communist NPA soldiers outside doing their patrol. What would happen next? Only God knew. I just wanted to do what God had for me. I wanted to do His will. Whatever the cost.
My mother told me a couple of stories when I was in Bible school. The first one was when her grandmother, my great grandmother, told her one time that she will have a son and he would be a preacher.
That happened before my mom was married. My great grandmother would never see me. She died before my mom was married and before I was born.
The second story was when I was a baby. My mother visited a Assemblies of God church and the pastor prophesied over me and said that I would be in the ministry.
Now that was something my mother never told me while growing up. We were not the church going family. But it seemed even before I was born God had a plan. Now if I was going to fulfill that plan that would be up to me.
I grew up in a poor family in Colorado. We never really had much money going around. I had two sisters, one older and one younger. I remember my father was a janitor when I was a small boy. He worked at an office building of a trucking company. And my mother she was a cook at a restaurant.
After my grandmother died and my grandfather remarried we moved into my grandfather's house since he moved into the house of his new wife. My mother was still cooking but at that time my father was out of work. I remember the day my mother told my sisters and I that we didn't have food for tomorrow. Shortly after that my sisters and I decided that we would dig through trash for soda pop cans to recycle to get money to buy food. It would not be our first time we dug in trash for soda cans. We usually do it to get some pocket money to buy candy. But this would have been the first time to feed our family. It was the first time where this was not just for fun, but it had a purpose.
We collected cans all day. Going from one dumpster to the other pulling together all the cans we could find. We then went to the local grocery store where you have the cans weighed and they pay you based on the weight of the cans. Even through we collected all day we only received a little over one dollar.
From the counter I held the one dollar and a few coins. It was so small. What could we buy to feed our family of five?
With my two sisters I walked to an employee at the grocery store. She seemed to be in her 30's and I asked her, “We are a family of five. My mom and dad and my two sisters here. We have no food and we only have this.” I was showing her our dollar and a little change. “What can we buy to feed our family?”
She was shocked and taken a back. She didn't know what to say at first, but then she told us to go with her. She took us to an aisle and she gave us a one pound bag of beans. The cost being a little over one dollar. That was around amount that we had.
I will not forget the shame I felt walking home. I felt so low, so helpless. Poverty has chocking hold on a person. When one doesn't understand their identity in Christ, then poverty can also give you a feeling of worthlessness. And on that walk home, that is what I felt.
When we got home and mom came home from work we gave her the bag of beans and told her what we did. What we found out was that when mom was a work she borrowed some money to buy food. But later that night I could hear my mom crying.
In the school district that we lived in we went to school in a upper class public school. Overall it was considered a good school district to be apart of. But I was treated differently.
The school included me and my younger sister into a special class. This class was for those who had learning challenges. This class was for those who were considered slow and needed extra time to try to cope up with the others in the class. They called it “Special Ed” or “Special Education.”
But there was something I noticed that this class had in common. Everyone in this class was poor.
Kids are usually not to kind in elementary school. As a kid you want to fit in as much as you can. But when you go to the “Special Ed” class you where considered stupid and other kids don't have any problems pointing this out. So along with being poor I went to a school full of rich kids who looked down on you because of your poverty and your stupidity. It was not a place to build ones self esteem.
And then I will not forget third grade. My mom was in a few meetings with my teacher along with my sister's teacher (she was a year younger then me). I knew the talks had to do with how we were doing in school, but I didn't have any idea what the plan was about.
After we were released for summer break my mom sat down with my sister Phyllis and I to tell us that we will be repeating our respective classes for the following year. Phyllis would be repeating the second grade again and I was facing the third grade for the second time.
I felt so inadequate. I felt stupid. Phyllis and I cried and pleaded with our mother to not allow this to happen. But the decision was final. I loathed the idea of going back to school. Knowing that I would be doing third grade once more. And I would never forget the first day.
In that elementary school they had the third and forth graders share a class. Everyone was back and sharing what their families did during the summer. I wasn't sharing that much. At the time no one knew that I would be repeating my year.
Then at one point of the day they asked all the fourth graders to go to a different classroom for something and the third graders to stay back. I remember all of my former classmates getting up and calling to me. They were telling me to follow them. But I was to stay. I just looked down at my desk and felt the shame.
After my second round of third grade my special class started giving me this test. And after a while I would take a different test, but it was a lot like the last one. About every 3 to 6 months I remember taking all of these test. I really don't have any idea what they were. I found them kinda fun, so I would just do them.
Years later my mom told me what the test were. They were IQ test. The reason why they kept on giving them to me was because I was scoring very high. It was like there had to be a mistake, so they would give me a different IQ test. But every time they gave me a IQ test I would score higher then the last. But in my 4th grade and starting into 5th grade my reading level was poor.
During that time of my life my family ended up moving 3 times in one year. With all the moving my school records were lost in the shuffle. I was now in 5th grade and was attending Denver Public School district. In my elementary school I was no longer one of the poorest kids in the school. But I was still different. That difference was that I was white where it seemed that most of the kids where black.
Since my records were lost in the shuffle between schools, the school district didn't know where to put me. They didn't know my reading level, math level, or anything. So to figure it out they gave me a test. That's right, they gave me an IQ test.
With all my experience taking IQ test I stored high. So they put me in the highest reading level, along with math, and so forth. It was in 5th grade in a poor school district is where I learned to read. It was expected of me. The whole school was full of poverty background kids. So that was no longer a problem. It was only in high school I found this out. But until then I was still fighting with feelings of inadequately.
At the time I really didn't have much of an understanding of God. But I do remember praying at night. I would pray laying in my bed. Would my life ever make a difference? Would I always be poor? Did God have a plan for me?
There are times in our lives that some of us struggle with God's calling on our lives due to where we have came from or something we have done. We put ourselves in a box or someone else has based on what they think of us. And when God asks us to step out of that box we don't feel we are able to. We define ourselves by the walls of the box and not in the borders God has created for us.
In Judges chapter 6 God had a calling for a man. His calling was to lead the nation of Israel out of bondage under the Mindianites. These were people who were oppressing the Israelites and God's people where praying for freedom. That freedom that they would be crying for would come through a man. And his name was Gideon.
Gideon at the time was hiding in a winepress trying to thresh wheat. He was hiding because he was scared that the Mindianites would take his food. But the wheat needed to be threshed to get the husk off of it. But that usually took the wind. Down in the winepress there was no wind. So Gideon was working a lot harder to thresh the wheat in the winepress then he would if he was in the open where the wind blew.
Then God spoke to the man, hiding in a winepress, “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor (Judges 6:12)!”
Just think about it. When we look at ourselves, we see one thing. But when God looks at us he sees something else. And it is this something else that God was calling out of Gideon.
Well I guess the “mighty man of valor” didn't grab the attention of Gideon first. What first got to him was, “The Lord is with you” part.
Gideon's reply to the statement was, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying 'Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?' But now the LORD has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Mindianites (Judges 6:13).”
It was clear that Gideon didn't realize he was talking to God. He thought that this was a man talking to him. And he was not believing in the statements God was making about him.
Then the purpose of why God was addressing Gideon came out. What was God's reply to all of this doubt and unbelief? “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Mindianites Have I not sent you (Judges 6:14)?”
When Gideon is hiding, God is sending. When Gideon is doubting, God is believing.
Look at Gideon's reply now that he understands it is God who is speaking, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house (Judges 6:15).
Right away Gideon starts defining for God the borders of his box. And in Gideon's mind, that box is weakness. He comes from a weak clan. He comes from a weak family. And Gideon sees himself as the weakest of them all. He feels completely powerless. Powerless to change his situation, let alone those around him. This was something that Gideon was not just saying, but believing and living. He was hiding in a winepress out of fear.
A lot of times we close the door on what God has for us. We don't believe what God says He would like us to do because of the box we define ourselves in.
God wants to break the boxes in our lives that are holding us back. He wants us to live the lives He created us for, not to live the life we have defined for ourselves.
When growing up and after I came to know Christ, I defined myself by the box that was there for me. That box was formed by what others thought about me, how I grew up, my family background, etc. But God started to break down my little box. And when that happens, that is when the real ride starts.
Questions to ask:
Read Judges 6:1-16
What are some clear struggles Gideon was facing? Practical and in his belief system?
What were Gideon's walls in his box?
What is God speaking to you about any walls in your life?
What God spoken to you about the purpose He has for you?
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Dustin has been serving as a missionary for 24 years. Here is where he places some of his teaching, thoughts, and updates.