Why go, why not just send money?

Why do people go over seas to help people in need? Why not just send money? This is a question that is asked all too often. It’s also often coupled with the question, “why don’t you just help people here (locally)?” First of all, do not be dismayed at any criticism you might receive for wanting to help overseas.  Most people who are involved anywhere (either locally or internationally) tend to be both supportive and understanding of people who are doing work anywhere. And my quick answer to the last question is, “Well, why can’t we do both?” There’s no question that there are people in the United States who need help ascending from the lower class to enter into the middle class; but, the fact remains, our lower class is truly rich compared to people in many countries, and Myanmar especially. There is really no comparison. But back to the question, why not just send money- the answers were life altering for me.

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HOPE- We bring people hope! I know this sounds like a cliché, but it’s so much more significant than we could ever realize. Amos, who was one of the first orphans raised at the main orphanage where we serve, that is led by an incredible native pastor, now has his own small orphanage that he runs with his wife. It is the orphanage that is most on my heart, out of all the need that I see there from the many orphanages we visited. He told me during a conversation we had one night that “Watching us play with the orphans gave [him] hope.” He was very real with us in regards to the difficulties of caring for the kids, and he reiterated that watching us play with the kids out of our love for them was revitalizing and gave him a renewed hope. That was the most incredible thing that I could have ever heard. After all, he is the person who was there before we arrived and would stay after we left.

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MONEY WITHOUT LOVE- Imagine having your parents only give you money and never actually be there for you. How would you feel? How much stronger would you be if you had experienced the love and hope that comes from your parents actually showing up and demonstrating love through their physical presence- the warmth of their hugs, and the caring in their eyes. Hope allows people to press on, even in the most dire of situations. And there’s more.

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What is money without love? I would say it is worthless, but I also question whether it even exists. It takes love, either from the person giving or the person asking for donations, to get people to donate. It takes a person who loves people who are in need to communicate and to get people to rally behind the need. For me, this required showing up in order to first love these children to the point that I would take up their cause.

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Let’s face it; we’re desensitized to commercials on TV asking for donations and the need that people have in this world. We forget that the kids in need are real children, with real hearts, who have real pain. It doesn’t matter how much my mentor talked about the needs these kids have; even through all his tears and after everything he communicated, there was no way I could possibly understand how precious these orphans are and the extent of what their needs are without actually going myself. To further emphasize this reality, I did not initially have a super compelling reason to go. I did not feel “called” by God to go. I just rested on what the bible says, knowing that no matter what I feel, I am called to go. We all are. We’re called to go and serve both here and there. My calling came only after I was obedient to God’s word.

Wash and make yourselves clean.
    Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
    stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.[a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:16,17

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LIVES CHANGED- Not only are we able to bring love, our physical presence, and hope to such precious orphans and their incredible leaders, not only are we able to bring financial support and supplies, but we’re able to come back and take up their cause! Only after having been there and seeing the need of kids who I now care for with all my heart, am I willing to come back and devote many hours of my life to their cause. Through my change of heart, my friends and family are also able to hear about who they are, and why they are so special. After hearing my story, people have offered to get involved. My hope is that eventually a few people are able to go as well to experience what I did, return, and continue to take up their cause as well so that more people who are unaware will no longer be in the dark.

Below is a video of the time that me and a few close friends spent in myanmar. Please take the time to watch the video and understand a little bit more about those precious little kids.

We are now selling stockings and wreaths for our return on December 16, 20013. We will be feeding thousands of people on Christmas day and sending clothes, as well as more financial support for the orphans! Please email me at David@Beltran.com for info, follow me on IG @BEL_TRON and check out my profile- CAUSES.COM/SOW – if you would like to contribute monthly or one time donations to our cause.

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Many Members, One Body

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After reading through Exodus 35 I was presented with a profound question:
“What is my uniqueness?”

After some self-reflection I came to the conclusion that conformity is a lot more integrated into my thinking than I realized. After walking with God for nearly a year now I’ve seen various directions people have taken and suggestions as well as some societal boundaries among the body of believers. I realized that some of us have trouble trying to define what is “spiritual” or “secular” or identifying what service unto God vs. service unto the world looks like. It’s uncomfortable, even awkward at times and it can lead people to conforming even unconsciously to “fit in” to the flow of things. I’ve noticed that certain aspirations can be thought of as “higher callings” while others that aren’t as in the limelight are overlooked. What Exodus 35 tells me is that God pays close attention to detail and that every individual piece matters.

10 “All who are skilled among you are to come and make everything the Lord has commanded: 11 the tabernacle with its tent and its covering, clasps, frames, crossbars, posts and bases;
Exodus 35: 11-12 (NIV)

In the beginning of my walk with Christ I bought in to a lot of super-imposed goals that many fellow believers aspired to. I thought I was called to be a pastor, a worship leader, a missionary and a youth leader all in one and I dove in; I disregarded what my heart was telling me and convinced myself into thinking that I desired all these things outside of my own expertise or ability. In Exodus 35 Moses is describing to the Israelite community the lengthy and detailed instructions to build the Tabernacle and how God required “all who are skilled among you” to “make everything The Lord has commanded…” This had to have been speaking to the hearts of those who were comfortable with who they were–those who knew beyond a shadow of a doubt their God-given strengths and abilities.

I asked myself, “Would I be among them?” “Would I be someone who knew what I could uniquely offer to God?” And I can honestly say that I don’t fully know, which is scary.

Who was God looking to to build His holy place in the Old Testament, arguably the single most important construction in human history? “All who are skilled among you,” or in other words to those who knew their purpose.

I think I have experienced an identity crisis in the body of Christ and that is no one else’s fault but my own and God has been dealing with me in this regard ever since. What I discovered is that I simply listened to what everyone else said about me and not to what God has said about me all along.

30 Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze,33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. 34 And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.
Exodus 35: 30-35 (NIV)

What I have learned is that from the smallest components to the largest, most integral pieces, God needs all of us and all that we can offer. Don’t be afraid of your uniqueness, own it. If your strength is in sewing, cooking, painting or making lattes, do it with boldness and with the grace of God behind you, knowing that you are fulfilling a purpose in His kingdom and you are an important part of His plan.

What is in you that God wants you to recognize for His sake?

What unique skills and abilities has God blessed you with for the purpose of His glory?

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
1 Corinthians 12:15-20 & 27 (NIV)

Small Things

“‘Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.’ (These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range throughout the earth.)”
Zechariah 4:10 (NIV)

This verse has resonated in my life recently and I want to briefly share my experience with The Lord’s “small things.”

I got saved in October of 2012 and immediately Jesus shook the foundations of my world. As a budding flower blooms and accepts its rightful place in the sky, my life was transformed and continues to unfold from the inside out. I encountered truth for the first time in my life and was accepted into a community of people who truly knows what it means to love. Jesus’s words, “…and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 NIV) have become alive in my own story. Forgiveness and transparency are continuing to flow through me and into the ruins and corpses of relationships and dreams I thought were long dead. Now my connection and desire for His presence is like a river, flowing every day with new currents, uncovering new cracks and crevices in the ground beneath it.

Pressing on in my walk with Jesus, I am beginning to uncover the beauty and magnitude of the “small things” in life.

I have been working for close to 3 years for Affliction Clothing, taking on multiple positions and duties during my time here and was most recently promoted to the Graphic Design team. I have no experience in the field and it just so happened that they needed a hand to help out with the Film process the graphics undergo before they are sent to be screen-printed. It’s the lowest job on the totem pole when it comes to Graphic Design but an important one at that. It is my responsibility to double and triple-check the films and graphics to make sure that all the colors are called out correctly and that there is nothing wrong with the design itself before it is sent out to print. During this process, I have become familiar with Photoshop, Illustrator and In-Design–programs and skills I previously had no use or desire for. This job that I thought was merely a stepping stone in my life has recently taken on new life and God is showing me that He can use what I thought was dormant and small in its purposes for The Kingdom into a life-giving reservoir.

In early July my good friend David approached me with an idea of creating sponsorship cards for the orphans he would be reaching in Myanmar (Burma), which would help to filter much-needed resources to the kids at the orphanage. Recognizing the opportunity and my desire to help, I offered my limited skills and resources to create the cards. The feat was large and my knowledge and capabilities small but I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that God was behind it.

What followed were weeks of trial and error and some stagnant, disheartening hours on lunch breaks and after work. My boss graciously offered to help me with the nuances of the task and we worked together, which was a blessing in its own right. Eventually, we reached a deadline scenario where we had to put in some “crunch time” hours to get the cards done or else we were in jeopardy of falling short. God orchestrated the events that followed to streamlined perfection…

The situation: 4 days to finish the cards, input information for 100+ kids, get them printed, cut and ready to hand out for a conference later that week. We had no venue to meet at and the task appeared daunting… and then it hit me. We could do it at Affliction and get the job done quicker and more efficiently since all the files were on my computer there. We met the next morning and got to work. It wasn’t long after we started that we realized that transferring files to each other would be a major issue. The Wi-Fi was acting up and it threatened to put a damper on the whole thing.

Then I remembered, earlier that morning my mom happened to give me a flash drive (one that I didn’t even know existed!) specifically so I can transfer files from work to my home computer, just for this occasion! That ridiculous Darth Vader flash drive ended up being THE key component to accomplishing our task. God knew exactly what we needed when we needed it and practically hand-delivered it to us! It was an amazing revelation.

I never thought I would say that Darth Vader was my saving grace!

To make a long story short(er), we accomplished what we… what God set out to do from the start. God called us to be His vessels to see this task to completion and we were obedient enough to respond with, “I am willing.” God, however does not give the details or the “how-to’s,” He just gives us a snapshot of the end result and tells us to “go.” This is why I love following God. Without mystery there would be no romance, there would be no need for faith. Faith is an adventure. I have seen firsthand what “the day of small things” can bring to this world. Children’s lives will be affected because of that Darth Vader flash drive, the hours spent behind the scenes working on the kinks of Illustrator and Photoshop, late nights, early mornings and this low-level position at Affliction Clothing. If God could use these hands to create something meaningful and put a smile on one of those beautiful faces in Myanmar, then I have truly done my duty.

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” 
Philippians 3:14 (NIV)

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Silk

The presence of the Holy Spirit when you are alone.

 

Silk

He is everywhere. He is my being. I breathe Him and taste Him. He

drapes against my skin like gauzy silk that falls through me. He touches,

and He whispers in my ear. His thoughts are a brume in my mind, innate

but ever expandingly potent.

Tangible, existent love that is everything.

 

The Flood

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For most of my life I have been comfortable with being comfortable. I am very much a man of routine; I am at ease when I have even a vague outline of where I am going or what the day will look like. As humans we all have our niches, habitats, tendencies, methods and specificities that help to create and establish levels of comfort and measures of manageable tranquility in our lives. Whether you recognize, acknowledge or feed it, this hunger for control and comfort is ingrained in all of us. Ultimately, our control of comfort can become a corruption that can destroy every fiber of our world.

God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them…”
Genesis 6:12-13 (NIV) 

After reflecting on these Scriptures in Genesis, I realized something simple yet profound: We will all experience the flood. 

At one point or another in life we will go through one if not many great floods and storms that will destroy all that was once established, teeming and comfortable in our lives and wash it away without any ascertainable reason. In these situations do you find yourself building an ark and preparing life for the future or rather, settling in the land of sheltered yesterdays? In these fragile moments, faithful obedience surpasses circumstantial evidence.

I have seen that if you remain tied to a dock of comfort, God will inevitably send a storm to sever those ties and send you out to sea. For some of us it happens suddenly, for others it is more of a process. As creatures of comfort, we often find it difficult to depart from our dock because it represents the measurable outcomes and controllable circumstances that we so desire in our lives.

Then there is that confronting, obstructive Scripture in Matthew 16:25 (NIV) “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” 

Does God really want us to lose our life, our comfort and our ease? Yes, because what He has is more, is greater, is better than anything we can perceive. God wants to redefine what it means to be comforted until all we need is Him. Jesus asks us to put everything afloat upon God, and go out to sea on the great swelling tide of His purpose. It is out at sea where eyes are truly opened, faith is fully formed and character is eternally shaped. If our faith, security and hope are on board with Jesus we are not to spend all our time in calm waters just inside the harbor, full of joy but always tied to the dock. We must echo the obedience of Noah and build an ark to weather our own storms and embark upon the sea of God’s promises.

In verses 6:22 and 7:5 of Genesis (NIV) it reiterates the same vital point and difference between Noah and a lot of us, “And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.”
Noah did all. It is a dangerous, sometimes fatal mistake to refuse direction, to refuse to follow and fully obey on this voyage. The counterfeit of obedience is a state of mind where you create your own opportunities to sacrifice yourself, and your zeal and enthusiasm are mistaken for discernment.

“But Samuel replied:
‘Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams.'”
1 Samuel 15:22 (NIV)

It is easier to sacrifice yourself than to fulfill your spiritual destiny. Fulfilling your destiny means doing the hard work. It means getting up every morning to gather the wood to build that ark, and preparing to live for the future rather than the past. Beware of paying attention or going back to where you once were on the shore of yesterday’s comforts when God wants to take you somewhere that you have never been before.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” 
Romans 12:2 (NIV)

Prepare for blessings- 40 day Challenge

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There is a new season ahead of us- a season of preparation for increased blessings.

Many of us Christians are at different places in our spiritual walk. Some of us may still have many questions and, yes, even moments of doubt. I would be lying if I said this wasn’t normal. How can we not find ourselves in these moments when the world is constantly trying to set limits and tell people what should and shouldn’t be possible? No matter where we are in our walk, let’s be encouraged to stretch further into our faith, and into prayer to ask God to demonstrate to us again, as He has before, that worldly limitations are broken easily with Christ.

We hold God to his promises. Matthew 9:16 and 17 talks about how a person does not pour new wine into old wine-skins because the skins will break based on their inability to stretch.  The old wine-skins are our old bodies, and the wine is Jesus’ spirit. In accepting Jesus into our lives, Jesus forgave us of our sins, and gave us new lives. As a result, our new bodies are stretching with His spirit inside of us. On the flip side, we can be comforted as we hold this as a promise that Jesus said himself! In giving up our lives for Christ, He is going to give us His spirit, and if He’s going to do that, He will also give us new lives, He will heal us of our past, and He will give us new bodies. Jesus’ spirit will stretch our new bodies. We just have to let it happen.

I recently found myself in a place in my spiritual walk where I began to become complacent. I stretched significantly in my initial growth past points of obvious fear that was like shackles to my spiritual growth, and found myself in an area of more open space. And, to reiterate one of my past posts, I had no idea what to do next. I was becoming too comfortable and it led to some incredibly difficult spiritual attacks.

Our discomfort is like the trick cooks use to boil a frog in water. The technique is so subtle, the frog never even realized it was cooked to death. One discomfort may be waking up early, and so this slight bother may direct a person’s life in one direction. The next may be an array of things that one would rather put off for later. And so these slight discomforts end up directing our lives from one direction into the next. Instead, we should befriend our discomforts and break them down so that we direct our own lives and enable ourselves to go in whatever direction God is calling us.

God wants us to be blessed, especially so that we can bless others; but how is he going to bless us if we can’t even handle what is already on our plates?  We need to demonstrate that our discomforts are trivial by embracing those activities, and getting to the point that we glorify God in all we do. Once we clear our plates, God will definitely give us more to handle. He will bless us and enable us to pour blessings on those who need it most.

The Challenge- Do all the things you know you need to do but don’t want to for at least 40 days. Repeat, once completed. 

When to Start: Start at your most inconvenient moment. Start now if doing so would be a burden to you, and prepare for increased blessings.

Initiation: Wake up early- 5 AM if possible. Get some friends to join you. Prepare together or on your own, and then get together to officially start your 40 days of preparation by waking up to watch the sunrise at the best spot you can find, ending with a bible study and breakfast.

Continuation: Work out in the morning. We are the body of Christ and we need to be healthy. Working out first thing in the morning will break your sleep schedule, and enable you to wake up earlier without feeling so tired. You’ll also feel tired earlier.

Planigation (I like to make up words): Make a strict plan. Come on, Jesus fasted for 40 days. We can at least take care of all our responsibilities for that same time period!

Emmediation: Do all the things you know you need to do immediately. If it’s not reasonable to do it then, write all these things down and make sure you get to all of them, especially the most uncomfortable on the list.

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only to whom it has been given…. The one who can accept this should accept it” (Mat 19:11,12). Jesus was referring specifically to a marital relationship depending on your calling from God, but it also refers to sacrifices in general.

Imagine that you are Simon and you see Jesus walking by, carrying His cross. What would you do?  Would you watch Him walk by, and chalk it up to blessings in that you didn’t have to carry Jesus’ cross?  We see Jesus carrying his cross daily, and what do we do for him?

34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Carry your cross; handle what is before you; and receive God’s blessings.

Fear, boldness, and spiritual growth

The devil has created a cold and dark cave where he wants us to live. In this cave lie all sorts of creepy, crawly, slimy, and poisonous creatures, including fear. Fear is more immobilizing than any web, so much so that we may even be afraid to leave the cave.

Fortunately, there’s an incredible and beautiful world outside this dark cave that is filled with God’s warm light. All we need to do is be bold. We need to fight our discomfort, stand up when we’re frozen, fight through the wind of fear, and step into God’s light to find freedom from our imprisonment.

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Christ wants us to be as bold as he was.  “…’Get up.’ He said. “Don’t be afraid” (Mat 17:7). “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:14).

“God meets us in our discomfort” (Mike Keys), and it’s so true! To grow spiritually, we have to do things that are uncomfortable.  You’ll know what I’m talking about next time you feel it. Certain things are uncomfortable because on one side, your flesh wants to hinder your spiritual growth by causing you to live in fear. Flesh does not want God’s spirit inside us to expand, especially not onto others, and it will hinder you to take action over what your spirit puts on your heart to do. Take speaking up in a crowd for example. Your heart wants you to express something important, something that you’re excited for, but the devil wants you to live in bondage and to be frozen. He uses your flesh to tell you to be afraid with concerns of what others might think. But I urge you, break free!

Step into your faith, and break those chains of bondage that the devil uses to restrain your spiritual growth. Imagine that every time you do this, you are breaking out of that cold dark cave and into God’s love filled light.  Be glad that in every instance in which you do so, you will be growing in your spirit, exponentially. With every step you take out of your discomfort, you will get closer and closer to what God has in store for you.