Posts Tagged ‘Nate Gangwer’

Neighborly Love, by Nate Gangwer, Back2Back Nigeria Intern

July 11, 2011

 

A few weeks ago we began our first project with another team.  We spent the entire day doing projects at the Oasis Community Center in the Kisayhip Village of Jos, Nigeria.  The majority of the team painted the community center with a primer coat to get ready for the Back2Back team next week.  The rest of the group split in two and some worked on clearing the roadside gutter to prevent flooding during the rains and the rest of the group moved a significant amount of gravel, rock, and sand for concrete mixing an building to the other side of the compound to make it easier for future deliveries and a more central location for work. In the midst of the pounding heat we were able to completely prime the building, move all but a handful of the big rocks, and dig out a majority of the roadside.  Feelings of accomplishment ran high as we finished out the day sitting on the porches watching a thunderstorm roll by.  These types of achievements not only help boost our moral, but really help to show the community the importance of taking care of facilities and thinking a few steps ahead of the current problem.

Nigerians are a wonderful people with a tremendous sense of community and perseverance, but have been trampled and pushed down by exploitation, which turns into a terrible foundation of traditions.  A large part of community development lays in finding pride not only in your neighbors and family, but also in the actual land and buildings.  Loving your neighbor does not always entail saving them from a horrible plight or devastating circumstance, but more frequently, and perhaps more importantly, loving your neighbor means literally doing the small things that you desire for yourself for them.  If I want my yard or my house to be clean then how I love my neighbor is also desiring (and acting upon) their yard or house to be clean.  The motivation moves from being self-centered to community centered and Biblically obedient.  By partnering together and serving those around us who are incapable, either by a lack of resources or a lack of know-how, we are not only serving them we are serving Christ and following the model of love He exhibited for us and commanded of us. Oh, how wonderful it is to worship in work and service!

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A Heart for the Widow, by Nate Gangwer, Back2Back Nigeria Summer Intern

June 20, 2011

Today marked a more substantial beginning to the activities we will be doing in Nigeria. Anna, Reed, and Emily observed and helped in the OCC (Oasis Community Center) Education classes to help prepare them for the next few weeks of helping teach and tutor a handful of kids from the village. The rest of the team split off into two groups and walked through the village informing widows on an outreach we will be doing on Saturday. The outreach will consist of giving and installing mosquito nets on the beds for the widows and any children they care for in their homes.

Personally, it was a very humbling yet joyful experience to get to meet with the widows and interact even for a brief time and limited communication. Thankfully each group had a translator to help with effective communication. Throughout the time walking I could not help but think of God’s immense heart for the poor, widowed and orphaned . Throughout the Old and New Testament, God’s desire is that the underprivileged and socially forgotten be taken care of in the same way that He loves us. Paul writes so eloquently of this fact in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 when he discusses the generosity of Corinth in comparison to Christ. Paul discusses how Jesus gave up the majesty of heaven and made Himself poor for our sake.  Chapter 9 instructs believers how to respond in similar ways with cheerful hearts and willing sacrifice.

I have spent a lot of my time praying Ephesian 3:14-21 for my time in Nigeria and that the power of the Holy Spirit would give me understanding of knowledge that surpasses understanding so that God can reveal the depth of His love for us. When I think about these two passages I cannot help but feel a swelling of joy in my heart when I remember the time spent today meeting the widows and other members of the village. I pray that God would continue to mold hearts into a deeper understanding of His love so that He would receive all the glory for our good.

Reflections from My Time in Mexico, by Nate Gangwer, Back2Back Mission Trip Participant

September 13, 2010

It remains extremely difficult to articulate my time in Monterrey, Mexico.  Most of what affected me and changed me and challenged my faith and broke my heart cannot be expressed with words and what can be expressed with words is still too much for a brief paragraph that someone might read.  I could write pages and talk for hours and show dozens of pictures and tell dozens of stories and read Bible verses and share songs and still what I feel in my heart and know down in my soul would be inexpressible.  And if I were asked to comment on my time cutting up tree stumps and loving orphans and serving the kingdom of Christ in Mexico five years from now I would still have great difficulty in sharing my convictions.  So I will limit my writing to one story.

Photo by Nate Gangwer

Throughout the week I had the privilege of removing stumps and trees, serving in a few different orphanages and a Rio.  This task was completed with a tremendous amount of labor and my shirts were often caked with dirt and soaked through with sweat so that mud developed along the front of my clothes.  I spent time fixing a chainsaw which repeatedly broke leaving me and my friends no other choice but to use machetes, pick-axes, and a regular ax which unfortunately broke after only an hour of use.  I tell you this background not for your sympathy or gratitude or approval, but to simply let you know that by the afternoon of our last day serving the beautiful children of Monterrey I was very tired.  I felt like someone had taken metal rods and glued them to my joints so that normal movement was nearly impossible and the word stiffness was a great understatement.

Photo by Nate Gangwer

On the last day, our group took orphans from a children’s home on a field trip.  We went to a local play place with a bouncy house and video games and hot dogs that could be washed down with soda and chips. The kids were eating and I finally had time to stop moving and rest.  So, I crawled up to this little stage at the front and flopped down next to some friends.  Then I looked up and saw for the first time in my life the pinnacle of God’s creation: humanity.

Looking back on the Creation story, God’s glory becomes manifested more and more with each day and the intricacy and mastery of His workmanship becomes more evident.  Creation crescendos and God’s uses all of His glory and might and love and power to create humanity after His image.  On that stage as I watched little boys and girls shove their mouths full with hotdogs and quench their thirsts with soda something inside of me shifted. Something inside me broke.  I have a passion for photography and I find myself standing in awe of God’s created sunsets and mountains and raindrops and beautiful colors and shapes.  But at that moment as my tired body lay on that stage I realized that I had been focusing on the wrong beauty.  Like always my heart missed being aligned with Christ’s.  I was focusing on the beginning of creation and neglecting the masterpiece: us.  The power of the Holy Spirit broke my heart in that realization and my perspective altered. People are the purpose of creation.  They are the reason that God’s justice is fulfilled by His grace.  People are God’s top priority, His primary concern.  Jesus Christ died for no other reason than to satisfy the will of God and bring about a supernatural and divinely controlled communion for the most beautiful thing in all creation.

Image by Nate Gangwer

The word compassion comes from the verb ‘pati’ which means ‘to suffer’ and the word ‘cum’ which means ‘with’ giving a literal translation ‘to suffer with.’  So when Jesus has compassion on the multitude in Matthew 9 He shares in their suffering.  In Colossians, we are challenged to be clothed with compassion.  When Jesus is greeted by the grieving soldier whose daughter had died, Jesus in all His glory and humanity and divinity, knowing the Old Testament claim in Jeremiah 29 that God has a plan for prosperity and comfort of His children, Jesus goes and weeps and mourns with the family even though he knows God is sovereign and even has the power to raise her from the dead, which he does.  In that story Jesus’ humanity and divinity are so intertwined that he has compassion and suffers with His creation.

I hope that we as a society will have brokenness like Jesus and be moved as He was moved.  I hope that we pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to come and grant us the ability to give everything we have to the Kingdom of God and the glory of Christ and have eyes that view the beauty of humanity as God sees it and are then moved to compassion.  May we give as the church in Acts gave and live with such a passion and love for God’s people that miraculous revitalization would sweep through our hearts and turn society to the foot of the cross on which Christ died.  I could write pages on what God taught me in Mexico and the weeks that followed, but instead I encourage you whoever you are to join me and so many of the martyrs and followers of Christ into a place that says ‘Yes Lord, I will follow you and love your people no matter the cost.’  The beautiful children of the world in all their innocence and purity in joy can pull a heart closer to Jesus like few things. The world desperately needs compassion and love; it needs the Gospel.

Photo by Nate Gangwer