Saturday, March 29, 2014

Protector of the Good

So when I updated the blog and began posting anew last year, I addressed the notion that the title of 'missionary' does not apply only to those who forsake family, friends, and comforts to move around the globe carrying the gospel to unreached people groups.  There are unreached people groups living in the U.S. and every other country for that matter - possibly even as close as the house next door to us, or residing in the same house with us.  A 'missionary' is simply a sinner saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ witnessing to that fact in both word and deed.  Thus we who identify ourselves as followers of Jesus are all missionaries.  What exactly does such an everyday, ordinary missionary look like?  Allow me to share an example.

He has been a faithful, dedicated, most trustworthy employee in Iquitos since MMI established the mission in the late 90's.  He is a jack of all trades - electrician, plumber, housekeeper, landscaper, painter, concrete mixer, veterinarian, delivery man, personal shopper, carpenter's consultant, money changer, adult babysitter (yes, he stayed with me more than once at El Jardin when I got spooked and I'm not ashamed to admit it - I was occasionally a fraidy-cat on that very large, very dark property).  You name it, he's probably done it.  And this goes on year-round, not just during our typical mission team season.  All of it in service to a Christian mission, evangelical churches, resident and visiting gringo missionaries, and his fellow Peruvians.

He arrives early, stays late, and returns for emergencies and urgent situations (including finding a motokar at 3 a.m. to take him to his work place when an unnamed resident missionary mistakes the power company guys for robbers during a power outage and threatens them with a hunting knife - who does that????).  Even when he's exhausted and ready to go home for the day, he never fails to ask what else he can do to help and hangs around to actually do it.  And you will never, ever hear him complain.

Lest you begin to think he might not really be human, you need to know that he has an affinity for hammocks.  Well, truthfully he has an affinity for napping whether it be in a hammock or elsewhere.  Give him a few minutes and a place to prop his head and he can fall asleep faster than you can blink.  Though we often joke about him being lazy, he's really a workhorse who has perfected the art of power napping!

As our friendship deepened over the years, we shared our personal stories and I was privileged to see the beauty of his heart.  I cannot count the number of times his simple counsel has calmed me down and readjusted my perspective when things aren't going according to plan.  He finds humor in the most frustrating of situations and with his infectious giggle always makes me laugh.  We cried and prayed together when his young son nearly died from dengue fever (upon his son's recovery he stated numerous times that he will always believe that prayer saved his son when doctors said there was nothing else that could be done).  When we had moments of conflict, he would often go home, then turn around and come right back to my house to talk to me again, because he couldn't rest while things were not right between us.  He allows me into his family home and to know and spend time with his wife and children - an inner sanctum that he rarely permits foreigners to enter.  And when the circumstances of my personal life get overwhelming he never fails to look at me and say, "Don't worry.  God knows and He is in control."

Those who have been to Iquitos know him by his last name - Villa (pronounced 'Bee-jah').  I typically refer to him as Villita ('Bee-jee-tah') or 'chancho' (Peruvian Spanish for pig - and it is a term of affection, I promise!).  His given name is Edgardo Villa. 

Villa walked with Collins and me through our long-distance relationship from dating (Skype calls) to engagement to marriage and another 16 months of living apart after marriage.  As any good Peruvian would, he began asking me as soon as he found out about our relationship if we wanted children.  After Collins and I were married, the first question to be asked after each brief visit we were able to have - "Are you pregnant yet?"  He grieved with and for us when Collins and I found out that the answer to that question would always be "No."  And he celebrated wildly with us when we learned that a young Peruvian woman living in the U.S. had chosen us to be the adoptive parents of her baby boy.  And he continues to share life with us; even though I no longer reside in Iquitos we exchange emails and enjoy regular phone calls during which he is on speakerphone talking to all three of us - especially baby Toby.

I have spent more than 11 years in the company of and was ministered to by this true missionary - the local who humbles himself to become the servant of those who come to his country sporting the title.  He's not a Bible-beating, street corner shouting, eyes closed, hands in the air kind of believer (and just for the record there is absolutely nothing wrong with being that person).  Rather he is a quiet, constant example of the love of Christ.  Blog space would be sadly lacking if I attempted to recount the endless examples of Christian love and service I've witnessed in him; he would be embarrassed if I did and upset with me for violating the sanctity of our friendship anyway.  He wants no recognition and desires to be as far away from the spotlight as possible; he embodies humility.

The name Edgardo means "protector of the good."  I think that pretty much sums him up.  And I can think of no better way to honor this everyday missionary who is my best Peruvian friend and my brother in every sense of the word, than to give his name and rich cultural and spiritual heritage to our Peruvian son.  Toby Edgardo McCraw, may the name bestow upon you the same humble spirit and servant heart as the man who has demonstrated with his life what it truly means to be a lover of God. 

Recommended Reading

  • The Bible
  • Serving with Eyes Wide Open - Doing Short Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence - David A. Livermore
  • Cross-Cultural Servanthood - Serving the World in Christlike Humility - Duane Elmer
  • Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It) - Robert D. Lupton
  • When Helping Hurts-Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself - Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
  • Shadow of the Almighty - Elizabeth Elliot
  • Messy Spirituality - Michael Yaconelli
  • The Irresistible Revolution - Shane Claiborne
  • Peace Child - Don Richardson
  • If God Should Choose - Kristen Stagg
  • In the Presence of My Enemies - Gracia Burnham
  • Inside Afghanistan - John Weaver
  • Same Kind of Different as Me - Ron Hall and Denver Moore
  • Through Gates of Splendor - Elizabeth Elliot
  • End of the Spear - Steve Saint