Not as Expected

Good morning from Managua, Nicaragua!

As my time living in Nicaragua draws to a close, I have noticed a very interesting trend. In reality, it is a pattern that has been a part of my life since I can remember, but it has been easier to see in my work in Nicaragua. Over my three years here I have been a part of many projects. At the beginning of each project, my team, our partners and I had a certain picture of how it would go and what it would look like once it was completed. However, invariably the project would not go as planned and the end result, while still accomplishing the same general goal, would look completely different. Whether it took longer, involved people we didn’t expect, changed location, or increased or decreased in scope, the initiative came together in a way we didn’t expect. While this can be frustrating, what if it is the best thing that could happen?

When I was twenty years old and getting ready to graduate from college, I received an offer from an honors society I was a part of to travel to China for three weeks to learn about their culture and their economic and political climate. I was one of eighty people from around the United States to receive this offer so it appeared to be a relatively unique opportunity. I also had never traveled outside of the United States so it seemed like a great chance to get to know the world a little more. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. The trip was scheduled for June of 2003, which was right in the middle of the SARS outbreak in China. I was told that the trip was cancelled for safety reasons and travel restrictions to that part of the world. This was very disappointing as I saw that trip as a part of figuring out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Instead of going to China, my family and I went on vacation to the Dominican Republic to celebrate my graduation, which is a great and relaxing time.

A few years later, our church, Crossroads Community Church, began traveling to Nicaragua to visit the orphanage in El Canyon. I was unable to go on the first couple of trips due to work, but after hearing stories from my family, I decided I would go as soon as possible. In the summer of 2007 I was finally able to go to Nicaragua. This began a long journey that ended up with me living in Nicaragua for three years and experiencing life and God’s work in a way I could have never imagined. Thinking back on that canceled trip to China, I can’t help but wonder if I ever would have comes to Nicaragua if I would have gone to China. It is very possible that I would have committed to serving there in some way instead of serving in Nicaragua. This certainly would have changed the direction of my life and impacted many things that have happened since. I never would have chosen to lose the opportunity to go to China, but I am very glad I did looking back on all that has happened. God had a different and better plan for my life.

This is not unique to my life. In Israel, shortly before the birth of Christ, the Jewish people were waiting on a Messiah who would give them freedom. Ruled by the Roman Empire at the time, they believed that Messiah would from them from oppression and reestablish their sovereign nation, serving as their king. When Jesus, the Messiah, came the plan looked a little different. In Mark’s account of Jesus’ we can read one of many statements Jesus makes about why He, the Messiah, came to live among us. “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.'” (Mark 10:42-45, NIV 1984) As Jesus said here, he did not come to be an earthly ruler but to provide ultimate freedom to the world through his death on the cross. The people of Israel were waiting for a king to come to deliver them from their current situation. Jesus came to deliver the entire world for all of eternity from sin so that they could be restored to a perfect relationship with their Creator. The Messiah did come to provide freedom, but in a much different and greater way than the world expect, and for that I am very thankful.

In my experience this is how God often works. If we are willing to trust and wait on Him, He will take our commitment and accomplish more than we ever thought could be possible. Often this means accepting that the journey is going to look a little different, but the end result is more than worth it. I am thankful that God’s vision is bigger than mine and that he decides to use me in his incredible plans. If something is not going as planned at the moment despite your best efforts it could be that God is working behind the scenes to accomplish something greater than you could have imagined on your own. It was true in the case of those who were waiting for the Messiah and could be true for you too.

– James Belt 

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