This guest post is by Jill Schulenberg, who went on the World Race mission trip from January-November 2012. During the month of October she and her team served at an orphanage in the capital city of Cambodia- Phnom Penh. Here she tells a story of brokenness.. and what God told her to do about it.
I must be the most selfish human being on planet earth…
Yep, that was my thought process at the end of our weekend on the beautiful Cambodian beach in Sihanoukville. My team raised money from friends at home, totaling nearly $800, to pay for the entire orphanage (30 kids) and helpers to rent a bus and spend one night at the beach. We’d never done anything like this on the Race, but the Lord laid it heavy on our hearts and made it happen! The children had been praying for a couple years that this trip would be possible, and it blew my mind to watch their excitement and delight just to swim in the water for hours. To them, it was literally a “dream come true”.
Meanwhile, I realized the vast difference between my idea of a vacation and theirs. While I was sitting in an air-conditioned room, sipping fancy coffees, jumping on the internet, and even getting a Khmer massage, I watched them spend every waking moment in the waves, oblivious to the added delights that money could offer. Plus, our contact Rithy and his wife Chanthea poured their time and energy into serving all of us selflessly. They made all the arrangements for the 5-hour bus ride and guesthouse , cooking our food, and working behind the scenes with complete humility and genuine joy, serving just as I saw them do every day at the orphanage throughout the month.
I was humbled. I was ashamed. And once again, I was broken and it did not feel good.
Then the Lord decided to take it a step further. The day after we got back to Phnom Penh, I was sitting in bed with my coffee, Bible, and journal as I do every morning. As I journaled, the most unforeseen thought popped into my head: What if I left my guitar here? All month I had been teaching a few of the boys to play new songs and chords on the guitar, and it was one of my favorite parts of ministry. Throughout the Race, I’ve felt like the moments when my guitar is in my hands are the moments I come alive. The orphanage owned a guitar already, but it was cheap and battered and those teenage boys would always jump at the opportunity to strum on mine for a few minutes… or hours…
As soon as the thought came, I knew it was not from me but from the Lord. It was too far-fetched and beyond what my selfish heart would ever consider. I also knew that I was going to obey (because the Lord’s commands are irresistible when you really know He is speaking!).
But the next few days were an intense battle between my flesh and spirit. I did not want to let go of one of my favorite little words – “mine”.
I came up with every excuse in the book to keep that guitar.
It was a gift from my parents – how will they feel? I need to keep it because it is a blessing to the people around me when I play and worship the Lord. This is the guitar that I have carried around the world! It has been with me through thick and thin – every scratch and dent makes it more precious! What if it gets broken or neglected or left to collect dust in the office? Isn’t that irresponsible stewarding on my part to leave it where it might be under-appreciated when it could bring such blessing elsewhere?
And then the Lord convicted my heart on the deepest level of all. We were in church at the orphanage singing, “How Great Thou Art”. As my Khmer brothers and sisters sang in their tongue, I sang in mine, and the words hit my heart.
“And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in. That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.”
So gently, the Lord spoke to my heart.
When I offered the ultimate sacrifice in all of history, was it given to a people who valued and appreciated it for the precious gift it was? Is that the reason that I justified allowing my Son to die, because I knew that humanity would see and receive it and value it as it deserved to be valued? If your motivation to make sacrifices is based on how appreciated and valued your gift will be, you are missing out. Jill, this is for your heart above all. It has so little to do with how your gift is received and so much to do with your heart posture in giving it. Where are you laying up your treasure? Because where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
At moments I felt hopeless that it would even affect my heart. If 10 months of traveling in nations where no one, and I mean no one, has even close to the material blessings that I live with on a day to day basis – if that has not changed my selfish heart, what will? But instead of hopelessness, the Lord spoke hope.
This is the first step. This is the first tie that I am asking you to cut right now. Your heart may not change instantly. But the fewer your ties to earth, the less rooted and dragged down you are and the easier your heart will lift off and reach for heaven.
I wrote a letter. I put my tuner and picks into my guitar case and emptied it of everything else (the personal cards and notes from home that I had stored in there). I cried as I read the letter to all the children on our last night at the orphanage. I cried as I handed the guitar to the four boys and told everyone in the room,
“I love my guitar. But I love all of you more. And I know that Jesus wants you to have this.”
I can say with total honesty that since that night, I have felt pure joy and peace whenever I think about my beautiful guitar. In fact, my heart sings louder than before. Worship is way more than chords reverberating in a quiet room. Worship for me meant laying down the ability to make music in order to worship in a way that was costlier and far more precious – sacrifice. And in return, I am more conscious than ever that my joy is not in this world, and that my treasure is in heaven.
Since she has returned home, Jill was given a beautiful new guitar by one of her teammates. She only went one month without a guitar before God surprised her with another.