This is the question we get more than any other. It makes sense, because it is a question that Jenny and I wrestle with consistently. The short answer is that we don’t know yet. There are a lot of different factors that go into the decision.
Here is what I will tell you: More than likely we will NOT live within the garbage dump communities.
I have to tell you, it is a difficult decision though. I see all of the benefits of the “incarnational” approach to ministry. Jesus “pitched his tent among us…” as John 1 tells us. Likewise, shouldn’t we move in to the neighborhoods where we are doing ministry? In short, if I (Justin) was a single guy with no family, I probably would.
So how are we going to choose where we will live?
We have decided on three key elements to our housing that we are using as the framework for prayer.
We want to live AS CLOSE as we possibly can to the garbage dump. We don’t want to be the rich, white people that come soaring in off of the mountain. Historically, this is the way much of missions worked. Missionaries would find housing that was conducive to the lifestyle they would prefer, and often it required a much nicer location than where they were ministering. Many times, missionaries have had to travel quite the distances to meet with the people they are ministering to.
We want to be close to the action. We want to be as close as possible.
The flip side of this is that we want to live AS SAFE as possible. We know what everyone knows about Latin America, often Americans have a target on their backs. Naturally many thieves in Latin America presume that we have money (they’ll be in for a surprise if they mug us!). We know that we need to guard the longevity of our ministry. While it would be noble to move into a rough community to “do ministry,” getting shot a week later wouldn’t be a great step forward for our ministry.
We also want to have a family. I (Justin) know that it is my God-given responsibility to protect my family. There is a HUGE difference between protecting my family and sheltering my family (a distinction more missionaries should probably consider). We are not looking to eliminate risk. If that were they case, we wouldn’t go!
This is just a side-note: Jenny and I are perfectly aware of the great risk that this move places on our families. Yet we both firmly believe that the gospel demands action, action in the darkest, most dangerous places in the world. Eliminating risk is impossible, as a matter of fact, risk comes with the territory.
We are simply wanting to make the wisest decisions for our family, knowing that there is always risk in proclaiming the gospel. Regardless, we will be actively making decisions with our safety in mind.
Finally, we plan to live as simply as possible. We don’t need the flash and glamour of the suburbs. We want a humble space that we can use. We will use it for our own personal retreat and rest. But we also want to be able to use it for ministry. If we are using it for ministry to people within the garbage dump communities, then we want to ensure that it will not be extravagant in a way that puts their homes and belongings to shame.
We are not trying to fool them. They know that we are American, and by nature we have more then they have. At the same time, we don’t want to luxuriously flaunt what we have. We are perfectly willing to set aside what many of us would consider “necessary comforts” for the sake of our ministry.
We need You!
With that said, we are by no means under the delusion that we can accomplish this perfectly. We will never completely eliminate risk or need for comfort, and we will never completely eliminate American stigma. This is why we need your prayer. Please, pray on our behalf that God would show us the best way to make our housing selection. Any input from you would also be encouraging and helpful.
We trust a God who provides. We are whole-heartedly resting in God, that He already has the perfect home for us selected in Guatemala. We just need to find it!