The Last Will Be First

What follows is a highlight of my trip to Guatemala in July 2014 with my friend Tiffany Lee (Plumb) and her family of 5. 

The day I met Jaqueline is one I will never forget. Jaqueline is 5 years old and lives in Santa Cecilia, Guatemala. Santa Cecilia is a small mountain village in the northeast corner of the country, a forgotten place to most of the world. As many as 80% of children under 5, in this area, suffer from chronic malnutrition (the second highest in the world). What was so special about this little girl?

We didn’t know what to expect when we approached the house – it was up a steep incline, just a small trail leading to a very humble home. Dirt floors, rays of sunlight creeping through the many cracks in the wall and the cutest litter of puppies you’ve ever seen playing just outside the front door. We were told that Jaqueline was a special needs child and that the local Food for the Hungry staff had been walking alongside this dear family since she was born. But, that would not be enough preparation for what we were about to experience.

The theme of our trip was “Stories of Hope” as Tiffany [Plumb] prepared for her fall tour of the same name. We talked about how Hope is everywhere, that even in the midst of the worst circumstances there is a sliver of Hope. God in his mercy offers us Hope around every corner. Every heartache. Amid suffering. And even in our confusion and doubt. (Romans 5:1-5)

But, I have to be honest, I sat on that dirt floor praying and pleading with God, ‘Where is the Hope? They’re going to ask me, what am I going to say?’. 

I sat there in awe as Jaqueline’s father, Don Jose, told us that he felt ‘unworthy to serve his community helping to overcome malnutrition because he had a daughter who was not well.  Who am I to help others when I can’t even take care of my own daughter?’.* I had never seen such humility and overwhelming need anywhere else. After we walked out of the home it was quiet. What could we possibly say? The heaviness weighed us down and my questions gnawed at me as I tried to regain my composure.

But, revelation did come.

I would only wait a few short minutes.

Once we got back down the hill, Tiffany shared this with me [watch the video below, it’s only about 90 seconds]:

The Last Will Be First featuring PLUMB

There it was!!! God had spoken in that home, the Spirit of God was beaming through every crack in that house. He was with us.

“…the last will be first and the first last.” Matthew 20:16**

We serve a God who puts Jaqueline first. What a profound truth. This frail little 16 pound girl in a faraway mountain village of Guatemala is known, cared for and in the Kingdom of God will be first. What we see in front of us is not the end of the story. He is undoing all the sadness, all the brokenness, redeeming what may appear (even to the faithful) hopeless.

God’s character and love as a Father has never been clearer to me. That is why I will never forget the day I met Jaqueline. Thank you, Father, for showing us Hope amidst brokenness.

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 11.03.06 AM

*Jaqueline was born with a congenital brain deformity that prevents her from walking, talking and eating solid food. Her malnutrition is the result of not being able to eat solid food and repeated illnesses. Food for the Hungry has been working with this family for all of Jaqueline’s life. There has been a major turnaround in the parents’ life due to a huge effort on the part of the FH staff, so that the parents see Jaqueline as having value. Don José, Jaqueline’s father, has taken a leadership position in the community teaching about health in large part because of the way FH staff have walked through this situation with them.

**This is to say nothing of the fact that I named a ministry after this verse over 4 years ago.

You can share this video here: http://vimeo.com/111438458

For more about Food for the Hungry and the work we are doing worldwide visit FH.org.

Update from Milam, December 2014

A “late” Merry Christmas from the BYERS family to all of you!!!

‘Tis the season to get through the barrage of marketing emails from anyone and everyone you’ve ever shared your email address with – I find myself cleaning up my inbox by the hour! I hope to be a breath of fresh air in the midst of all of that.

Since it’s been a few months since you’ve read an update from us I wanted to end the year by sharing what God has been doing in our midst. He has continued to give us grace and a sense of purpose every step of the way. We are seeing the baby, Ryder-John, grow every day and we couldn’t be more blessed by this chubby cheeked addition to our family (photo proof below). He brings us joy every single morning!

Ryder_6Months

First, for all of you that have been unwavering supporters by prayer, financial support and encouragement I want to share some of the story God is writing through this year of transition. Since I accepted a position with Food for the Hungry many have asked, ‘What is going on with The Reversal? How’s it going? Are you able to continue what started a few years ago?’

The short answer is…YES!!! Here are just a few things I’ve learned the past 12 months:

Be a part God’s BIG story.

I’ve said this in many conversations this past year and it still rings very true. Since stepping into a role at Food for the Hungry I’ve been able to put into words what has been the driving force of this ministry from it’s infancy: I desire to invite artists, and those in the music industry, into a bigger story. God is bigger than my career, bigger than this culture and bigger than what I see in front of me on a daily basis. We serve a global, all encompassing Father. However, the entertainment industry is a self-focused endeavor. We are constantly plagued with the questions: How do I look? What do they think of me? Will they like my art? Will it be successful? And ultimately, if it is successful (from the world’s metrics)…what do I do with it? Where is the purpose in all of it?

My new role allows this conversation to be easy. I get to walk with artists to help them make the most of the platform that God has given them in this moment. Your time, talent, relationships and platform DO matter. God has been gracious enough to allow us to be a part of His story and He wants us to be that sliver of light in some of the darkest corners of the world. We were not created to exalt and bring glory to ourselves, although we are tempted to do just that at every turn in our career.

We walk together and we see God doing incredible transformational work all around the globe. We are faced with the tension that we are so important that God would include us in this work but at the same time understand with clarity that we really aren’t that big of a deal. There is something greater at work…

Ministry Happens Everywhere

Does this call to walk with artists look differently than I thought it did in 2010?!?! Of course! I have seen more doors flung open by not having a ‘program’ than I ever did when it was the very thing that kept me up at night.

This year I have traveled further and more often than I have since I was a full-time touring musician. But, I see things in a new light that could not have happened without the last few years of discipling and walking with the people God placed in front of me. I find myself in more green rooms, at more catering tables backstage and tour bus lounges than ever before. And that is where God loves to work. Through relationship, trust and care. Although I have a job to do whenever I visit a tour or artist, that is such a small percentage of what actually takes place. God has put me right in the middle of a community that so often longs for an understanding ear, an encouraging brother to pray with and someone they can trust to go to the deep places in an industry that profits off of face-value perception (the appearance of a ‘perfect’ life).

It has been a learning experience to see God work over a simple cup of coffee or a quick lunch. This year I have learned to never take this time for granted, to [hopefully] shine the light of the Gospel into any and every situation. The music industry desperately needs shepherds and I wake every day to see where He would call me to simply be ‘present’.

The Least of These
Nothing can be more humbling and rectifying than looking into the eyes of the most vulnerable in the world. My favorite part of this year has been any time I have been honored to lead an artist to the forgotten places of the world, to see extreme poverty face to face.

I knew this would be my favorite part of my ‘job’ at Food for the Hungry but I had no idea what He would teach me each and every time I get a new stamp in my passport. Every time I have the opportunity to lead a trip God is faithful to speak, reveal and illuminate more of His character.

Photo by Daniel C White

Guatemala, 2014 Photo by Daniel C White

***I will be sharing about some of these revelations in more detail on future updates this coming week.

This is a ministry in and of itself. A pastoral role. An opportunity to help others navigate through tension and heartbreaking reality. Most of our days in the West are spent wondering what we’ll have for lunch. Leading others on a trip to see extreme poverty firsthand is heavy but we are always delighted by the overwhelming hope and joy experienced in those places. How do these kids smile when they have so little? Where does this joy come from? Where is the Hope in this situation? Since they obviously have a clarity that I don’t…maybe my circumstances have little to do with my Hope and Joy?!?!

A guide along that path…to see what God is doing constantly, faithfully and mercifully. It gets us outside of ourselves, far beyond our self-consumed Instagram/Facebook lives. To God be the Glory.

In closing, I wanted to share with all of you how God has redeemed and sustained the call He gave me almost 5 years ago. To make disciples in the music industry. He has been faithful.
Every.
Single.
Step.

Stay tuned for more…

The Latest Devotional Podcasts

We’ve recently posted a few new devotional podcasts to help encourage you along the journey. You can listen to all 3 of the latest podcasts in about 15 minutes!

As always, the best way to keep up is to subscribe.

Here’s the links to 3 of our latest:

  • Comfort for Others

    God uses our stories of loss and pain not only to make us more like Christ, but to give us a ministry to others. Whatever you are going through or have gone through, God can and will use it to comfort others. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

    One Thing

    Have you “made it”? What are you putting in the “gain” and “loss” columns? For the Apostle Paul, what formerly went into the gain column (how he defined ‘making it’) is now in the loss column because of the ‘surpassing worth of knowing Christ’. Philippians 3: 4-11

    One Degree to Another

    We need to be reminded of the great, merciful, saving work of Jesus everyday. In Christ, you are now part of God’s family. Not only followers or ‘religious’ people, but sons and daughters. THAT is the best news there is! Ephesians 1:3-6 & 2 Corinthians 3:18

The LATEST Update

Please click here for the latest newsletter update from the Byers family and The Reversal. We cherish your continued prayers and support as we seek to serve God in Nashville.

September 2013 Update:

http://e2.ma/message/cziri/wy36mb

If you would like to receive our newsletter update you can sign up here.

The Gospel in Suffering (special PODCAST)

In July, 2003 I experienced the darkest night of my soul — the loss of my older brother Josh. Josh was serving as a Captain in the Army at the beginning of the war in Iraq when he was tragically taken by a roadside bomb. In the last 10 years I’ve learned much about pain and loss, and even more about the Gospel of Jesus.

In a special podcast, I share a sermon that I preached over Memorial Day weekend about how I’ve experienced a deeper understanding of God, even in the midst of tragedy.

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Scripture: Romans 5:1-5

JOSH IRAQ

Captain Joshua Byers, the morning before his death; IRAQ (July, 2003)