If darkness is the absence of light, and black is the absence of color, then we are to conclude that the absence of one thing creates a void which has a name, feeling and presence all its own.
No one can deny that darkness has a physical feeling attached to it. If it didn’t, children (and many adults) would not be afraid of the dark. It is the fear of what can happen in the dark that truly frightens us. Where there is no light, our imaginations can conjure all sorts of terrifying scenarios and possibilities. The Word of God refers to Hell as “outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12, 22:13 and 25:30) and the “blackness of darkness” (Jude 1:13). Many might ask, ‘but isn’t there fire in hell?’ It’s hard to imagine a fire that gives no light, but the darkness scripture refers to is much more terrifying than the physical or emotional darkness we experience in the world. It is a darkness that pierces to our very soul without the hope of relief. This is only a small part of what we need to understand as the horror and hopelessness that is eternity spent in utter separation from God. The absence of God will leave us experiencing a truly unique darkness which is palpable and very real.
By this same logic, where integrity is absent, we are left with corruption. We are quick to denounce corruption in our society as an entity all its own. We regularly hear about complaints and protests against corruption because of the negative effects it has on the most vulnerable members of our society. But, I don’t remember the last time I heard an outcry or protest for integrity. The reason you hear few people asking for integrity is because, deep down, we realize that, ideally, we should be willing to live out the very thing we are asking others to exhibit in all levels of society, culture and government.
It is an easy thing to call out corruption in others. It is much more difficult to commit to a life of integrity for ourselves…
I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.PSALM 101:2-3
I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.
The truth is, the best training in integrity begins in the home. Our children and grandchildren will imitate what they see, not what we tell them. This means that we need to be constantly striving towards integrity in everything we do. If not, we need to be ok with children who grow up to perpetuate the corruption that we left them with by failing to instill integrity.
In its simplest form, modeling integrity for our children means keeping our word with them and others. It means answering their ‘why’s’ and ‘why nots’ with evidence from scripture. A child should never be satisfied with the age-old “because I said so” from their parents. Children should be given the basic respect and opportunity to understand the reasons behind limitations, restrictions and discipline. Understanding that everything we believe, and each decision we make has a strong foundation will allow them to make sense of a world that is intent on confusing and deceiving them.
On a more complex level, integrity is modeled for our children in how we treat them, how we treat our spouse, our neighbors, our employees, the person in line at the pharmacy and all who we come in contact with. Every word we say…every decision we make…has far-reaching consequences.
As children grow, what they saw in their home is what they will likely reflect as adults. Those willing to deceptively pad a résumé or falsely embellish a work bio will often be perpetuating their parents’ example to them. A person’s willingness to cheat for the work promotion, or an inclination to lie to make the sale can more often than not be traced back to a parent who did the same, and who promoted a ‘you gotta do what you gotta do’ mentality. What people portray on social media vs. what their lives and relationships really look like can also often be traced to the legacy of a parent or parents more preoccupied with portraying a certain image than the example they were being to those under their care.
As the topic of corruption continues to dominate headlines in Puerto Rico, Ricky takes the time to remind families in the churches on the island that if we are going to cry, “¡Corrupción! Corrupción!”… then we had better be willing to look at the plank in our own eye. He asks them, “But in your home…is there integrity? Are you walking in integrity? Are you modeling integrity for the little feet that follow you? Because every government official was once a child with parents whose actions informed their future, for better or for worse. If corruption is the absence of integrity, and you are not intentionally and actively modeling integrity in your home, I have news for you, beloved: You are raising the next generation of ‘corruptos.’”
not negligent to remind them
This post covers the opportunities we had to share the above message and more with 9 churches, 6 public schools and 2 private schools in the 14 municipalities where you see a red star below.
I don’t often sit while Ricky is preaching in a church. I’ll snap a few photos for this blog and for our ministry’s social media pages, then I will often stand or pace at the back of the church listening intently, watching the congregation, and praying for the Word to fall on good ground. We have had so many varying experiences in churches across the island over the years that I feel that I need to be ready for absolutely anything. I’ll give a discreet fist pump to encourage Ricky in a portion of the message, particularly when I see that the Spirit is leading him into a new and relevant direction. As Ricky preaches, the Lord will often give him special insight in the moment, leading the teaching into new, scripture-supported territory that really brings the message home for the congregants. I want to encourage him to continue down that path when this happens, and will signal him using our own kind of ‘RAME sign language’ that we have developed over the last several years.
Below, some photos from the churches where we were able to bring a message of love, exhortation and hope to the congregants gathered.
Our message in the schools is geared towards students and faculty. Obviously, in this environment, parents are not typically present. Here, we have the opportunity to lead the children into analytical thought about the influences that affect their thoughts and actions, and how they do not have to follow the negative patterns set before them. We talk about music, movies and influences from the communities they live in. We use God’s Word to counter certain behaviors that they may be taking for granted. In one school recently, a 5th grade boy approached Ricky, sobbing and said, “I listen to that music you were talking about. I didn’t know what they were singing about.” He seemed to be genuinely impacted by the realization, and teachers who know him as a ‘tough guy’ told us they had never seen him like that before.
Below, some photos where were blessed to encourage children into critical thinking about their behavior and choices…
God has blessed us with a ministry that is truly adaptable to so many different types of groups. We love when we get to minister to all ages together, but we also really enjoy the opportunity to bless very small children and/or children with special needs with lots of music and laughter. Public schools, private schools, HeadStarts and other learning centers are thrilled when we tell them we can do a program suitable for each age group. In schools, students from about 2nd grade and up receive a thorough message relevant to their current life stage and experiences, while the smaller ones get more music, more laughter and a shorter, more concise message. We tell schools that we are theirs for the whole day so that we can cover each group according to their needs. God gives us and our boys extraordinary energy, vocal resilience, and most of all, great joy while we work from wee hours of the morning to late in the afternoon, often to do it all over again the next day.
As our God is so good, He never forgets to give us our ‘seventh day!’
Below, some photos of our time in a private school and an early learning and special needs center.
IN HIS HANDs
The year 2020 marks the beginning of our 7th year of service on the island of Puerto Rico. While we can’t believe how quickly the time has gone, we are blessed when we meditate on how God’s providence has ordered everything so perfectly as we have served Him here. From His initial calling when we lived stateside to the way He has grown this ministry and our faith, we see how the work established for our hands has always been according to what He has equipped us for in each season of our family’s life. We look forward to seeing what this 7th year will bring, and what new opportunities He will bless us with to share encouragement and exhortation from His Word.
If you would like to make a donation of any amount to RAME Ministries (no amount is too small), you may click on the image below to be directed to our PayPal donation page:
Thank you for reading, and may the Lord bless you richly as you seek to live a life of integrity in His name.
Below, a recent video from our YouTube channel; part of a new ‘behind the scenes’ series that shows how we transform our house into a studio to create our videos, and some of the shenanigans that take place during the filming process. Enjoy!