Losing My Life, Only To Find it

By: Josie Putnam

Ideology --- I have been reflecting on this word a lot over the past several months as I’ve begun to pursue an education here at the Institute, and even further as I return from a five-week immersion in the Philippines.  

We are all born into a network of familial and societal ideologies that affect the way we see and respond to the world around us. I wasn’t aware of just how strong my own ideologies were until they were challenged this last summer during my internship experience. It was uncomfortable to face the reality that I had certain expectations for living: how I should dress, eat, sleep, or schedule my day. I was struck by the fact that I had found identity in how I fulfilled not only my own expectations, but also the implied expectation of the culture I grew up in.

  Our summer internship's theme was "humble" coming from Deuteronomy 8:3 - "And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." We were humbled in so many ways, but on the other side of that, we discovered God's Word is truly what will sustain us and give us the ability to meet the needs of the poor. 

Our summer internship's theme was "humble" coming from Deuteronomy 8:3 - "And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." We were humbled in so many ways, but on the other side of that, we discovered God's Word is truly what will sustain us and give us the ability to meet the needs of the poor. 

Rooted deep in me is this expectation that my life should look a particular, well-polished way. I found more security marching to that drum than listening to God’s way and caring about his expectation for me. Fitting within the ‘humble’ theme of my internship, I was humbled as I was challenged (on a basic level) to take my eyes off of myself and look into the face of real suffering. I felt the Lord telling me that I need to let go of what I wanted for my life in order to take hold of his purpose in making me someone who considers and advocates for the needs of others above my own. He teaches us through his word that he is our sustenance (Deut. 8:3). My drive to satisfy my own ideologies was only going to steer me away from the direction that God wanted to take me.

I returned from Humble Summer Internship 2017 hungry to learn more of the Word. It was my goal to grow in my understanding of who the Lord is, so that I could better trust his purpose for my life. To my surprise, I was given another opportunity to return to the Philippines in December of this year on an immersion experience. I was overjoyed at the opportunity; I knew that the Lord was going to continue to teach and challenge me. Better yet, I was going to be reunited with some of the most amazing people in the world - my friends in Palo.

  Serving the women at the Tacloban Jail was one of the absolute highlights of my trip. We were able to offer them notes of encouragement and hope, listen to their stories, pray with them, and simply develop friendships with them. 

Serving the women at the Tacloban Jail was one of the absolute highlights of my trip. We were able to offer them notes of encouragement and hope, listen to their stories, pray with them, and simply develop friendships with them. 

However, not long into the trip my ideologies and expectations for how I saw the immersion unfolding (and where my life was headed) were once again deeply challenged. Only this time, I was surrounded by friends and mentors who knew me. They reminded me to reflect on the way in which the Lord had led me. During my summer internship I had struggled to see how I was going to offer hope to those suffering. During this trip, however, what I had learned in God’s Word over the past semester had begun to teach me how I could offer hope. In moments where I was tempted to believe that my own needs and feelings were disqualifying me from meeting the needs around me, I had facilitators come alongside me and point me back to Scripture. They challenged me to have faith despite what I saw, felt, or understood. They taught me that I had the power to abandon my senses and obey God - that on the other side of dying to myself and my ideologies is a liberating education from the Lord that brings true life (Mth. 16:24-26).

When I abandoned myself, the Lord met me and led me to do more than I could’ve imagined.
  We attended a triple wedding of some local fishermen who have built friendships with our development workers in Palo over the years. Despite being together for several years, they had been unable to have an official wedding because they could not afford it. I was invited to photograph the wedding and learned that many people cannot afford that luxury. When I delivered their wedding photos, their faces lit up and they began laughing and dancing in sheer joy. I was so thankful to be able to bless them in this way!

We attended a triple wedding of some local fishermen who have built friendships with our development workers in Palo over the years. Despite being together for several years, they had been unable to have an official wedding because they could not afford it. I was invited to photograph the wedding and learned that many people cannot afford that luxury. When I delivered their wedding photos, their faces lit up and they began laughing and dancing in sheer joy. I was so thankful to be able to bless them in this way!

Some of my favorite memories of immersion are the connections that were made through the sensitivity that the Lord gave me for others. It enabled me to see and respond to an amazing woman I met in the Tacloban Jail. She asked me to pray for her family and children whom she hadn’t seen in quite some time. I cried with her and prayed with her each week, bringing her notes of encouragement and Scripture. That same sensitivity enabled me to bless Ayok, a young man who shares a love for art and drawing, with some tools so that he could continue to practice his gift. It enabled me to capture precious moments for new mothers and their babies and newlyweds who otherwise would not have had photos to help remember those moments. When I abandoned myself, the Lord met me and led me to do more than I could’ve imagined. I am so thankful for who he revealed himself to be during immersion, and for the amazing friends and family who pointed me to those truths when I was tempted to forget.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”  Matthew 16:24-26