Lessons on Giving Your Life Away

I have lived a blessed life because of all the people with whom I have worked. This Christmas, I am reflecting upon the gift of people in my life.

I have written about people who I consider simply amazing like my South African friend, Mandy Rapson, an Honduran medical doctor/pastor, Jorge Ponce, and my incredible students.  These people give their lives away regularly and inspire me with their creativity, selflessness, and graciousness.

Today, I am thinking about Gil and Lya Santhon. They have changed me and they continue to inspire me.

Let me tell you about them. We can all learn a lesson from them about giving our lives away.

I first mentioned Gil and Lya last month when I wrote about how I have the best job in the world. They have been teaching me life lessons for a long time.

They have lived a long and wonderful life and embody the American dream in many ways. They worked hard to build a life and a beautiful family. Then, at a time when most people decide to relax and slow down with their lives, they decided to do something very different.

They decided to become missionaries.

Before retiring early to give their lives away to others through missions, Gil and Lya were members of my church in South Florida. It was my pleasure then to ordain Gil and rejoice with both of them as they downsized their life to enter full time missions. For almost fourteen years, they have been doing missions work.

Even though they are retired from full time work now, they still regularly participate in missions trips.

I recently asked Gil how his faith encourages him and He told me he knows God promises to be with him every day. He says it is like they become addicted to depending upon God.

From Gil and Lya, I learn God’s promises are effective and lift us up every day.

From the moment Gil and Lya entered the mission field God has led them to work in extreme and difficult places. After serving in Mozambique and Angola and then Argentina, they began traveling deep into the Amazon.

They are currently working with unreached tribes of the Amazon in Brazil. Gil tells me they have had several contacts with indigenous people who are open and receptive to the Good News.

The people with whom they work have very different concepts about God. When they talk to them about God, he says they talk to them about Tapanah, the Maker of Everything.

As they try to show them God at work around them, they simply try be friendly with some of the adult men and help them discover God as they worship Tapanah (Romans 1.20). The men then go back and share in their own indigenous language to their people what they have learned about God.

Gil and Lya are patiently waiting for a chance to introduce Jesus to these people.

From Gil and Lya, I learn God’s work can be very challenging, but God rewards faithfulness. 

He says people there are asking for them to return and they are planning another trip for May 2014.

These last few weeks of the Christmas season have provided many opportunities for gift giving. Gil and Lya continue to remind me of the grace of giving our lives away to others.

The life Gil and Lya have chosen to live should challenge each and every one of us. When I asked him what he saw as the greatest need, he told me young people with a real call and passion for others.

Young or old, are we prepared to live passionately for others?

I learned another life lesson when I asked Gil and Lya what they would like to say to challenge people to give their life away. They said,

“Don’t be afraid of the Call, the obedience is very rewarding and full of real excitement.”

Years ago, Gil and I served together on a mission trip to Consolacion del Sur, Cuba. It was a good week of working with an energetic pastor and a thriving congregation. Even then Gil’s passion for people inspired me.

Just a few weeks ago, they invited me to travel with them to the Amazon next May on their next trip. I think they have more to teach me, so I just may be traveling to the Amazon next May.

Anyone interested in traveling to the Amazon next May to learn how to give your life away?