Category Archives: Missionary Life

Advice from one missionary to another

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Recently I read some wise words from a veteran missionary to those out on the itineration trail raising their funds.  I won’t use the author’s name because he’s serving in what we call a “sensitive region” or a country that doesn’t want missionaries… go ahead and read between those lines.  So I will only say that these are not my words, but I totally agree with them and wanted to share them here.  I hope this wise advice finds fertile soil in some missionary’s heart.

A Warning to the Itinerant:

Missionaries are given the immense privilege of representing God’s heart to both the nations and the church. When we return from our fields of obedience we are invited into pulpits – grand and humble – to speak on behalf of both the lost and the Lord. We are feted and lauded – which can lead to pride. We observe shallowness and performance – which can lead to a critical spirit. The more we travel and speak, the more we must beware our own hearts. I sat down this weekend and wrote out some warnings to myself:

– I do not deserve the pulpit, I have not ‘earned’ it.
– I am not better than the ones I preach to.
– I cannot presume God’s favor or anointing
– I cannot live in sin and call others to holiness
– My life has to match my exhortations
– I can’t rely on old sermons. I am responsible to give God’s flock fresh bread. If a sermon is to be re-used, it must be fresh to my soul.
– I cannot allow any whisper of entitlement into my heart. I am not owed praise, respect, attention, or any financial offering.
– I cannot think my looks, height, posture, style, or natural ability is important, nor that natural gifts can in any way impart divine life to the hearer.
– I cannot waste God’s time or money with half-hearted preparation, reflection, passion, or effort.
– The flock must see and feel that I love them, and more importantly that I love Jesus.
– My spirit must be gentle even if my words are hard.
– I must have true humility and lowliness. Nothing is as proud or as rank as false humility, whether to the individual or before the congregation.
– I must care more about what God thinks than man, and must obey His promptings and speak as His oracle.
– If I do not ascend to the pulpit clothed and endued with the Holy Spirit, I am immediately exposed as naked and foolish before God, and it will not be long until I am exposed as a fraud before all men.
– I must have a holy terror of speaking in my own strength or from my own wisdom. I must have a heavenly horror of speaking what is false, exaggerated, or misleading. I must be terrified of speaking one word without the covering and impetus of the Spirit.

I noted with sadness this weekend that even if all is said in the right spirit and under God’s authority, some ears remain deaf, and others hear selectively. We cannot control our hearers, nor are we responsible for how they hear. We are responsible for what and how we speak. It is incumbent on us to speak the words of God in the way and spirit He requires. This is a fearful and awesome privilege. God help us. God watch over our hearts and lips.

 

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The Godfathers

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If you ever get invited to a wedding in another culture, you should go.   Without hesitation- just go.  It will be so worth it!  We were honored to be invited to the church wedding of two of the young people that we have been working with the past 3 years.  (The civil ceremony which makes the wedding legal happened a few days before.)  The first thing we attempted to do was to discover the protocol for gift giving.  What kind of gift is appropriate to give?  How much money are guests expected to spend?  Are gifts brought to the ceremony or sent to the house ahead of time?  Is there any such thing as a gift registry?  Those are the questions we asked.

The answers were not so easy to come by.  After asking many people, both gringos and Ticos we learned that there were some upscale stores that do a gift registry.  Our couple had listed a store on their invitations… though often times there is no formal paper invitation to be had since there is no mail service delivered directly to the houses here… because there are no addresses, obviously.  Duh.  However, we were given a hand delivered invitation with the name of a store on it.  My husband proceeded to ask around for the location of the store.  He eventually found a website with no wedding registry information on it, but he did find the phone number.  After many calls to the store which was in a different city, my husband placed an order for a gift and asked for it to be delivered to the couple… after we got directions to the house where they were going to live.

So we thought that we all set.  We were familiar with the city where the wedding would be held and Josh had actually been to the church before, so we were good.  The last time we tried to go to a wedding in another town we spent 6 hours wandering lost in the mountains before we decided that we probably missed the wedding and we should just head home.  Turns out weddings don’t start on time either.  We probably could have made it still.

On our way to the wedding, the store called and asked when Josh wanted to come pick up the gift.  He was shocked!  He told them, “You were supposed to deliver the gift yesterday!  If you deliver it today, no one will be at the house.  They are all at the church!”  So after some bickering back and forth, they agreed to have someone deliver the gift the following day.  Strike one for the wedding guests.

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

When we arrived at the church, we were sure the ceremony would not be starting on time.  The groom was standing out front waiting for us.  Josh whispered to me, “Oh I hope they don’t ask me to say anything spur of the moment!”  Well he lucked out, all the groom wanted to know was if we would be the “Padrinos” or Godparents of the newly weds.  My husband said we would be honored, but what do the Padrinos do?  The groom laughed like we were making a joke and said, “Oh, you just pay for the wedding.”  (Costa Ricans love teasing and sarcasm.)  And we all laughed… nervously.  We still had no clue what was expected of us.

As we walked into the sanctuary, I grabbed the sister of the groom and whispered, “Where do we sit and what do the Godparents do?”

She shrugged and pointed to the back of the center aisle.  “Just wait here for instructions.”  She said it didn’t matter which side we sat on.  We chose seats in the middle of one of the sections since we didn’t want to presume that the Padrinos would walk down the aisle or be seated at the front.  We were wrong in our humble assumptions.  Strike two for the gringos.

I was actually surprised that we started within an hour of when the invitation said the wedding would start.  I had heard that often times the time on the invitation is when the wedding preparations start for the bride.  So if the wedding starts at 10:00 am, that means the bride will be getting in the shower at 10:00.  The family might sit down to lunch while she gets ready and by 3:00 pm, everyone will be making their way to the church.  No one really knows when the service will actually start.  And no one is bothered by this except the Americans.

In Costa Rica, there is an M.C. that directs the ceremony calling each person down in their proper order like fashion models walking down the cat walk.  “And now we have the grandmother of the bride being escorted by her grand-nephew.  And now we have the Padrinos, please walk to the front Josh and April.”  We hastily jumped up from our seats, ran up the side aisle and walked back down the center aisle together.  At the head of the aisle I looked to the announcer for directions about which side to sit on or if we were supposed to come up on the stage or stay standing along the front like groomsmen.  He was already on to the next fashion models and we were left awkwardly standing at the front.  We slid discretely down into the front pew.  Strike three for the totally lost Padrinos.

Both sets of parents sat across the aisle from us in the front pew and the sister of the groom sat next to me.  It was all totally disorganized and no one seemed to care.  When we realized that we were the only ones who were bothered by this, we let the blush cool on our cheeks and relaxed our tense shoulders.  “Pura Vida” we whispered to each other.  That is the Costa Rican motto which really means “No worries mon!”  Just go with the flow.

After the ceremony we were uncertain what would happen next.  The announcer did something totally surprising.  He said, “If anyone wants their picture with the bride and groom, just come up on the stage.”  So for an hour the guests pushed and cajoled for a spot in line to have their picture taken with the new couple.  It was like a mad receiving line with iPhone cameras flashing everywhere.  Totally disorganized, and again, no one cared.

We didn’t know if there was a reception somewhere.  We didn’t see any gifts on a table anywhere.  (For the record, I did see some relatives whisk some packages into a car earlier on.)  We loitered around the back of the sanctuary talking with guests and family, waiting for some kind of sign.  When the groom finally said he had to get going, we figured that was the end of it.  We headed home to San Jose… hungry.

I had heard of weddings where there was indeed a beautiful cake on a table, but it turned out that the cake was cardboard and only one little disk at the top was real for cutting for the photo.  It seems that Hollywood has influenced Costa Rican culture in a way where young couples thought they wanted a cake since that’s what they do in the movies, but no one knew what to do with it.  And since cakes can be insanely expensive here (Most people don’t bake or even know how to use their ovens.  They store their Tupperware in their ovens.) they opt for a fake cake that looks good in the pictures.  So I was bracing for no cake.  I was quite shocked at no reception at all.  Strike four for the hungry Godparents.

The lessons we learned at the wedding made us feel honored that our friends had opened this cultural portal for us.  We left feeling proud to have navigated another pot-hole filled mile of culture and for having not embarrassed ourselves too badly by not knowing what was going on.  We were able to “roll with the punches” and we survived.  Plus we learned that not much flusters a Costa Rican, so we should just relax and enjoy the Pura Vida too.

The Anti Nesting Instinct

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We still have 8 month left of this term.  Itineration is still too far away to begin disengaging from responsibilities and friendships.  But I can tell that I’ve already begun to lean into the change.  How can I tell, you may ask?  I have noticed a purging impulse has been activated in me.  I call it “The Anti Nesting Instinct”.

When a mother is waiting for a baby to be born, she starts frantically putting the house in order in preparation for her new arrival.  The Honey-Do list starts to fill up with all those little household repairs that have been ignored for so many months or years.  Mom-to-be starts filling up the house with new purchases and organizing drawers full of teeny tiny clothing.  That’s The Nesting Instinct.

Photo credit: jamelah / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: jamelah / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

So, logically, The Anti Nesting Instinct involves purging, cleaning out, throwing out, and giving away things.  It is recognized in the peacefulness of gazing contently into a nearly empty closet.  Its joy is magnified with each new pile of possessions successfully delivered to its new owners.  My recycling bin runneth over.

Last Saturday I tackled my daughters’ bed room.  It was a hoarder’s paradise.  The amount of cardboard and paper that I hauled out of their room was horrifying.  The scraps of old craft projects, plastic bottles rescued from the recycling bin, and half colored pieces of paper were pretty much the only things holding up my middle child’s bed.  I removed 4 full garbage bags of pure trash from their room, a mountain of toys and books that they had grown out of, and another bag full of clothes to give away.  This morning my daughter told me that she’s been opening and closing her closet door just for fun.  I understand this since more than once this week I’ve stood gazing with satisfaction into their super clean and nearly empty closet.  I love an organized closet.

Yes, the urge to purge has even manifested itself in my work at school.  I am tackling disorganization, clutter, and an absurd amount of pure junk that has been stored here since Jesus was a small child.  I am busting through cobwebs and pawing through moldy boxes in search of anything useful for my teachers before I dump the contents of a whole cabinet in the recycling bin.  Clean is a beautiful moment.

So even though it’s really too early to start thinking about leaving on itineration, my emotions are releasing their connection to the things I live with.  I have a mental To-Do list with dates attached to each task.  I will tackle these projects one by one and whittle away the last few months before we must face the overwhelming task of packing up the house for storage.  The Anti Nesting Instinct has kicked in.

No room for jealousy, or is it envy?

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You would think that by listening to how people make small talk and how people interact with each other on social media that jealousy is something cute and harmless.  We banter about the phrases, “OMG I’m so jealous!” and “look what I’m doing, are you jealous?”  I think we’ve numbed ourselves to how cutting and dangerous jealousy really is.  If you don’t believe me, just try being genuinely happy for someone who has succeeded in life.  Hard, isn’t it.

Deuteronomy 5:21 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Jealousy has a sister named Envy.  I actually had to google the differences between these two words because in our culture, they are often interchangeable.  However, they are indeed different, according to one of my favorite nerdy websites “Grammar Girl.”  Jealousy is usually a relationship type of word meaning “apprehensive or vengeful out of fear of being replaced.”  Jealousy is the emotion you feel when you fear that you will lose someone you love to another.  Envy, on the other hand, means “to bear a grudge towards someone due to coveting what someone has or enjoys.”  Envy is the emotion you have when you want what someone else has.  So grammatically speaking, it is more accurate to say, “OMG I’m so envious!”

BEEN THERE DONE THAT

However, both jealousy and envy will tear you apart if you let them.  It is highly possible that you have looked longingly at the details of someone else’s life and envied them.  Perhaps you’ve envied their status or their possessions.  Perhaps you’ve envied their physical appearance or their lifestyle.  I’ve been there myself.  Honestly!  I had a Facebook friend that I hardly knew, but her photos showed such a perfect, carefree lifestyle that she made me pea green with envy!  I had to hide her posts or I’d have to repent every time I logged on.  (Turns out her husband was professional photographer who retouched all her picts before she posted them.  So that made me feel a little better.)  So I know Envy, personally!

But here’s my point, when you envy someone, you never see the whole picture.  Your mind zooms in on the detail that you are fixating on, and you don’t see the negatives at all.  You don’t see the price that the other person has paid to get that rock hard body.  You don’t see the pain that they have endured in failed relationships crushed by climbing the corporate ladder.  You don’t see the sacrifices they have made to get where they are.

NOT WILLING TO COUNT THE COST

As a missionary, yes, I could talk all day long about how wonderful it is to live in the tropics.  And you may envy me the life I live.  But you have the luxury of asking your parents to babysit your kids while you go on a date night with your spouse.  My parents live 3,000 miles away.  You have the potential to own your own house while I will borrow used furniture to fill a rental house for a year when I come home on itineration next spring.   I don’t own a house.  We have one car which belongs to the mission.  And this morning when I made my breakfast I found ants in my French Press… AGAIN.  You don’t see all that when you envy a missionary.

You also don’t see the hours spent standing in lines in government offices.  You don’t see the “tips” paid to police officers to ensure that they don’t syphon gas out of your car at night.  (Yes, police officers.)  You don’t see the mounds of trash that pile up in the streets or the stray dogs that tear into the bags and spread it all over your driveway.  You never give a second thought to flushing your toilet paper.  You don’t think to thank God for a hot shower.  And you’ve never had to use a bigger shoe than the one you were wearing to kill a cockroach.

So yeah, you may envy the pretty pictures of nature that the missionary posts, but unless you’re ready to live in that nature as if you were camping in your own house, you better just look around you and appreciate all that you do have.  Don’t zoom in on one detail of the missionary’s life while ignoring the high price he’s paid.  Walk a mile in a missionary’s shoes and you probably won’t covet what he has.  Envy isn’t a good thing.  Be thankful for what you have and don’t try to take what others have.  That’s healthy living 101.

Psalm 16:6   “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

 

Dying Out Loud

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This weekend I picked up a book called “Dying Out Loud: No Guilt in Life, No Fear in Death” about the death of missionary Stan Steward in the Muslim country of Turkey.  Normally I would have flown through an easy read like this, but I ran out of kleenexes and had to slow down.  This book is tearing my heart out!

I’ve written about this family before, and though they insist there is nothing remarkable about them- I am in awe of their strength of commitment to sharing the gospel with the lost.  They determined to live among the remote villages along the ancient Silk Road in the area between the border of Turkey and Iran.  They integrated their lives as completely as possible with the people and they were accepted as one of them.

Photo credit: jessleecuizon / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: jessleecuizon / Foter / CC BY

This alone is admirable.  As a missionary I know what that kind of a decision costs.  I make those small decisions a million times a day- will I chose my own personal comfort or will I empty myself for others?  I’m ashamed to say that too many times I chose my own preferences because I am still working in my own strength and not God’s.  I say, I’m tired.  I don’t want to speak Spanish anymore today.  I just need to get into my house where things are familiar and comfortable and within my control so I can decompress with my family tonight.  I make those choices for myself all the time.  I am convicted.

Not only did they integrate into the culture, but prayed a risky prayer.  They asked God to use them to reach the Turkish people… whatever the cost.  Always a risky prayer.  We talk a lot in our denomination about why the Muslims haven’t responded to the gospel like other groups have.  Many believe that because we revolt from the idea of watering the hard soil with our martyr’s blood, the Muslims have not been won.  We have not counted the cost.  We have not cried for their souls because our fears and hatred mingle too freely with our determination and passion to make any kind of a combustable concoction.  We have watered down the message of the cross to make it more acceptable to the world and this weak message is powerless to save now.  I am challenged.

Photo credit: NYCandre / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: NYCandre / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

So their risky prayer lead them to heart break.  Stan was diagnosed with colon cancer that filled his body in a short amount of time.  Stan and his wife Ann felt the Lord asking them to “Live this dying out loud” in order to show their Muslim brothers and sisters how Christians die with peace and assurance of their salvation.  A Muslim has no such assurance in death.  He can only hope that he’s done enough good to counterbalance the bad in his life.  He only has a sad, dark form of hope to cling to.  God was asking Stan to show them how to live and die in the vibrant, confident hope in Jesus Christ.  It was an intensely difficult price to pay.  I am humbled by their Yes when so often I’ve said No.

It is this story of commitment and sacrifice that is tearing me apart.  I am being challenged and called all over again.  If I had other lives to live and give I would go and replace Stan in Turkey.  I am challenged to pray more.  I see how pathetic my own strength is in comparison with all that God can do when I am completely at his disposal. I am hungry for that kind of love for the lost that says “At Any Cost”.  Have I ever loved like that?  This book is challenging me to the roots of my commitment.  And I am Called all over again.

Clean Your Room!

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Francis Chan is one of the most amazing speakers for his use of illustrations.  In this 2 minute video clip he talks about “how NOT to make disciples”.  Seriously, I think this has amazing applications for the church.  What if we stopped memorizing the Great Commission and actually DID it.  What if we stopped arguing about titles and worship styles and started leading people to Jesus.  What if we stopped listening to podcasts about “what is missions” and actually WENT.

“I desire obedience, not sacrifice.”

Even on my worst day…

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Even on my worst day, I have so much to be thankful for.  My complaints are pathetic and selfish in comparison with real life for a huge portion of the world.  Look at this post that a fellow missionary in Nicaragua posted earlier this week.

“Please pray for precious Keyling. She has a high fever and an infection in her chest. You can only imagine the struggle to remain healthy living in these conditions. 8 people trying to sleep on this one piece of plywood to keep off the cold, muddy, wet ground because of the heavy rains. We were able to get Keyling the antibiotic she needs. As we told her mother to make sure she takes the meds 3x a day with a small piece of bread or something in her stomach the mother humbly told us that wouldn’t be possible. They cook a small pot of yucca (like a potato) every morning. Each person in the family gets one small piece. Please pray for Keyling today. That God would supernaturally touch her body, keep her safe, warm and provide this families every need.”
Pictures by Kendra Dout, missionary to Nicaragua

Pictures by Kendra Dout, missionary to Nicaragua

 I am so blessed, and so are you.  We see this kind of poverty where we live too.  I often wonder how those people live day by day in those kinds of conditions.  I complain that there are too many ants on my counter tops in the mornings… and her counter top is a log.  I complain that my washing machine is making a funny noise and not draining properly.  Look at how they must do their washing by hand and hang things out to dry. I complain that my wardrobe is getting thread bare after 5 years of use.  Look at her one shirt and how the family’s clothes are doubling as pillows and blankets.  I complain that the store didn’t restock my coffee creamer for the 3rd week in a row, and this family eats one piece of potato a day.  I am a selfish, spoiled person.  I have so many blessings for which I forget to thank God.
Kendra told me that she found this girl on the streets 2 years ago.  She was probably 4 or 5 years old.  The mother was living with all 6 kids in this shack.  She was selling the older 2 children (ages 11 and 14) for sex in the market.  Lack of money leads to desperation.  But lack of Jesus leads to sin and death.  You know the saying, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a life time.”  Well there is a Spiritual extension to that proverb.
You can come into a poor community and just pour money into the gap, but the people are still spiritually poor and headed for an eternity without hope.  However, when a missionary brings Jesus to the poor, he brings an eternal change to the situation.  There is now hope where there was once despair.  With Jesus in their lives, the family makes better decisions… like not selling their children for sex because that’s wrong… like not drinking alcohol because that deprives the family of food.  Economics can change when there is a heart change.
We don’t feed people in exchange for them becoming Christians.  We feed people so that they can hear the message of Jesus’s love instead of being distracted by the rumble of their stomachs.  It is unjust and morally wrong to just say, “Jesus bless you” and not actually feed the hungry or give a cup of water to the thirsty.  The message isn’t the cup or the plate.  The message is always “Jesus”, the food and water are just vehicles for the message- tangible expressions of the abstract concept of love.  Plus it’s just what Jesus told us to do.
 

All in the Family

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Isn’t the Family of God an amazing thing?  I find believers all around the world that have that same “click” in our hearts when we meet.  It’s the Spirit of God in me that recognizes the Spirit of God in you and there’s a “testifying” that we are from the same family.  Romans 8 talks about that special connection we have as members of the family of God.  (Read the whole chapter- the whole thing is amazing, but this is the part I’m talking about.)

Romans 8:14-17 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g]Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

When I first met my friend Courtenay at our school here in Costa Rica, my spirit testified that she was also a member of the family of God.  Others call that being “a kindred spirit”.  Yeah I do like her a lot as a friend, but more importantly, my heart is connected to her because we share the same Father.  She is the missionary that I wrote about yesterday who is just hoping to survive until December.  Do me a favor and click here to read her blog from last week where she talks about the realities of needing money while living on the mission field.  I think her honest description of how things look from our perspective is important.

Later on in the week I’m going to highlight some other missionaries so you can see just how far your missions dollars go.  Missionaries buy antibiotics for sick kids.  Missionaries buy cement blocks and toilets for poor families.  Missionaries buy tin roofs and build schools and plant gardens in poor communities.  These are the realities of where your monthly pledge is making a difference in people’s lives.  To you, it’s a small sacrifice.  To others it’s the difference between live and death for today.  Life is precarious and precious and something miraculous happened when we prayed for Courtenay.  You’ll just have to go to her blog to find out what it was.

A Frank Talk about Finances

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Today I want to speak frankly to you about a missionary’s budget.  This is not a personal plea for help.  What I want you to see is what happens on our end when supporters “drop” us.  There is a ripple effect that builds as it moves like a tsunami wave.  For some supporters, giving to a missionary means that you sacrifice 2 or 3 Starbucks drinks per week to give $100 a month.  For those types of supporters, you may not see how that $100 a month makes much of a difference, so it’s not a big deal for you if you “shift” that money to another “need” every once and a while.  For the missionary, it’s a different story.  That $100 pledge is significant- it counts… EVERY MONTH.   Let me show you how.

Each sending agency is different, but in our agency each missionary raises his own budget which is set by the agency.  Our agency does not have any reserve funds for us. We are responsible for all our own support raising.  If the funds do not come in, we must come off the field before we are so low that we can’t buy a plane ticket home.  This has happened to several of our friends in the last few years.  Some of them never recover financially and can never return to the field.  This does not mean they lack faith.  This means their supporters stopped giving.  Let’s be practical.

In our system of fund raising we have many, many small supporters which we bring together over the course of a year or more of itineration.  For us it’s a lot of work, but it’s a blessing, because if one or two supporters drop off, we can survive with belt tightening.  That’s where we are right now.  At the moment, our ministry budget is at zero, and it has been there for months now.  That means that any money we spend on ministry comes right out of our personal account.  We are personally funding our own ministry.  For example, this Friday night we have a meeting for our leadership core at our house.  I am making dinner for all of them.  The cost of the food will come out of our own grocery budget.  The students coming from far off will stay over night in our house.  In the morning they will eat our cereal and drink our milk and coffee.  Somehow, God always takes care of us and our own children have never gone hungry as we give hospitality to others.  That’s where the faith happens.  That’s where the miracles occur.

In other missionary sending agencies, one or two large donors support one missionary. That means way less fund raising for the missionary.  But I have a friend here working under a system like this and last week they lost one of their two supporting churches.  In their bank account they currently have $2,000 will is supposed to last until December when they go home for a month of support raising.  They can’t live on that.  At this point they don’t even have the money to buy those plane tickets to come home and raise more support.  They are living on faith, and God is surprising them with little blessings that trickle in.

You might not think your $100 pledge is a big deal, but it has a big impact on the missionaries.  This week as my husband and I discussed our finances we had a little argument which seems humorous now, but it illustrates how your small pledge makes a big difference.  I was complaining that we only have one finger nail clipper in the house and I can never find it when I need it.  I told my husband I wanted to buy another finger nail clipper to keep upstairs.  He said, No, we already have a clipper.  I said, Yes, but I can never find it.  He said, but we HAVE one already.  I raised my voice, Yes, but I can’t FIND IT!  I wrote “finger nail clipper” on the grocery list.  When he ran to the store next time, he did not buy one.  I rebelled and made a special trip to the store to buy a finger nail clipper.

This is a stupid argument, I know, but this is what happens when money is very tight.  You might not feel like it’s a big deal to skip a month of your missions pledge.  But it’s a big deal on our end.  It means we bicker about small purchases, fret over having enough milk for guests, or worse, get stranded in our field and don’t have enough money for a plane ticket home.  Please be faithful to your promises to your missionaries.  You should never take money from your missionary pledge to “give” to another need.  Extra giving should come above and beyond your missions giving.

When you miss a month, we feel it.  Imagine if your employer went on vacation and forgot to pay you one month.  Or image if he said, “Well, we had another speaker in who presented another need and I felt compelled to give what I normally would pay to you to this guy with the pictures of needy children.  I’ll pay you your salary next month, maybe.”  That’s exactly what happens to missionaries when supporters skip a month- we don’t get paid.  There’s no back up fund to cover your missed payment.  Please be faithful in your promises and don’t leave your missionaries hanging.  It makes a difference to us when you are faithful in your giving.

Not my picture.  I don't know who owns this.

Not my picture. I don’t know who owns this.

A Simplified Life

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This week I read a blog that someone wrote about living in Africa.  Her main point was that life is simpler but more complicated at the same time.  For example, she wrote about a man riding his bike down the road loaded up with a 6 piece bedroom set.  Simple, yet way more complicated at the same time.  She said in Africa a dishwaher is a person.  Simple, yet more work.  I related to everything she wrote… except the part about the hippos growling in the river.  I felt like she could have been talking about Costa Rica.

This week I had conversations… electronic conversations… with two professional teacher friends back in the United States.  One teacher friend is teaching in a huge school.  He is one of 6 third grade teachers!  They have 1,400 students in Kindergarten to 8th grade.  I tried to wrap my brain around that.  We have 6 teachers FOR THE ENTIRE PRIMARY DEPARTMENT at our school.  We have 126 students between Kindergarten and 12th grade.  My son is one of two Seniors.  We have one lone 9th grader.

Photo credit: boltron- / Foter / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: boltron- / Foter / CC BY-NC

The other teacher I spoke with was telling me that her district is starting an new 1 to 1 iPad instruction program.  Every kid will get an iPad and the teachers will use technology to teach them.  She has 45 kids with iPads and she’s looking for ways to use the technology.  She asked if we could set up pen pals for her students.  Can you imagine giving an iPad to a Kindergartener?  How many minutes will it take for them to drop it the first time?  How many will be ruined with spilled juice or sticky fingers?  What a waste of money.

So I was talking to my kids about this in the car on the way to school.  I explained that many parents in America wish that their kids had smaller classrooms where their kids could get one on one attention from the teacher, not from an iPad educator.  Many parents wonder why schools don’t just use books to teach kids.  In our school we use a combination of two popular, high quality Christian school curriculums, all book based.  Parents are lamenting the loss of a simpler life.

Can you image a world where the largest class in the whole school is 14 kids?  That’s our school.  Can you picture what a classroom looks like with real books in the desks and on the shelves.  Do you wish your kids had one on one attention throughout the day?  It happens here.  I pointed out to my kids that they have the kind of education that many people in the United States WISH they had for their kids.  Sure they have to wear hot, scratchy uniforms every day, but they have small class sizes, personalized attention from their teachers, and real books to use.  It’s all a matter of perspective. The simple life can be the good life.