Tag Archives: missions

Kisses from Katie

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I don’t recall having ever been moved by the Forward of a book before.  But here it is.  These are the first few paragraphs from the book Kisses from Katie about a 19-year old girl who moved to Uganda and become “mother” to 14 orphans and ultimately to the entire village.  I’m just starting the book and I’m already moved.

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“People who really want to make a difference in the world usually do it, in one way or another.  And I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world:  They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters.  They get excited over one smile.  They are willing to feed one stomach, educated one mind, and treat one wound.  They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at once’ they’re satisfied with small changes.  Over time, thought, the small changes add up.  Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world.

“People who want to make a difference get frustrated along the way.  But if they have a particularly stressful day, they don’t quit.  They keep going.  Given their accomplishments, most of them are shockingly normal and the way they spend their time each day can be quite mundane.  They don’t teach grand lessons that suddenly enlighten entire communities; they teach small lessons that can bring incremental improvement to one man or woman, boy or girl.  They don’t do anything to call attention to themselves, they simply payattention to the everyday needs of others, even if it’s only one person.  They bring change in ways most people will never read about or applaud.  And because of the way these world-changers are wired, they wouldn’t think of living their lives any other way.”  ~Forward by Beth Clark.

That inspires me.

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/noxstar/3072400338/”>Espen Faugstad</a> / <a href=”http://foter.com”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-SA</a>

Without Love this is all Worthless

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I had already been thinking of writing something about 1 Cor. 13 from a missionary point of view when a friend of mine posted this version that she had saved from her language school days. So I decided to save myself some time and just shamelessly share Cindy’s post.  

The point is that without love, missions is pointless.  I think some of us THINK  we have love, but when that emotion is twisted and broken by culture clash, then we realize that what we had was a sort of romanticization of missions.  We loved the IDEA of being missionaries rather than loving Jesus enough to love fallen humans.  

Love isn’t easy.  If you think it’s easy, you aren’t doing it right.  Jesus said even sinners love those who love them, so what’s the big deal if you do the same?  The really hard thing is to love those who don’t love you back, who hate you and your nationality and your skin color, who don’t want you in their country.  Now that’s real, gritty love.

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A GUIDE TO CULTURE (According to 1 Corinthians 13)

If I speak with the tongue of a national, without love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I wear the national dress and understand the culture and all forms of etiquette, and if I copy all mannerisms so that I could pass for a national, but have not love, I am nothing.

Love endures long hours of language study, and is kind to those who mock his accent; love does not envy those who stayed home; love does not exalt his home culture; is not proud of his national superiority; does not boast about the way we do it back home; does not seek his own ways; is not easily provoked into telling about the beauty of his home country; does not think evil about this culture.

Love bears all criticisms about his home culture, believes all good things about this new culture, confidently anticipates being at home in this place, endures all inconveniences.

Love never fails, but where there is cultural anthropology, it will fail; where there is contextualization, it will lead to syncretism; where there is linguistics, it will change.

For we know only part of the culture, and we minister to only part.

But when Christ is reproduced in this culture, then our inadequacies will be insignificant.

When I was in America, I spoke as an American, I understood as an American, I thought as an American, but when I left America, I put away American things.

Now we adapt to this culture awkwardly, but we will live in it intimately. Now I speak with a strange accent, but He will speak to the heart.

And now these three remain: cultural adaptation, language study, and love.

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/brandoncwarren/4164759025/”>Brandon Christopher Warren</a> / <a href=”http://foter.com/Love/”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>CC BY-NC</a>

Dedicating a Bathroom to God

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Recently we had the pleasure of seeing a task completed here on the mission field.  We don’t always see the immediate fruit of our labors, so this was particularly sweet for us.  This past Sunday we dedicated a bathroom to the service of God’s House.  I know, we’ve reached new heights!  This is our second term as missionaries, so see what all you first term-ers out there have to look forward too?  Not everyone is qualified to do such work.  But in all seriousness, this day was one of those days when I felt like I was doing what I was made to do.

Last year our last team of the summer was from Brandon, Florida.  We brought the team out to a poor little church on the edge of town.  The sanctuary is nothing but 4 concrete block walls and a hot tin roof.  Next to the sanctuary is a dilapidated shack that the congregation was using as a Sunday School room, a make shift kitchen and a single stall bathroom for the whole church.  It was barely standing on its own.  The church had been told that since it was obviously not up to code, they would have to build a bathroom or close their doors.

The heart strings of the team were touched.  When they went back home, they presented this need to their congregation and they raised $5,000 to give to the church for the bathrooms and whatever other renovations were needed to bring it up to code.  The poor little church was beside itself with happiness.  At Christmas time, we brought the money into the country and delivered it to the pastor, who we highly trust.  In 22 days the church members constructed two bathrooms on the back of the property and were working on various projects to make the whole place handicap accessible, by Latin American standards.

But the amazing thing has been the response of the community.  In this past month of working on the building, they have almost doubled in attendance.  One man who lives down the street from the church would never speak to the pastor.  He was recently released from jail again.  With some of the money from the team, the pastor hired this ex-con to help with the construction of the bathroom.  Now his opinion of the pastor and the church is quite different than it had been in the past.  He is open to hearing what the pastor has to say.

This bathroom is more than a place to relieve the call of nature, it has brought dignity and respectability to the church in that community.  It has financially met a felt need of the workers who were hired to demolish the old and build the new, and it has been a source of pride for the church members themselves who now feel that they have worth and dignity.  No longer must they squat in a scary, dirty shack that shakes and shutters with every gust of wind.  Now they have a lovely facility that is even handicap accessible for those in the community with such needs… and there are many.

So we had the privilege of going out to the church to get video and photos for the church in Florida who are excited to see the results of their giving.  But more importantly, we felt the pride of the pastor and the church who built his with their own hands, and it is beautiful.

Where do I report this Bribe on my IRS forms?

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In our culture, I mean the Western or American culture, some things look really black and white until you leave the law abiding world behind and enter the gray zone called the Third World.  In America, it’s straight forward- a bribe is illegal and will get you in a big ‘ole pile of doo-doo.  Keeping your word is the equivalent of building a solid reputation for trustworthiness.  “Honesty is the best policy”  and “cleanliness is next to Godliness” are more than just manipulative sayings used by your grandma.  We really believe these things!

But overseas, the virtues that you hold so precious look foolish and impractical to others.  In some countries, these concepts that are so ingrained in us don’t even cross people’s minds!  It can be quite shocking how easily people in other countries “lie” or “cheat” or “steal” or “give a bribe.”  But is it really that cut and dry?  Can we really brand the actions of another culture with our American labels?

I admit that this is one of the areas of cultural adjustment that I have struggled with the most.  When I was a college student, I had my first taste of cultural misunderstandings when I worked for a short time with high school students in a Cambodian youth group.  One of the principal values of Asian cultures is not to cause someone to “lose face” or be embarrassed publicly.  I didn’t understand this.

So when I would ask my girls, “Are you coming to the event on Saturday?”  and they all enthusiastically replied with the affirmative, I was confused and angry when no one showed up.  But they SAID they would be there!  Why would they LIE?!  Turns out they didn’t see it as lying.  They saw it as a gentler, kinder way of saying, “no.”  Rather than saying no directly to my face, they took the indirect approach and just didn’t show up on Saturday.  I still don’t like this even though I understand it now.

Sometimes the problem isn’t so much with personal morality as it is an issue of how things get done in a Third World country.  For example, we have friends in Asia who were having trouble getting their visa renewal paperwork to move through a particular office.  The office staff drug their feet until the visas were only a week away from expiration.

In frustration, my friend tried to think about how he had seen his local friends pull strings.  He leaned forward at the desk and asked the clerk, “How can I help you get this work done?”

“Well,” the clerk thought, “we like Durian fruit here.”  Without saying a word, my friend nodded, turned on his heels and walked out the door.  The next morning he didn’t even bother to stand in line.  With two armfuls of Durian fruit, he walked right to the front of the line, opened the door and heard the clerk happily announce to the entire office, “The Durian is here!”  Mission accomplished, the visas were renewed by the end of the week.

So was it a bribe?  Or was it just greasing the wheels of commerce?  The world will never know.  But I do know for a fact you can’t report that on your IRS forms.

Will the Pastor have a Beer with us?

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In our missions organization, drinking alcohol is taboo.  As a matter of fact, we all sign a contract saying that no matter what the cultural standards are in our mission field, we all agree that we won’t drink alcohol no matter what.  (Yes, we all know that Jesus drank wine.  But that’s not the point.)  This puts everyone on the same level playing field theoretically, but it can cause cultural problems ON the field.

For example, we have friends who serve in Ireland where drinking beer is not just a mile stone for manhood, it IS THE DEFINITION of manhood.  How a man holds his liquor is an indicator of how well he is respected in the community.  It is “sissy” for a man to go to the pub with his friends and just order a soft drink.  Not acceptable.  No, he must prove his worth with a foamy head.

This is a major problem for our friends.  They find themselves on the outs with the culture they want so badly to be IN with.  What to do, what to do?  (Personally, I have just enough ornery in me to break my written word when a higher need presents, if you know what I mean.  But my friends are true blue and won’t consider my alternative.)  So they are praying that the Lord will open up doors for them that don’t require alcohol for a key.

Missionaries have to deal with these kinds of ethical dilemmas all the time.  In some countries, it’s alright for Christians to smoke or drink or go out to eat with a member of the opposite sex who is not their spouse, the list of acceptable vices is long and colorful!  Gambling, movie going, using the Lord’s name in vain, all are cultural details that require a missionary to take care while searching for just the right stand to take.  It’s complicated, to say the least. What do you do when someone gives you a bottle of wine as a welcome gift?  What do you do if a tribal chief wants to smoke with you?  What do you do when a pastor invites your secretary out to lunch just the two of them?  Hmmm.  This is getting messy.

Not Called?

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I thought this quote was just so powerful that I wanted to share it on my blog.  Just think about this:

“Not called,” did you say? Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there. And then look Christ in the face, whose mercy you have professed to obey, and tell Him whether you will join the march to publish His mercy to the world.   -William Booth

As we have traveled around raising our funds to be missionaries, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard a variation of this comment, “I totally admire the sacrifices you are making to do this, I know I could never do that myself.  Maybe if I had a Calling, but I don’t.”  I think the first part of the sentence is more truthful than the later part.  The real reason more people don’t take soul winning more seriously is that it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient.

May people who claim to be Jesus Followers are like the rich young man who asked Jesus, “I’ve followed all the commandments to the letter, so what ELSE must I do to follow you.”   Then Jesus disappointed him by saying, “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor.  Then come and follow me.”  The rich guy was sorely disappointed because he had a lot of nice things.

God will always push us to our limits to show us the idolatry in our lives.  He pushed Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac (though he didn’t make him go through with it in the end) to test his fatherly love.  He pushed Joseph out of his family and into slavery, separating him from a doting, spoiling father.  He pushed Saul (Paul) to the ground outside of the city of Damascus, breaking his vicious pride.  He pushed Peter to the point of denying his relationship with Jesus, then brought him around again to “If you love me, then feed my Sheep”.

You want to follow Jesus?  Prepare to be uncomfortable.  But I assure you that any discomfort you feel in you walk with Jesus is nothing compared to the discomfort- no agony- being experienced by those lost souls in Hell.  Kind of puts it all in perspective doesn’t it?  Let Jesus push you to your limits and beyond.  You may be surprised at where you find yourself going once you acknowledge your Call.

 

Running on the Hamster Wheel

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This is part 3 of our story of how we were called into missions.  If you missed the last 2 days, you can go back and read them, or you can pick it up from here.

We had just bought a new house, but something strange was happening to me.  I kept forgetting what the front of my house looked like.  I don’t know how many times I drove right past my own house and had to turn around and go back.  I just couldn’t fix it in my mind.  So one day as I was pulling out of the driveway I turned around for one last look of the house to try to fix it in my memory.  Suddenly the Lord spoke to my heart and said, “This isn’t yours, don’t get comfortable here.”  I had no idea what that meant.

There was a little lake across the street from our house, a mile and a quarter around.  I’ve never been a runner, but all that spring I had such a restlessness in my spirit so I started running around the lake in the mornings.  I’d run and run and run, trying to out run my restlessness.  Trying to escape out of my own mind.  I ran so much that I started to feel like a hamster running on the wheel, always running and never getting anywhere, uselessly running in circles.  I felt restless.  Change was coming.

Then the purging began.  I started giving stuff away.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe surrounded by so much stuff!  I just had to get rid of stuff.  I didn’t care about money, I just wanted to purge my life.  And with each gift to friends and family, I felt lighter and freer.  It felt good, so I kept doing it.  I just gave stuff away!  That was weird, but in a good way.  Change was still coming.

Then one day we came home from Youth Group on a Wednesday night and I felt like a light switch had just turned off in my heart.  “I think I’m done,” I told Josh.  That’s it, I’m just done.  Well, he wasn’t done.  But I said, “when you do feel done, don’t wait for me- I’m already there.” So that was that.  Nothing left to do but wait for God to make his move.  Waiting for change is like waiting for the storm to arrive.  Tense.

A few months later Josh walked into the senior pastor’s office and plopped down in the chair.  “I think I’m done.”  He finally was feeling the winds of change blowing through our lives and he too was uncertain about which direction they would carry us.  Our pastor suggested missions, knowing how much we loved going on our trips with our teenagers.  “Hmmm, maybe someday, but not yet” Josh said.  Our pastor graciously let us stay on staff until we figured things out, for as long as it took.

A month later we were on a missions trip to Mexico City that had been in the works for nearly a year.  We knew it was our last trip, but the kids didn’t know anything.  On the last day there, the missionary took us to the University campus UNAM.  He told us that there were 400,000 kids studying on this campus and it’s extensions, yet we have no ministry for them.  He asked us to walk around the campus and pray for God to send workers here.  Josh and I sat down on a bench together.  He looked at me and said, “Well, what do you think?”  and I knew exactly what he meant.

In a fraction of a second, I had an entire conversation in my heart with the Lord.  “Mexico?  Mexico?!?  But I took FRENCH!!!  Oh wait, is this one of those times when I say Yes to what you want and then you give me what I really want?”  No.  Then in a flash, the Lord took me to all the times that I had ever knelt at an altar after a missions service and begged, “Send me!  I’ll go ANYWHERE!  Just send me SOMEWHERE!”

And he asked me Did you really mean anywhere?”

I paused, then I said, “Yes Lord.  I did mean anywhere.  I will go where ever you ask me to go.”  And I had the sensation of free falling off a cliff… backwards, arms flung wide open… and I had no fear because I knew the Lord would catch me.  Surrender.

...Read part 4 tomorrow…

Guest Blogger: My Mom!! On Being a Parent of a Missionary

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My Family, Christmas 2011

***Everyone, I’m very excited about having my mom write a blog for me today!  If  you haven’t met her personally, she’s the red head in the middle of our Christmas picture.  She’s the best mom ever and (next to Josh) she’s my best friend too.  So blogging for the first time, let me present my mom, Bonnie!

Grin and Bear It

Recently, April (my daughter the missionary) asked me to write a “Guest Blog” for her own blog.  While I’m not a blogger, I’ve written innumerable letters, documents, memos, papers, etc., etc.  So I wasn’t daunted by the request to write an article.  But the topic worried me a bit.  She wanted me to write on “Parents of Missionaries”.  Well, I do have plenty to say on that topic, but how much of it I really want to publicly share, I wasn’t sure.  I told April I’d agree to write as long as I didn’t have to be funny.  She assured me that humor wasn’t necessary — just honesty. Well, all right then.

I now believe the potential to become the parent of a missionary began for us in the summer of 1974, just a few weeks after April was born.  Jac and I stood on the platform of First Assembly of God in Des Moines, IA, and handed our newborn baby over the our new Senior Pastor, Rev. David Crabtree, to be dedicated to the Lord.  While I don’t remember at all that he said, I know from photographs that it did happen.  And having experienced a multitude of baby dedications at church over the years, I know the gist of what’s normally said.  We gave April back to the Lord.

That’s what it means to dedicate something or someone to the Lord.  In the Old Testament, things dedicated to the Lord were either destroyed, sacrificed, or given to Him for use in His holy tabernacle.

 Ex. 22:29  “Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats. You must give me the firstborn of your sons [daughters].”

 Lev. 27:28  “But nothing that a man owns and devotes to the LORD—whether man or animal or family land—may be sold or redeemed; everything so devoted is most holy to the LORD.”

In the New Testament, Jesus is the Redeemer of our destroyed lives and we therefore sacrifice (dedicate) our lives to him willingly, to express our thanks to Him.

But in either case, it’s supposed to mean that the dedicated item is no longer to be used in this world, by humans, parents or otherwise.  So from that moment on, God had the option to call our daughter to the mission field of His choice.  Now theoretically, that’s what we believed and that was fine with us.  However, practically, it’s a lot harder to accept.

I think there must be three kinds of “Parents of Missionaries”.  First, there are those who’s child has been interested in and was called to missions from their earliest years.  Their little one always wanted to meet the missionaries at church.  They always talked about becoming a missionary.  They made pictures in Sunday School about little children being taught by missionaries.  They were fascinated by National Geographic, studying all about foreign places like Borneo, Mozambique, or Peru.  These parents must have had a great deal of warning what the expected outcome would be for their child.  This child WILL be a missionary.  So they have 20+ years to prepare for the whole idea of separation by vast stretches of ocean.

The second kind of parents are those who are missionaries themselves.  They’ve raised their little MKs to be enthused about and dedicated to missions.  Their kids are more at home abroad than in the good ol’ USA.  So it’s not surprising at all that these children will follow in their parents footsteps and also answer the call to missions.

Then there’s the third category.  Let’s call those parents “The Clueless Ones”.  These parents may or may not have been Christians.  But let’s say they were.  They went to church regularly along with their kids.  They read and believed the Bible.  Their kids loved the Lord and his church.  As kids, they were very involved in church activities, from Missionettes to youth group.  They even gave to missions and as a family supported children in foreign countries through good organizations like Latin American Child Care.  They prayed for missionaries who visited church.  But that was about the extent of it.  They had NO clue that the Lord was really planning to call THEIR own beloved child to leave the safety and security of home and family, and move to another country to become a missionary.  Maybe other people’s children will go and God bless them!  But not ours.

Unfortunately, we fell into the third category.  Jac and I were absolutely blind-sided by our daughter and her husband when they came to see us one day a few years ago.  We knew they’d become tired/bored/burned out from being youth pastors for eight years (who wouldn’t?) and probably would be looking for another position in a church somewhere, hopefully in Minnesota where we live.  But missions had NEVER been mentioned as an interest or a call.  While they did take multiple short-term missions trips with their youth group, that’s just what youth groups and their youth pastors do.  It’s part of the job.  So we had no time to prepare ourselves at all for this most unexpected and remarkable turn of events.

What was our reply?  I distinctly remember saying, “Well, you and Josh can go to Mexico, but you CANNOT take Taylor and Emma.  They’ll just have to stay with us!”

The catch-22 in all of this is that Jac is a pastor and I’m a pastor’s wife.  The church is our complete and total life.  We left Iowa and all of our extended family 30 years ago to go to Bible college, and then into ministry.   I’m even Chair of our Missions Committee now. So I really have no choice but to accept the call of God on our daughter’s life, as graciously as I can, even if would rather do otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know there are any number of much, much worse kinds of trauma that parents have to endure.  They lose their children to all kinds of evils in this rotten world.  Even to death.  So that’s why I can’t complain too loudly.  At least ours are serving the Lord and we’re very proud of them.

I just wish I’d have been forewarned so I could have been more prepared for the separation from our daughter and grandkids.  While Skype, Facebook, and emails help tremendously to keep us in touch with daily life, it just doesn’t take the place of snuggling a little one in your arms or seeing how much they’ve grown since the last time they were over.  Or taking them occasionally to buy a new toy.  Or having a sleep-over.

But enough grousing.  I’ve become quite good over the years at dealing with tough stuff.  I do know how to “Grin and Bear It” well.  And so I will.