Tag Archives: promises

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.

Promises

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Photo credit: f_a_r_e_w_e_l_l / Foter / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: f_a_r_e_w_e_l_l / Foter / CC BY-SA

When I was in High School I decorated my locker with 3×5 index cards with scripture verses that I was either memorizing or that helped me get through the day on a regular basis.  I remember stressful times when I would tearfully open my locker and just focus on those words, letting peace and confidence wash over me.  That’s what the word of God does for me.

So I am launching into the school year with a scripture posted on a mini whiteboard right above my desk.  This is my first year as Vice Principal and I’m going to need all of God’s help that I can stuff into my little hands.  Here’s what God is promising me for this year:

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”  Psalm 32:8

This is God’s promise for me and I’m going to cling to this.  His loving eye is on me and He’s going to lead me in the way I should go, teaching me along the way.  With God’s help, I totally got this!

“No one in the world likes you”

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Photo credit: demandaj / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: demandaj / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

When my best friend from high school was a little girl, her mother used to rock her in her arms and tell her, “Hana, there’s no one in the world like you.  There’s no one in the world like you.”  One day her mother over heard little Hana speaking to her baby brother in a sad tone of voice.  Listening carefully she heard little Hana tell the baby, “Franky, no one in the world likes me.”

Poor girl.  Can you imagine?  She thought her mother was telling her over and over again that no one loved her.  Apparently her mother was able to correct the misunderstanding and she seems to have turned out just fine.  But it’s funny and sad at the same time.

We get these messages mixed up from Father God too, you know.  God says, “Here are 10 rules about how to live your life and the rest of the Universe is one big YES!”  But what we hear is, “Christianity is just a bunch of rules and things I can’t do.  I never get to have any fun!”

God says to us, “I have good things planned for you.  I am not planning to hurt you but to prosper you.”  And we hear, “Bad things happen to you because God is punishing you.”

God says to us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  And we hear only silence.

Just like there was nothing wrong with what my friend’s mother was gently and lovingly whispering to her daughter, the break down in communication happened in HER young mind.  So it is with God.  There is nothing wrong or fickle or petty or petulent in what God tells us about Himself and about life, but we often experience a break down in understanding on our end of the line.  That’s not God’s fault, that’s our fault.  We have been listening to some lie from the Devil and not the pure truth from God.

So the next time you find yourself “hearing” something that causes your accusing finger to wave in the face of God, stop and ask yourself if there is a chance that you are once again listening to a message that is twisted and false instead of the pure truth from the Word of God.  The problem is likely with your “hearing” and not with God at all.

I give my kids Tylenol. Can I call myself a doctor?

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I hope nobody takes this blog post wrongly.  I am not trying to brag about myself or to put anyone down.  I’m not trying to be negative, I’m just expressing a frustration that most of my co-workers in the foreign mission field also feel.  These are my true feelings and thoughts.  I’m being honest.

It’s a really popular thing in churches now days to throw around the word “missionary” and to apply it to many different contexts.  For example, some people say “my office is my mission field” or “I am a missionary in my school.”  This kind of rubs me the wrong way.  I don’t deny that these places are full of people who need to hear about Jesus.  And I don’t deny that Jesus gave the Great Commission to all Christians (Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”).  And I don’t deny that it can be hard to be a light in the darkness.  But these uses of the word “missionary” kind of bother me because, you see, I AM a missionary.  A real missionary.  I have taken the “go” in that verse to literally mean “go to the nations.”  It’s more than my occupation, it’s my entire life.

As a real missionary I have made decisions for my own life that have ripped through my family.  I chose to go, so my kids have come with me.  And that decision tore the heart out of my parents who had to say good-bye to their grand kids.  That decision impacted the aunties and uncles and cousins and sisters and brothers that we left behind too.  You see, I’ve made the hard choices that a missionary makes when she loves God more than she loves her family.

As a real missionary, I have spent YEARS learning the language.  I have put in the hours of hard study.  I have laid down my own desires and submitted myself to another culture, another way of thinking, and another way of communicating.  I have been stripped bare of my own identity.  The “missionary” who just walks across the street to be a witness to his neighbor will never be required to make the same kind of investment.  I have done the hard work to become a missionary.

As a real missionary, I have sold all my possessions (except a few boxes of treasures and memories) and made an international move MORE THAN ONCE.  I sold the rocking chair that I rocked my babies in.  I watched my dishes walk out the door.  I put my electronics in the hands of a garage sale shopper on a Saturday morning.  I spread all my possessions across my lawn for my neighbors to pick through.  I looked at the pitiful wad of dollar bills and quarters that I accumulated in exchange for all my worldly possessions and I knew, despairingly, that this pittance would not cover the cost to repurchase these things overseas.  It was going to cost me something more to reestablish a home in a foreign country.

As a real missionary, I have swallowed my pride over and over again to ask churches for money.  We need support to do what we do.  To an American, this feels like begging.  I didn’t like it.  It can be humiliating, but this is the way our organization is run.  So week after week we would “shlep” our presentation table around the state like a traveling salesman.  We have done the leg work to earn our support as missionaries.

We have made the sacrifices to earn the title “missionary”, so to hear others appropriate the title for themselves when they haven’t made those same hard sacrifices kind of bothers me.  It’s like me giving my kids Tylenol and then calling myself a Doctor.  I didn’t work for that title.  I didn’t pay for that title.  I didn’t invest my life in becoming a doctor, so when I rob the Doctor of his title I also rob him of his earned respect.  I am not a Doctor.  I am a mother with an eye dropper full of over-the-counter pain-killer.

In the same way that I am not a Doctor, I’m also not a super hero.  I don’t expect great honor.  I don’t want to be put on a pedestal.  I don’t want to hear the praise of men.  I’m not fishing for compliments or pats on the back.  The only thing I am dying to hear from my heavenly Father is, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Here’s your eternal home… and you never have to move again.”

Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Firewalking

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Bear with me if you’ve heard this one before (or just skip to the very end and read the last 2 paragraphs).

A long time ago in Ancient Babylon there were 3 Hebrew teenagers.  Now because we aren’t in Ancient Babylon I’m going to take some artistic liberties and give these boys modern names. Let’s just call them Chad, Mike, and Ben.  They were captives serving the King of Babylon.  They were chosen to be servants instead of being killed because they were smart, good looking, and came from noble families back in Israel.  They should have show gratitude to the King for sparing their lives.  Instead, they refused to eat the food he sent from his own table because it had been sacrificed to idols and that was morally repulsive to a Hebrew.  For their moral courage, God gave them knowledge and understanding of all kinds in addition to favor with the King.  They were given important government jobs in Babylon.

Time passed, and one day the King of Babylon got a wild idea.  He constructed a huge golden statue of himself, set it out on a plain, and required everyone to come and worship his statue.  He ordered everyone, “When you hear the band start to play music, bow down and worship my statue.”  Chad, Mike and Ben knew that this was wrong.  So when the music started and everyone dropped to their knees there were 3 boys left standing.  The King called Chad, Mike and Ben in for a talk.  “Now because I like you boys, I’m going to give you a second chance.  When you hear the music, bow down to the statue.  Come on guys, be team players, you’re making me look bad.  Just bend your knees, that’s all I ask.  Otherwise I’m going to have to throw you in a fiery furnace in front of everyone just to show who’s boss.  Then what god will rescue you from my anger?”

The boys replied, “We don’t need a second chance.  It will be the same as before.  We only bow to the God we serve.  And he is able to save us from your hand and the fiery furnace.  But even if he doesn’t, we want you to know that we will not serve your gods or bow to your statue, O King.”

That pissed the King off in a big way!  He ordered the furnace turned up seven times hotter than usual.  It was so hot that the soldiers ordered to throw the boys in the fire dropped dead from the heat.  These three boys fell into the flames, bound hand and foot.

Suddenly, the King jumped to his feet in amazement.  He shouted, “Hey!  Weren’t there three guys that we tied up and threw in the fire?  Look!  I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods!”  So he called them out of the fire.  When they walked out alive everyone crowded around them to examine them.  There was not a hair singed on their heads and they didn’t even smell like smoke!  The King burst out in praise to God, the God who rescued Chad, Mike and Ben.  And he ordered that everyone worship the one true God too.  The End.

Here’s my point in telling this story.  Very often we pray that God would rescue us from the flames of whatever trial we are facing.  But sometimes he doesn’t.  Sometimes God wants us to go into the fire.  Sometimes God wants to rescue us IN the fire instead of rescuing us FROM the fire.  But there is another option too.  Sometimes it is God’s will that we die in the fire.  The history of the world is full of people who have died for their faith, martyrs.  And Chad, Mike and Ben were OK with any of those 3 final scenarios.  Any of them.  They said, “Even if God doesn’t rescue us, we will still worship him.”

So yes, God can rescue you FROM the fire.  He can meet you IN the fire.  Or he can ask you to DIE by fire either physically or metaphorically.  It’s his choice.  Are you all right with all of those choices?  Would you stand firm in your commitment to God even if it looks like it’s not going to have a pretty ending?  Is God still worthy of your worship even if he doesn’t answer your prayers like you wanted him to?  Walking through the fire could be your finest moment with God, because he won’t let you go there alone.  If he calls you to the fire, he will be with you.  He promised.


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.

People are Nothing like Cereal

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I wrote this for our anniversary a little more than a year ago, but I wanted to share it again here on my blog.

Today is our anniversary.  Sixteen years ago, Josh and I got married.  We stood in front of 300 people, all our family, and God himself and vowed to love and honor each other exclusively regardless of what may come.  We looked into the unknown future with hope and resolution.  We asked God to help us uphold our commitment to each other, to the Divine institution of marriage, to God who loves us and gave us to each other.

But a couple of months before this wonderful day, I had a college friend try to talk me out of getting married.  Why don’t Josh and I just live together?  Why would you promise to stay with one person forever?  People change, how do you know you’ll love each other 5 years from now?  Then he said something really stupid, “You wouldn’t eat the same kind of cereal every day for the rest of your life, so why would you want to have sex with the same person for the rest of your life?”  This guy was an idiot, to be sure, but really this is how the world thinks.  And to this day, this guy is still single, lonely, and broken.  Is it any wonder?

There are many, many problems with the world’s logic here.  But the one I’m thinking about today is that PEOPLE ARE NOTHING LIKE CEREAL.  He was right about one thing, people do change over time.  And not only is that the challenge of marriage, but it is one of the pleasures of marriage too.  As time goes on and your spouse changes, a couple will have to work to stay close.  Yes it is hard work, but it’s never boring.  Think of it this way, you are never going to be finished getting to know this person.  You will never tire of exploring the ever changing landscape of marriage.  You will never get to the end of discovering the details of this person.  And physical intimacy just gets better and better because “practice makes perfect”, right?  It’s true that cereal stays the same, never changes, and gets boring over time.  But people are nothing like cereal.

I’m fully confident that God knew what he was doing when he designed humans to be monogamous partners for life.  Upholding marriage as an institution is not enough to keep a couple together when times get tough.  But trusting God and honoring his promises with our lives gives us the chance to participate in something so deep and fulfilling, so far beyond our human understanding, that anything less is a very poor substitute.  We were created by God- God gave us marriage as a gift.  And 16 years ago I took God at his word, I trusted that doing things God’s way would bring me happiness, fulfillment, companionship, security, and love.  I have upheld my end of the bargain, and God has fulfilled all his promises as well.  He has been faithful to us and we have no regrets in trusting God’s plan.

I don’t know very much about wine, but they say that a good wine gets better with age.  Marriage is the same way.  It seems to just get better and better as the years go by.  But a bowl of cereal just gets stale or spoiled with age.  And people are nothing like cereal.

Me and Josh in Bocas del Toro, Panama