Friday, August 27, 2010

Just Catching Up

Looking back over the past couple posts and I realized that I had all kinds of insights into life, but nothing about all the changes happening here, so today's post is just to catch you up on life.

Lots of changes (no, we still have not sold the house) and new beginnings around here.  How about just a family roll call...

  • Alex - started middle school on Wednesday.  How did my baby get big enough to go to middle school?  He loves it (of course, he loves all of life).  The school he attends has SMOD (standard mode of dress - similar to uniform, but not quite that strict) and he looked so grown up heading out the door to school.  Scott is taking him this year (another first in quite a few years) and he is riding the bus home (he has only ridden the bus about 10 times in his entire life).   He is going to play the trombone in band and we are all praying that this goes well - as in the 5th grade he learned to play the recorder with his nose.  He also made the U12 challenge soccer team this year so his days are full.
  • Hannah - is a junior in high school and is once again choosing to be home schooled.  She has her driver's license and we have found a lot of freedom in this.  Her relationship status changed last week after having "dated" the same guy for nearly two years.  It is fun watching her grow up and seeing how all the things we have taught her are coming to fruition.  We begin looking at colleges in September - I know, a little early - but it will be hard to do college visits from Spain.
  • Zach - moved back home.  Now we are all trying to figure out how to co-exist in a different sort of relationship than before - he is 20, no longer a child.  Any suggestions on this point would be appreciated.  He is taking classes at GTCC (local technical college) and started flying again yesterday.   He also got a job at a tree cutting service but is looking for something else.  He had a great summer at Camp Don Lee and looks great.  He did grow a "grizzly adams" look, but we are getting used to it. 
  • Scott  - decided to wait until October to take his next seminary class.  The class he took in May and June occupied so much time that he had very little time to commit to partnership development (although he did make an A - continues to have a 4.0 GPA in seminary - yeah!).  In looking at our long term plans, we decided that it is essential that together we invest many more hours into sharing our story (haven't heard it or want to know how to become a partner, just let me know).  He has also been involved in a men's Bible study at church and will be helping to establish a new cell group in the coming weeks.
  • And me -  I am preparing to leave the country for my last short term mission trip at Cornerstone.  I leave next Friday for Ukraine where, along with two other women, I will be leading several conferences on Learning Styles.   It is a subject very dear to my heart - God made each of us as unique individuals and understanding these differences makes a difference in how we share Jesus, teach, and even discipline.  I am excited about the trip, but a few tears over the fact that this piece of ministry is coming to a close.  Keep on an eye on the blog - I'll write throughout the trip.
And in other news...
  • The house is still for sale - real estate has slowed way down in our area, but we continue to ask God to move mightily.  We are having some repair work done on the hardwood floors in hopes of this helping it to sell.
  • My car is for sale - anyone want a 2006 Honda Pilot EXL - leather seats and sun roof and all.  No, we are not becoming a one car family.. just eliminating a car payment and preparing for a move to Spain.  We will replace my car with something small and cheap that could be left here for Hannah when we leave.
Guess that is a long enough post for today... thanks for continuing to read and follow our journey.  I pray that something in the midst of these words may encourage you to keep taking steps on whatever journey God is leading you on.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lesson #2: Loaf of Bread or Bread of Life?

One of the reasons people return over and over again to locations such as Honduras for missions trip is that there is an immediate "feel good" response for what is accomplished.  Honduras is #121 in the list of countries according to their GDP, with an average of $1881/person (US is #9 with $46,381).  Poverty is the norm in Honduras.  Many people have no idea where their next meal will come from and very few have homes that we would call much more than a shack or hut.  School is only required for six years, but only required if the government offers a school and you can afford the required clothing, so the literacy rate in some areas is minimal.  Generations of families have lived at the city dump and generations to come will continue to live there. 

Mission trips to Honduras focus on sharing Jesus through meeting material needs.  Health, dental, food, clothing and more are the focus of trip after trip.  So many teams come to Honduras that one place we visited to shop for souvenirs had t-shirts, magnets, hats, etc. that said "I survived a mission trip to Honduras." 

When working in Honduras there is immediate positive feedback for the ministry you offer.  Smiles and words of gratitude break your heart as you serve.  You can tell immediately that you have made a difference in the lives of Hondurans, even if only for a brief moment.  Missions in Honduras makes you feel good.

Wait, before you react - don't get me wrong.  There are many in Honduras who need to hear the message of Jesus Christ.  There are areas of Honduras where there are no believers in the village.  Honduras needs Jesus!

But, here is the lesson I learned - take a team to some place like Honduras and the team comes back ready to change the world.  Their hearts are broken and they are excited and on fire for missions.   They cannot wait to share a "loaf of bread" with someone and then share Jesus.  Take a team to some place like Ukraine or Spain where there is no need for a "loaf of bread," but instead just the "bread of life" and the team comes back excited about what they did, but often not broken hearted at all. 

Missions often doesn't have immediate feedback of "good feelings."  Once again, I had to step back and evaluate my own feelings.  Is my heart just as broken over people who do not have the "bread of life" as it is over those who need a "loaf of bread?"  Do I come home ready to change the world because of the number I met who needed the "bread of life" or do I just think that is how it is?  What about you?  Are you broken over hearing there are less than 1% of the Spanish population who have the "bread of life?"  What is your reaction to the fact that the team I am leading to Eastern Europe in two weeks has yet to receive permission from the government to teach Sunday School teachers how to teach?  I challenge you to look deep in your heart and ask is how broken is your heart over "loaves of bread" and the "bread of life?"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lesson #1: Serving God is Fun

Over the entire month of July as I learned about our life as a missionary and then spent ten days in Honduras, I was constantly reminded that serving God is fun. But what struck me somewhere along the way was that for someone who has the privilege of serving God 24 hours a day with no restraints, I don't have near enough fun. Ministry becomes a burden. Volunteering to serve becomes an inconvenience. When I am doing it there is always something that is easy to find to complain about. Laughter is a rare commodity.

But, as I searched my heart, confessed somethings to the Lord, and turned off some "unimportant things" I began to see a few more smiles and a lot more laughter. It is really kind of hard to frown and be miserable when you really stop and grasp who you are doing it for.

And below are just a few pictures from both trips to prove that we really did have a lot of fun!

Preparing for fundraiser to raise support for Honduras trip
Tasting coffee made fresh from the tree (when we were supposed to actually be building a concrete block building)

Even playing with concrete as a way to serve God can be fun
This is the trail where we "slid" down in the mud to build bunk beds and deliver both physical and spiritual food.
Of course we took the Northwest Observer with us to take a picture
Not allowed to take the glass bottles from the store, so they pour your soda into a bag and give you a straw
After a hike down a mountain to a creek, where I dropped my camera in the river and this beautiful lady jumped in after it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Yes, I am still alive!

I apologize for being "quiet" for so long, but life is crazy after being gone for so long.  I am still trying to catch up both at home and at work.  I discovered yesterday I still have a suitcase that isn't unpacked and I've been back 11 days.  Guess there was nothing in it that was essential.

Now that I have stopped to write it is hard to decide where to start, but for the next few posts I will share some things I learned in the month of July. 

Just a recap for my new readers---

Our family left home on July 10 and drove to Michigan.  We spent two weeks living in a two room "apartment."  While there we spent time in classes that were to prepare us for our move to Spain.  I really think their goal was to take off all the "rose colored glasses" of missions and convince us that our journey ahead was serious and we had better be preparing correctly (I'll post about that in the coming days).  Then on July 22 Hannah and I flew from Michigan to Raleigh to meet the Honduras mission team I was leading (while Scott and Alex stayed in Michigan to finish training and drive home).  Hannah and I were in Honduras from July 23 through August 1.  Every trip is unique, but this one was especially unique after having spent two weeks preparing for a career mission placement.

I learned a lot about myself, my family, our calling to Spain, SEND, friends, and especially God.  Somethings were easy to digest, some are still "stuck in my throat."   But more than anything else, I was reminded that I am a fallen, sinful woman who does not deserve salvation, and yet a God who is greater than words can express sent His son to earth and then allowed Him to pay the cost of my sins.  There is no sacrifice or gift that I can give back to Him that even comes near "paying Him back."  And if I really, really get this - there won't be a single person that passes my path who can't tell that I possess such a fabulous gift, nor will I be able to rest knowing that there are nearly 2 billion people in this world who have never heard His name.

Welcome back to the journey and hang on - as I pray that the next few posts not only share what I have learned, but teach you a little too.

And yes, we still own a house.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Beginning to Reflect

My brain is still overwhelming with thoughts and experiences from the past three weeks.  I'm not sure where to even start writing, but hopefully over the next few days of blogs I will be able to share pieces of the journey with you.  I ask that you continue to pray for our family as we process all that we learned and heard while we were in Michigan.

If I had to write a title for the past three weeks I'd say it would be "Goodbye Rose Colored Glasses."  It is easy to surrender to missions (or a lot of other things) and get wrapped up in the "fairy tale." You know, spending all day with all your new friends who speak the language you quickly learned seeing everyone you encounter coming to know Christ.  In addition, the experience is exciting and thrilling as you worship in many languages and shop in a variety of markets.

Reality is no where near that picture.  Consider a few of the topics, decisions, and assignments we encountered while in Michigan:

  • If we were to die on the field do we want to be buried in Spain or have our bodies brought back to the states?
  • Complete legal paperwork to allow our field leader in Spain to have temporary custody of our children in the event of our death, terrorism, natural disaster, imprisonment, etc until the permanent arrangements could be made
  • Plan to feed ourselves spiritually and isolated since it will be quite awhile before we can participate in worship in a language other than our heart language
  • Evaluate what major events are coming in the lives of our friends and family in the coming future and decide what we will be able to come home for and what we will miss (weddings, funerals, illnesses, graduations, ...)
  • Be aware of the signs of depression - nearly all missionaries, and especially women, will deal with some degree of depression throughout their first term - begin to pray for a relationship on the field that is a safe place to express these feelings
  • Moral Purity - easiest place for a missionary to fail - both on the field and in their marriage
  • Language - be prepared one spouse is going to find language acquisition to be a natural task and the other will feel like it would be easier to teach a fish to live on land than to acquire a new language - just one stress on the family unit
  • Day to day routine - if you are a task completer (anybody think that describes me?) you are going to have to establish new ways to measure productivity.  Just completing the daily tasks becomes overwhelming and productivity is equated with whether the laundry made it to the washer and clothes line and back in or a meal was tasty to the whole family with unknown ingredients 
This is just a tiny picture of what we learned.  Add to the picture the number of people who have been working to raise their support for 1 1/2 years and the time we spent really discussing the need for Jesus to be shared with the lost and the whole two weeks were overwhelming.

Bottom line of what I learned - the call to be a missionary is a God sized calling that only God can accomplish.  I can plan, work, and even fret and the task is still bigger than anything I could ever fathom.  If I don't learn to depend on God with every ounce of my being every second of the day, then I too will be one of the statistics of missionaries who went to the field and came home shortly after arrival.  If I choose to continue to wear "rose colored glasses" then I can expect defeat.  

I'm choosing to leave the glasses off and instead to wrap myself up in the Word of God - both written in scriptures and spoken through prayer - and to learn a little more about what it means to surrender it all to Him.  The road ahead is full of curves, mountains, and valleys - but the ride is definitely worth it!