Monday, February 25, 2013

Missionary blessings: daily adventures

No, our life is not a daily exotic adventure... but every day brings the unexpected.

My day is much like yours - feed the family, clean the family, toilet the family, get the family places on time, and somewhere in there try to make the right choices about my priorities.

But in the midst of attempted routine, every day brings a flare for the dramatic.  You can count on nothing - will there be power? will there be water? will there be ink for the printer, petrol for the car, gas for the stove? will someone you're counting on to show up actually show up and show up when you are expecting them? who will show up at your doorstep right when your child decides to disobey?

I can't even describe all the things that "go wrong" in a given day - it almost sounds unbelievably ridiculous some days.  No one would believe us.

And yet these adventures are such a blessing, such a gift.  If I ever thought I was in control before, now I KNOW that I am not.  In the past, I may have deluded myself into thinking that I was sovereign.  There's no delusion now.  I am in control of nothing.  I can make nothing happen when I want it to happen.  Nothing is "ideal" (especially when it comes to treating patients on my front porch or trying in vain to refer them somewhere).

What a blessing, my friends! I am called to be faithful, and here, on this mission field, and that is all that I can do.  Be faithful to what God has called me to be.  Minister to the needy and pray that they better understand the gospel after seeing me.  Minister to my family and pray that they better understand the gospel after experiencing the raw unfiltered me.  Encourage my husband when he, for the 8th month in a row, fails to get this one certain task done (by NO fault of his own!).

THIS is a blessing!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Missionary blessings: touching lives directly

We get to be on the front lines.

Even in our role of equipping our Ugandan counterparts to minister, we're still much more on the front lines than our sending churches.

We have the privilege of figuring out how to help that starving child and his family directly.  We have the opportunity to pick up the snotty child and share dirt.  We get to pray with that woman as her husband dies of AIDS.  We get to choose, quite literally, if we will eat meat this week or instead feed meat to the orphans under our care.

For most of you who read my blog, you live vicariously through us.  And WE get the privilege of having a very direct effect on our community, on the community that you pray for, that you give financially for, that you teach your children about.

What a blessing and immense privilege for us! I'm not saying it's easy to be on the front lines.  In fact, historically, missionaries have been so moved by the desperate situations that they face, that we have created worse situations.  Handing out food is not the answer.  Taking in vulnerable children is not the answer.  Paying a child's school fees is not the answer.

Only CHRIST is the answer for this world's brokenness.  Pray for us to have wisdom when it comes to relieving physical suffering and need - that we would understand how best to proclaim Christ and his gospel!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Missionary blessings: seeing God work

You can see God's hand anywhere AND everywhere.

But on the mission field, you find yourself more dependent than ever on God and his grace.  We have the privilege of seeing his work first hand.  His protection, his grace, his mercy, his providence, his blessings, his sanctifying processes...

We have less things in our lives to distract us from seeing his hand.  We are totally immersed in ministry - as an entire family.  We try to have social events with people outside of our ministries, but most of our time is spent with our co-workers in ministry.  Most of our friends are our Acholi friends who minister with us.  Most of our conversations are about ministry and about how God is working.  As we talk nonstop about things of God, it becomes so very apparent that HE is a great God!

There is nothing predictable about life here.  When there is power, we praise God! When there is water, we praise God! When there is not, we praise God... or seek to see God's purpose as we fight for joy! When something happens smoothly, we see God's hand.  When something happens in the usual non-smooth way, we see God's sanctifying work in our lives.  When things seem to be falling apart, we thank God for revealing an area of weakness or an area of danger in our lives or the ministries.

God is active and powerful.  God is bigger than any of our circumstances.  God is victor in the spiritual realm and the earthly realm.  THIS is who we serve and seeing his hand at work is an incredible blessing, not only available to missionaries - but available to all of his children!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

House help - what?!

Many missionaries around the world hire house help.


It can be very uncomfortable, at least for Americans.

How can I ask someone else to wash my dishes and mop my floor? How can I ask someone else to do things that I don't enjoy doing, like hanging the laundry in the hot sun and cleaning bathrooms?

The reality is that hiring house help is often the right thing to do.  Here are a few reasons:

1) The requests for financial assistance are unending.  Not a week goes by that our gate man doesn't let someone in to ask me for money.  By hiring a trusted person to help in my house, I'm giving her an income and contributing to the local economy.  In some communities, it's almost expected that the missionary will hire someone(s) as a contribution to the community.

2) Discipleship happens in the home.  My helper is a born-again Christian and is eager to talk about things of the Lord.  She's interested in how we raise our children and train them, instead of letting them run wild.  Although the two of us stay busy, we usually have at least one conversation a day that points to the Lord.  As our relationship deepens, we've been able to talk about God's role and view on marriage, family, orphans, schooling, church, health and wealth teaching (prominent in Uganda), etc.  Her son spent much of his "summer" holiday with us, playing with our children, doing homeschool work with us, etc.

3) Everything is a lot of work here.  Everything is made from scratch, the water often has to be hauled in buckets to do the laundry or dishes, the floor is always dirty from the desert sand/dust that is blowing our way, 3 children in cloth diapers have a way of producing more and more diapers... If Christine wasn't helping me, I couldn't do any ministry.  Last week, she was away.  I was very pleased that I not only survived, but the family ate well, and the house stayed clean.  (This was only my second time without help since the baby was born.)  BUT, no homeschooling happened and I didn't leave the house.  I still fielded medical phone calls, up to my neck in crying children, and I still had lots of people pouring through our home.  My administrative tasks fell to the wayside and I didn't see Home of Love all week.

4) Learning.  I have learned so much from Christine and from my other helpers over the last year and a half.  I intentional spend time asking questions about how they view things, about how they do things, and about language.  We laugh together over the strange ways that us mzungus do things.  As my priority is on the home and making the home a place of peace and rest for my husband, I have my own culture and language teachers right here with me.

5) I am still responsible to run my household.  In fact, having someone else help me with housework requires me to be much more intentional about running my household.  I have to plan ahead, think through schedules, and not just randomly keep house.  It's up to me to run the household smoothly and prepare it for my husband and children.  I DO struggle with guilt in not doing all the work myself and my goal is to get to the point where I can ask Christine to watch the children while I study the Bible - there's something about having someone else do what I am "supposed to be doing" that makes it difficult for me to focus, rest quietly, and meditate on God's words.  There is a sinful pride in me that wants to be all and do all for my family.  But, as I work through these aspects, I also work through what it means to run the household, plan meals, plan cleaning, plan teaching, plan shopping.  I'm able to focus more on meeting Josh's needs rather than running so hard that I don't even notice when he comes home.

I've had Christine teach my children some things, like how to "pick" bo (pick the leaves off stems of a popular edible green leafy), shell ground nuts, and even do dishes.  I lurk around while she's teaching them and coach the children in listening, follow her instruction, working hard, and being respectful.  It's a great opportunity for them to interact one-on-one with an adult besides me in a controlled and teachable situation!

There are so many things about this culture that are so very different from Western culture - and this is one of them!

Missionary blessings: where to begin... the people!

I've written about some missionary struggles.  They are not unique to missionaries, but will give you some ideas for how to pray for your missionaries.

Now, the blessings... but WHERE to start? The blessings of obeying God are infinite and beyond our imagination...

Being a missionary is about bringing people to God.  It's not about a project, although there can be projects.  It's not about numbers, goals, or accomplishments.  It's about people and relationships and, ultimately, relationship with God.

So, I start with the people - these are the biggest blessing, for sure.

 Josh's days are spent pouring into those that God has put under his leadership.  He has the privilege of equipping Ugandans to lead the ministries and lead their churches.  These men encourage Josh tremendously with their hunger for God and for the TRUTH of GOD's word.  I'm blessed to be able to serve them cookies and coffee when they meet at our home!

We get to worship with brothers and sisters in Christ in a different language and a different style - worship our same Father God in a different culture.  The first time it struck me so deeply was when we worship with the Masaai in a bush church... talk about different culture! WOW! Their gutteral throaty singing was to worship our same Father!

God demonstrates his love to us through people like this sweet friend who loves on Gracie - even kneeling in the dirt to be at eye level with her, talk to her, love on her, and let Gracie show her love to her!

Our sphere of influence is HUGE (frighteningly!) and it is such a privilege to have the opportunity to live and preach the Gospel to so many children, families, pastors, lay leaders, etc., etc.!

And, of course, our Home of Love children are a blessing.  63+ vulnerable lives... I could write forever on the blessing and privilege of being in these children's lives!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Missionary struggles: lifestyle

Death to self.

We don't mind death to self.  We feel honored to share just a tiny bit in Christ's suffering.

But chocolate cookies and lasagna... now that would be nice.

A quick meal and a dishwasher... running water and electricity.  Running to the store and knowing that you'll find a desired ingredient.  Fast food for those days on the road.  A straight answer and a fair price. Somewhere to buy your food that doesn't involve fly-covered meat, open stares, haggling, and harassment... No animals wandering through the house, no snakes lurking in the tall grass... medical care available for your family, vaccines, quick answers, thorough tests...

On a good day, these things mean nothing.  Just conveniences, luxuries!

But on a stressful day, on a bone-weary day, on that day where all the children are falling apart at the same time... during that night when the house is finally quiet... but is too quiet...

On those days, the missionary lifestyle can be a struggle.  I just want a box of brownies - I don't want to spend another hour in the kitchen making something else from scratch.  I just want to know that I can count on having running water tomorrow to do the laundry.  I just want to know that I can count on going to the store and finding cheese.  The missionaries in the village might long to not have to chop the wood to fire up the wood stove to bake cookies.  Or have water piped right into their home.

These are tiny struggles - in fact, many missionaries are a bit embarrassed to have those thoughts cross their minds.  Our neighbors live in huts and fetch their water from a well a mile away and I'm pining after chocolate?! My pastor's wife has struggled with health problems for years with no real answers and I wish I could not be Dr. Mom for once and that someone else could decide if my kid is sick or not?!

But, these struggles are real, nonetheless.

The answer is not the package in the mail full of chocolate chips and M&Ms.  The answer is Christ.  Is he all that I need? Do I rely on satisfying my cravings for my joy or is Christ more than that? Am I "contending for the faith" daily by preaching the Gospel to myself daily, praying, keeping myself in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life? (read the book of Jude)

Pray that your missionaries would indeed rest in Christ and fix their eyes on eternity.  Perhaps your luxuries will also fade in allure as you do the same!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Missionary struggles: isolation

Although there's a group of 700 people backing us from the USA (mostly), few of those individuals and churches can truly understand the daily stressors on the field.  There are currently around 6 missionary families in Gulu - the number changes monthly.  Each family is deeply involved in ministries - often very consuming ministries.  There are missionaries all over the world struggling with a similar issue: a sense of isolation.

Missionaries sometimes feel isolated in their struggles.  Some missionaries struggle to find a Bible-preaching church or ARE the only source of Bible teaching in a given field.  Some missionaries find that their sending agency doesn't understand the issues on the field and gives them directives that they cannot follow.  Some missionaries struggle to find friends that they can confide in.

Pray for your missionaries that they would trust in the sufficiency of Christ, that they would rest in the finished work of Christ, and that God would provide for each missionary and each member of their families in just the right ways at just the right time.

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