3 Strands in Times of Discouragement

20160530_171726January is just a hard month, isn’t it? After the tearing down of Christmas decorations, the fond memories or subtle disappointments of family togetherness over the holidays, there’s just not much hope left in January. For educators, the school year is only half way over, and the heaviness of familiarity has set in. For folks living in the northern parts of the globe, the short, cold days make the hope of Spring seem too far away. For those working in full time Christian ministry, the additional demands of the celebration of Christ’s birth coupled with our propensity to put others first and self care last, leaves us feeling like an spent and worn out inner tube.

January– Bah Humbug!  Good news! You aren’t alone!

I’ve been suffering from a strange dose of the January Blues this year. To break up this otherwise tedious month, we had a 12 day visit from our ray of sunshine daughter from the Sunshine State! Yet yesterday, I found myself at the beach again, my head in my hands, crying out to my Heavenly Father. Lord, please help me see your plan!

My nearly full prayer journal sat on the grassy sand inside the neighbor’s abandoned beach front lot. Here I sat cross-legged waiting on the Lord. After some silence from me, I felt a prompting to page through my prayer journal.

1.Reflect on God’s work

I can’t say enough about the importance of keeping a prayer journal. Even as someone who loves to write, I don’t write in it every day. But maybe that’s what makes it so special? It’s my go-to tool, along with the Bible and praying aloud, to wrestle through things with Jesus. Consequently, it’s pages are filled with raw and painful emotions and tender answers from the Father. My life is entirely too full and my memory entirely too feeble to recall every little work of the Father in my life and on my behalf. My prayer journal doesn’t even capture all of them, but it does give me a fixed point to reflect on just how far the Father has brought me.

I see His faithfulness in answered prayers.

I see His provision in met needs.

I see His love in the tiny details that only He could orchestrate.

If you aren’t keeping a prayer journal, I highly recommend getting one! It’s a great tool to encourage your heart and record the work of the Lord Jesus Christ!

(BTW, far less personal, but oft times encouraging are the “on this day” posts from Facebook have given me much needed perspective and encouragement in life and ministry)

2. Seek out godly relationship

First run to God and then run to a godly friend. I confess, I sometimes get this out of order. I’m still predisposed to share a burden or break the loneliness of discouragement with a text or call to a godly friend. I think getting things in the right order: God first, people second, is very important and a personal goal of mine for this decade of my life. But there’s no question that there is real value in the godly counsel of a wise and loving Christian friend.

3. Create a culture of thankfulness

There are numerous posts on this blog about thankfulness, and for good reason. (Read more: here, or here or here!) Nothing can turn a bad mood or month long funk around better than getting our hearts in the right place regarding gratitude. Sure, there will always be hard things in your life, things that are unfair, hurtful, lonely or dark. But there is always SO much to be thankful for. It’s easy to lose sight of all that God has given us, done in our lives and ministry, in the midst of the brokenness of this world. The Good News is that Jesus is here and wanting to engage in life with us here and now. The great news is that in the end He wins. The comforting news is that in the in-between He has not left us alone, but provides just want we need for today. So count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done!

 

Here’s another great resource, especially for people in ministry, about dealing with discouragement from Pastorpedia, a ministry of the CE National. https://cenational.org/article/discouragement-church-ministry-pastorpedia/

and the ultimate encouragement, the Word of God:

Romans 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of[a] his Spirit who lives in you.

I love Peterson’s paraphrase in The Message: It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

 

What are some ways YOU battle discouragement in your life? Feel free to share what Jesus is teaching you in the comment section below!

 

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Every month with the full moon, God provides a bountiful harvest from the sea. Dilis, known in English as anchovies, are caught by the bulging net fulls at night for the few days around the full moon. The tiny fish are then sorted and dried on nets on nearly every solid, horizontal surface over the next few days. The fishy aroma of sun dried fish permeates the community where we live which is just adjacent to the beach. For many this gift from the sea will provide a constant source of protein and calcium in the diet otherwise comprised primarily of white rice. For the tribal group we minister in, these dried fish are a staple and a God given source of sustenance.

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An Ati woman prepares piles of fish for drying on the seawall overlooking the Sibuyan Sea, Panay Island, Philippines.

I’m fascinated by this type of monthly provision from God from the sea. Having grown up on a farm, I’m well acquainted with physical provision of food and income from the earth. My family has long prospered through the toil in the soil and the keeping of livestock.  Agriculture in landlocked central Pennsylvania is a seasonal business. The ebb and flow of life ride on the four distinct seasons and the labor that must be done in good stewardship of the earth during each one.

But here the cycle is lunar and it keeps the community humbled and connected to the source of their provision. Many would cite that as the “sea,” but some know either by instinct or by faith that there is a Creator to be honored and recognized who is also their Provider.

Life as a supported missionary is a little like that, too. We must put our trust in God and His generous people to provide for the needs of our family and the work He has called us to here. We must faithfully preserve the harvest, making sure we are both generous and careful because it’s not really ours in the first place.

Just the other day we had a small group of ladies from the indigenous community come to the door to visit. One brought with her a large sack of charcoal. Earlier in the month she had needed money for her family since she is the only breadwinner in the family of five. Her work is making charcoal in the mountain, even though she has several years of college completed toward a teaching degree, the challenges of life has left her with limited opportunities. A few weeks ago she shyly asked for our help with their financial need and we agreed to help them, and offered her the opportunity to repay us in charcoal. Along with this dear sister in Christ were a few other ladies from her village, who were in need of vitamins and some over the counter medicines to help ease the suffering of family members ailments.

While they were visiting with us, one of them worked up the courage to ask about eye glasses. Last year, a generous donor led by the Holy Spirit gave a substantial gift to the ministry earmarked for eye glasses. In a world were only the absolute necessities eat up every bit of income, eye glasses are a total luxury. Yet, just as in an other community, many of the “over 40” crowd are finding it harder and harder to do their daily tasks, let alone read their Bibles.

Last year’s gift provided nearly 50 people in the tribe with eye glasses. Our partnership with a local optometrist availed us of free check-ups and big discounts on the cost of frames and lens. These ladies knew that the budget had been depleted for eye glasses but had been praying that in the new year God would provide again.

Would you join them in praying for this need to be met? Could you partner with us to help these ladies and others like them get the glasses they need to read their Bibles?

In the meantime, we wait on the Lord, knowing that just as He provides the fish from the sea in due time, the harvest of crops in central Pennsylvania in due season, He will provide for their needs as well. In the meantime, we will praise Him as the Lord God Provider and trust His perfect plan for our lives.

 

Much To Be Thankful for…

According to the Joshua Project (https://joshuaproject.net/),  of the roughly 11,000 Ati people in the Philippines,  only 1.5% are Evangelical Christians. When we first came to the Philippines in 2012 we were introduced to a small band of the Ati living on the mainland of Panay Island, many of whom were born and later displaced from their homeland (Boracay) by the now booming tourism industry. The community we work in encompasses 4 villages and roughly 1000 souls, from infants to senior citizens. The majority of which live in simple bamboo and grass houses, roughly 12 X 14 on average, often housing grandparents, unmarried siblings, adult married children and their children under a single nipa roof. Few houses have toilet facilities or running water. The Ati men work day labor jobs, the majority of which are cargo hauling (by back labor) of all the goods needed to sustain the tourism industry on the neighboring island. Some older men and women work in rice fields, which are still plowed, planted and harvested by hand. Others make a living from the mountain, harvesting fruit or vegetables that grow wild there or by making charcoal to sell to the “low landers” who haven’t transitioned their cooking to propane gas stoves. Most Ati families are making around 300 pesos per day, which is about $6 USD. Alcoholism is rampant in the community, as many dull the pain of a life without Christ in abject poverty with tuba, a strong but very cheap homemade coconut liquor.

           Our call in missions was not be church planters, yet our desire was to see the seeds of the Gospel take root and grow deeply in the community. Our primary first goal was to see an truly indigenous church, led by an Ati pastor and for authentic life transformation to sweep across the community, with many men coming to saving faith and eventually leadership in the church. From there we have prayed that God would raise up Ati young people with a heart and passion to serve Him who would then reach the rest of the Ati communities scattered across Panay island.
          Believing that our God sized dream would take years bear fruit, we began the work of disciple making and loving the community in Jesus name. But God is always at work and so often in ways we can not see or anticipate. A few months after our return to the community in 2015, God brought a young man with a deep love of Jesus and a call on his life to preach the Word to our attention. Over the next few months we watched, in awe, as God continued the work in Jonel, healing him from the pain and sin of a few “backsliding” years and renewing Jonel’s conviction to study the Word of God and teach. He now serves as the lay pastor of the small church of 50 +/- in the one village, under the supervision of a local Filipino pastor and our discipleship. God answered our first prayer in ways we could not have imagined! We continue to love and serve the community, calling any and all to relationship with Jesus, trusting that just as before and for all eternity past and future, God has a beautiful plan for their lives!
        This Thanksgiving season our family is reflecting on all we have to be thankful to God for. His blessings in our lives are remarkable and we want to be sure give Jesus all the praise and the glory. We are thankful for our faithful ministry partners who regularly pray and sacrificially give to provide the financial resources needed for this mission. We are thankful for our sending church and mission organization who share a vision to see the Gospel take deep root in this tribe. We are thankful for good health for our family here and at home and for the wonders of technology that allow the miles to be a little less separating. We are thankful for God’s leading in the life of our lay pastor, for the growing number of “seekers” who have attended church, some for the very first time, in recent weeks. We are thankful that we are beginning to hear the basics of love, forgiveness and unity echoed back to us by many in the tribe. They are hearing the Gospel and responding to it! We are thankful for good relationships with local doctors and medical staff who partner with us to help the Ati people in their time of medical need.
       We’ve been blessed beyond our imagination by the growth of the mission work here over the last year and half.  But as the mission grows, so do the needs. When you work in tribal setting, especially one beset with poverty and discrimination, there’s what feels like an never ending list of needs. It takes a lot of prayer and stillness before the Lord to make peace with that in our hearts and allow Him to direct us to the needs that He desires us to share in.

Christmas Wish List for the Ati

1. CHURCH: A monthly sponsor/s to help support the Ati lay pastor ($200/month)
2. PRESCHOOL: Sponsor/s to support the salary for the rest of the school year (thru March 2017 only) for the certified preschool teacher ($500 total need)
3. AG/NUTRITION: 100 Laying Hen set-up for the community ($1200 one time need)
4.MEDICAL: Our support budget has been stretched in recent months to cover the growing medical needs of the community. (Need $500-$1000/month)
5. Scholarship Fund for College– there are a number of Ati students who are pursuing a college education that will enable them to rise above the minimum wage of day labor. However, despite govt help, the costs of living away from home (there are no colleges in our community) tax many families to the point where the scholars have to drop out. We dream of having a fund to help keep Ati kids in school, with accountability and encouragement that they can really make their dreams come true! ($50/per student per month)
        We are trusting God to provide for the needs and the dreams of the mission here. If your heart is drawn to this work, or any one of these projects or needs, please earnestly pray about it and then get in contact with us. There’s so much more that could be said about the work Jesus is doing here, and we’d love to share that with you! Perhaps this Christmas you can give a gift that will bless the Ati, and shine the light of Jesus brightly!
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Imagine… fresh eggs to feed the community! Our gardens are already producing fresh vegetables, fruits, and pork, can you help us get chickens?

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Help support our Ati lay pastor and his growing family and ministry!

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Medical outreach is a huge, ongoing need in the community

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This preschool educates the next generation of Ati leaders, and we need a sponsor for the certified teacher through the remainder of the school year.

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This young lady is a wonderful role model to other Ati young people. With the help of her sponsors’ gifts, encouragement and prayers, she realized her dream of becoming a teacher!

This Beautiful, Messy Life

Here I am sitting in another medical waiting area. Today my companion is an Ati woman who’s aged father is on the other side of the waiting area, on a stretcher awaiting his echo-cardiogram. It’s Thursday. This test was ordered upon his transfer to the regional hospital on Sunday afternoon, having a bad case of pneumonia with cardiac complications.

The irony seems lost in the wait. After church we were told about his situation and asked to help with the transfer. Reluctant to start what we knew to be a lengthy process and uninterested in the stomach upsetting speed ride in the ambulance, we gave the family

some money and promised to visit later in the day. But the family had never had a patient transferred before and were uneasy doing so alone, so quickly we adjusted our Sunday afternoon expectations and assisted them in his transfer.

The medical ward in the provincial hospital was already over crowded when they arrived. Fortunately we had been warned and brought a folding bed. The simple aluminum frame stretched with colorful nylon weave reminds me of the folding chaise loungers of summertime in the 1970’s in the USA.folding bed

For three nights this would be his bed.

Monday was our family day off. We left the patient’s family with money to pay for the echo-cardiogram. We had a good family day of worship with video from our sending church, and an afternoon of Rusty. Unfortunately, Rusty was starting to get some lower respiratory illness.
Tuesday Rusty, woke up, still feeling sick but needing to check on the patient. He traveled there to discover that no echo was done. The patient looked worse and was complaining of back pain. Rusty pushed to get the echo done Tuesday, that day, the clock won.
Wednesday, Rusty was too sick to travel. I did school with my kids in the AM, then rushed to Kalibo (2 hrs away by public transportation). Guess what? Still no echo. Now the nurses were saying that his heart rate was too high. They had moved the patient to a proper bed, inside the ward, designed for 12 men, that currently housed 24, with the extras in folding beds at the foot of the hospital beds.
The next day, I went back… only to finally find the patient getting the test ordered 5 days ago! The results? We’ll have to come back (4 hr round trip!) tomorrow to get those!
As I watch the receptionist/nurse process intakes for the cardiologist, I think of what a messy life this is. To look at me, in this culture, it is assumed that I am rich. I am white, foreign and overweight. I am assumed to be generous and compassionate because we are helping this society’s “least of these,” the dark skinned tribal Ati people. At this clinic, I am mostly surrounded by what could loosely be called middle class Filipinos. Most probably don’t own a car and some may not have finished houses or glass windows or an oven or microwave or laptop computer.(Things my “western” readers would consider a necessity for a middle class family)
They probably do have a “smart” cellphone, and they are dressed in clothes from a mall with nice shoes and handbags. My patient doesn’t have shoes, his old toes are bent with age and even flip flops are not comfortable for him. But the big difference that sets them apart from those we minister to is this: These “middle class” folks can afford to pay the doctor’s fees, which are equivalent to a full Ati worker’s wages for the day. 
People probably imagine my life very different than it really is. They expect that I drove here in my own new car, or perhaps I have a driver. They would expect me to live in a big, fancy concrete house, probably along the coast with a million dollar view. They don’t expect that I have children, but if I did, there would be one or maybe two and they would attend private schools or have their own personal nanny (yaya). They would expect me to have a house helper, a laundry helper, and a cook. They would expect that I fly “home” to the States every year for 2 months at Christmas time.
My reality is very much different. On this day, I woke up to a still sick husband and prayed for his healing as I read my Bible quickly and checked my messages. Today I even had to make my own coffee! Yes, friends, my husband is THAT sick!
 Then I woke my five kids and began school lessons with them. About an hour into school our lay pastor came to the house, and all morning the children were disturbed by the workers laying tile in the unfinished upstairs of our rental house that is big, and concrete, but unfinished without windows upstairs, and without a view of the sea. Today, especially I am thankful for my one helper, who made lunch as I rushed out the door and kept the house running while I was gone. Today I was so busy I forgot my own mother’s birthday. I didn’t have time to text my friends in the States. I never even looked at Facebook until the day was nearly over.
After rushing through lessons for the day, I quickly grabbed a cold shower (no hot water heater) and quickly dressed to head to the bus. I did get to enjoy 2 hrs of Bible teaching from David Platt on the trip. The bus dropped us off near the entrance to the hospital and I frustrated the tricycle drivers who wait at the bus stop when I walked to the hospital. I met Nan, the patients daughter coming out of the hospital, while I was walking in. She had returned to get her father’s senior citizens ID in order to get a discount on his echo.
I don’t wear designer clothes or shoes. My current handbag, a lovely, much appreciated gift from an American friend, is already showing signs of heavy wear and effects of high humidity. I didn’t take time for a leisure mid morning merianda, a coffee and bread break that is a “must” in the culture. I ate a quick bowl of leftover mac n cheese on the run between student’s questions and household interruptions. I sent my oldest son out with two different medicine delivery errands as his “recess” this morning. Another son, did a variety of other errands and chores later in the day.
I’m not complaining. Really. It’s just an observation of how things are often not what they seem. And how truly blessed we are to be called here share the love we have found in Christ with those who are less fortunate, many of whom do not know Jesus Christ as Savior.  As a wise, an often inspired by God, retired missionary friend recently said;

“We enter into the suffering of others because of love we have first received for ourselves. We do it from love’s overflow, not from obligation.” -Sarita Hartz

My life is messy, full-on crazy some days, but for the most part, I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
Tonight I am tired. But we had a great Bible study with the kids before bed. Listening to them pray is the highlight of my day. Even when the day has been too busy, I get a precious glimpse into their hearts. 
After putting the kids to bed, I remembered again, that it’s my mom’s birthday. We called them back downstairs so we could call and sing, “Happy Birthday.” Now they are back upstairs, three of them on one mattress on the floor, because their room is still tore apart from the tile work. To some we are rich, to others we are not– but I know a secret– we are rich in ways that don’t show up in a bank account or material things!
No matter what God is doing in your life right now– if you days are full of obvious blessings or just precious ones in disguise, we each have the opportunity to shine the light of Jesus to a dark and needy world. And that my friends, is the best kind of beautiful, messy life!

The Plans I have

bamboo riverIt happened rather innocently. In a moment when I wasn’t looking for it, when I stopped searching, seeking and crying out in desperation. I was walking along a stony path along the river where two of my ten children were playing on a bamboo raft.

These were the middle children, tucked between the grown adult siblings and the affectionately called, “Littles.” Now strapping young men in their own rite, I smiled as they coordinated their efforts to move the 14 ft bamboo raft down the river.

In that moment, an illumination came. A still small voice that answered the question that had been plaguing my mind for months. “Simple, next step obedience,” the voice seemed to whisper, “the same way you got here, my child.”

And it’s true. We certainly never set out to have ten children. In fact, when we were first married, we thought maybe we’d just have a dog and two careers. But then the “baby bug” bit, and before our first anniversary we welcomed our first born son.

Still there was never a “big plan” decision to have a large brood. The steps of our life have never been clearly written out in advance.

I like plans. I’m a planner. I also like to control things. My entire adult life has been an adventure in learning to trust and obey and give up my desire to plan and control. Little by little, bit by bit, always at the right moment and rarely before… the Lord has faithful ordered our steps and made our path in this world.

We never planned to be missionaries. We thought it would be a good idea to raise kids who served the Lord, perhaps vocationally and even cross-culturally, but not for one moment did we anticipate His call to “Go!” would fall on us.

So as I continued up the rivers edge, my five youngest children playing joyfully and noisly in the river and among the “rapids,” I was reminded once again that the plan is revealed in the next step, in the simple obedience to do what He has asked us to do today.

That big plan, the big reveal that I’ve been waiting for… is probably not going to happen. Instead, He’s gently calling, leading me to follow Him in the day to day and trust Him for the big picture.

My heart has been burdened lately with lack of big picture plan. I thought maybe by now, it would all be falling into place. Friends of ours moved here, in another part of the country, about a year before our arrival with the big plan to build an orphanage and start a church. Both those dreams have been realized, the church is small but growing and the orphanage is already in need of an expansion. We knew that outreach in a tribal setting needed a slower pace, that in order for real, life transforming and sustainable change to happen, the road we would need to travel would not be the high speed highway. But sometimes I feebly take my eyes off my Savior and look around and wonder, “Am I missing something?”

Yet if you had handed me the drawing board 24 years ago and asked me to write my story, you’d be reading a far different novel. As I pondered the beauty of my family, the joy of a large brood, the precious relationships born out of homeschooling and now sharing the trials and joys of cross-cultural ministry together, I realized that while I might be a pretty good writer, the Author and Finisher of my faith does a far better job creating my story than I would have.

And so, the Heavenly Father answered my question about “plans” with a sweet, quiet assurance that far surpassed any disclosure I had hoped to hear these many months.

“I’m still here, still weaving together your tapestry. Don’t worry about the how, the why, the when or the where. Just do the next thing and trust Me with the details.”

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Finding Center

cast caresThe door is always open, so there’s never a knock at the door– rather one of our children will see someone at the gate (which is always open, too) and call out, “Mom! We have patients!”

Sometimes its not someone needing medical assistance, sometimes its just someone bringing by a “thank you,”  a live native chicken, perhaps a bunch of bananas or pineapple or other fruit they harvested from the mountain. Sometimes there’s someone at the door selling fresh shrimp, or raw honey or household goods on credit. This week, just after watching the 4th of July fireworks online, we had a visit from two Mormon missionaries, one Filipino and one blonde haired, blue eyed boy from California.

The visitors arrive as early as 6 am. Perhaps people have come earlier than that, but we are rarely out in the main part of the house before then. Sometimes we know they are coming, like this week when we assembled a group of nine to travel together with Rusty to Kalibo for various medical specialist check-ups. Often a group will gather in our living room, perhaps we will offer coffee and some bread, while we wait, sometimes for more than an hour for the rest of the group to arrive.

I’m trying to learn how to manage an unpredictable stream of visitors amidst by desire for a quiet morning routine and the need to accomplish school with my own five children. I’m finding, particularly as I age, that I really crave a quiet morning. I’ve never been a morning person, those dark, cold mornings when my alarm would sound the call to head to the barn for morning chores on my parents dairy farm still haunt me. As the mother of ten, I learned to relish in the quiet of the pre-wakeful hours with a house full of busy, noisy children who just happen to be mostly boys. High ceilings and large square footage were my friends in those boisterous days, but even then I dreaded the time when everyone would awake and the noise and clamor of the day would begin again. It’s not so much that I dislike the general chaos of life, but rather the drastic change from the stillness of the morning to the fullness of life is a real transitional stress for me.

Here, in addition to my five boys, only one of whom is truly a morning person, the interruptions to my routine can be more varied. A call from from one of my stateside kids, a neighbor stopping by to ask about a check up later in the week, someone asking to borrow something from our home, an urgent text or a medical need that demands immediate attention. These little rifts to my routine can pull me away from my morning cup of coffee and time in prayer and the Word. I find it hard to resettle my day after an imperfect start.

Recently I’ve been working on strategies for stress management as a part of what missionaries and others in high-need, stressful professions call “self-care.” The first step is identify the things that cause stress and then establish purposeful ways quickly control my reaction and “find my center.”

I grew up a rather worrywart of a child. I would say anxiety runs in my family, and I had more than my share of experience with it during my formative years. Early in my Christian walk the Holy Spirit identified for me a need for a growing patience and trust of the Lord. Those have been steady themes of my transformation process, that is still very much on-going. Yet as I have sit with this “self-care” practice of identifying stressors, I’ve been surprised, even a touch disappointed at how many things still ruffle my feathers, so to speak.

I guess I share all this for one primary purpose, that my vulnerability and journey with the Lord would help someone else who like me at times struggles with the “other side” of the blessings you’ve been given. My children, our ministry are wonderful gifts from the Lord that bring me much joy and satisfaction and also consistently draw me closer to Jesus. But at times, those very things I love and cherish can bring me stress. I want to encourage you to have the courage to face the things that steal your joy and determine to deal with those with the Lord, little by little, day by day. It is only by facing what haunts us that we can really find the peace that passes all understanding in our daily walk with Him.

What are some of the things that bring stress into your life and steal your joy?

 

 

5 Ways to Impact Your Kids to be Mission-minded

Long before God called our family to cross-cultural missions, He planted a seed in our hearts to raise whatever children He would send us for His glory and service. In those early days of thousands of diapers and nearly constant flux between pregnancy and nursing, God was building in us a desire to send out “straight arrows” for Him. Our vision and prayer was that one day, one or more of our children would pursue a life of service to the King of kings, in vocational ministry either here or abroad.

It wasn’t until God was finishing up building the family, that He captured our hearts for family oriented service. Once those many toddlers were big enough to carry a shovel or a bucket, God began to use parts of our family in His service domestically, as my husband and our older children assisted in disaster recovery work in the US. This, coupled with a short term trip to an orphanage in central Mexico, began the growth of a new seed, a new dream and a new calling on our lives. Soon we were see a bigger part of the Father’s mysterious canvas of our lives, a beautiful, brilliant thread that runs right through the Philippines.

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A Wacky pic of the nine kids we brought with us on our first term in the Philippines. 

This is not a guide to become a missionary…. or a “How to take 9 kids on the Mission Field,” but rather a summary of some basic principals that have impacted our family and the hearts of our kids towards the work of Jesus across the globe.

 

  1. Adopt a Missionary— our family fridge was always covered by missionary prayer cards. When missionaries visited on furlough we made a special point to attend their programs and often invited them to share a meal in our home. First, I wanted my kids to see that missionaries were ordinary people, with similar hopes and dreams and interests as our own. Find a missionary your family can identify with– maybe it’s someone from your home church, or someone with children similar to your own kids ages, or maybe they are serving in a country your family has always found fascinating. Then really get connected! Pray for them as a family, make sure you get their prayer letters and faithful partner with them for the requests they share! Don’t be afraid to reach out to them! Many missionaries struggle with loneliness and everyone enjoys a letter from home! Tell them about your life, you’d be surprised how interesting the mundane things are when you’ve left your home culture. Ask them about their host culture and don’t be afraid to share your prayer needs as you ask map tablethem for personal prayer requests as well!  Send them a care box or head up a group from your church to do so. Remember their kids birthdays with a card or an email.
  2. Get a World Map— ours was under a clear plastic table covering on our dining room table, but any place in the house is a good place to keep the people of Jesus around the globe in mind. Mark where your missionaries are serving and then use current events to help your kids understand more of what’s happening in the world. Take teachable moments like an airplane crash or the announcement of the next Olympic city to help your kids connect with the world and then use the internet to find out what God’s doing in those parts! Here’s a great source for information on unreached people groups around the globe. Joshua Project 
  3.  Look for Opportunities-– not every church or parachurch organization will actively promote opportunities for families to serve in ministry together, but if your children are obedient, flexible and willing to serve there are opportunities for them test out muddy bootstheir service legs! Our kids started as volunteers a local food pantry, then took a weekend trip with Dad to an urban ministry, then put on boots and work gloves on disaster relief projects in our region. Over time, they were exposed to many difficult sub-cultures within our country as well as many different opportunities to help those less fortunate in the name of Jesus. These experiences fostered in them an interest in missions work in other nations as well. I actually think approaching the mission field with the heart of a child, helps eliminate a lot of ethnocentric challenges that short term mission trips face. Instead of being ‘us’ reaching ‘them’ kids tend to identify with people on a more organic level, opening the door for conversations and opportunities to share the light and love of Christ. The indigenous tribe we now work in tell the story of the first “white” missionaries to reach them in the 1970s. They say that they knew the foreigners were not out to hurt them or get anything from them, when they saw that they brought their kids. Kids can break down a lot of cultural barriers!
  4. Read! The danger of reading many missionary biographies is that somehow the idea of “spiritually elite” Christians will be propagated. Yet, most every missionary story I have ever read clearly depicts the missionary’s weakness and total dependence on God. These are characteristics we often miss in our independent, modern world. When we read of people who’s love of Jesus and his lost children is so strong that they would forsake their own comfort, family and safety to rely fully on God to provide the converts, the support and the peace that passes all understanding, we grow in our own faith. Whether God ever calls one of your children to serve Him vocationally, your kids will be richer for having heard the stories of these humble servants of Christ. Good Reads has a great list of missionary titles– some of our family favorites were George Mueller and Gladys Alyward.12974287_1089261417787064_1840647747187321044_n
  5. GO! There’s a lot of bad press out there about short term mission trips and “voluntourism” but if you have really employed the first 4 tips, then you and your family might just be ready to go! There’s few things more encouraging to a long term missionary than a visit from home. Your goal will be to build up the work that God is doing through your long term missionary partner, in whatever ways they feel would be most beneficial. Don’t plan to save the world or build a house or school– just go, listen, learn and smile! Find out how your family, and even your church, can better partner with your missionary. There’s no better way to forge a powerful partnership for the Kingdom of God than to see it, hear it, feel it and fall in love with it first hand!

Little Things…

By Luke

Sunshine and Rainbows by Luke, age 10

In my last blog, “And it will surprise you”,  I started by sharing from my heart about some of the challenges our family was facing over the last few weeks. For those to took the time to read on, (THANK YOU!) the point of the blog was a reminder to us all (myself especially) to count our blessings.

Sure it’s easy to name off the “big” things that we have to be thankful for; even though we know in our hearts that not everyone around us has been blessed likewise…

Of course we are thankful for our health, our kids, our spouse, the house we live in, the job we have…

Or are we… (if not, this is a great place to start a new attitude of gratitude!)

I’ve been struck lately with the need to be thankful for the “little things,” because just like it’s the little choices that direct our long term path and the little sins that quickly separate us from the heart of God… it’s thankfulness for the “little things” that keeps our hearts in a place of gratitude and appreciation to our Father God. (James 1:17)

So this week, in addition to being aware of those big things I have to be thankful for, I’m focusing on the “little blessings” God has so gracious bestowed on our family recently:

  • There’s a new optometrist in town, she does great work, very thorough and generous with her discounts to our mission! Now, thanks to a special gift by a generous donor, we can help more of the tribal ladies get the glasses they need to read their Bibles!
  • There’s a new “Western style” restaurant in town! Now our family can have a delicious, from scratch dinner out in a comfortable and homey atmosphere without having to travel to the tourist island or a major metropolis!
  • The gift that keeps giving… air conditioning! My loving husband and kids got us a one room air conditioner for Mother’s Day. Even though we “fought” this decision for years (literally!), now that we have it we can really appreciate the “refuge” that it creates from the extreme heat and humidity here. It’s a small thing, that has made a big difference!

 

So what are the “little things” you can thank God for this week?

 

Sunshine and Rainbow by Mark

Mark’s interpretation of Sunshine and Rainbows, age 8

Even if life is not fully sunshine and rainbows– ours certainly isn’t–we can look to the blessings we do have as little gifts of favors from a loving Heavenly Father, who’s holding us in His arms saying, “Hang on… I love you and I am making something beautiful!”

I’d love to hear what your “little things” are, and I know it would be super encouraging to others to read them as well…. please feel free to share YOUR LIST in the comments! Let’s encourage each other in thankfulness!

Matthew's Sunshine and rainbow

Matthew, age 5, Sunshine and Rainbows

“And it will surprise you…”

IMG_0556It’s been a tough week. It’s hot here. I mean really, really hot. We sweat from the moment we wake up, all day and through the night. Earlier this week Levi was keeping track of how many t-shirts he “sweated through” a day. We aren’t even doing manual labor… it’s just THAT hot.

Then there’s been illness; intestinal stuff, mostly likely from water problems, which come from the lack of rain. And rashes, from prickly heat to fungal, this family seems to have it all.

And then there’s goodbyes– Levi flew back to the States this week, making this Mother’s heart equally divided— half of my children reside with us in the Philippines and the other half in our homeland.

There’s quite a few other things going on– from medical needs with our family at home, to serious medical situations in the tribe we minister in, to issues around gossip, fighting and disunity among the community here, to concerns over the upcoming elections….

It’s enough to make a person sad… or discouraged… but….

Today I was overwhelmed by thankfulness.

Thankfulness for the simple things that we often don’t even see, let alone appreciate.

Thankful for the blessings in our lives.

LIKE…

Electricity to run fans to help keep us cool. Internet to stay connected to loved ones far away. A refrigerator and Lipton tea bags to keep Mama in her “life juice.” A new source of good flavored coffee beans for Dad’s version the above. Medical facilities here that enable our patients in the tribe to get the health care they need. Sponsors from home who help in times of dire medical needs. National insurance that helps to offset some of the costs of medical care for the tribe.

Sunshine to dry the many loads of laundry we wash each week. A washing machine to wash them, when many people hand wash at the river here. Filters for our water. Medicines to treat our digestive upsets when we don’t drink filtered water. A motorcycle that shortens trips and keeps us from needing to walk in the hot sun. Public transportation options for long trips, including some with air conditioning, a welcome break from the stifling heat.

Overall good health for our family. Safety for a son flying across the globe alone. Grandparents who are willing care for our stateside kids in whatever ways they can. A church family who faithful prays for our family and the Ati. Special friends who reach out with words of love and encouragement at meaningful times. Friends in the tribal community who look out for us and pray for our health and safety. Local friends who have little, but share what they have, like yummy bananas, green mangoes or a live native chicken that makes a yummy fried chicken dinner.

God’s Word in a book or a device. Gifted, spirit-led pastors with podcasts to feed our souls. Access to Christian music to uplift our spirits. The ability to “participate” in our home church via the internet and through weekly prayer updates in email. A husband who gently leads me, prays with and for me and shares life’s ups and downs with me. Children who continue to wrestle and stretch and grow in their knowledge, faith and experience with Jesus.

The beauty of God’s creation that surrounds us. His precious children, regardless of tribe, tongue or nation, to share life with. His peace that fills our souls when the enemy wants us to live discouraged, defeated and in fear.

I truly have so much to be thankful for. I am so blessed.

I suspect I’m not the only one who’s prone to take my eyes of my blessings and see the difficulty of the circumstances. A sense a real draw toward hopelessness and defeat from my limited connection with people living “at home.” Politics, world peace, economic fears, family health issues, relational challenges, work stress– these things capture our attention and take our eyes of the grace God has given in our lives.

When my kids were small, I used to sing them to sleep at nap time or night with a variety of old hymns, a favorite was Count Your Blessings. During those long messy days of formation and neediness, it was ME that needed the reminder to name them one by one. I’m finding it’s no different in this season of life, and I suspect it’s true in whatever season God has you planted in right now too. Truth penned in 1897 is true today:

So, amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Thanks for joining me in the journey. I’d love to hear what He’s teaching you and how you keep your focus on the grace and blessings in your own life. Let’s start a thankfulness revolution!

MOM WITH KIDS

“Count your blessings, name them one by one! And it will surprise you what the Lord has done!”

Overwhelmed

There’s a teenage girl with gravely disfiguring scoliosis that begs in the small town where we do our marketing during the peak of tourist season. She’s from the next municipality over and during the slower time for tourism we don’t see her at all. She has the most beautiful smile I think I have ever seen. She knows we are kind people who will often give her a few pesos or bring her a snack or drink. Peak tourism times also correspond with the highest temperatures and its hard to not feel pity for her sitting out in the heat to greet passersby. But more than pity, I have felt drawn to this girls beautiful smile, sweet disposition and quiet spirit. Unlike other beggars, she doesn’t follow people around tugging on their clothes or make sad faces. She simply sits there, clean and neatly dressed and flashes that heart winning smile.

The truth is as foreign missionaries in the developing world there is simply no end to the “help” we could give. Even having limited our outreach to one particular tribe of indigenous people does not keep us from feeling like we could very easily be over-extended. At this moment, I have more than 10 people on a list for eye glasses, mostly middle aged women suffering from daily headaches and unable to read their Bibles because of deteriorating eye sight. There are two young teenage girls with breast masses that should/could be removed. There are so many other things that never get done– newborn screenings, childhood immunizations, any type of preventative health care simply because there simply are not enough resources. And by resources, I mean both money and time.
overwhelmed
Assisting with the medical needs of a community that numbers more than 1000 souls is often like putting out fires rather than preventing them. Don’t get me wrong, there have been HUGE strides made toward better health as a collection of missionaries have been working in this community in different seasons over the last 5 years. Nutritionally the children are much better off than they were five years ago, though they may still be categorized as “at risk” for malnutrition we no longer see bony kids with big tummies and orange hair (all classic malnutrition signs). There have been less deaths in the community and more families have the free national insurance plan.
 In the early days our indigenous friends were too shy to even seek out medical help, telling one of the first missionaries that without the money to see a doctor, they simply trusted God for whether their loved one lived or died. And while that kind of faith is inspiring, it’s been a real benefit to the community as missionaries taught them “how” to go for a check up when they needed it and loved them enough to walk them through the process until they could do it themselves. Because the health insurance does not cover medications, we often assist people with the prescribed medicines needed to support healing and restore health.
Today I saw our begging friend while coming through town on the back of our motorcycle. She had spotted us first, because she was smiling widely and waving wildly as we passed her on the street. My heart goes out to her and I want to know her story and maybe offer her a better opportunity in life. Surely she could do light household chores or some small job that could provide a meager income rather than sitting in the streets in the hot, hot sun. But I feel powerless to help her. How can I offer her a job when there are so many of our indigenous friends without enough work to provide for their families?
I know that what we are called to do here makes a difference in people’s lives. We are blessed to see the fruit of our gifts, which are YOUR gifts to this ministry on a daily basis. God has moved in the hearts of countless people in the tribe because they saw the love of Jesus in us and in YOU by your gifts to this ministry. But sometimes its hard to be caring, compassionate, generous and giving people in the midst of so much need. 
It’s true that we can’t change the world for everyone—or even everyone in the tribe. The Lord has given us a vision of ways that we can help the tribe improve their overall economic position. It won’t happen overnight, but little by little, day by day, we trust and work toward transformation for this community. Our mission is holistic, seeking to transform the spiritual as well as the physical health and future of these precious people.
We certainly could not do what we do without praying and giving partners from around the globe. If you would like to help us make a difference in the life of Ati people in the Philippines, please get in contact with us. Another way you can help this ministry is to share this blog with your friends who share your passion to see the Gospel known throughout the world.
We’d love to share more about the Lord’s work here and how you can partner with what he’s been doing! Click here to contact us! Or partner with us through our senders,