Archive for September, 2010

Dear U.S. Missionary Moms,

I have been looking forward to writing a special letter of appreciation to you for awhile. Often we talk here about the joys and challenges of living life and serving in ministry overseas, but I have often thought of you faithful moms who are called to live and serve in my very own home country and of how grateful I am that you are there, loving people and influencing our own culture with the gospel. I love Russia, as I know that those of you overseas love the country that you are serving in, but America is still home and I have a deep love and care for my own culture and people who are just as in need of the gospel as anyone else in the world.

I wanted to thank you for facing the unique challenges and pressures that you face each day as missionaries in your own country and culture. Sometimes I find it easier to be bold with the gospel here overseas since people expect me to be different anyway.  If I am bold with the gospel, I don’t have to take it personally if they don’t like what I have to say because people already think I am “different” anyway. In your own culture it is harder though, because people expect you to be a certain way, and if you stand up for something different, it becomes that much more personal as you are willingly and boldly setting yourself apart from your own culture. I admire you women who endure that struggle each day and yet still boldly live for Christ.

Another thing that I admire about you is how you strive to resist being caught up with the cultural idols and competitions. Sure, every culture worships its own things other the One True God, but I have found that in some ways it can be easier to resist such temptations overseas, at least it seems that way to me, since I can separate these things in my mind as “cultural” and thus foreign to me. Being separated from the idols of my own culture is also often a blessing as I am removed from the pressure to have or to be whatever it is that my own culture is placing worth on at the time. Thank you for being strong women who worship and serve God even in the face of such appealing and convincing temptations.

Often times in cards from our supporters people will write something like, “Thank you for going…” and I often want to say to them and I want to say to you too, “Thank you for staying.” I hope that doesn’t sound too cliche, because it really is true. Just as surely as God calls some people to be missionaries in different cultures, He also just as significantly calls many to be missionaries to their own people. Thank you for faithfully accepting God’s call on your life to be His ambassadors within our own culture. I wholeheartedly believe that the most effective people to reach a culture are those who know it inside and out because they are a part of it.  God calls and uses foreign missionaries too, but I believe that is not because they are more effective, but rather primarily because there is a lack of existing believers and sometimes resources in a place to see it fully reached. You women who are faithful ambassadors at home in the U.S. are equipped to be amazingly effective for God’s kingdom as you know best the heart of our culture and the need for Christ there.

Thank you so much for your faithfulness and willingness to boldly live for Christ and to face the many daily challenges of being a missionary to your own culture. I am grateful for you, as I am sure are the rest of your mom friends who are serving in countries that are not their own!

Moms who are overseas, do you have any other words of appreciation that you’d like to add?

(Post by: Ashley)

Advertisements

Tuesday Topic: Revolving Door of Relationships

From Angie in Bolivia: My question has to do with the revolving door that has hit us all on the tooshie at least once in our missionary career. What with all the technical advances we are able to stay pretty much in touch with people whether they are close or are millions of miles away. That is all fine and good. Hurray for Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Skype and all the other do-dads. Still, I am a firm believer in face-to-face, within hugs reach, close friendships. In the life of a missionary the physical closeness comes and goes. We have to be open to making bonds with the people that God puts in our lives. (Yes, I am getting to my point.) Here it comes: During the transition times when some are leaving and others are coming what are your coping mechanisms? To ward against hermit tendencies to avoid the hurt what do you do? To avoid becoming too loose with your standards for who you invite into that inner circle of influencers in your life what do you do?

Have a Tuesday Topic question? Email it to formissionarymoms@gmail.com! Include your blog address if you’d like to be linked back to!

No Simple Task!

(Me with my daughter in front of the grocery store mentioned in this story, at about the same time that it took place)

I can clearly remember learning one of my first valuable lesson in cross-cultural living. It was a sunny afternoon during our first week in Russia, and I decided to take my 9 month old daughter to get some groceries. This would double as an afternoon outing for her, and would also help me tackle one more thing on my to-do list. I loved multi-tasking, and I loved getting things done.

I started filling my two baskets with groceries, one hanging off of each handle of the stroller. Of course this simple shopping trip ends up being a bit more complicated as I remember that I don’t understand any of the labels, apart from the pictures. “Hummm, I wonder if this is salt?… This little white bag is really cheap and leaking white granular stuff…” I give it a quick sample and toss it in the basket.”

My daughter finds the trip exciting to a point, but soon gets bored and starts to fuss and squirm, and then cry. I don’t blame her since it took me 10 minutes to figure out which can with tomatoes on it might be the closest thing to tomato sauce. With baskets overflowing and very unhappy baby in tow, having only figured out about half of the items on my list, I go through the checkout line as fast as possible, manage an awkward exchange with the clerk, and then hang my groceries on the handles of the stroller to head home. We arrive at the front steps to our flat and I heave the stroller, baby, and groceries up the first few steps and realize that the next 3 flights are going to take nearly all of my physical strength. I heave everything up the stairs and into the flat only to almost collapse from exhaustion, both physically and emotionally.

I wasn’t used to a simple grocery shopping trip requiring so much mental, physical, and emotional energy. I was used to being able to hop in the car, get in and out of the store with twice the number of groceries in half the amount of time, and only a fraction the amount of energy. This time I had come home with enough food for about 2 days worth of meals, minus a few key ingredients, and had given up all hopes of accomplishing anything else of worth that evening.

The next days continued on similarly. I had a few “simple” tasks on my to-do list, only to find myself exhausted after accomplishing only one or two tasks. I was getting half the amount done in a day as usual, yet I was completely exhausted!

A dear friend who had been there a few years longer than me kindly reminded me that even the simplest of tasks would be quite a heroic feat for awhile. To the newcomer, a simple grocery shopping trip is a language lesson, a time to figure out new systems (bag your own groceries or not? Do you have to buy the plastic bags, or are they free?), a new lesson in interpersonal communication, often times a physical workout, and more.

This was a hard lesson for me to accept as a person who values productivity, but it has been absolutely key to my sanity. Figuring out life in a foreign culture is exhausting! Praise God that it gets significantly easier over time, but even after years there are some underlying things that still add elements of stress that wouldn’t be there if we were doing the same task in our home culture. We have to be gracious with ourselves and adjust our expectations to make room for all of the other things that we are learning along with accomplishing our  normal daily tasks. And when looking over the things accomplished on our to-do lists, we should be sure to give ourselves credit for those extra language lessons,  culture lessons, and workouts too!

If you’ve been overseas for a long time, do you remember learning this lesson? What has “productivity” looked like for you over the years and how has it changed? If you are new to the field, do you sometimes struggle with feeling unproductive? Has it been easy or difficult to adjust your expectations of yourself and to plan your days accordingly? Be encouraged that your accomplishments are many, even if doesn’t feel like it!

(Post by: Ashley)

Blessed Like The Blindman

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. – John 9:3 (ESV)

You were probably not born blind, and nor was I, but most of us can identify with the blind man in the story. Our weaknesses, lackings, or simply our circumstances make us in some ways to be unlikely influencers. If we take an honest look at ourselves, it is a good thing for us to find amazement in the fact that God chooses such lowly vessels to become his ambassadors, and by this I don’t just mean overseas missionaries, but all Christians in general, for we are all made ambassadors for His kingdom.

And like this blind man, had it not been for Jesus coming and radically changing reality, this view of ourselves as hindered, weak, and unable would be a completely reasonable and accurate view to have of ourselves. Without Him, we are those things. But Jesus did come, and he did change our reality. He has given us His Spirit, and He has enabled us to do His work.

This blind man used to sit and beg, probably being overlooked by most passersby, and almost certainly not having a prominent influence on the society around him, but one day, Jesus comes and does something miraculous “that the works of God might be displayed in him,” and the next thing you know, this formerly blind beggar is boldly confronting the top leaders of his day and and eventually has his story recorded in the literal living word of God in order to transform billions of lives in generations to come by pointing them to the saving grace of Jesus!

I highly doubt that this man who had been blind from birth and spent his days sitting in the dirt, begging on the side of the road, ever expected much more in life, let alone to be miraculously healed and have the Lord God Almighty personally touch him and then use his story to bless countless souls for ages to come.

Are you ever tempted to believe that your shortcomings disqualify you from being used by the all-power God? As we see so often throughout scripture, God doesn’t choose likely candidates to convey his message, and the extent of what He chooses to do through the lives of His people, though often largely unseen by the individual, can extend for many generations. May we have a rightfully humble view of ourselves yet a rightfully lofty view of our God!

(Post by: Ashley)

Tuesday Topic: Praying For Your Country

What are the major prayer needs for your country or ministry? Would you take a quick moment to share some way that you are asking God to be at work among the people you are serving? Let’s bless one another’s ministries this week through the power of prayer!

***Also, I only have one Tuesday Topic question left in my inbox! If you have any questions that you’d like to see discussed, please email them to: formissionarymoms@gmail.com. The topics can be serious or just for fun. Also, leave me a link to your blog if you’d like me to link to you. Anonymous questions are fine too! Thanks! ~Ashley

Transitions

Our little Jonathan recently began school – a first language French school – for the first time. Yesterday, as he was sharing with us about his day, he told us about working on saying and writing the alphabet (which he already knows, as he is a beginning reader… in English). Suddenly, he stopped and exclaimed: “And Mama, did you know they say zshee for ‘J’ and zshay for ‘G?’ THAT. IS. JUST. WRONG!!!”

We JUST don’t like change, do we? We tend to resist anything that pushes, prods or pulls us from a place of the comfortable recognized to the uncomfortable unknown. Jonathan expressed that rather eloquently, I think, and while we laughed (and laughed… for the look on his face as that realization dawned on him was priceless), my mind was drawn to the present struggles of our present state of transition.

One of the reasons this transition has been more challenging is that we are subleasing a home for a year… someone else’s home, someone else’s furniture, someone else’s guards… after having already “been there, done that” the past year in a missionary house back in the States (I’m not trying to complain, for we are so thankful for both of those provisions, yet this is our reality). So it feels like home, but it isn’t quite… Without a doubt, it is emotionally harder to move back and forth with secondary school children ~ teens. They’d just found where they belonged and we uprooted them to return to a place that isn’t what they left the year before. So, they are back to figuring out where they belong once again when they’d anticipated coming home. But people leave; others grow, looking and sounding different; still others change and have new priorities or a different direction – nothing remains static and so it just isn’t the same.

As I’ve pondered and prayed – then realized that I should first pray and then ponder: How are we to shepherd our children through this time, the Holy Spirit directed my meditations to perhaps the most well known words in the Bible about what it looks like to be a good shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd;

I have all that I need.

He lets me rest in green meadows;

He leads me beside peaceful streams.

He renews my strength.

He guides me along right paths,

bringing honor to His name.

Even when I walk

through the darkest valley,

I will not be afraid,

for you are close beside me.

Your rod and your staff

protect and comfort me.

You prepare a feast for me

in the presence of mine enemies.

You honor me by anointing my head with oil.

My cup overflows with blessings.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me

all the days of my life,

And I will live in the house of the LORD

forever.

Psalm 23 (NLT)

When God blessed us with children, He gave us the privilege of becoming shepherds… one more way we can learn to imitate our God and our Savior. So I read these words, words first stamped onto my heart over 35 years ago, gentle words reminding me how the Good Shepherd cares for me and see a very practical example of how I can shepherd my children.

A doer, it was the verbs that caught my attention. What are things I can do to help my children?

· I can let them rest, making sure our home is a place of security, fun and respite from the stresses in their worlds all around them.

· I can lead – with my words, my actions, my attitudes, my life. Do I approach the challenges with a gentle spirit, accepting and welcoming God’s sovereignty and excited to see what He will do because I know He will work?

· I can renew: revamping harried schedules, repairing wrong attitudes and beliefs, restoring tired hearts, making good on promises and things I’ve said, renovating to salvage the bad and hard days.

· I can guide, showing them again and again that we run to Jesus with our celebrations, challenges and sorrows.

· I can protect through disciplining, both myself and my children as necessary.

· I can comfort, often just by caring about the hard, seemingly little things.

· I can prepare a feast… healthy, nutritious snacks and meals that I know will delight my family… and that time of preparation is a wonderful time to pray for them… or to encourage them to work alongside me and share about/pray through their days.

· I can honor them: respecting their feelings, attitudes and perceptions even when they need repair, admiring their accomplishments and the person God is growing them to be, giving credit where credit is due, protecting their reputations, remembering that they, too, are heirs of the King.

· I can pursue them with goodness and unfailing love, whose source is, of course, the Good Shepherd.

And most importantly, I can trust that in following the example of my Shepherd, He will open the eyes of my children so that they see their cup, too, overflowing with blessings from heaven.

(Post by: Richelle)

A New Contributor!

I am so excited to introduce you to our newest contributor! Actually, if you often read the comments here, you have likely been blessed already by the wisdom and experience that she has to share. Richelle is a blessed mother of eight who lives and serves in ministry in Niger. I have so often been blessed by what Richelle has shared and have been so encouraged by her faith in the Lord that I am absolutely thrilled that she has agreed to share more with here us by becoming a regular contributor.

Richelle’s first post will be up tomorrow, so be sure to check back! In the meantime, feel free to visit her blog “Our ‘Wright’-ing Pad.” Also, I have already added her to our contributors’ page here, but I wanted to included her bio below as well so she can introduce herself to you in her own words.

Richelle, we are so excited to hear the things that that the Lord puts on your heart to share with us!

Howdy! I can’t tell you how excited and delighted I am for the invitation to become a contributor to “Missionary Moms,” because, simply put, that’s just what I am: a missionary wife and mom who strives to love and follow Jesus with my whole heart. He IS my One and Only Savior! There’s nothing better than being married to my best friend, my fellow adventurer and explorer in raising our 8 marvelous gifts from God on the backside of the desert. In addition to baking bread and doing loads of laundry (my two favorite household chores – seriously!), I write scripts for children’s radio programs and teach lots – my kids at home, ladies’ bible studies at church, swimming and water polo at the MK school, special education and effective teaching strategies, whenever and where ever. Spare time is reserved for blogging, scrapbooking, reading and learning a third language. I’ve often stopped by “Missionary Moms” for ideas and encouragement and hope, in God’s grace and strength, to give back just a little of what I’ve received.



Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.