While we were on a recent trip to the US to celebrate our son’s graduation from college, I picked up a magazine whose theme for the issue was living with intentionality. As I’ve perused the articles and read of how others apply intentional living in their choices and surroundings, I began to ask myself how I am living intentionally, or better, am I living intentionally at all?
Al Toledo is a pastor in Chicago. At the recent Missionary Renewal in Springfield, Al took us through his study from Psalm 1. The third verse says, "....that person is like a tree planted by streams of water....." This refers to ones private health. The rest of verse three says"....which yields its fruit in season and whose lead does not wither----whatever they do prospers." This refers to ones public fruitfulness.
The life of Moses is a classic example of “The Long Game” and how God shaped him through a series of instances that were both unbelievable and totally unexplainable at the time they occurred. Moses' mother placed him in the water without any idea of where that simple act might lead. He was found by Pharaoh's daughter and taken to the palace to be raised as royalty in the Egyptian court. When he reached adulthood, he watched an Egyptian slave master beating a Hebrew, and in an angry response Moses took the life of the Egyptian. When the murder became known, Moses fled to the land of Midian to take refuge from the Egyptian authorities. There, he labored as a shepherd for forty years among the flocks of his father in law, Jethro. After those years had passed, the oppression of the Jews had become so intense that God took notice of their plight and appeared to Moses in the burning bush. It was there that God called him to be the great liberator of the nation of Israel.
A man broke into our house in the middle of the night.
We were living in a sweet little neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota full of charming 1930’s bungalows with one and a half stories, hard wood floors, and gardens with tomato patches and rows of petunias. Charles Schultz, the creator of The Peanuts comic strip, grew up in the house on the corner of our street. A friendly police officer lived across the street from us, and two older, single women lived on either side of us. I hung a tire swing from the silver maple in our backyard. We were first time home owners and parents with young children, so this peaceful tree lined street seemed like the perfect place to nest.
Before being called to serve in Ecuador, I spent almost fifteen years as an Assistant Physical Therapist by day and On-Call Emergency/Orthopedic Technician by night. During that time, I was privileged to serve people at their best and at their worst; I also discovered there was no shortage of real-time applications of Biblical principles.
For two months my family and I have lived in Costa Rica. We have lived in apartment block A2 at CINCEL language school trying to learn Spanish, before heading to Guatemala. For two months we have looked out the same window, staring at the tin slated roofs. We have stared into the beauty beyond the city-- the trees, the birds, and the mountains that are covered with clouds each day. Mountains so tall, yet I could still make out the little antennas near the top that grasp to reach the sky. Little did I know what we were actually fixing our eyes on each day, what beautiful thing entranced me each morning.
In 2009 I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer, and it felt like the straw that might break
the camel’s back. My family and I had been serving as missionaries in Mexico City
when our youngest “bonus baby” was born with some major health issues. The first
year and a half of her life I spent taking her from specialist to specialist seeking
answers. We were under so much stress, it’s hard to fathom how we kept this child
alive except by the grace of God. This was the time when Mexico City was upgraded
by the U.S. State Department to “more dangerous than Colombia” in regards to
murders and kidnappings of U.S. Citizens. Daily the news carried stories of roadside
graves filled with headless corpses and towns terrorized by warring drug cartels. We
didn’t go out at night. It was dangerous to travel from the capital city to the border by
car. We were harassed daily by corrupt police officers looking for bribes from
foreigners. Our house was robbed. Our car was stolen. The Swine Flu Epidemic was
just beginning. And now the doctors were telling us that they had done everything they
could for our sick baby. They told us to go home, she would not survive here.
Last year, in the middle of August, we arrived on the mission field to begin language school. Just nine days after we left for the field, the great state and our home state, Texas, was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Here we are, new MAs just getting settled in to our new home, while our home back in the States and all our family and friends are getting slammed by this storm. We wanted so badly to jump on the next plane out so we could be a service to our home state and town. Our hands were tied and we were unable to go and help those in need.
Move over, Elastigirl! I've been stretched to the point I'd give our beloved superhero a run for her money. I don’t like it when things don’t go the way I anticipated they would. Honestly, I don’t think anybody likes it when things don’t go their way. After all, expectation is everything, right? Living on the mission field has stretched me in ways I never imagined. Maybe Elastigirl can give you a visual picture of how I generally feel. Unfortunately, it's often painful and I feel like anything but a superhero!
“Read your Bible and pray every day.” Perhaps you have heard this advice as the answer for how to grow in God. While it rings true, sometimes our surface application diminishes its impact. Yet, the fact remains, if we are to be effective in our obedience to God, we must habitually commune with Jesus. Yes, the difference between success and failure on the mission field includes understanding the culture and gaining linguistic proficiency, but far more crucial is maintaining one’s lifeline to Jesus.
If I were totally honest with myself, I would admit that I have mixed feelings about Christmas overseas. It’s when homesickness hits me the most, and yet I can appreciate the simplicity of the holidays away from the deluge of American Materialism. I remind myself frequently, “It’s not wrong, it’s just different.” I have to deliberately look for the beauty in a holiday season that is so different from what I am accustomed to.
Confession of a missionary wife:
People ask me what I do, and my first thought, maybe not always my answer, is that I am a mom. Being a mom is hard. Being a mom with children living outside their passport countries is harder. I constantly ask, would "this" be as hard if we were in the states, would "this" be the same… And as a mom of two tall teenage daughters, are the shorts and dresses this short in the states?
I grew up in a small town church in Indiana. We had missionaries visit pretty frequently and every single one became a hero to me. They had these amazing stories about bringing people to the Lord. Their lives were so exciting and that seemed foreign to me. Needless to say, when God called me to be a missionary it seemed like a pretty daunting task.