New series: Coffee with a Missionary! Check out our first video interview with Ashley and Meredith Penley on raising a family on the mission field.
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.
It's amazing how comfortable you can become in your craziness, you know what I mean?! Like most busy moms out there, I too find my days full to the brim. Between homeschooling our four children, (1st, 3rd, 7th and 8th grade) taking care of household duties, finances, cooking, not to count 'outside the home' duties as director of a girls home to over 40 young girls, Pastor's wife, ministry team, etc... there isn't much more time in the day! However, for the last year, something has been pulling at my heart strings... I want to do more . . .
I remember waking to my 8 AM alarm that Spring morning, my phone buzzing on the floor next to my bed. The sun cast warm rays over Lake Michigan and stretched its golden fingers down my street, through the trees and into my dorm room. My eyes adjusted and all at once I remembered my flight to Houston left in just a few hours. Groggily, I reached for my phone and silenced the chirping... That’s when the text came.
Of the 640 million people in Latin America Caribbean, 550 million have yet to encounter the grace of Jesus Christ. In light of this unfinished task, a question has often been raised: Does God want us to continue to plant the church in this region, or to mobilize missionaries from these nations to reach the world?
I remember the first baby dedication I ever officiated as a missionary in Bolivia. I felt so privileged to be a part of a young indigenous family’s journey with Christ – that is, until I was told about them afterward. My heart sank as I learned that earlier that morning, the young couple had gone to a Catholic service to have their baby baptized, and the day before to an Incan witch doctor to have a spell cast on it for protection . . .
It was 1997 and we were working in a small church in central Ohio. John was the music minister and I co-youth leader/missions director. One day an unsolicited invite showed up in my mailbox. The caption on the postcard read “Caribbean Youth Mission Trip.” My heart jumped. And for the next few months I campaigned hard to convince the other youth pastors, senior pastor, and parents that a trip to Haiti was in the best interest of our teens. The opposition was fierce but in the end the trip was approved and in July of 1998 twelve youth and four adults filled a mini van drove to Florida boarded a plane which later landed in Haiti. And all hell broke lose! My mistake? I didn’t understand the importance of spiritual preparation . . .
In a few hours I would be touching down in Houston, TX ready to attend the World Missions Summit 4. I sat there excited and eager for what was to come. Of course, I didn’t actually know exactly what was to come. All I knew was that thousands of college students and hundreds of missionaries were about to come together in an attempt to see what impact could be made on reaching a lost world for Jesus. And I knew that many hours, days and months of prayer and fasting had gone into the event. I didn’t know what to expect yet had great expectation. I couldn’t wait to see what exactly it was that I couldn’t wait for . . .
I grew up the son of an Assembly of God Pastor. For as long as I can remember, that reality gave me an identity and also came with preconceived ideas from others. I wish I could say that I did everything I could to distance myself from that perception of a pastor’s kid, but I didn’t. So when I began to feel a draw into full-time ministry and the pastorate, it scared me death. I couldn’t understand why God would want to use someone like me, a person that had lived with more doubt than faith at times . . .