Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Reluctant Missionary

Lately I have been skimming through a book that was given to me by a pastor's wife back in the US during a mission conference--To Cross the Widest Ocean by Becky Martin. It has a lot of practical advice for missionary wives, written by a woman who has lived in the Philippines for over 30 years with her husband. When I find myself complaining in my heart about things, I take it and read what other women have gone through on the mission field and it makes me feel encouraged to know that other missionary wives have felt the same way as me. It also makes me feel like a crumb--when I consider all the hardships others have faced without seemingly a word of complaint.

One of the chapters deals with your attitude, and how important it is with everything you do in life. She referred to a passage from a book about "the reluctant missionary," which I have yet to find on the internet, but think it would be a good one for me to read. We all know the famous story about Jonah being a reluctant missionary, and how he did not want to go to Nineveh and preach. Sometimes I feel like that too.

When my husband was called to the Canary Islands, the Lord had to do a work in my heart preparing me to return to the mission field. We had served in Mexico in the early years of our marriage, and learned a great deal about ourselves and I had pretty much decided that I would not want to go on deputation again.

Fast forward about seven years, and through a series of events my husband became a full time chaplain with a gospel preaching ministry, which meant moving from my family in Ohio to Rochester NY, but a move I was willing to make because God had prepared my heart. I knew this was what my husband was called to do, and even though part of my husband's job would be fundraising for the ministry, it would be done locally and we wouldn't have to travel all over the US. It also had a starting salary, so we wouldn't be starting from scratch, and had health benefits, which was also a blessing.

I was comfortable--the jail ministry wasn't too demanding on my part-- my husband enjoyed his work, and all was well. We had become involved in a good church, and my children were growing spiritually. Then after five years, the Lord began dealing with my husband about returning to foreign missions. I knew deep down in my heart that perhaps this would happen, but wasn't really excited about selling our home, giving up a good salary, leaving our church family, and starting over.

Little by little the Lord began chiseling away at my heart. At first I was opposed to letting go of everything, starting over, and taking the leap of faith from the secure world of the ministry my husband was in, to giving all that up and having no guaranteed income--and I think that is what held me back the most, the financial aspect.

Once I realised that there would be no peace in my heart until I gave in, I surrendered, and held up the white flag so to speak. I was amazed at how the Lord worked everything out, and provided for us in ways we could never imagine. One of the first few months after Doug left the jail ministry, a lady we never even met that lived in our neighborhood sent us a $1000 check! The Lord knew just what we needed. Everything that I was afraid of never happened.

I wish I could say that I was excited from the very start, and that I always encouraged my husband to follow what God was leading him to do without doubting, but I can't. I can say that the Lord is faithful, and will do the work in our hearts if we let Him.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

It's a Small World

When I look at an atlas of the world, and see the tiny speck of land that we live on, called the island of Tenerife, it amazes me how God has directed our steps, and puts us in the path of other people with whom we have some sort of connection.

When I was seventeen years old, I was a foreign exchange student with the Rotary Club. First a young girl my age came and spent six weeks in our home in Ohio, and then I returned to Finland and lived in her home for the same amount of time. It was a wonderful experience that I will always remember. Kirsti and I remained friends, writing each other on occasion, but through the years it became a matter of exchanging Christmas cards and an occasional email.

Several years back when I was living in Ohio, I recall receiving a card from Kirsti with a return address of Tenerife. I never heard of it--and had to look it up on a map. It was part of the Canary Islands, a place I only had ever heard of because my grandparents had traveled there a few times and had really loved their trips there.

As life went on, I lost touch with Kirsti, and to be honest I kind of forgot about where she was living, etc. We moved to New York, and Doug was working in the jail ministry, and I never heard from her again. Then in 2003 Doug was feeling the Lord call him back into foreign missions, and felt the Lord pointing him toward Africa. I told him "Wouldn't it make more sense if the Lord called us to a Spanish speaking country since we already speak Spanish?"

"Yes, it would, replied Doug, but I have to go where the Lord is directing." Then through much prayer and guidance through the Word of God, the Lord clearly gave him direction about the islands from Isaiah 42. It then became very clear to Doug that God was calling us to the Canary Islands, which are just off the coast of Africa, and praise the Lord, they speak Spanish!

It was then that the Lord brought back to my mind that I had a friend living on a small island near Africa, which was part of the Canary Islands, and it dawned on me it was the island of Tenerife. When we made a survey trip to the islands, I was able to visit Kirsti and she took us up to the top of Mt. Teide. As we were praying about which island to start working on first, the Lord directed my husband to start on Tenerife, and we were living only minutes from my friend Kirsti. Who else could have arranged something like that but God?

Another interesting event was a few weeks ago when we met Chesster, who is from the Philippines and has been living here for six years. As it turns out, his brother lives in Columbus Ohio and attends one of our supporting churches there. Chesster also has attended a church in the Philippines where many of our supporting churches have sent their pastors and have a large mission work there. Just another example of how the Lord directs our steps, no matter where in the world you go.