Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Million Dollar Question

So many Christian parents today are asking the million dollar question, how do you raise happy, well adjusted children that love the Lord in this world with it cultural onslaught of degradation, temptation, and peer pressure that constantly tugs at our hearts? Many young parents are desperately seeking answers, as they have seen the destruction that has affected so many young people. Some have devoted their entire ministry to help families in need, providing resources such as books and seminars for what seemingly has worked for them.

I am thankful for such ministries, as we have gleaned a multitude of wisdom from watching other Christian families struggle with some of the same issues that we have. But as with anything, there is a balance--I have seen some families try to "copy" another family or ministry by implementing their philosophies of child training, home schooling, courtship, college, etc. only to set themselves up for failure and frustration.

For example, there are many "perfect" looking families that we would all like to emulate, when we go to their homes they all seem to love each other so perfectly, always are obedient to their parents, and their home looks so orderly that even the cupboards are alphabetized. They get up with a cheerful smile on their faces at 6 am, ready to jump out of bed, read their Bibles and start their homeschooling at 8 am, without any distractions or complaining. Then we go home feeling like "what is wrong with me?" or "I am a terrible mother and homeschooling teacher, etc.."

The older I get, the more I appreciate Christians who keep things "real." I am kind of relieved when I go to some one's house and find a few dust balls behind the furniture, or a sign of a few imperfections--it gives me hope, that maybe I am not the only one who struggles to get everything done, or occasionally raises her voice at her kids, or even (I am getting real honest here) has an occasional spat with her husband. I am not justifying my sinful behaviour in anyway, because deep down inside I desire to be a better mother and wife, and am constantly working on those areas where I fall short.

So when people ask me, how do you raise godly children? I am not exactly sure how to answer them. First of all, I still have young children at home, and the final chapter of our life story has not been written. Even if your children are grown and married, our measure of success is demonstrated in how they raise their children--so if we succeed in raising our own children for the Lord, I will only feel satisfied until I see my grandchildren and future generations carrying the torch of our faith.

Secondly, the minute you try to imitate or copy someone else's family or ideas, you are neglecting the individuality of your family and their unique set of circumstances and situations. Without sounding too cliche, God didn't create us to be "cookie cutter" Christians. Of course the Bible is our guide and final authority, but even the letter of the law has to be tempered with the grace of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus as II Corintians 3: 6 tells us "for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." We are also admonished in I Corinthians 8: 1 that "Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth." Parents need to prayerfully seek God's wisdom on how to apply the Bible for every situation that comes up in our daily lives, not just look at other people and how they handle a particular situation, although we can learn from them. Well meaning parents can destroy their children by applying the law without the Spirit of God.

Sometimes you have to be willing to step outside the box of popular opinion--not worrying about what others will think, as long as you know that you have God's direction and guidance on that situation, and it doesn't violate the Scriptures in anyway, and you have also sought the counsel of your spiritual authorities. A good example of this in our lives was when we sent our two older daughters to Bible college, while we are on the field here in the Canary Islands. Some of our peers couldn't understand how we could do such a thing, sending them several thousand miles across the ocean. This has been a lengthy blog entry, so I will continue this topic in my next entry.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

One Year Anniversary

Today marked an important milestone in our ministry, the one year anniversary of our little church here in the Canary Islands. We came to Tenerife two years ago in April, and for one year met for Bible study in a young couple's apartment, with the desire to have church services as soon as we could find a suitable location to meet. The rents for store fronts are very expensive here in Santa Cruz, costing well over $900-1200 per month and not everyone wants to rent to a church, so we made it a matter of prayer. We could not afford anything near that amount.

The Lord opened up the doors for us to rent a place where they hold neighborhood meetings, parties, educational classes, etc. and they only charge us $125 per month! It is perfect for our needs right now, and is close to the city mission--so we have many opportunities for outreach.

One year ago we started our Sunday morning services, with our family and a few men, and the Lord has blessed. When we first came, I thought it would be nearly impossible to get a church started in this country of hard hearts--but through much diligence, hard work, and prayer the Lord is helping us in our endeavors. It surely isn't easy, and one must keep their eyes on the Lord to provide encouragement as often we see people come and go, but we are thankful to have this opportunity to make a difference in a few lives that the Lord has brought our way.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Home Sweet Home

We have been counting the days until our beloved daughter Hannah would return here to the Canary Islands for summer break from college. Finally the big day arrived! Leanna would not let go of her big sister, she was so joyful to see her again. It is such a good feeling to have your loved ones with you. I don't miss the states, but I do miss my family and friends that live there! I am thankful that we will have Hannah with us for a few months.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Grandparents Again!

We are pleased to announce that Joseph Benjamin arrived safely into this world May 16th! Amy is doing well, and things went smoothly for them (I don't know if that is a good way to describe the pain of childbirth though).

Children are such a blessing, and we delight in our grandchildren, even if we don't get to see them "in person."

Friday, May 8, 2009

God's Miraculous Provision

My son called yesterday to wish me a Happy Mother's day, and he told us this amazing story of how God supplied a need in his life.

A few months ago Nathan and his family had to return to the states for a short furlough in order to renew visas, and it was a sudden, unplanned return so I am sure a lot of resources were spent buying airline tickets, unexpected travel expenses, etc. Upon their return in New York, they were able to drive the minivan they had left at his in-laws before they left for Mozambique two years ago. If any of you know anything about missionaries, they put LOTS of miles on their vehicles during deputation, so even though it was a fairly decent van, it had gotten to the point where the transmission was shot, and it would not go into fourth gear--meaning it couldn't go faster than 50 mph, and made a funny whining noise.

It wasn't exactly the kind of vehicle you would want to take on long distance trips, but since they would only be in the states for a few months, they really didn't want to make a huge investment in a newer vehicle. They had been driving it for the past couple months, even making a trip to Chicago--but at any point it could go out on them. Emily's dad is a mechanic, so they were going to try and replace the transmission, and even with him doing the labor it would cost about $1500 to replace. Nathan was planning a two month road trip with the entire family, visiting their supporting churches from Ohio to Miami, Florida, and as far west as Missouri, then back up to New York again. They are leaving this weekend--so something had to be done.

Earlier in the week Nathan was driving down the road close to where they are living, when a man in a van was behind him, honking and trying to get Nathan's attention. Nathan couldn't figure out what he wanted--at first he thought maybe he was mad at him, some sort of road rage, or that he thought Nathan had hit him--so Nathan just kept on driving knowing that he hadn't done anything wrong. He was a little concerned, especially in this day of drive by shootings, etc. In Mozambique to pull over on the side of the road would probably cost your life, and even in America you would think twice but the man was relentless, and wouldn't let up. Finally Nathan pulled into a gas station, parking by the front door--he figured at least he would have a lot of people around him for help. The man jumped out of his van and approached Nathan.

As it turned out, the man noticed Nathan was driving the exact same model van he had. He was getting ready to turn it in to the junk yard because the engine was bad, but wanted to know if Nathan needed any parts or transmission before he did so. What do you know, the transmission of this man's van was still in working condition, so Nathan ended up buying it for $175, and the man threw in a travel rack for free, which will be a great place for luggage.

The man pulled out the transmission for Nathan, and with the help of his father-in-law they installed it into his van-- and it WORKS!! Nathan is so pleased that his van can now go into fourth gear, drive on the highway at 65 mph, and no noise!

When Nathan told me the story, I was amazed. How would this man just happen to see Nathan at that time and place, have the same exact make and model, and even think to ask Nathan if he needed a transmission or other parts? Of course, at first it probably seemed a little scary, but God does work in mysterious ways. He is so amazing, He knows just what we need!