Monday, June 22, 2009

Update from the Islands

Hard to believe we are almost at the end of June. The public schools are just letting out over here, and we finished our home school nearly a month ago, so I have been supplementing our Bob Jones curriculum with Spanish grammar, vocabulary and spelling. Rebekah is also learning how to crochet, and continues with piano and violin. Recently we purchased a small trampoline for the backyard, and it is a great place for Leanna to expend some of her boundless energy.

Hannah has been home for a month, and she brought a friend home with her for a few weeks, David Helzerman. They have been corresponding since last Thanksgiving, are courting and seeking God's will for the future. He is called to be an aviation pilot to Papua New Guinea, and has completed his pilot training (he even took Hannah on a ride in Michigan for a family reunion) and now has two years of training in aircraft mechanics. I am sure that will be valuable since he will have to service the aircraft himself on the field. Lord willing, he is coming back in the middle of August for another week. We enjoy his fellowship, sweet spirit, and sense of humor. We would like to keep him here if we could.

Hannah was also blessed to get a part-time summer job here, working for our next door neighbors who just had a baby. She will be cleaning and babysitting a few hours per day. This will help pay for her books when she returns to Fairhaven in the fall.

We had a bit of a scare a week ago, when one of the men living in the Men's home disappeared without telling ANYONE! He had just been baptized a week ago, and has been faithfully doing the Bible studies with Doug every week, and attending church faithfully. He left his cell phone and all his belongings in his room, so naturally we were fearing the worst. We contacted the police, hospitals, but no one heard anything from him for several days. Finally about five days later he came back. He had admitted himself in the hospital but couldn't contact anyone. We were so relieved to see him again.

The Lord has been blessing in our church services, and yesterday we had two new visitors. One woman just got here from Argentina, and doesn't live too far from us. She seemed to enjoy the services and wants to continue. Doug has been having some good studies in our Sunday School hour, and everyone is learning a lot of Bible truth and we are seeing spiritual growth, which is always encouraging.

Doug is planning a short mission trip to the island of El Hierro this week with his German missionary friend Rudy Thomas, and a few men from our church. So far they have taken trips to Gran Canary, La Gomera, and La Palma. El Hierro is the smallest island and perhaps one of the least evangelized.

Jenny is having a good summer, traveling with the college ensemble from Fairhaven Baptist College. So far they have been to Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan,Alabama, and soon will be in Canada, and then heading east for the remainder of the summer. Jenny plans on spending her final week of the summer in our home church in Rochester, New York, before heading back to college in the fall.

And me? I continue to do the same necessary things, like cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping...........................and when I have free time I am reading a biography of Adoniram Judson, To the Golden Shore, by Courtney Anderson. I highly recommend this to anyone considering missions, or who desires to have a deeper appreciation of the price others have paid to give the gospel to foreign lands.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Something to Think About

Parents, imagine receiving a letter in the mail from a potential "suitor" for one of your beloved daughters that reads something like this:

"I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter
early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from the heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?"

That was a letter written by the young missionary Adoniram Judson, taken from the biography of his life, To the Golden Shore" by Courtney Anderson. The father, John Hasseltine, left the decision to his daughter Nancy (also known as Ann), giving her his blessing. She would later die on the field of Burma, making this letter a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This was back in the 1800's, and a lot has changed in missions since then, but dying on the field isn't necessarily out of the question, as we have seen missionaries killed in such fields as the Philippines, Mexico, and South America.

Back at a missionary conference at our home church in New York, I surrendered all of my children to the mission field, if that is what the Lord would see fit to do in their lives. After all, their entire upbringing centered around world missions, first in Mexico, then in Rochester NY as they saw their father work tirelessly in the jail to preach the gospel, and then as he surrendered to return to the foreign mission field later in life. Our children always had world missions in front of them, whether attending mission conferences, or serving as missionaries themselves, holding backyard Bible clubs, taking mission trips, and sacrificing financially to support missionaries abroad. It was as if it was in their blood, and what drove our family and gave us purpose.

I am reminded of the late Jim Elliot, who gave his life trying to reach the Auca Indians of Ecuador, who wrote in his diary:
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

Also, the words of Jesus Christ himself, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16: 25,26

So as Christian parents, it is not wise to hinder your children in pursuing God's will for their life. If you think being a missionary is too difficult, too dangerous, too much suffering, remember, the safest place for anyone is in the center of God's will.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Deputation Experiences

When we married twenty-seven years ago, my husband was called to God's service as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I knew that I was marrying a missionary, and at the time we were headed to the mission field of Mexico, although I didn't fully understand what all that would entail--I kind of had "on the job" training.

I was nineteen when we married, and was very insecure. I worried about what everyone thought of me, our ministry, and our children. We were doing what is known as "deputation," which basically is traveling around the United States, presenting your ministry to other like minded independent Baptist churches with the intention of raising financial and prayer support for your ministry. I wasn't sure what was expected of me, and in fairness to all missionaries out there doing deputation, it is impossible to be everything to everyone, as every pastor and church has different expectations. I did my best to represent our family and the Lord in a way that was pleasing to Him, but many times I felt inadequate, inexperienced, and not spiritual enough. I always looked up to the older missionaries, wishing I could be more like them.

They call deputation kind of a "boot camp" for missionary preparedness, because if you can survive the rigors of traveling and being in a different church several times a week, you can probably survive on the foreign field. Nothing I had ever experienced in my life prepared me for deputation--we were a newlywed couple living on a shoestring, and in a matter of three years had three young toddlers. It was stressful to say the least. I always felt like my children had to behave perfectly, not touching anything, just sitting quietly, etc. I am thankful I had good kids, but even so, they all need time to play, run, explore, let off energy, etc.

Sometimes you would travel in the car for hours, arriving at a church for a meeting, with frayed nerves from crying babies, or sometimes even sick babies, no family doctor in the area, etc. I remember meeting pastors smelling like sour milk or even worse if our kids were throwing up along the highway. Or maybe your car would break down on the way, or you would get lost--(this was in the day before Map Quest and GPS). Ever try sleeping in a different bed every night? I don't think it is possible to ever feel totally rested on deputation.

You felt the pressure to always "put your best foot forward" so to speak, and rightfully so, because the short time that you spend in a church is their only clue to what your true character is about. They want to invest their hard earned missionary dollars in a family who is going to represent them in a way that reflects their values and convictions. People work hard and give sacrificially to help missionaries make it to the field, so I understand completely how they have to examine the missionaries they support carefully.

Even still, I always felt blessed to be in a church that allowed missionaries to "be themselves" and didn't put pressure on you to be "perfect." Some pastors have the ability to make you feel like you can relax a little and be real. Of course more is expected from the families of missionaries and pastors because we are to be examples to the flock, and that is Biblical--but at the same time we are human and want to be given a little room to breath and make mistakes just like anyone else.

Doing deputation the second time, for the Canary Islands, was much easier than the first time back in the 1980's. Most of it had to do with the fact that we were in our forties rather than our twenties. I had matured a little, and realized that most pastors do understand how difficult it is to be on the road, and do everything they can to understand what we are going through and make us feel comfortable when we get there. I was able to be myself, and realized that you can't please everyone, but just worry about pleasing the Lord. The most important thing is that people see Christ in you.

Missionaries have to make difficult decisions at times. As much as we wanted to always travel together as a family, sometimes circumstances dictated that I stayed home. Some churches required us to be there as a family, and we tried to comply with the pastors wishes. But sometimes missionaries have to make decisions based on the needs of their families. Being on the road made it difficult to maintain some normalcy of routine in home school. It was sometimes impossible for all of us to go. It is easier to travel as a family when all of your children are young, in my opinion. As they get older they often have activities that they want to be involved in at their home church. Sometimes health reasons would keep me from traveling all the time as well, as my allergies often made it difficult to go into different homes all the time. Some missionaries have special diets that are easier to follow if they can cook for themselves, so traveling makes it much more difficult.

One of the things that I have learned is not to criticize missionaries for the decisions they make, even when you don't think you would do it that way (and I am not referring to things that are sin, rather preferences). It amazes me how Christians like to criticize others for the way they do things, but have never "walked in their shoes." Have you ever tried doing what they do? It isn't as easy as you think. It sounds adventurous and exciting to be a missionary, but most of the time it is just plain hard work and requires much endurance. Missionaries need our prayer, support and encouragement, not our criticism.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Baptism in Candelaria, Tenerife

Today was a really great day here for us in the Canary Islands, as two people followed the Lord in Believer's baptism. Margarita received Jesus Christ about a seven or eight months ago, after her husband had been praying and fasting for her. She has been coming to church and studying the Bible with us.

Doug met Joakim near our church one day on visitation, and invited him to our services. He received the Lord and has been coming faithfully ever since, and is also doing a Bible course and attends our Friday Bible study.

After the baptism we went to the Men's home and Pedro fixed us all a huge dish of Spanish cuisine--all kinds of seafood-- prawns, squid, and other types of fish with noodles. We had a great time of fellowship.