Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Doug's Trip to Mozambique

Last May I was able to visit my son and his family in Mozambique, and it left such an impression on me that I really thought my husband should visit too. Doug was able to spend 18 days with Nathan, and help him in the ministry there. They were able to pass out many John and Romans in the tribal language, and Doug preached in the Sunday services.
Doug couldn't get over how open and friendly the people were and they gladly took the scripture portions and gospel literature. The men and women would come out of their houses and ask for a copy. Nathan said that in some of the homes it would be one of the few books they would own as they are so poor. Rarely would anyone ever turn one down.
The children are so precious and would practically knock Doug over as they pressed in to get a gospel tract or book of John and Romans. Nathan has about 60 children coming to Sunday School, and could really use some more teachers to help him out. Soon he will need a bigger building as they don't all fit inside.
The icing on the cake, of course, was being able to spend some time with Nathan, Emily and the grandkids. It had been nearly four years since we had seen them, and it was good to have some father/son outings and bond with the grandkids. We are so thankful for the opportunity to have gone, and it really makes us appreciate the work they are doing there.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Changing Your Outlook

I often find myself battling negativity. I tell my husband that I am wired that way. I have to bring my thoughts into captivity, as the apostle Paul said. I call myself a "realist" and my husband on the other hand, is an optimist. He always sees the best in people, whereas I readily see their faults and want to protect myself from being hurt. He looks on the bright side, but I see the clouds and prepare for rain.

I am tempted to think that optimists have their head buried in the sand. There are so many problems, trials, and disappointments in life, this is reality. But if we dwell on them, we become depressed. The apostle Paul admonished us:
Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4: 8

Some would say that my husband and I balance each other out. I point out possible problems, concerns, dangers, etc. and he listens to my advice. He reminds me that there is always hope, something to be thankful for in every situation, and to have faith that God will work out everything in the end.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is it a Waste of Time and Money?

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been reading the book Hope Has Wings, the Mission Aviation Fellowhip Story by Stuart King. I am fascinated by missionary stories, mostly because it helps me put things into perspective as I serve the Lord here on the mission field.

Mr. King tells of their pioneer efforts in many African countries--and the hardships they faced building airstrips, dealing with the governments, etc. One country they made a great impact in was in Sudan---the largest country in Africa, geographically. After spending years developing the air strips, constructing medical clinics, missionary housing, etc., civil war forced them to leave the country. Could you imagine investing so much time, energy, and money and then have to leave it all behind? Several years later he returned, only to find their mission station had been decimated--there wasn't even a brick left.

The Sudan government asked them to come back, and so they returned again, spending another seven years rebuilding what had been destroyed--but guess what? Once again civil war broke out, and forced them to leave. Mr. King questioned why, and was it a wasted effort?

One never knows why, and how the hand of God was moving and directing in all of this. It is difficult to put a price tag on missions. Sometimes what we humanly see as a "waste" of money, energy, or resources has a different purpose in God's economy. What price can you put on all the lives and souls of men that were helped physically and spiritually during the time they were allowed to operate within the country?

God operates on an entirely different economy than we do, and the monetary unit is called "faith." I often get discouraged when I look at our bank statement and see all the money we lose changing our dollar into Euros, and the foreign transaction fees we have to pay, not to mention the higher prices we pay for housing and goods here in the Canary Islands. In man's economy, it wouldn't make sense to take such losses.

Is it for naught? Is it really "wasted" money and effort? If you ask all the people who have been helped by the efforts of missionaries worldwide, I think it would become clear that yes, it is worth it, and nothing is ever in vain when it comes to getting out the Gospel to a world that needs to hear the good news.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

American Arrogance

Don't get me wrong, I love my country and am very blessed to be called an American. When we came to the islands, I thought everyone would be in love with the states as well. Much to my surprise, the United States was not the center of the world, and really, not as important to Europeans as I thought it would be.

We have had visitors from the states, and it always tickles me to hear their comments. They make remarks about the style of dress, the fact that men carry "purses," the food, and mannerisms of the people. They tend to think the Europeans are rude and unfriendly. Sometimes I have even groaned in my spirit to hear American teens laughing in the markets as they make fun of certain styles, and not realizing it they offend the vendors. It is as if everything we do in the United States is the "right" way to do things, and we Americans can't understand why they do it differently.

It took me some time to realize that my Spanish friends probably were tired of me telling them "that in the states" we do it this way, or "en los estados unidos......." as I would continually be making comparisons as to how things were much better or ran smoother in our country. It was so boorish of me. Of course we were just expressing ourselves and sharing what we love about our country, but I found that I had to be careful not to sound prideful.

There might be a good reason for why they do things differently. Here is just one example. In one of my driving lessons I was complaining about the way the traffic signals were so confusing to me as an American. My Spanish driving instructor pointed out something to me one day as he explained why the driving system in Spain is so different than in the US. He said that Europe is very old, and that the US is very young, relatively speaking. When they built the roads in Europe, they weren't able to adapt them to the motor vehicle very well. Spaces in Europe are small, and it makes for many challenges when trying to put in roads when old buildings were in place long before the automobile came around. In contrast, the United States is such a wide open country that they were able to design roads and plan them accordingly with more forethought. It made me realize that the way they do things in Europe have evolved over a period of thousands of years, whereas in the states people immigrated with fresh ideas and with open minds that bred creativity.

As Americans we need to appreciate their culture and be careful not to make them feel defensive or inferior just because we think the "American Way" is the better way.

Being Transparent

As a missionary wife, I use this blog to communicate from my perspective the life that we experience here on the mission field. So many times, missionaries only share the side of life that they want people to see, giving a misleading idea of what it is truly like to live and serve in a foreign country.

I have written before about the "romance" of missions. It seems like such a glorious task, and it is--to share the gospel to the regions beyond. It is a high calling. With it comes tremendous responsibility, as we represent our Lord as ambassadors for Christ. Lately I have been struggling with an onslaught of negative emotions--loneliness, isolation, disappointment, hopelessness, feeling forgotten, fears of the future, etc. and I was wondering what was wrong with me. I realized that more than ever before I needed God to intervene on my behalf, and I sought His help and strength to get me through the trial I was experiencing. He answered and brought healing and peace to my mind, as I claimed His promises from His word.

Currently I am reading a book written by a dear missionary friend of mine who has been in Italy for nearly 30 years. They have been faithful to a field that is certainly a difficult place to start a "Baptist" church, or any type of evangelical church for that matter. They really don't understand the differences between any religion that isn't Catholic. To them we are all a cult but hopefully that is changing as they become exposed to various cultures. I appreciate her honesty and transparency as she shares from the heart the trials that every missionary goes through as they endeavor to learn the language, the culture, and the rejection they experience from people who are basically indifferent or closed to Biblical Christianity. It brought comfort to know that she too had the same trials and conflicts that I have been experiencing.

In many ways the Canary Islands are similar to Italy in that they share the European culture and mindset. Years of tradition, and humanistic teaching among the younger generation has produced apathy--and we see much of that in the United States as well, but not to the same degree. In the states there is at least a flicker of light shining--Christian radio stations broadcast freely, there is a remnant of gospel preaching churches, and we are still the greatest missionary sending country in the world.

Pray for your missionaries as they labor in the field. A dear friend of mine recently told me that I was on her heart--and for good reason. She didn't know of the deep trials that I had been going through, but God did. I am convinced that the prayers of the saints carry us through when sometimes we feel powerless to utter anything but the simpliest of prayers, but those are the kind God hears.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hope Has Wings

Recently one of my Spanish friends gave me a book in English, Hope Has Wings, The Mission Aviation Fellowship Story by Stuart King. I find it fascinating, not only because it tells of the challenges faced by the missionaries living in developing countries who pioneered aviation missions in Africa and around the world, but because my own daughter Hannah is engaged to a missionary pilot, David Helzerman, and soon it will be their way of life too.

I marvel at the women who have followed their husbands to developing countries where supplies are few, disease rampant, and weather unbearable at times. I complain about the smallest setbacks, like not being able to drive yet here in the Canary Islands, or about my occasional loneliness or homesickness, but then I read about these women who buried their children on the mission field, knowing that only had they been able to receive adequate medical attention their children would have lived.

Sometimes we think that these women were somehow different than we are, perhaps some super human woman that could handle these things better than we can--but in all actuality they had the same struggles with emotions and vulnerabilities as we all do, but through their reliance upon God they somehow managed to see past the sufferings and endure the hardships and challenges that they faced each day.