Friday, March 30, 2012

Helpful Tax Information for Foreign Missionaries

I always get a little confused when trying to understand tax rules, especially for missionaries living overseas. I found this article helpful. It seems to explain some of the complicated issues we face.

I am not endorsing the church group or their beliefs.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Prayer Letter No One Wants to Write

As missionaries, a valuable tool of communication we have with our supporting churches and partners in the ministry is the prayer letter. In this age of technology, it has become even easier to share what we are doing, the progress, and requests we have for prayer as we labor together for the Lord.

There is also a temptation to feel the need to report all the positive reports that we all like to hear--conversions to Christ, baptisms, lives being changed, etc. It seems the seal of a "good" missionary is the fruit and visible results that can be seen.

We support several missionaries as a family and receive various prayer letters via email. While we are happy for the churches that are doing great, seeing many people come, etc. it can also be discouraging when you compare what is going on in your field to what is happening in other seemingly more fruitful fields of harvest.

We read of ministries in Africa where they are bursting at the seams with many in attendance, or a first service in Central or South America where 70 people showed up the first day, or in the Philippines where souls seem to be flocking to church, etc. We've all seen the slides and presentations of the "fruit" we can see. But what missionary ever takes a picture on the day when it is just him and his family that shows up? Yes, it happens.

Some of us are laboring in fields where the soil is as hard as a rock. We plant, we water, we do everything that we know to do. We have children's Bible clubs, we try doing good works, such as feeding the homeless, ministering to the inmates in jails, putting up public announcements on billboards with scripture, going to nursing homes, public schools, finding every open door of oppportunity to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. We try to shine as lights to a dark world, having a good testimony among our neighbors and yet we can't see where it is doing any good. We see a few people respond here and there, get saved, baptized, and endure for a time, but in the whole scheme of things we are tempted to feel like we are not gaining any ground.

I wonder if our prayer letters seem as "exciting" or encouraging to read. What if we were brutally honest, and told of all the days we labor, feeling discouraged about the lack of interest, the coldness and complacent attitudes, the indifference, etc. Maybe our prayer letters would read a little differently if we could be more honest about our trials that we are facing without fear that we would be judged or lose support if we revealed what we are really experiencing on a day to day basis.

We love to read missionary accounts of the great men of old, like Judson, Taylor, Carey, Livingstone, Brainerd, etc. They labored through the most difficult circumstances and often worked many years before they saw visible results. Were they "bad" missionaries because they didn't see a new soul come to Christ every week? Did their churches immediately bloom and grow overnight? Then why should we expect the same of the modern day missionary?

Pray for your missionaries as you never know what they are enduring. We are all subject to the same temptations of discouragement, loneliness, heartache, disappointment. As a missionary living far from "home" we often feel isolated, forgotten, and tempted to think we are not making a difference. It is vital that we communicate the whole story and present an accurate picture.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice

The Lord has blessed us with five daughters and one son. They all have their special qualities that endear them to my heart. Four of them are married, and you never quit worrying/thinking about them even after they have left the home.

Today we are celebrating Rebekah's birthday, and I think back to when we found out I was expecting our fifth child. I had returned to college to finish my degree--I was a junior at Wright State University and had won a full academic scholarship upon graduating from Edison Community College. My first four children were in a private Christian school, and my dream was to get my teaching degree so I could teach at their school. I really enjoyed going to college and the atmosphere, along with the challenge of having a family and studying full time. Even after Rebekah was born, I was able to teach Spanish in their school until I decided to stay home full time and home school my children instead.

Unknown to me, my husband had been praying that we would have more children--and one of our daughters was praying for a sister, I believe it was Jenny. My sister allowed us to babysit her toddler (at the time--now he is 16!) and the baby bug bit, and God answered their prayers. Children are so delightful to have in the home. I remember taking a statistics course during the summer, and feeling the urge to sleep all the time. I managed to make it through the course, and finished my semester.

Jenny was nine years old when Rebekah was born, so it had been a long time since I had a baby. It was like starting all over again. We were living in Ohio at the time, so I enjoyed having family around. I remember feeling like the oldest woman in the church nursery, and I was! Having a baby when you are a little older is so much fun--you are more relaxed, and the older children were a big help to me--something I didn't have when they were little.

Rebekah's middle name is Joy, and is so fitting. She has only brought joy into our lives. She has a servant's heart, and prefers others. She is soft spoken, patient, kind, unselfish, and loves the Lord. I am thankful the God has given us such a beautiful young lady in our home.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March Musings

Mr. Philbrick joked he was on his 56th plate!

Eating at the Japanese Buffet

Hard to believe it is March already! I love spring flowers, although here on the island of Tenerife we are in a bit of a drought. Farmers are concerned, along with environmentalists because we usually have most of our rain during the fall and winter months and there has been very little rainfall. Normally Mt. Teide is covered in snow during the winter and there hasn't been any to speak of. We depend of fresh water here to fill the reservoirs for crops and drinking water. Along with the drying out of trees brings heightened threat of forest fires. The tourists may have enjoyed the sunny weather this winter, but the rest of us are longing for some rain.

Speaking of Drought.....of another sort

You would think that on an island known for tourism that it would be easy to find good restaurants to recommend. While I am sure that there are some that do exist, our experience here has been disappointing. In January we had a group from the United States visit, and they wanted to experience the culture by eating out. First of all, we don't eat out very often, mostly because we are usually disappointed--why pay a lot of money to eat out when you can make it better at home? So we had a difficult time coming up with places we could recommend. There are plenty of places where you can get a bocadillo (sandwich) for a few euros.....but to find something really fantastic and worth raving about is really hard to come up with.

There are tons of Italian, Chinese, and International offerings, but most are not authentic. One day the group decided to go to a Mexican restaurant and we ordered the only thing they had to offer that day--a mixed sampler plate. They must have been low on groceries as nearly every taco, burrito, and enchilada was filled with ground luncheon meat ham! Doug and I lived in Mexico for nearly 7 years but we never had ground ham in a taco! I would liken it to eating spam on a tortilla. Not the most appetizing food for sure. There were very few beans, rice, or salsa--what you would consider authentic Mexican cuisine.

Another adventure was when for lack of a better alternative we ended up at a Japanese buffet. That was a real novelty--all the dishes traveled around the tables on a conveyor belt covered with a plastic lid--so you really couldn't "see" what you were getting. It kind of looked like food from outer space. One plate might have a piece of pork on a stick, or another a piece of sushi, etc. Someone joked they were on their 56th plate! One dish, a soup of some sort was reported by the group to smell like finger nail polish remover! Others called it dishpan water soup, or dish soap soup......we couldn't really decide what was so odd about it but that it was really ODD! Well, it made for a lot of laughs and memories.

Our family has three places we go when we want a bite to eat......McDonald's (only for what is on the euro menu--a small cheeseburger or chicken burger) Burger King, and Telepizza. They just opened a Subway in one of the malls but we haven't tried it yet--but from our experiences in eating out, we'd rather play it safe than sorry!