Thursday, October 15, 2020

Are you a Veteran Missionary?

    Our church had a very interesting missionary family visit last night for our Wednesday evening service. The Wilhite family have been serving in Japan since 2008, and are currently home on furlough. The husband, Duane preached about "How to become a veteran missionary" and it really made me think about our own ministry in the Canary Islands, and I suppose since we have been on the field since 2007, and actually have been serving in other capacities since our marriage in 1982, we somehow qualify to belong to that group called "veterans" however unworthy and undeserving we feel. We are not heroes--just servants doing our duty. There isn't anything glamorous about it nor take credit--it is all God's grace.

    In the US military, defining veteran status is often complex, but according to the US Department of Veteran affairs, a veteran is defined as "a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable." As Christians, we are all called to fight in the spiritual battle against the forces of evil. The apostle Paul stated in 2 Timothy 4:7 "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." Whether you consider yourself a missionary or not, if you have truly placed your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, through "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21), you have entered into the army of God as it states in Ephesians 6: 12-13....
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
    As what our independent Baptist circle calls "full time missionaries" I am reminded daily of the responsibility we have towards our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says we are all ambassadors for Christ, and it just so happens that we are living in the Canary Islands endeavoring to do just that. But it goes farther than that. It is for all Christians to obey and live daily no matter where you live and serve. Each of us has a part to play in this. I was reminded of what will keep us going in this battle--we often face trials in life that discourage us, perplex us, make us feel cast down, isolated, lonely, etc. I went back to the Bible and the verses God used in my life to prepare me for total surrender to the will of God. Acts 20: 24 states: 

    "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God."

    As we prepare to return to the Canary Islands after being in the USA for a few months, I am asking God to give me this mindset. Missionaries aren't some super spiritual Christian beings that have more of God than any other Christian, but ordinary people who want God to use them as a vessel. When the dark times come, and they will--I am reminded that my life is not my own. I have been bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus Christ, who according to Hebrews 12:2 is the author and finisher of our faith, and "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." 
 "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." 2 Cor. 4:7.

     This is the key to every aspect of our Christian life and service.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

What's the Rush?

Original Artwork by: Barbara Florczyk

Waiting....don't we all hate it? We live in a society of instant gratification--fast food, fast communication, quick service in the checkout line--and quick fixes to our problems. I believe God purposely has allowed aggravations in my life to build my patience and show me that He has a purpose and plan during the time of waiting.

If you are a fellow missionary living in a foreign country, you have probably come to realize that things don't get done as quickly in your country as you would like, and one of the most challenging adjustments is learning how to wait. Perhaps it is waiting on paperwork, or bureaucratic red tape to get your visas approved, or waiting patiently for supplies to get through customs.

Maybe what you are waiting for is of a more "spiritual" nature--like waiting for God to work in the lives of the people you are ministering to, for example. We often get discouraged in the ministry when we don't see God moving--and are tempted to ask God if we are even doing any good where we are. 

I was reminded today that God calls some to plow the field, and others water, and others reap. What if God has called us to do nothing but plow the hard, rocky soil and prepare the hearts of people who have been sitting in darkness for centuries? Or what if our only ministry would be that of being a lighthouse, to warn others of coming shipwreck and disaster? Would we be willing to wait on God while we are busy working?

I can think of a few issues in our lives and in the lives of our children that involve waiting--sometimes much longer than we would like. Waiting can be painfully exhausting. I am reminded of this verse:

"And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him."

Sometimes God waits too. That is when we have to trust His plan. We know that God is good, and we are blessed when we wait for Him, and do things His way rather than taking things into our own hands. I look at Job, and the tremendous suffering he went through in his life, yet we read at the end of the book, "So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning..." Job 42: 12. We know that whatever we encounter in this life, for God's people, the ending of this life will certainly be better than the beginning, for we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, and we are called according to His purpose--not ours. We are in the process of being conformed to His image. Job learned to experience God in a deeply, personal way through all of his suffering. He was able to say, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee." Job 42:5

We can help others "see" God as we go through this waiting process too. It is easy to talk, and as they say in the world, talk is cheap--but when they see God in us, that is what will really draw them to Christ.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Finding Purpose and Joy in a New Stage of Life


I don't know how many times as a young mother surrounded by toddlers, I would long for the day when my kids would be all grown up and not be so dependent on me! Well, that day has come and now I wonder what my hurry was. I look back on the photos of happy children playing in their bedrooms, bike riding as a family in the park, birthday parties and homemade piƱatas surrounded by the neighborhood children, and Bible clubs in the backyard and at church.

A few weeks ago we dropped Leanna off at Bible college. I didn't expect what hit me--driving home from Indiana to Ohio I felt majorly depressed! Now what? For the first time in 38 years we would be going back to the mission field without children. Our ministry has always included our children, and what an asset they have been, whether from assisting in Sunday school, children's choir, or just influencing all the children and young people in church or in our neighborhood. Our children served along beside us and have always been such a major part of our focus.

Looking into the Word of God, I am searching the Scriptures to see what God has for me in this new phase of life. I am what the Bible refers to as the "aged women." I don't mind my age and am not sensitive about admitting it. While there are some things I wish I could go back and do differently, I honestly wouldn't want to go back to my younger years if given the opportunity. I am eagerly seeking the Lord for His direction in this new chapter of my life--both in my marriage and in ministry.

We are exhorted to "teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed." Titus 2:3

This encourages me strengthen my relationship with my husband. What bonded us together when raising our children is no longer our top priority--yes, our children still need us, but in a sort of "hands off" way. I can focus on what I can do to be a help to him in the house and ministry--much of which is focused on hospitality. I Timothy 5: 10 describes what a faithful woman of God would have done in her lifetime: good works, bringing up children, lodging strangers, washing the saints' feet, relieving the afflicted, and following every good work. While we no longer have the custom of lodging strangers or washing feet, my husband loves to reach out to those in our church and sphere of influence. I need to work on supporting his vision for ministry. We are at an age where many of our peers are looking forward to retirement, but in the ministry you don't retire! We need to keep serving the Lord at every stage in life. We might not have the energy or physical strength of our youth (however, if any of you have seen my husband in action you would know he is very high energy!) but we can impart the wisdom we have gained from our life experiences. 

We are blessed with seventeen grandchildren so far--and the verse comes to mind, "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice.....Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God...." 2 Timothy 1: 5-6 

I don't know about you, but sometimes I need to "stir up" myself spiritually. I am exhorted to leave a legacy of faith to my grandchildren, and possibly if the Lord tarries and gives me life, to my great-grandchildren as well. What a tremendous responsibility we face, especially in this day that is so contrary to the Word of God. We are bombarded with the philosophy of this world, and certainly the universities and secular influences surrounding them are eroding the values we hold so dear. We need to use our influence in their lives as much as possible, and hopefully they will cling to the Biblical wisdom we impart. 

During this world-wide pandemic, I think we all have been a little discouraged about ministry and how we can reach out during times of lock-down. We have had to be very creative for sure.  It certainly brings us new challenges, but we must remember that God is still in control, and it is during times of difficulty and trials that the true church of Jesus Christ gets on their knees and cries out to God for guidance. In similar fashion, I too am crying out in prayer for God's presence and direction in this new phase of life. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Rebekah and David Get Married

 I do believe there is such a thing as a match made in heaven, and Rebekah and David were definitely ordained by God to be together. They met as freshmen in Bible college, and after knowing each other and courting for four years, they were married six weeks after they graduated. We weren't sure if they would be able to have a wedding with guests in attendance, but the coronavirus restrictions were lifted just in time! I introduce to you Mr. and Mrs. David Crego!

First time since 2016 all of our children were together.

Maid of honor and sister Leanna telling how special her relationship is with Rebekah.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Back in the Canary Islands

 Back in January, I traveled to the USA to be with my mom who was battling ovarian cancer. I was blessed to be able to spend the last two weeks of her life caring for her. I wouldn't trade that for anything. I felt torn as it meant leaving Doug and Leanna in the islands by themselves for several months, but those are the types of difficult decisions missionaries often face. Above is a picture of the minister talking about the hope we have of eternal life in Jesus Christ, and I am confident my mom is now in heaven rejoicing with her Saviour.
We are back at work, and one of my favorite ways to engage myself with the locals is to teach English. I teach 15 hours a week, in addition to homeschooling Leanna. This is my way of getting to meet people, and serve them in a practical manner. I am reminded of the lyrics of the beautiful song,
"How can we reach a world we never touch? How can we show them Christ if we never show them love?"
The Lord has opened many doors through my teaching, and I've met many wonderful people on the island of Tenerife that I wouldn't have met otherwise. They are a very friendly people, but I didn't use to think so until I got to know them on a personal basis, and it has taken many years to gain their friendship and trust.
Language is the way God communicates with us, and the way we share God's message. Fortunately I enjoy language and was an English major at Wright State University back in the 90's. By force I had to become a learner of the Spanish language too. This has helped me be a patient language teacher as I appreciate how difficult it is to learn a foreign language, and I respect my students--many of them study three, four, or even five languages in school.
During the summer while in the US,  I was able to attend Michigan State University who hosted an Oxford Seminar for certification to teach TESOL/TESL/ TEFL. It worked out rather nicely as it gave me some extra time to visit my daughter's family who live in Lansing, Michigan. We also had a great time renewing friendships and visiting a few of our supporting churches.
One of the things the Lord is teaching me about the ministry is to be patient. We can't follow our own timetable or expectations when it comes to dealing with people. Learning is a process, and even though we would like to see people miraculously change overnight, it doesn't happen, and often there are setbacks and we get discouraged.
With that in mind, we keep plowing. We stick at it. Like anything else in life that is worth achieving, it takes time and patience. Sometimes I think the Lord is more concerned with changing me more than about me teaching others. This goes along with the idea of leading, or teaching by example.
My son-in-law recently preached an excellent message on gentleness. It challenged me to remember to be gentle with people. Be kind, courteous, and try to put yourself in someone else's situation. Be empathetic. Be genuine. The world is truly lacking in these qualities today. Do we communicate God's message with gentleness, or like a bull in a china shop? Take Psalm 18:35 to heart,
"Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great."

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Emotional Intelligence in the Church

I recently came across an article in Forbes Magazine about being a great employee, and realized that many of these same tips apply to pastors, missionaries, and to the church in general.

I Cor. 10: 31...."whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
What makes a great employee?

1. They’re willing to delay gratification. One thing an exceptional employee never says is, “That’s not in my job description.” Exceptional employees work outside the boundaries of job descriptions. They’re neither intimidated nor entitled; instead of expecting recognition or compensation to come first, they forge ahead in their work, confident that they’ll be rewarded later but unconcerned if they’re not.

2. They think before they speak and wisely choose the best time and place to do so.

3. They’re in control of their egos. Exceptional employees have egos. While that’s part of what drives them, they never give their egos more weight than what is deserved. They’re willing to admit when they’re wrong and willing to do things someone else’s way, whether it’s because the other way is better or it’s important to maintain team harmony.

4. They recognize when things are broken and fix them. Whether it’s a sticky desk drawer or an inefficient, wasteful process affecting the cash flow of the entire department, exceptional employees don’t walk past problems. “Oh, it’s been that way forever,” simply isn’t in their vocabulary. They see problems as issues to be fixed immediately; it’s that simple.

5. They’re accountable. If you’re a manager trying to decipher a bungled report, “It’s not my fault” is the most irritating phrase in the English language. Exceptional employees are accountable. They own their work, their decisions, and all of their results—good or bad. They bring their mistakes to management’s attention rather than hoping no one will find out. They understand that managers aren’t out to assign blame; they’re out to get things done.

6.They’re marketable. “Marketable” can mean many things. Inside the organization, it means “likable.” Exceptional employees are well liked by co-workers. They have integrity and leadership skills (even if they’re not in an official leadership position) that people respond to. Externally, it means they can be trusted to represent the brand well. Managers know they can send these employees out to meet with clients and prospects without worrying about what they’ll say or do.

7. They neutralize toxic people. Dealing with difficult people is frustrating and exhausting for most. Exceptional employees control their interactions with toxic people by keeping their feelings in check. When they need to confront a toxic person, they approach the situation rationally. They identify their own emotions and don’t allow anger or frustration to fuel the chaos. They also consider the difficult person’s standpoint and are able to find solutions and common ground. Even when things completely derail, emotionally intelligent people are able to take the toxic person with a grain of salt to avoid letting him or her bring them down.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Do the Next Thing

So often in life we wake up to find ourselves facing the ordinary, mundane tasks of life. As I get older, and hopefully wiser, I have come to realize that life is made up of a lot of uneventful, ordinary days with some highs and lows mixed in between.

When I was in high school, I thought I would pursue a degree in journalism and become a television reporter, or perhaps a news anchor.  It sounded so exciting and glamorous. As it turned out, I surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus Christ when I was a sophomore, and the Lord showed me that He had other plans for my life. After graduation, I met my future husband who was called to missions, and we married and had six beautiful children and have dedicated our lives to the call of ministry--whether in the USA when my husband was a full time chaplain in the jails, or on a foreign mission field in Mexico, and now in the Canary Islands.

People sometimes look at missions and think, "Oh, that sounds so exciting!" You get to travel around the US and in foreign countries and meet a lot of people. Yes, I have traveled quite a bit and experienced living in foreign cultures which has enriched my life tremendously. But when push comes to shove, so much of our lives is about the simple daily tasks we do, which often seems so monotonous.

The past summer I was blessed to be able to spend some time with my mother who is suffering from ovarian cancer. She has lived with the disease now for over 1.5 years, and has seen improvements and setbacks. I spent several days at her bedside in the hospital and at home.  Caring for her I came to realize how much we need people in this world who are willing to do the ordinary, not so glamorous and downright "dirty" tasks in life.

The real heroes in my opinion, aren't the superstars--sports heroes, overpaid actors in Hollywood or on television--no, they are the caregivers. The ones who wake up every day facing sick patients who need someone to help them do the ordinary tasks of life--feeding them, cleaning up after them, changing their bed linens, and all the not so pleasant tasks that go along with it. Where would this world be without these caring and compassionate people?

The challenge is facing life with courage each day as we go through the motions of doing the routine and ordinary, especially when no one notices or appreciates what we are doing. It is difficult to approach each day with thankfulness and gratitude--but I tried to remind myself that at least I wasn't in the sickbed, incapacitated or suffering with cancer.

If you find yourself dreading another day of "the same old same old," take time to remember that you are not alone. God can give us strength to face another day of dirty diapers, loads of laundry, dishes in the sink.....whatever it is that you tire of. Where would this world be if no one was willing to care for the young, the elderly, or those who can't care for themselves?

I saw this poem today on Facebook, and the author is Unknown, but it might give you encouragement as you face your day today.

Do The Next Thing
From an old English parsonage,
Down by the sea,
There came in the twilight,
A message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend,
Deeply engraven,
Hath, as it seems to me,
Teaching from Heaven.
And on through the hours
The quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration-
Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment,
Let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity,
Guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows,
Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus,
Do it immediately;
Do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence,
Tracing His Hand,
Who placed it before thee with
Earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence,
Safe 'neath His wing,
Leave all resultings,
Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
(Working or suffering)
Be thy demeanor,
In His dear presence,
The rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance
Be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness,
Praise and sing,
Then, as He beckons thee,
-Author unknown