Friday, October 31, 2008

As Simple as a Smile ~Fiction Friday


Welcome to Fiction Friday! This week our host is Lynda, at On the Write Track. You are more than welcome to join us there for links to more fun fiction--whether you write fiction or just enjoy reading it. Invite your friends to join you!

As Simple as a Smile

“This isn't open for discussion, Suze. It's decided. These people asked us to come and that's what we're here for, planting churches--even if it means climbing this mountain every week.” Bob glanced over at his daughter then shifted into granny-low for another steep grade as they wound up the mountain.

Susan huddled against the door, arms crossed tightly across her stomach. I hate being the odd-ball. Everyone stares at me and all the ladies touch my hair. Having blond hair is such a pain. I wish it was black like everyone else's here; then I wouldn't stick out so much... I wish...

Just then they rounded a curve and the village came into view. It was tucked into a fold of the mountain, clinging there, like gray ivy. Susan's arms tightened even more as her anxiety grew. I hope they don't make fun of me.

“You know, Suze, it's as simple as a smile.”

Susan turned her blue eyes to her mother. “It might be that simple in the States, Mom, but here I stick out like a sore thumb.”

Her mom gave her a squeeze. “Then let's pray you find a special friend here.”

That'd be nice, God. I could use a friend, and a special friend would be even better.

Bob maneuvered the truck through the narrow cobblestoned streets and parked beside a mud wall with broken glass shards embedded in its top. A stooped old man shuffled out the gate with an equally aged lady just a step behind him. Their faces radiated joy as tears trickled into the crevices on their faces. “We've prayed for this for almost 20 years. Welcome to our home. Please, come and join us.”

With shuffling steps they were escorted to a living room where people sat on vinyl furnishings. Susan nervously glanced around as she trailed after her parents. On the far side of the room a girl her age sat on a sofa, smiling at her, and she patted the space beside her when their eyes met. Maybe she'll ignore my hair. Susan followed her parents as they circled the room, greeting each person, as was customary, and she didn't even mind when an older lady pulled her down for a kiss on the cheek and a pat on her hair before allowing her to move on to the smiling girl.

“Buenos dias. Me llamo Susana,” Susan said with a smile for the girl, just as she'd said to everyone. Her heart was beating so fast it took her a moment to realize the eyes she was looking into were a deep blue.

“Buenos dias. I'm Marta. Sit here beside me.” Marta gently tugged Susan's hand, giggling. “I'm so glad you have blue eyes, too,” she whispered. “Abuelita assured me you wouldn't think I'm strange because of my eyes.”

“People think you're strange?” Susan whispered back, surprised.

“Si, because I'm a Christian and I have blue eyes they've even called me a witch.” Marta's eyes clouded briefly, but then cleared. “But I can tell that you don't think I'm strange. You understand.”

The girls shared a smile as the old man raised his hands, waiting. Marta leaned close once again. “My grandfather, Cristobal,” she said with a fond smile toward the old man.

“Gracias,” Cristobal said through tears. “My family has prayed for many years and today God has answered. Each week we will meet here, at this same hour, for a time of teaching and worship with our brothers and sisters. Bring your neighbors and friends; they are always welcome in my home.” Cristobal held out a hand to Bob. “Hermano Roberto, please, come and lead us.” The men clasped hands, then embraced, as they exchanged places.

Bob stepped forward with a smile. “In the days after Jesus ascended into heaven the Christians met in small groups, much like this one. Being here with you is an honor as well as an answer to our prayers--thank you for asking us to join you. Our God is a great God, answering the prayers of His children.”

Marta reached over and squeezed Susan's hand.
Maybe Mom is right. Maybe it is as simple as a smile.
********

Although this piece is pure fiction, the church in Checa, Ecuador, did first meet in the home of Cristobal and Angelica, and these characters are pretty true to that couple, as well as their home. It was this couple, with Manuel and Elvia, that asked my parents to start a church in their town--and my husband and I had the privilege of joining a team to help enlarge the church building my dad built just before leaving. God answered the prayers of His faithful children and the church that grew out of their prayers now sends out missionaries of their own. God is so good!

Don't forget to join us at On the Write Track for links to more great fiction!

Missions Matter! ~Blog Giveaway coming November 12th!


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lasting Impact

A Missions Matter! blog giveaway post!
By Kim Roof, missionary in Lima, Peru.

I could be here all month writing about the things God has done, and is doing! God is awesome!

I'm on a trip right now with my husband in Arequipa, Peru, where my parents were missionaries for about 8 years. I lived here for several of those years before going to Alliance Academy. My husband and I were just visiting a friend of our family, a lady that used to take care of my brothers and I when my parents had to travel...a dear godly woman. Her son was telling of how he will never forget the impact the missionaries had on his life back in 1970. My parents, among other missionaries, were some of the pioneers here in Peru that held open-air campaigns every night to raise up churches in areas where there weren't any. I remember sitting in those open-air campaigns and watching people come to Christ, and seeing people being healed, and hearing all the other stories my parents always tell me--I can say that my parents are my heroes! To tell you the truth, I don't know how they made it as missionaries here in Peru back in the 70's. All I know is that they had a tremendous faith in their God!

I never thought of returning to Peru, where my parents had been missionaries, but since I've been here over these past 15 years, I never fail to run into someone that got saved under my parent's ministry or was touched in some way by their lives. They are still living for God, and some are in the ministry today because of the impact my parent's ministry had on them. That really blesses me because I know that our labor as missionaries is not in vain! It's God that does the work in people's lives, but He uses willing vessels (like us) to reach those people. So, wherever you are (I'm talking to missionaries around the world...even in the U.S.), keep up the good work and don't grow weary or give up. Many lives have been touched, are still being touched, and still have to be touched by you!

********

Tom and Kim Roof have been missionaries since 1992 and founded Followers of Christ International soon after they were married. After language school and serving in Mexico, they moved to Peru and have been working in coordination with the Church 'Camino de Vida' with Pastors Robert and Karyn Barriger. Their initial assignment was to be directors of the Bible School of Camino de Vida for 6 years, and then have been in full time children's ministry since they year 2000. During this time their children, Daniel and Charity, were both born in the country of Peru.
The Roofs are responsible for a nationwide children's ministry, Corazones en Accion (Hearts in Action International of Mario and Suzanne Babarczy) through which they do evangelistic events, teacher training workshops, children's congresses and minister in schools and churches, and also present a faith based program called 'STOP' that teaches children how to prevent sexual abuse. Their vision and heart's desire is to reach the children and young people of Peru, and raise up the church of Jesus Christ in Latin America and in the Nations.

Missions Matter! ~Blog Giveaway coming November 12th!


Monday, October 27, 2008

Up the River

A Missions Matter! blog giveaway post!

Debby is another classmate of mine and she wows me with her planning and organizing abilities! Last year she was one of the ring leaders for our 20 year class reunion, and it was wonderful! Debby lives in Wheaton, Illinois with her family. She stays at home with her 4 children, and her time is spent caring for her family, volunteering at school and church and attempting to keep up with the family scrapbooks. Debby just might be the reigning scrapbook queen of our class! I loved watching her with her children last year, especially the one that is a carbon copy of herself! (Her older daughter is missing from this picture, but they definitely have four children.)

When I sent out a plea for testimonies and pictures, Debby sent me parts of a children's presentation she did this summer, and I love this! I remember Debby's mom as being a very calm lady--and now I know why. It wasn't just that she was then in the capitol city of Ecuador, without a river in sight, it was the river of Life that flows within her.

Here's part of Debby's children's presentation:

I live in a suburb of Chicago and have four children. They take the bus to school, come home, do homework, play soccer, swim and are involved in Awana clubs. One of their great fears is that some other sibling will get a bigger piece of dessert. I guess that makes them ordinary kids. Some of my biggest fears are that they’ll get run over by a car or get abducted by a stranger. On a more serious note, I worry, too, that they might be led astray by friends who do not love Jesus or might decide upon reaching adulthood to abandon their faith in Jesus. Fears like these prove I am a mom, I guess, and maybe they also reveal that I am a mom who grew up in a different country!

My mother had some of these same fears – and others besides. As a missionary mom, she had good reason to be concerned at times. One day, when I was 3 years old, my mom couldn’t find me. She asked all around the village and, finally, a Chapalachi mom calmly said that I had gone up river in a canoe with two 5-year-olds. How do you think my mom felt? What do you think she did? All the canoes in the village were being used. My mom couldn’t even go find me. Imagine knowing that your 3-year-old daughter was in a canoe with two other children, wearing no life vests, paddling through snake infested water. My mother did the only thing she could do. She prayed. Jesus brought the three of us safely back that very same day. My mother celebrated and worshipped her Lord.

Our family moved to Ecuador in 1970, to tell people how much Jesus loves them and wants to be their friend and release them from their fears to live in freedom. We began in the jungles in northern Ecuador where my Dad travelled up and down a tributary of the Amazon river to reach people who had never heard about the love of Jesus. The jungle was a two-day trip from civilization. We used latrines and had a generator which gave us electricity a few hours a day.

While in the jungles my mother, a nurse, ran a dispensary. Aside from the witch doctor, she was the only medical personnel for miles. On several occasions men with chain-saw related injuries came for emergency medical attention. Once, a man had cut his ankle so badly, my mother did not know how she would repair the cut. She was a nurse, after all, and not an orthopedic surgeon. Once again, she turned to Jesus to ask for help. While she was praying, the villagers heard an outboard motor. Most villagers could not afford to buy a motor, so that could only mean that someone wealthy was heading our way. The villagers ran down to the river bank to meet the canoe and in the canoe was none other than a doctor from John’s Hopkins Hospital. He came unannounced once a year to vaccinate villagers. It was miraculous timing. The doctor sewed up the ankle. Once again, my mother thanked her Lord for His provision.

What do these memories teach me? They remind me that no matter where we are, God is with us. He hears our prayers and we can trust Him. Remembering how God took care of our family and those we lived with during those years in the jungle, helps me to lay down my fears for my own children today. I keep praying for them and leave my worries at the feet of the Lord.

Ps – And yes, I do let them ride their bikes on the street – even if I do worry just a teeny bit about their safety when they do so!




Missions Matter! ~Blog Giveaway coming November 12th!


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Joyously Abandoned

A Missions Matter! blog giveaway post about Isobel Kuhn's book, Green Leaf in Drought, one of the books to be given away.

In my post 'Face the If and Say...' I mentioned how Wilda Mathews was caught in the trap of 'if onlys' on Easter Sunday 1952, deep in the heart of Communist China. A year later, as Easter rolled around again, she was determined that it wouldn't be another black day for her. She started studying the resurrection story and resurrection life, and when she came to Peter's part she felt condemned.

She had not said, 'I know Him not' but she had no joy. She was not bitter, but she was frustrated and restless. Her opportunity to witness to the Chinese eyes around them that she did know the Lord and that He was satisfying her drought—had she shown that? If not, wasn't that denying the Lord before man?

As I've read that many times now (I keep turning back to this chapter!), I'm constantly convicted by it. Am I joyfully living? Like Wilda, I'm not bitter, but I've certainly been frustrated and restless at times. Can others see that Christ is not just meeting my needs, but fulfilling me, too? That His Life is flowing through me? Would others see my green leaves even though my life might be in the biggest drought yet to face me?

Two months later, Wilda's husband, Arthur, came to a similar conclusion. He had been reading Ephesians 5:10 and asked her what she thought was “well-pleasing to the Lord in these our experiences?” As they talked it over, Wilda was able to share with him her Easter lesson:

Not to receive it joyfully was to deny the Lord before men...A few nights later it came to Arthur like a flash: the Son had left Heaven, not submitting to the will of God, but delighting in it. Up to now they had been submitting; rather feverishly submitting...
The Son had left Heaven, not submitting to the will of God, but delighting in it.

In a letter home, Arthur wrote this about all they had learned:
Just to say submission to the will of God did not seem to go deep enough, for we had been trying for a long time to do just that. If you had a servant you would expect submission from him, just as you would from an old bullock with a yoke on its neck. But as sons surely there was something more than that.

...So as we uncovered the earth we could see that our prayers had selfishly centered around the shortening of the days...There was none of the recklessness of faith such as the three friends of Daniel showed. Nor was there the spirit of joyous abandonment which the widow displayed in giving her two mites.

So we came to see that God wanted us to
will with Him to stay put; not to desire to run away as quickly as we could persuade Him to let us...The great chords that sounded through our hearts as we touched the Joyously Abandoned keys were really thrilling...

So we are no longer stupid bullocks being driven or dragged unwillingly along a distasteful road; but sons, co-operating wholeheartedly with our Father...

The yoke is LIGHT only as it is TAKEN, and not as it is suffered.


Simple submission is not enough. Delighting in doing God's will, in living out the will of God for your life, is where the great joy is.

I haven't mentioned here all the things the Mathews lived with, and without during their years of waiting to be released from China, but their living conditions were such that the Chinese Christians pitied them. But was there a purpose for all that God asked of this missionary couple? Yes, there was a tremendous purpose! Here's how Isobel Kuhn wrote it:

The message above all others which the Chinese church needed was to see that truth lived out under circumstances equally harrowing as their own.

Arthur and Wilda had longed to serve Him; but humanlike they had put their own interpretation on what service is. They thought it meant preaching with their lips. Amy Carmichael once replied to a Tamil Christian who took this meaning of service: 'God didn't make you
all mouth.' The most potent way to preach is by life, by living it. This was the service which the Mathews family were to render to Him.

The message of this chapter has been running through my mind for two weeks, now, and the affect it's had on me is deep. Being joyously abandoned to God's will is where I want to be.


******
Italicized parts of this post are direct quotations from Green Leaf in Drought by Isobel Kuhn, chapter 8.

Missions Matter! ~Blog Giveaway coming November 12th!


Friday, October 24, 2008

Doubt Not ~it's Fiction Friday!


Welcome to Fiction Friday! Today is a Special Edition because Shirley Jump is here to encourage us with a very timely post. Shirley is a writer that I have learned much from over these last few months, and she is the reigning queen of hand-outs. Her teaching style is one that is easy to understand, connect to, and, on top of that, is fun. Many of my friends are participating in NaNoWriMo (and will be writing a book length manuscript in the month of November!), and others, including me, are simply continuing to work on our manuscripts. What's so cool about Shirley's post is that it can be applied to any of our dreams, whether we're writers or readers.

For those of you looking for Mr. Linky, he's down at the end of this post, waiting for you. Since I'm not posting fiction today, here's Exile, my most recent Faithwriters entry (LoL—well except for this week's, which I slid in just under the wire) in case you're just dying to read some fiction. ;)


KEEP DOUBT FROM STEALING YOUR DREAM
By Shirley Jump

One day, a friend sent me the following quote from Shakespeare: "Doubt is a thief that often makes us fear to tread where we might have won."

Ah, the words of the immortal bard. Have you seen “Shakespeare in Love?” In that movie, Shakespeare goes through many doubts and has to conquer a number of fears (not to mention a few disgruntled Brits) to get his first play written and on the stage. He loves his writing, but isn’t sure he is doing the right thing, even after the standing ovation for “Romeo and Juliet.”

That is, until his lady love steps forward and tells him not to give up. Now, that part may be pure fiction, written into the story to make it sell, but it could also be based partly on reality. Undoubtedly, there were people who encouraged Shakespeare, others who scoffed at his dream, and a few who cheered wanly in his corner, not sure if he’d ever make it.

Imagine where we would be in literature today if he had let Doubt conquer him. Imagine the plays, the poetry, the sheer magic of entertainment we would have missed, had Shakespeare given in to Doubt and let it take away his glory before he could achieve it. I love Shakespeare, and have always loved his amazing gift for alternately funny and tragic iambic pentameter (for someone who has no natural rhythm, and nearly flunked that portion of Poetry in college, I admired anyone who can write it, period). I wasn’t a big fan in Freshman English, when the plays were required reading, but by college, I had recognized his talent and appreciated the gift he gave the literary world.

Don’t doubt that you can’t be the next Shakespeare. Ah, don’t scoff now. Shakespeare didn’t know he’d be THE Shakespeare. He was just some poor playwright penning his stories by hand (and if you feel like complaining about revising on a computer, imagine doing all your work – in metered rhyme no less—by hand, with a quill and ink on tiny pieces of paper that couldn’t be wasted!). He had no idea that he would influence literary works for generations. He just wanted to write. So he beat back the Doubt Demons and did it.

How do you do that?
There are, surely, plenty of things are getting in your way:

1. Your schedule: Are you doing too much? Overscheduling yourself? There are tons of things that are important, of course (your spouse, your kids, your other family members) and then there are the things that aren’t (the endless Tupperware parties, the bingo games, the trips to the mall). Decide what’s important and what isn’t, and cut back on the non-essential stuff so you can have time to make room for your dream.

2. Your own negativity: Are you letting your doubts feed your procrastination? We all do it. We may not sit there and consciously think about those doubts, but you know when you find other ways to fill your time. Like watching TV…instead of writing. Because in the back of your head, you have those fears and doubts, and it’s easier to avoid than do.

Then what do you do?
1. Reduce the schedule: I know, I already said that, but it bears repeating. I see too many people filling their day with things they don’t need to be doing, and then complaining to me that they don’t have time to write. Decide what things are important, and what are time-wasters, and let the time-wasters go.

2. Turn off the TV. Turn off the Internet connection. Both can suck you in and waste hours and hours. You’re not writing if you’re watching “Dr. Phil” or surfing the web. ;-)

3. Stop researching and start writing. I’ve met DOZENS of people who will research for YEARS and not write a word. Write the darn book, and leave those holes, then go back and fill them in. You may not need as much information as you thought. Research can be a procrastination excuse, and you know it ;-)

4. Find writing friends. Real life ones are great because you can sit down face-to-face over a cup of coffee and really connect. The online community is wonderful, but sometimes you just need to find a writer you can talk to.

5. Find a critique group. Probably the BEST thing I ever did before I was published was get a critique partner. Having that weekly meeting forced me to produce something every single week, because I certainly wasn’t going to be the one who showed up empty-handed. Plus it gives you that regular feedback from someone else, to shore you up when you have those inevitable down moments.

6. Surround yourself with inspiration. I have motivational quotes all over my office, a motivational quote of the day calendar. Write yourself a motivational, you can do message and post it over your computer.

7. Find a motivational writing space. If your living room sofa is an energy drainer, then DON’T write there. Go to a coffee shop. Go to a corner of the home where you can set up a small office. Go to the library. Find some place that gives you good writing energy, and fosters the kind of creativity you crave. You are creating the right kind of environment, because that will breed more positive feelings.

Do you see the thinking? Rather than letting those doubts invade, you take the steps you need to in order to push them away. It’s like planting hundreds and hundreds of roses, so there isn’t any room left for the weeds to grow. Doubt (like weeds) will still creep up from time to time, but it will be far easier to deal with if your garden is strong and blooming.

Today, pull a Shakespeare. Ignore the doubt and write your brains out. If you choose to do it with a quill and ink, hey, be my guest. No matter how you do it – just do it.

********

Award-winning New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump spends her days writing romantic comedies for Kensington Books (Really Something; Simply the Best) as well as Harlequin Romance (Boardroom Bride and Groom, July 2008) to feed her shoe addiction and avoid cleaning the toilets. She cleverly finds writing time by feeding her kids junk food, allowing them to dress in the clothes they find on the floor and encouraging the dogs to double as vacuum cleaners. Visit her website at www.shirleyjump.com or read recipes and life adventures at www.shirleyjump.blogspot.com.

She also writes horror young adult under the pen name AJ Whitten with her teen daughter. The first of these books, The Well, will be released in fall of 2009 under Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Graphia imprint. When Shirley’s daughter first read the premise for The Well, the story of a boy whose mother is trying to kill him, she asked her mother if there was anything she should know. Shirley claims it’s all fiction. Learn more about AJ Whitten at www.myspace.com/ajwhittenbooks.
Christmas Weddings is now in stores!


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Thank you for joining us for Fiction Friday! If you have a short story, simply add your name and the url to your story to Mr. Linky below. The more the merrier, so invite your friends along!



Missions Matter! ~Blog Giveaway coming November 12th!


Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'm a Little Linky!

Today is the half-way point to my birthday—leaving just 20 days. The first half of the 40 days has been great. I've spent extra time in the Word and the other reading that I've done has been missionary stories which have really touched me...again. I'm really looking forward to these last 20 days.

Thanks to all of you who have helped me celebrate so far by entering my Missions Matter blog giveaway! To make it easier, I'm reposting the links that are in Mr. Linky, so that everyone gets a chance, if they're interested, in reading the entries that have come in so far. I have enjoyed every single one of these and hope you do, too!!

The Tale of the Missionary Car by Lynda Schultz

Catrina Bradley wrote 'This Mission Is A Trip'

Sharon, an MK currently back on the field wrote 'Solitude, Missions & Life in General'

Lisa Brown sent in 'Forgotten People'

Dee Yoder told us about Mission to the Amish People

Yvonne talks about a missions ministry in 'Adorable Baby Clothes'

and Rob Hatch sent in an article My Experience, My Choice

In addition, I blogged about Green Leaf in Drought in the post 'Face the If and Say.' (There will be more about this book real soon, too, as well as some about By Searching.)

I hope more of you jump in! I had some major commitments for 10 of those first 20 days, but those are done, and now I'm free to dive back into this missions emphasis, and I can't wait!

Don't forget, by posting and linking on Mr. Linky, you'll be entered in my birthday blog giveaway. I'm giving away two books: Green Leaf in Drought and By Searching, both by Isobel Kuhn. These little books have had a big impact on my life each time I've read them. For more giveaway details, check out my 40 till 40 post.

So, invite your friends and help me celebrate!
Remember, Missions Matter!

Missions Matter! ~Blog Giveaway coming November 12th!


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Experience, My Choice

A Missions Matter! blog giveaway post!

Rob Hatch is one of my high school classmates who had the privilege of being brought up in Ecuador. He sent me an article he wrote for an MK magazine about how living in another culture impacted him, and continues to impact his character, over 20 years later. Rob is managing internet user interface design for Unum - a large disability insurance company in Chattanooga, TN. When not geeking out about design and web construction, he's running after three kids and trying to be loving to a wonderful wife. He is also an elder at New City Fellowship, a very diverse PCA church that focuses on racial reconciliation and mercy ministry in the urban setting. A long bike ride once in a while keeps things sane...

Here are some excerpts from Rob's article:

Cultural Marginalization: My Experience, My Choice
by: Rob Hatch

My experience of returning to my parents' home culture for the first time was probably pretty typical. I got off the plane from Ecuador and entered a third grade classroom where three passions were raging: Star Wars, Kiss and Elvis Presley. I was completely bewildered. All I was thinking about was my favorite soccer team: Liga Deportivo Universitario and the salsa music I so enjoyed at street festivals in Quito. There was no one who shared these passions. When the kids taunted, “Ecuador? Where’s that…” something deep occurred in me. I recognized myself to be very different from those around me. The interests of my life, the places I loved, the dreams of what I considered a life lived well – were not shared with those around me. I felt culturally marginalized.

This experience is surely typical of most third culture kids, and my reaction to that marginalization was probably also typical. Otherness proved to be a wall that kept me from anyone else in that 3rd grade classroom. I remember isolation and silence. Life was focused on the date of return to the place that I called home, rather than on reaching out in any meaningful way to the world around me. My mantra became, “this season too will pass” knowing soon enough I would return to that place where I felt comfortable and called home.

Yet when I look back now, the simple story of cultural marginalization doesn’t speak completely to the reality of what was going on in my heart. That year I begged so insistently to see the Star Wars movie that my parents decided a preview viewing was in order. They sat straight through two showings of the movie before taking us. I was hooked. The imaginary world of Jedi Nights and space battles became an enthralling play-scape – exactly as it was to many of my 8 year old school mates. There were aspects of culture and experience in that classroom that called to me, that I yearned for. There were ways for me to connect with the world around me and places where the otherness receded and a common experience became bond and friendship – even identification. Those kids would never understand the glories of Liga Deportivo Universitario – but our common play-scape proved a place of connection.

Many years later Dave Pollock fleshed out this powerful lesson at a re-entry seminar. He taught me that being this unique amalgamation of cultures presented me with a choice. I could see it as a powerful tool to be used well as a bridge, or as a paralyzing liability that built walls between myself and all others. It is this choice of how we handle third culture identity that affects our experience of marginalization in any culture.

********

One of the riches of the third culture experience is the ability to understand the cues and tactics useful in living fully in any culture. My wife has laughed at me after leaving some very stereotypical gathering, be it in Appalachia in Tennessee, or Porteño in Buenos Aires – saying “They probably have no clue that you aren’t just like them.” The fact that I work hard to fit in does not become a rejection of my cultural complexity. I don’t believe this is an either-or situation. I think it is perfectly acceptable to talk exclusively about Tennessee Football in one setting and River Plate Soccer in another. The fact that I know them both doesn’t mean I need to impose both on a group that does not. Nor do I feel particularly threatened or marginalized when I don’t understand the passions of a culture. I listen and learn.

Some times my wife has expressed frustration with my ability to identify with all people. She says “In the final analysis who are you?” There is danger in having no center of identity, in living solely to adapt to the culture where you find yourself. Building bridges does not mean rejecting the complexity of all it is I am. I choose to maintain my love of Salsa Music, even though I might not try to teach my Appalachian friends to appreciate it. There is also danger in never moving beyond participation, full as it may be, into disclosure and intimacy. In true community – of course -- the fullness of my identity is exposed and appreciated, even if it is not always understood. My experience has been that after I have made the effort to understand and participate fully in a particular culture – those there have been willing to listen and appreciate the “otherness” that I am. She will never love my soccer teams, but my wife does appreciate and enjoy listening to the glories of Liga Deportivo Universitario.


Rob's article is great because it explains what so many MKs experience and deal with, as well as how living in other cultures has a lasting impact on us. Even though I was only in Ecuador for six years, I experienced similar situations when I returned back to the States, and like Rob, I've found my time in another culture to be a huge bonus feature to who I am, enabling me to be comfortable in many situations. Thank you, Rob, for sending this and letting me post excerpts. It's a great article!

Coming up within the next week will be Rich Brown's jail experience while on the mission field.

Also, don't forget--I'd love to hear from more of you! Whether it's a post about a missionary book, about missionaries you know or heard speak, a missions conference, a missions trip, ANYthing to do with missions. Just post it on your blog (and if you don't have a blog, send it to me and I'll post it for you!) then come back here and add your name and the url to that particular post to the link gadget, which is at the end of my 40 till 40 post.

Missions Matter! ~Blog Giveaway coming November 12th!


Monday, October 20, 2008

That I may know Him


This week Joanne at An Open Book is hosting Manna Monday, join us there for links to more thoughts on these wonderful verses.

That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. ~Philippians 3:10-11


That I may know Him. For me that one phrase encompasses and explains so much to me.

“Lord, why did I have Guillain Barre?” ...That I may know Him. I grew spiritually when my legs were almost useless to me. That event, when I was 16, changed the course of my life and set the tone for when many others things came into my life.

“Lord, why did we lose those two babies?”
...That I may know Him. It was while reeling and then healing that I drew close to God and found in Him a constant source of comfort and light in the midst of my grief. I also have every confidence that when the next time of grieving enters my life, that God will be there, shining His light into the darkness that will try to drown me in its depths.

“Lord, why is my dad and my good friend in such constant, debilitating pain?” ...That I may know Him. Witnessing their faith while in such pain encourages and reminds me that He is always there—even when life does its best to squelch our faith.

Whenever I get to wondering about the why's of life, I always come back to this verse. ...That I may know Him. What greater thing in life is there than to know Him? And just think, it doesn't just end with knowing Him, that's just the beginning of eternity. We'll get to be with Him for all eternity.

Join us at An Open Book for more links to Monday Manna.


Missions Matter! ~Blog Giveaway coming November 12th!


Friday, October 17, 2008

Peepin' Toes: Fiction Friday


Welcome to Fiction Friday! This week Dee, at My Heart's Dee-Light, is hosting, so join us there for links to more fun fiction! And don't forget: Next Friday (October 24th), New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump, will be with us and blogging about keeping doubt from stealing our dreams--a perfect topic for all of us. You won't want to miss it!

Peepin' Toes

Ma was poppin' out babies every two years and she was bein' run ragged even though I was doin' my best to help her. But a girl just barely 10 can only do so much, even one as good as me. The day Ma got the letter from Aunt Theodora she just sat there and cried, moppin' her eyes with the hem of her apron. Ma cries when she's happy, but those weren't happy tears.

When she jumped up and waddled to the barn I scooped up the toddlin' tadpole and tagged along. She may waddle from so many babies, but I'm tellin' you, she can move fast when she wants.

Ma waved the letter around her frizzy red hair. “Frank!”

She leaned against the stall door to catch her breath, and Pa skidded to her side, his hands cradling her belly. “Calm down an' tell me what's got ya in a dither.”

Ma mopped her eyes again. “Theodora wrote. Milton's heart finally gave out and he died. Could we invite her out? Do you think she'd come? I've got to go write...”

“Whoa, now.” Pa's hand rasped against his stubbled chin as he sagged beside her. “'Course you need to invite her an' she'll be a help to you, 'specially with that big belly of yourn.”

I let the tadpole slither down my leg and he toddled over to Pa, jabberin' and tugged on his overalls. Pa scooped him up and tossed him in the air just as the hounds started kickin' up a fuss. They were bayin' as if they'd treed a coon, but it was their 'strangers are coming' bark.

I heard singin' over the bayin' and when Ma started laughin' I thought she'd gone crazy. I sure didn't see what was so funny about someone singin' in a screechy voice like that. It made me want to howl with the hounds, but Ma was moppin' her eyes again and waddlin' out the barn door. Since Pa still had the tadpole I beat Ma outside, but she didn't stop there, no-sir-ee, she kept goin' just as fast as she could.

The fanciest lady I ever did see was marchin' beside the wagon ruts, carryin' a carpetbag in each hand. She had coal black hair piled under a hat with ostrich feathers and she looked like she came straight from the pages of Godey's. I watched as she and Ma hugged fiercely, and when the fancy lady pulled a laced hankie from her sleeve there was no doubt who she was. Aunt Theodora.

Pa was mutterin' about whiskers and warnin's, but he scrubbed at dirt on the tadpole's face and started out to meet Aunt Theodora. I dragged my feet, thunderstruck by finally seein' all that Ma had told me about her sister. She had no such reservations though and she hauled me in for a hug that was just as tight as one of Ma's.

“Tessa, I'm so happy to finally meet you.” She stepped back from me, holdin' me at arm's length. “Let me look at you, Darling. Oh, you're every bit as pretty as your mother said.” She pulled me back in for another hug, wrappin' me in her sweet perfume.

Pa had set down the tadpole so he could carry her carpetbags and Aunt Theodora scooped him up, buryin' her face in his soft neck and blowin' raspberries, just like Ma does. The tadpole giggled and grabbed a feather.

I lunged for his fist, but Aunt Theodora just laughed. “It's just a feather, and this hat has too many.”

My mouth must've been hangin' open because she laughed again and reached over and pushed my chin up to close my mouth. Then she leaned close and whispered, “Look at this, Tess.” I looked down and saw her bare toes peepin' out from beneath her fancy skirt hem, wigglin' at me.

I thought I was goin' to bust a gut tryin' to keep from laughin' “Are you sure you're Aunt Theodora?”

She stood tall and regal. “Oh, yes. I am your Aunt Theodora.” Then she wiggled her toes at me again. “But I'm also your Aunt Teddy.”

Aunt Teddy winked and whispered, “People aren't always what they appear to be.”

********

These two characters just jumped out and gripped me, totally delighting me as I wrote just a bit of their story. When I met her, Teddy was wearing my idea of a totally cool thinking and imaging hat--a touring hat of the early 1900's. Big, beautifuly and bedecked with feathers. I still drool over it. (If you're lost, check out The Hat Rack.) I'm seriously tempted to wiggle her story out of her. I've got a sneaking suspicion that she'd keep me entertained, and that there's a romance waiting to blossom.

Be sure to join us at My Heart's Dee-Light for links to more fun fiction. The more the merrier! And come back next week to hear from Shirley Jump!


Missions Matter! ~Blog Giveaway coming November 12th!


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ferris Wheel Feelings

Recently my life has felt like a ferris wheel—which is not a good thing since I'm not a fan of them. Maybe, if I could run the controls, it would help. We would only go up so high, maybe about half as high as they have it set for, and I'd arrange it so I could get off at any point, not only when they say.

But that's not how it is. You get on the ride and you slowly inch and jerk your way up and around while they load all the other riders—all the while you're trying to figure out how you let yourself get talked into this. When you finally make it back to the starting point, you're not done. Oh no! That's when they throw it into high gear and you're stuck forever. Up. Around. Down. Around. Up. Around. Until you think you might just try climbing out and down and your self control is about to snap.

Out of desperation, you try talking to your seat mate in the hopes that distraction will help. It helps, but only a little. You're still going up and down and you're still miserable. Are you doomed forever? Or at least until the ride finally grinds to an end and you inch and jerk your way back down and can get off?

No, you don't have to be doomed. I learned an important lesson while at the top of a ferris wheel. If you take your focus off your immediate surroundings and look as far off as you can, it doesn't seem so bad.

My life these days has left me feeling like I'm on a ferris wheel again, and it's not been a nice feeling! My emotions have been spinning so fast I don't know which end is up and I was ready to try climbing down when I finally remembered what I had learned.

...fixing our eyes on Jesus... ~Hebrews 12:2


My focus was in the wrong place. I was wrapped up in each passing moment, my eyes fixed on the here and now, and as a result I was up, down, and all around, a hundred times over. When I turned and deliberately looked at my Savior, and focused entirely on Him, the pitching and rolling of my emotions slowed and eased. Fear unwrapped its fingers from my throat, worry converted to prayer, and peace filtered into my soul. Is everything peachy and perfect? No, not at all, but the pitching and rolling of my emotions has settled enough so that I'm not thinking about climbing out anymore.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. ~Hebrews 12:1-3

When we take our eyes off our circumstances we see that there's more to life than just the little ride we're on. There's an eternity that we need to keep in mind and live accordingly.

Missions Matter! ~Blog Giveaway coming November 12th!


Monday, October 13, 2008

Forgotten People

A Missions Matter! blog giveaway post!


When I lived in Ecuador, I went to high school with Rich and Lisa Brown --only they were just beginning to date back then. They're now back in Quito, working with, and training, national youth leaders from Ecuador, Colombia and Peru, and their children go to the Alliance Academy, where we went as kids.

Rich and Lisa sent some articles and pictures for us, and this is the first one (there will be at least one more later one, so be watching for it). Learn more about Rich and Lisa Brown and their ministry at Inca Link.

The Least of These

“So, Tuesday morning we’ll take some of the youth up to the garbage dump,” Rich said. “What? You can’t be serious!” I answered. This is actually a typical conversation between my husband and me. Great guy that he is, Rich tends to come up with brilliant ideas at the most inopportune times, and today was no exception.

Rich wanted to check out a new ministry opportunity on the very day our family was to fly from our home in Trujillo, Peru, to the United States. As the official packer for our family, I had a mile-long list of things to do.

A year and a half earlier, Rich had attended a youth leader’s summit in Quito, Ecuador. The small group visited a garbage dump, where they ministered to about 25 people who were rummaging through the trash. The experience had a profound impact on my husband.

Just as Rich has brilliant ideas at the worst times, I often have the worst attitude about his best ideas. My list of questions about this outreach was long: Is there even a garbage dump here? None of us has ever been there. What if no one lives at the dump? What if we pick up a rare disease or we’re attacked? What will we do with our kids? Isn’t it going to smell? Each concern was answered and, as usual, Rich won.

“Underground” City
Early Tuesday we met the youth at our church. A huge group had shown up, and all of them were enthusiastic. An observer might have thought we were going to Disneyland instead of a smelly, disease-infested dump. Even our children were excited.

I’m the only sane one in this group, I thought smugly as we loaded supplies into our car and a few taxis. We brought Kool-Aid, fruit, games, clothes and toys to give away and shampoo and towels, lice medicine and huge drums of water to wash hair, hands and faces. Some of the teens even brought scissors to offer haircuts.

The large dump is located on the outskirts of the city in what seems like the middle of the desert. Its only neighbors are the prison and the “red-light” district. The trip took a half an hour. When we reached the turnoff, there was no doubt that we were close because of the indescribable smell. It only got worse as we continued on the dirt road, and flies began to swarm around the cars. We could see garbage bags flying in the air but no sign of life, even at some shacks.

I kept quiet as long as I could. Finally I whispered to Rich, “Gee, looks like no one’s here—let’s go.” It was getting harder and harder to take the smell, and everyone in the car was silent. One of our leaders got out of a taxi and called, “Pastor, let’s try this way.” “Alright,” Rich answered, “but this is the last try. The taxi drivers are getting antsy.”

Now that it looked like the outreach wouldn’t happen, I felt guilty. Lord, may Your will be done, and help me to be big enough to obey You. Just as I finished praying, Rich drove up a hill. When our eyes became accustomed to the smoke and dust, we gasped. It was as if we had discovered a small, underground city. Hundreds of people wearing hoods and cloths over their mouths and noses were rummaging through the garbage with long pitchforks. Some of the people were barefoot; any skin showing was black with filth.

Men, women, children and elderly people—all desperately looking through the garbage. Each time a trash truck rumbled up, there was a mad dash to get to it.

Poorest of the Poor
As we stopped, the people yelled and ran toward us, surrounding our cars. Since their faces were masked, we couldn’t tell if they were happy or angry. With everyone pressing in, we couldn’t open our doors—not that I was trying.

Rich made it out of the car and disappeared into the crowd. Everyone in the car was silent; my children wide-eyed. “OK, guys,” I said, trying to keep my voice from shaking, “let’s get out.”

I managed to squeeze out with my kids, who hung on to me for dear life. The people continued to press in on us, all of them talking. One elderly lady took my arm, expressing concern that I hadn’t brought anything to cover my face. This dirty, starving woman was worried about me! I was so ashamed.

The youth and I were so shocked at the poverty that we had a hard time hiding our tears. Over and over the teens whispered, “Lisa, I had no idea this was part of my country. I didn’t know these people existed.” Teens from our church—who live in dirt-floor homes and whose families often struggle to put food on the table—wept over this destitution.

We weren’t prepared to help the 500 people there, so we decided to take the children away from the garbage “mountain” to play games with them. Many of the adults lamented that they had not brought their kids that day.

We made our way down, stepping over animal carcasses and other horrible things until we found a relatively clear place to play. The youth group took over, giving the kids much-needed attention. The children devoured the bread, fruit and drinks we offered. My children had a hard time seeing some of their toys and clothes given away, but soon they were talking about what else we had at home that we didn’t need.

The kids were grateful for the water and soap we’d brought to scrub hands and faces. I spent a good 15 minutes washing a little girl’s hair and removing the dirt crusted behind her ears. Lice jumped all over us. We made a game out of the “beauty parlor” to convince the younger kids that water wouldn’t hurt them. Our youth gave haircuts and had hairstyle contests with the responsive kids, who just giggled.

Remembering the Forgotten
Our time at the dump ended too quickly. We gathered the youth group together to evaluate our outreach, and we all agreed that the smell and the flies just didn’t matter. God had brought us there to serve “forgotten people” and help us grow in love and compassion. We learned that day that the terms “rich” and “poor” are relative.

The youth unanimously decided we didn’t want this to be a one-time visit, but an ongoing ministry. And that’s exactly what has happened. Our youth have turned their eyes away from their own financial struggles and reached out to those who have absolutely nothing.

Since our first visit to the dump in October 2003, we’ve returned at least once a month. We now know by name many of the people who live there, and we found out how to better serve them by taking a census of the families. Thanks to donations from Helping Hands Ministries, we gave out potato sacks full of clothes, household goods and other gifts specific to each family’s needs. One Christmas we used donations from The Christian and Missionary Alliance churches of Peru to prepare and serve 500 meals.

An evangelistic team came with us to present the gospel, and in February the church started a Vacation Bible School (VBS) for the kids. VBS will continue while our family is on home assignment. Our whole church, the America Sur Church, has adopted the forgotten people of Peru, reaching out with generosity to those even less fortunate then they.

Elisa Brown and her husband, Rich, served with the C&MA in Lima & Trujillo, Peru, from 1994 to 2004. Now they are in Ecuador working with Youth Leaders in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia. To learn more check out Inca Link.


Missions Matter! ~Blog Giveaway coming November 12th!


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Face the If and Say...

A Missions Matter! blog giveaway post!

I've been rereading Green Leaf in Drought by Isobel Kuhn since it's one of those books that greatly impacted my life. I first read it in college, 20 years ago, after my older sister sent me a copy. (She also gave me several other books by Isobel Kuhn, and they are on my favorite books shelf. Thank you, C! You've done a great job leading the charge for me—love you!)

Green Leaf in Drought is about Arthur and Wilda Matthews, who were missionaries to China. They were the last of the China Inland Mission members to leave Communist China in 1953, after spending 2-3 years caught in the grip of the Red Regime—but this is NOT a book about the regime nor even of China. This little gem is about how Arthur and Wilda's faith flourished while under great pressure. Not just moments of pressure, but 2 ½ years of constant pressure.

Late in 1950, while others were leaving the country, the Matthews went deeper into China so they could reach out to the Mongols. Expecting a welcome and a home to live in, they were hit with immediate disappointment and discomfort. Every time they turned around their circle was downsized until they were confined to the compound and not allowed to minister to even the Chinese church that met at the compound. I'll tell more about them in future posts, but something that is standing out to me is Wilda's struggle with doubt. Was this God's doing, or were they the victims of a mistake?

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She was caught up in the “If only...” game and it was eating at her. That's something many of us can relate to! On Easter Sunday of 1951, Wilda found herself thinking, “If He really lives today, as the song says, why had He allowed this?” As she worked she remembered two tracts she had, “The 'If' in Your Life” by A.B. Simpson and 'Second Causes' by Hudson Taylor.

The glory of God is to come out of the 'if' in your life...Do not be thinking of your 'if.' Make a power out of your 'if' for God...Do you know that a light is to fall on your 'if' some day? Then take in the possibilities and say, 'Nothing has ever come to me, nothing has ever gone from me, that I shall not be better for God by it...' Face the 'if' in your life and say, For this I have Jesus. ~The 'If' In Your Life

The second tract said, “The secret of Hudson Taylor's rest of heart amid such tempests of hate was his refusal to look at second causes...He believed it was with God, and God alone, he to do.”

Wilda accepted that her circumstances were not a mistake, they were directly from God. She held on to this scripture:
You need not fight in this battle;
station yourselves, stand and see
the salvation of the Lord on your behalf.
~2 Chronicles 20:17 (NAS)


In a letter home, Arthur wrote, “These trials of faith are to give us patience, for patience can only be worked as faith goes into the Pressure Chamber. To pull out because the pressure is laid on, and to start fretting would be to lose all the good He has in this for us.”

There have been times in my life that 'if only' had the center stage, and I was miserable. We can not focus on those if's. We need to see that all that comes into our lives is for God's glory to shine through us, and that it comes from His hand—it's not a mistake.

The meaning of all that God does with us—joys and sorrows, light and darkness...is that our wills may be made plastic and flexible. ~Alexander MacLaren


There's more from this little gem of a book, but I'll save it for another day.

Missions Matter! ~Blog Giveaway coming November 12th!


Friday, October 10, 2008

A Fragile Balance ~Fiction Friday


Welcome to Fiction Friday! Today's host is Vonnie, over at her Back Door. Be sure to visit us there for links to more great fiction. We'd love to have you join us every week, the more the merrier, and everyone is welcome to participate! Also, today I'm a guest blogger at the Internet Cafe. Come visit me and say 'hi'!

A Fragile Balance


Shattering glass in the kitchen jerked Lauren's head up.

“What just broke?” she called, doing a mental inventory of what had been on the counters. The sudden silence guaranteed heartache. “Do I want to know?”

“Um, I don't think so, Mom,” came the quavery reply.

Lauren's eyes clenched shut. The reigning silence easily carried her voice, “My china mug?”

“Ah, yeah.”

Looking up at the ceiling Lauren groaned. Lord, that was my favorite gift from Mom...

Taking a deep breath she stepped into the kitchen and encountered two pairs of wide eyes.

“We weren't horsing around, Mom, honest.”

“I'm so sorry, Mom. I tossed the pot holders to Brad to put away, but I threw too hard and they knocked your cup.” Tears edged his voice.

Holding up her hand for silence Lauren hunkered down and observed the damage. Scattered across the linoleum were the remains of the china mug her mother had given her after returning from England. It was the prettiest thing she owned and she treasured it.

Promise me you'll use it and not just leave it sitting on a shelf, her mother demanded when the tissue paper had revealed the roses nestled in baby's breath painted on the delicate china. It's made for service, Lauren, just like we're made for service to our Lord.

But it'll get broken if I use it, Mom. Growing kids are killers on glass and fragile things; have you forgotten how many glasses I broke when I was a kid?

Being broken is part of being used. Don't fear it...


A few short years later her mom was completely dependant on others for her basic needs: she was physically broken, yet she was still being greatly used by God.

“Don't move. Let me get these pieces first, then we can take care of the splinters.” She gathered them all onto a plate and carefully set it aside. Looking at the boys she saw trembling chins.

“I'm sorry, Mom.”

Lauren pulled them into a hug. “I know you weren't horsing around, you were working together and getting your jobs done quickly. It's ok.”

“But it was your favorite, Mom.”

“Yes,” she sighed, blinking fast. “It was my favorite, but what's done is done; there's no going back. Besides, there's more to life than a pretty china mug. C'mon, let's finish taking care of this mess.”

Later she picked up the plate of shards and went to her desk, finally allowing a few tears to fall. Lord, my mother is in a broken body yet she's still beautiful and You're using her, just not as You used to. This cup has been special to me for so many years and I 'm not ready to let go of it yet. Can I have it for a little while longer?

Wiping her eyes, Lauren pulled out the super glue and painstakingly pieced it back together, her mom's words echoing in her heart. Being broken is part of being used. Don't fear it...

When she was done, the mug was laced with glue lines and had several chips on the rim and the footed base. There was no way it would ever be used as a drinking cup again, but to Lauren it was beautiful.

“Mom?”

“Come see, guys,” she said, turning to them with an exhausted smile.

Disappointment filled their eyes when they saw it.

“It's ok, boys.”

“How? It's still all busted up, even though you glued it.”

Lauren smiled. “True, but its life isn't over, it just has a new purpose.”

The boys looked dubiously from the china mug to their mother.

“It's going to sit on my dresser and remind me to always get on with life and let God use me and work through me, even when there are pieces missing.”

“Kinda like Granma?”

“Yes, son, like Granma.”

********

This is my dad's favorite story, which makes it pretty special to me, in addition to being one of my favorites. I'm happy to say that the china mug my parents brought home from England for me is in one piece...so far. When Mom gave me the mug, she did tell me to use it and not just set it on a shelf (thank you, Mom, I've learned a lot from that bit of wisdom!!) and I listened to her. I'm also happy to say that the rest of the story is purely fiction!

On October 24th Shirley Jump will be a guest blogger here for Fiction Friday. She's a great author and she'll be blogging about keeping doubt from stealing our dreams. You won't want to miss her! But for today, don't forget to join us at Vonnie's Back Door for links to more fiction!

Also, be sure to check out the bloggy giveaway I'm hosting--it has a special missions emphasis, and Sunday is "Face Your If and Say..."

Missions Matter! ~Blog Giveaway coming November 12th!


Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Tale of a Missionary Car

A Missions Matter! blog giveaway post!

Here's the first entry of my birthday celebration and blog giveaway! I'm so excited! Sometime this week end I'll be posting another Missions Matter! blog, so stay tuned. Also, Mr. Linky is now set up to leave links to your posts, which will enter you in the giveaway--just click the button to the right. Be sure to join us!

Lynda Schultz is a friend I met at faithwriters. At the moment she's doing resource development for Venezuela and for her mission's other Latin American fields. It consists, right now, of a one-year-through-the-Bible-Study program which she's working on publishing, and the writing and publishing of some Bible Studies and a couple of kid's curriculums. She also helps out at her local church in the areas of Bible teaching (youth, kids and adults). Lynda has a great sense of humor and is one of my favorite Faithwriters. She's given me permission to reprint this article—for which I'm so thankful for.

Missionary vehicles are a testimony, one that I've personally seen many times—and yes, I have stories, too, but I'm hoping that Martha and Linda will jump in here and help me out, especially since my stories all involve them and Martha's old bronco. Vehicles are an important tool of the missionary. Without them, getting to the where they need to be is a major hassle, not to mention transporting the million and one people and things they're always hauling around. Praying for their vehicle may sound funny, but it's often needed!

This may be an older story, but it's a great one that's still relevant!

The Tale of a Missionary Car

By Lynda Schultz

A single candle flickered in the room, threatening to leave us in darkness as we prepared for bed. Chilling drafts crept in through cracks in the wall, the roof, and the partially opened door. Rain pounded down outside.

I lay shivering on a straw-filled mattress. What we had come to this community to do was not going to be easy. Fear and superstition in rural Colombia, South America made it difficult to explain the Gospel. How could an inexperienced team of Bible students break through years of deep-seated tradition?

It was during summer vacation in 1978, and I doing children’s ministry with some of my students from our Bible Institute. We had planned to offer the program in six churches—three in Medellin, a highly industrialized city of over a million people, and then three more in our rural churches.

My coworker Maria and I—plus Gustavo, our lone male team member, and two other students, headed out to a farming community about an hour outside of Medellin. Once we got off the main highway, the going got very rough. The path was filled with craters and jagged rocks that seemed destined to rip something vital off the bottom of my small car. We finally decided to get out and walk, leaving Maria to drive, in the hopes of lightening the load and avoiding any major damage.

When the path ran out, we were still some distance from the home where we would hold our program. Maria parked the car by a small schoolhouse on a hill just off the path. The school yard was about 10 feet above where the road ended. The car was out of sight. I was sure it would be safe enough parked away from the embankment with the doors locked and the brake on.

Our hostess Guillermina and her husband Efrain were poor tenant farmers. They entertained us royally with what little they had and they were so excited that we had come to tell their friends and neighbors about God’s love and forgiveness.

That afternoon we rounded up children from the neighboring farms and began our first kid’s meeting. It was late when we escorted them back to their homes. A house meeting was planned for the evening. The church people began to drift in one by one. Some had walked a long way. Because it was beginning to rain, the return trip home promised to be a wet one.

By the light of gas lanterns and with every bed and bench occupied, Gustavo delivered a stirring message from the Bible. Outside, the storm grew worse.

After the meeting, all us girls were glad to climb into our beds to escape the cold. The bedroom door wouldn’t shut, so I propped it closed with a box to keep out the worst of the draft. At last, Maria blew out the flickering candle and we settled in, seeking a little warmth against the dampness of the night.

I could hear someone talking on the porch outside. Suddenly the door flew open, sending the box crashing against the wall.

“Señoritas, señoritas!” Guillermina cried hysterically as she burst into the room and threw herself at the foot of the bed. “Forgive us!” It took some to get her calmed down enough to find out what we were supposed to forgive her for.

On the way back to their homes after the meeting, the Christians had found my car upside down in the middle of the path. Two tires had been slashed. The other two were flat. The gas line had been ripped out and some damage attempted to the motor. Earlier Gustavo had offered to sleep in the car for the sake of security, but it was too late for that now. What will we do? I wondered.

“Señorita,” our hostess continued, “we know who did this. Efrain is going out with his machete to punish them.”

Efrain, a new Christian, had once been notorious for his temper. Once again, anger had taken control. As our avenging angel he was now prepared to do battle.

“No”, I begged, “tell him to stay here. Murder is not God’s way of dealing with this.” Guillermina scurried out of the room after her husband.

Voices rose and fell outside the door. The four of us prayed that somehow God would prevent Efrain from this evil mission. Gustavo talked and prayed with him all through the night and our prayers were answered.

I shook uncontrollably as questions raced through my mind. How bad was the damage? How will we get back to Medellin? Why did this happen on the first night of six weeks of ministry? How will we do all the other clubs without the car? Was there worse to come?

Just hours before, I had congratulated myself that we had gotten the car this far without any damage. Now it was ruined.

As I lay there, God began to minister to me. Verses of His care and protection flashed through my mind. He reminded me that where the Spirit of God is, there is no room for fear, for “the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Psalm 34:7). There on that prickly mattress, peace returned. The car was His. Hadn’t I given it back to him when He first provided it? It was no longer mine, but HIS to do with as He pleased.

I fell asleep, thanking God and asking His forgiveness for my worry and fear.

The next morning, before we went back up the road to see the car, we had devotions together as a team. We prayed that God would glorify Himself through this situation. By the time we reached the school yard, a small crowd had already gathered. News travels fast, even in the remote, telephone-less hills of Colombia.

We answered the questions of all who passed, telling them about God and explaining to them why we had come here in the first place.

Our efforts at getting the car on its “feet” and back to town, accomplished with the help of La Unión’s battered fire truck, were closely watched and reported. As a team we resolved that we would stay, finish out our week, and not only talk about God’s love and forgiveness but prove it.

The meeting that night gave us the first glimpse of what the Lord was doing with His car. We were invited to hold our service in the home of a neighbor who wasn’t a believer. Strangers appeared at the door and the house was full to the rafters with people who had never heard the Gospel before. Curiosity had overcome fear. This amazing blessing would repeat itself every night during that week.

Colombians are very careful with their cars. Damage is swiftly repaired and keeping the car looking good is a “must”. But even after we returned to the city, I was reluctant to fix the car. Apart from the tires and the damage to the motor, both passenger and driver’s sides were crushed from being rolled down the embankment. This external damage provided us with endless opportunities to witness. At gas stations, stop signs and parking spots, people always asked what had happened. And when they asked, they received far more than just a “tale of a missionary car.”

With my limited understanding, I thought of the car as only a means of transportation from one place to another. But in God’s hands the car was to become an invaluable part of the missionary team, proving once again that He is always creative, always right and always faithful.
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To learn more about Lynda visit her blog HERE.

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