To our supporters and prayer warriors at Home:

   Did you know that your prayers means so much? Did you know that each month I receive a list of those that helped me to do what I do and to live where I live. When I receive this list, I want to cry. What a blessing to have so many backing me. What a humbling experience to know that so many are praying and want my ministries to move forward. so many are willing to give of their money to make this ministry work! Wow!

   Did you know that a simple hello on email means a lot? Did you know that when we send updates, it hurts that less than 1% of you even acknowledge that you read the update? Does it take a lot of time to reply and say you are praying or praising God for situations mentioned in the updates?

   Did you know that we cannot always remember your names because we meet hundreds of people on deputation and furlough?  We try to remember names and faces, but we often mix you up. When you write, please mention your church… or city. Sometimes we have 15 “First Baptist Churches” so the church name does not help us. But even if you do not clarify who you are, we still appreciate the minute you took to respond and the few moments you took to read our updates—We thank God for you!

   Did you know that some of the churches in the New Testament sent members to check on Paul and co.? Would you consider sending members to help or encourage your missionaries? Would you consider finding ways to encourage us by send us to retreats designed for refreshment, or places to get away and rest – “Sabbath” with the Lord? 

   We are humans, we make mistakes. We serve a gracious God who can and does strengthen and encourage us. He often uses you, our supporting churches, our fellow saints.  I cannot count the times when someone dropped a note to me, not knowing I was having a rough day, and said, “I had you on my heart today.”  Thank you God, Thank you my friend!

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Leaders Who Sin

What happens when leaders fall into sin? What happens when their sins are found out? We run across this often in our ministries. In the best scenarios, other spiritual leaders will rise up and advice and discipline the one who is straying. In the worst case scenario, some other leaders will defend that person and accuse the accusers. It will divide organizations, local churches, and families.

God wants us to confess our sins. We need to admit our wrongs and work on renewing our minds. A renewed mind will produce a transformed lifestyle. We will fall into sin from time to time. But how we handle our sinfulness is important. How we handle the “big” sins of others in leadership is important as well.

Paul was very clear in his epistles when he addressed sin in the church. The man in Corinth who was having an affair was set aside from fellowship. When it seemed enough and he no longer lived in that sin, he was invited back.  We cannot ignore sins. We must deal with them and we must help that person to repent. They need to have a heart change and move toward the truth. They need to seek God’s will and submit to the discipline.

You can’t help them all

As a missionary we get to help a lot of people. We want to help spiritually and physically. We get to open schools, clinics, orphanages, and other training centres.

But I get asked all the time to help people.  I am asked to help transport sick people to the hospital. I am asked by widows to buy their goods or loan them money for seeds to plant their fields. I am asked for rides to.  the city all the time. I am asked for work. I am asked for money – to help in illness, to help in funerals, to help in church building projects, to help in running seminars, to help in court cases, to help educate kids, to help transport family members, to help build homes, etc…

How can you say, “No.” and yet it is impossible to say, “Yes.”  Sometimes I will loan money and most of the time it is not returned.  So I have learned to start with small loans until I have proven someone’s character. 

I am asked to pay for training all the time. But when you give someone something and they don’t pay for it themselves, even a little bit, they don’t value it. 

So we pray for wisdom to know what needs must be met and who to help. We pray for grace to learn to say, “No.” while still maintaining the relationship. We pray for strength to say, “Yes.” over and over again knowing that we won’t necessarily have even a thank-you in return let alone the debt repaid.

We pray that when we do say, “Yes.” we aren’t crossing that line of enabling which has hurt to missions in the past.  We pray for our hearts not to be hardened to the many requests, but to remain tender and willing to help when and where we can.  We pray for wounds to heal and forgiving souls so that we can trust again after being burned so often.  We pray that we would never forget that what we own is the Lord’s and these people are His.

I’m dreaming of a White Christmas

That is so true.  I grew up in a region where we usually had a white Christmas. Where the snow covered the ground for weeks. Where it sparkled in the light of street lights like diamonds.  

It isn’t just about the snow. It is about the traditions.  If I lived in my home culture I would have been shopping on Black Friday, I would have been hearing the Holiday music in all the malls. I would have been attending work parties and family gatherings and school programs. I would have been involved in our church choir or play. My home would be decorated and Christmas cookies in the jar.

But here I am mowing my lawn. I have some lights but no tree. I can barely find Christmas gifts anywhere.  I may gather with other expats in the area to celebrate. My national church will celebrate the holiday in their church all day long. No one makes cookies or knows about Santa Claus. In one way it is better because they remember the true reason – the Birth of Christ our Saviour!

I want to hangout with my family and wrap presents. But I will now adapt to new traditions, church all day, special food, beautiful flowers in bloom at this time of year.

The balance

Another cross cultural worker and I were having a great conversation the other day.  We talked about our first impressions when we started working here. We talked about all the text book mission theories that we believed to be true and found out were not so practical in our situations!

One of the hardest things was to figure out how to balance time with family, expat friends, and nationals.  We have seen others go to extremes on this topic. Some have chosen to live in the village at lower standards than many of the villagers themselves. They have often fallen sick from waterborne illnesses and had to move.  Many of them have short ministry because they burn out in such extreme situations. 

Others have gone to the opposite extreme and lived in a cushy mission compound surrounded by expats. They rarely talk the local language or have real relationships with nationals. They will teach seminars or translate curriculum or oversee offices, finances, or educations of expats.  They may live for years in a culture and yet never know the culture.

My friend and I discussed the balance between the two. We talked about how we had been burned out when we didn’t have enough communication with other missionaries or expats.  We longed to speak English and worship in our own language. We also talked about those we’ve know who have gone to the other extreme and know very few nationals.

We talked about how our kids need to know both cultures. They want to be able to hangout with other expats kids once in awhile and yet how they love playing with their national friends. We also realized how encouraging it is when we can get together with other missionaries for a Bible study or prayer time -when we can have a meal or play a game with others who are in ministry here. How helpful it is when we can even have a conversation with someone who isn’t with our same organization. 

So how does one find that balance. How can we move forward in the two cultures? How can we be careful not to judge others who are at one extreme or another?

Don’t you know?

Don’t you know there are consequences to every choice you make? If you choose to eat junk food all the time you will find your energy level and your weight will bear the consequences of that choice. If you choose to love alcohol, your liver will show it. If you choose to smoke, your lungs will show the results.

I see a couple men who are reaping the results of their life choices. One is dying slowly of AIDS. He is not at death’s door yet, but his energy and strength are low and he cannot do a whole lot. He made many bad choices in life. One choice was to marry a second wife whose first husband had died of AIDS.  What was he thinking?  Now his family is suffering taking care of him. He is not worth a whole lot to anyone right now because he cannot work and needs people to give him food to eat.

Another man left his wife and kids for another woman. She was young a beautiful. They decided not to have kids since he already had children from his first marriage. Now he is at death’s door and the kids whom he left are leery to help him. His wife will be alone and her step-kids are loyal to their mother. Some may visit but not often.

Another man decided to love alcohol and came home daily drunk. He began to abuse his wife and kids. He quit working and would steal food from the house which his wife and children had gathered in order to buy more drink.  Eventually his wife had enough of the abuse and left. His kids talk to him only cordially, but he has no one and no home. He is living on the floor at a friend’s home but he has nothing to call his own.

These men had some years of joy, but in the end what do they have. They are cared for by those they hurt because these loved ones are obeying God. But they made wrong choices and they eventually caught up to them.

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Single and ignorant

  Are you single?  Are you in ministry at your church or an organization, either at home or overseas?  Are you dedicating your time to serving God? Are you involved in your local church?

  We should be all that and more. We need to be part of community. We need to be helping out when we see a need. We need to be dedicating our time to serving God in various ways.

  If you are self-seeking, looking for friends and a good time, then you are ignorant.  As a Christian we need to seek the Lord.  Not only singles but everyone, needs to be seeking the Lord and how to serve Him. 

  There is another ignorance that I want to discuss here.  Are you aware of your surroundings?  Are you aware of who are you influencing?  Are you aware of who you may be hindering? Are you listening to authority in your spiritual walk?

  We sometimes understand the first point and throw ourselves whole-heartedly into serving the Lord. Helping in our churches. But then we forget the second part.  We are blind to the fact that we are hurting families. We are blind to the fact that we are hurting marriages. We will work hard in a ministry right alongside the pastor, youth pastor, associate pastor, worship pastor, or whomever may be in charge of the ministry. We are ignorant to the looks we receive from others. We need to be careful.  We can cause rumors to be spread about these men in leadership. We can even cause them to stumble. We must be aware. 

  Yes, throw yourself into ministry. But don’t be alone in the same office with a man. No matter how old or in love he is with his wife.  Don’t joke with him as a brother, no matter how much you have no intentions for him.  Many ministries are hurt by single women not being aware of how it looks.  They don’t mean to hurt a marriage. They don’t mean to break up a church. They never mean to fall in love with someone else’s husband.  But then it happens.  Being alone together, working on the same goal, you like each other. You depend on each other, and then you fall for each other. 

  Single women: Don’t be ignorant of this potential pitfall.  You may have pure intentions, but in the end it causes pain on so many levels.

  I have seen missionaries leave the field, divorce, church leaders crash, churches split, and families hurt, all because of single women not being careful about boundaries.