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.

Advertisements

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?

Visiting Churches

splitOne of the jobs that we have as missionaries is to visit churches in our home countries. Furlough, Home Assignment, Deputation, Support Raising, Ministry Reporting, etc…

We are privileged to travel to many congregations and fellowship with them. We meet so many fellow members or the Body of Christ. We encourage local leaders and saints. We build up a great army of prayer warriors who back us up. We share with kids about being a missionary and ministry.  We eat with different people and encourage them to take that leap of faith toward ministry at home and abroad.

We recruit short and long term missionaries. We build interest in missions which have long-lasting effects.  Many of my fellow missionaries were first interested in missions because of someone visiting their church and sharing a meal with them. Others started the path toward full-time mission work because of short term mission trips they had taken. 

We see the good and bad in so many congregations. We get to see large and small churches, healthy and dying churches. We can encourage or discourage local leaders. We can promote missions or scare people away from them.

Recently I met with someone who had visited an unhealthy church. He was so judgmental and critical of the leadership there. It struck me in a painful way.  I hope that I never judge the local churches I visit. I hope that I never judge the people I meet.

I also remember a Sunday when the church I was visiting split. I stayed with a family who wasn’t going to church that day or any other day after that. I woke up and went to church. I greeted all involved and tried to encourage and not ask questions.  

We pop in briefly can never know all the circumstances. Even if we try to help fix an issue, we can not know the years of history that have lead to such a problem. We must be careful not to take sides and to pray for all involved. 

The False Teachers among us

I have been working in Africa for more than 10 years. A big goal of mine is to teach the Word of God.  Recently I was in a new region and teaching a conference. I was surprised to hear about all the false teachers in the area.  The attendees of the conference were asking some deep theological questions. They wanted real answers. They shared stories of other preachers and evangelists that had come to town.  How they would collect valuables and money from sick people promising to heal them. They would promise that if they did xyz they would suddenly become rich.

These teachers travelled in big fancy cars and wore expensive suits. They stayed in expensive hotels and ate and nice restaurants. They knew how to speak well and entertain the crowd.  They could raise their voices and jump up and down until people began cheering for them. 

They preachers and teachers make a lot of money from offerings. They preach another Gospel and lie to very sick people.  How can we fight against them? How can we show the lies for what they are?

changes

I sense change is in the air,

the signs are all around me.

But change is not what I must fear,

although I dread it greatly.

Years ago I made a pledge

to go where He would send.

If that should me I leave this land

which I have grown to love so dear

or leave this region, home and friends

to live in a new place,

then I should heed my Saviour’s call

and pack up all my things.

Yet my heart breaks to think of it

as I have settled in this place

I’ve learned the language, the dress,

the culture, the attitudes and needs.

I’ve found a niche in which to serve

that fills a need so great.

Though I trust my God and His plan

it seems counterproductive.

So change is coming, but what it is

I do not yet comprehend.

Will others leave and new ones come

or will I too move on?

Give me peace, Lord.

Give me hope, and comfort in the unknown.

Let me trust Your plan and know it’s best

even when I don’t understand.

Permission to Work

All of us who are missionaries have complicated issues with staying in our host country. Sometimes we have to work carefully as to make sure we don’t break any laws in this country.  We need to apply for visas/permits/papers/permission to live where we live and to do what we do.

images (13)It can mean standing for hours in lines. It can mean dealing with an expensive agent. It can mean trying to fill out forms in a new language and learning complicated government terms. It can mean leaving the country every so often and then re-entering. It can mean finding a national organization to sponsor you. It can mean finding another NGO to work alongside. It can mean taking a job so that you can live and minister on the side.  It means trying to understand a complicated list of requirements. It means supplying these forms in triplicate or more.

This is one of the dreaded times of year(s).  We each must remember the expiration date of our paperwork and take steps to renew it.  Sometimes it means traveling to the place where the nearest immigration office is.  It means lots of prayer and waiting. It is one of those things that puts our faith to the test. We await approval, we wait patiently for the various offices to put their stamp on it. We pray we don’t have to take a quick trip out of the country in the meantime.

Then all of the sudden we hear through the grapevine that the process has changed. For me, it has changed at least 3 times since I began working here.  Where my permit can be processed. How much paperwork I need to file. What office I must go to first. What kind of permit a short term visitor needs.  Always learning, always praying, always trusting.