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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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. 

In her shoes…

If I were in her shoes, I doubt I’d do the same. 

My background is so different, my customs not the same.

If I were in her shoes, I would just call the law, to help with the abuse, the crime, the polygamy, and loss.

But culture has no limits for on how many wives one has

or on the way he beats them and steals food to feed his habit.

The family elders call them and sit them down to talk,

but not too long after that chat, he starts again to hit her.

She runs away to family, in nearby villages

yet, always he will find her and persuade her to return to him.

Her family, though they love her, will also send her back,

for the bride-price has been paid and she belongs to them.

She farms alone to feed her kids, and works a job to help with costs.

He sneaks into the store room and sells flour for but another cup.

There is not punishment for him as he chooses how he lives,

but for her and all their children, the burden is so great.

 

Fast forward several years, to find when he left home,

in search of wealth and fun, while the family enjoyed the calm.

Word came through village gossip, as fast as a wildfire,

he took another wife, who ran a bar and fed him well.

This new wife, was a widow, and her story was well-known.

The deceased has died a long, slow death of AIDS a year ago.

What was he thinking, that new husband?

Why take a wife with AIDS?

Do you not know the consequences of such a choice you’ve made?

 

Meanwhile at home, the peace was nice, no fighting or abuse.

But as the word spread of the choice, my friend began to dread.

When he comes home, what will I do? I do not want him in my bed.

I must refuse and lock him out, no matter what will surely be said.

And after more than two years passed, he did return to his first wife.

He tried to sleep again with her, but she refused completely.

This began more fights and fights, until one dreadful night.

He trapped her in the kitchen and threatened her life with an axe,

not once , nor twice but thrice!

The next day they called the government leaders to help with the abuse.

Their answer: you must divorce him, we cannot do anything else.

So the process began of divorce and no one knew how it would end.

Finally, she had freedom to not be his wife, but the fight began over the land.

she built the house, she farmed the land, she raised the kids, and she fed him.

So they both became stubborn and fought for the land,

he slept in the kitchen and she in the bed.

Finally, he grew tired of the fight and moved back to the second wife

Where he stayed for a couple more years.

Again those at home, were relieved that he’d gone

as peace once again was now known.

 

Fast forward again to not long ago. When the man returned back home.

His second wife grew tired of his laziness and bickering, and kicked him out of her home.

With no place to turn, this parasite returned to his family whom he never cared for.

Wife One, feeds him food, but makes him sleep in a different house.

His kids all have grown and taken over the jobs that a man of the house should do. 

This time now is different, for he is quite sick. In fact there is little hope.

Each month passes by and he grows weaker and weaker. As he sits there, waiting to die.

His “ex” is compassionate, as our Lord would be. And never refuses him food. She cares for him as she would a close relative, and the kids are all there with her too.

He knows that his body is weak and won’t last,

he tells everyone who visits that He made a bad choice

No longer will he drink or abuse them or wander. His choices have come to fruition. 

While he nears his death bed, she continues to serve him

food and a blanket and clean clothes.

Yet, I often wonder, if I were in her shoes

would I have compassion or hatred.

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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Are you my friend ?

Being a missionary is often a lonely calling.  Some of us are fortunate to live in a great community of other missionaries, others work in a place where they are alone.  But to be alone is defined in many ways. I can be alone when I am surrounded by a crowd of people. I can be alone because there is no one like me for 100 miles. I can be alone because I am fighting a spiritual battle and have isolated myself from others.

A missionary is always alone in some way or another because very few have experienced what he/she has experienced.  Whether in their homeland or their “other” home, they are different than most people around them.  But we need friends.

We need support from coworkers, our agency, nationals, and supporters. We need friends that are there for us not just praying but also asking questions, even when they cannot understand the answer.  I ran across a great article from A Life Overseas That One Safe Friend.

I wish I had known this before. I wish I could share this with everyone that comes out here. I wish I had that friend. Since being in the middle of no where, I had friends that Have come and gone. I have some I made while they worked alongside me, but when they left the communications faded. Others have moved into authoritative roles which means I cannot bear my heart out to them like I used to. Others have faded away because life has taken them away from the Lord.

I had friends that used to ask the hard questions, but somehow this role I have has changed that. I am too far away, communication was so little for so long that we lost touch, they don’t like to write (I hate that excuse because it is the only way I can communicate!).  Some think I am a spiritual leader and they are not so they cannot ask me those tough questions. – Hey I’m human!!!

All my friends have now gotten married and I am still single. They have lives with kids and husbands and we have so little in common anymore. It is all excuses.

Anyway, I can go on and on, but I recommend you read the article and find that friend. I will be searching for my “safe friend”.

So many cultures

How many cultures have you lived in?  I have lived in at least seven.  Some of these cultures have been very similar because they were in the same country and similar regions of that country. While other cultures are vastly different.  Some may differ because they are in different countries, while others differ because they are in very different regions of the same country.  Most of us have lived in at least two different cultures such as city and country. 

When we live in different cultures we notice differences. Sometimes the differences are huge while other times they are more subtle.  Being a missionary I have seen some huge differences such as language and dress and housing.  Living in the States I experienced more subtle differences such as terminology, dress, and lifestyle. 

The more difficult thing is not to judge, but to learn and adapt.  We want to do things our way, but it doesn’t mean that is the right way.

I remember in college comparing different words and customs with kids from around the country.  Is it a “sofa” or “couch” or “chaise” or “davenport”?  Is it a “sloppy joe”, “manwich”, or “barbeque”? Do you have a potluck after a funeral or a catered meal? Do you all go to the family’s home or gather at the church?  You know what I mean?

The US is vast and varied in it’s customs.  Yet, when you go overseas there are even more differences.  We learn to eat new food, not to make eye-contact, not to put the bottom of our feet toward anyone, not to step on money, not to flush toilet paper, not to clean our teeth in public, not to show our knees in public, or our stomachs, or our shoulders or …   We learn to stop and say hello and asking someone how they are doing before starting in our agenda with them.  We learn different styles of worship and celebrations. We see many ways of finding a mate that differ greatly. We also see types of housing and water situations that differ greatly from what we have become accustom to. 

Yet, no matter where the Lord takes you, you must learn and adapt to the culture of that area.  We must not stay set in our ways. Sometimes we only move to a new neighborhood in the same town, yet we find a new way of doing things.  We want to minister to those around us and by adapting to their culture we are more able to do that, so we adjust.  Sometimes we adjust in small ways, other times we adjust in huge ways. 

Paul said that he became all things to all men so that he might win some.  What about you? Are you set in your ways?

Yearnings

I have many yearnings, yet very few are known. For only God can hear them all and help me let some go.

On the mission field we yearn for things that most people would not yearn for. We yearn for a friend who can understand us in our language and our culture. We yearn to worship in our own language. We yearn to understand the culture in which we live. We yearn to turn on the radio and hear all the great Bible teachers and programs of our own culture. We yearn to go to the store and buy the ingredients for our favorite meal. We yearn to visit with our family. We yearn to attend loved one’s funerals. We yearn to have great internet, power, water, and driving conditions. We yearn for air conditioning and hot water. We yearn for ….

This list is endless and varies with the culture we live in. These are not sinful desires, but just longings within our hearts for things we know exist, for friends and family, for fellowship in our own language… These are normal for most of the world.  Our lives have brought us far from home and the normality of life that we once knew. But along with our yearnings, we yearn even more to serve our Lord. We have all made a choice to serve God wherever He leads. That has brought us to where we are. It has helped us survive the crude living conditions and language barriers. We Yearn for our Lord and His service. We yearn more than anything for our Heavenly Home where everyone will be able to understand us and speak the same language and serve with us whole-heartedly!