Friday, September 28, 2007

Beware, A Missionary with Blinders On

It's the little things on a foreign field that begin to eat away at your psychy. In Poland, all of your meat is bought over the counter from the butcher, so grabbing a package of meat from the freezer section is out of the question. Therefore, every two or three days we are reminded of our status in the language as we struggle to communicate what kind of meat we want and how much of it. Simple trips to the gas station feel like that long walk to the principal's office (you know, back when principal's were feared for the massive paddle they had in their office)because each time I have to communicate what kind of gas and how much to the person filling my tank. When that hurdle is crossed I walk into the station only to begin the hand signals again hoping to point out which pump is mine. We drop our kids off at school each day and choke through a few Polish words with their teacher, but if we're honest we have know idea what's going on at their school. Today our boys each came home from school with a brand new toy tractor---and we have no idea why. Did they when a contest we didn't know about? Did they find buried treasure? Worse, did they knock off a local convenience store? The only comparison I can draw to the current frustration of this language barrier is an example from my childhood. I vividly remember the day my cousin decided to educate me in the art of "Chinese water torture," he held me down and began to drip water on my forehead and, for awhile, I just laughed at him because it was only drops of water but soon enough it began to get on my nerves and it went from being "funny", to "quit it," to "screaming like a little girl" until he let me up. At first the whole language barrier was funny, then it went to "quit it," and now I often find myself "screaming like a little girl" hoping this language will let me up. Its unrelenting, unforgiving, and downright discouraging.

As you can tell, I've been holding onto this little pity party for the last few weeks. Focusing on MY feelings, My frustrations, MY discomfort. All of this "American introspection" on my part has blinded me to the grace of God in my life and the life of my family that is manifesting itself on a daily basis. It wasn't until a few days ago when confronted with this awful truth that my attitude began to change. Thank God for my family. Our children are the joys of our life. Aubrie wakes up every morning excited about eating "cocoa pebbles." When I say excited, I mean excited like "oh boy--cocoa pebbles." God help me to find joy in the little things. At almost three years of age is it obvious that God has gifted her with language acquisition. We first realized this when she was about 11 months old and we were praying at the dinner table. I closed with "In Jesus Name" and she finished with an emphatic AMEN. Ginger and I were in shock---and we are still in shock as we see her soak up the language, she knows no stranger and has no fear of making a mistake. Two vital attributes for learning a new language. We love the boys God has given us, the transition from Chicago to Poland was a lot more real for them than we had ever anticipated. I'll never forget driving back from Warsaw a few months ago, late at night, and they just opened up about how they missed "home" and missed "grandma and grandpa" and most of all how they were "nervous about going to school in Poland". I was rebuked by their courage as they choked back the tears and walked into their Polish classroom for the first time. They had a grasp of what they were up against but they walked forward. God help me to walk forward even when afraid. Their ability to see everything as a "great adventure" is an attribute I admire.

Finally, I'm so thankful for the wife God has given me. We've been married six years and I feel like I'm just beginning to realize what courage, devotion, and a heart for ministry she has. She's an "mk," grew up in Thailand and loves missions. Along with that though she has never really had a geographical place she could call home. We got married and began ministry at Bible Baptist Church in Romeoville, IL and that place became our home, some of the dearest and most dedicated Christians you will ever meet. After four years of ministry there we bought a house, our house, a home for my wife. Stability. I don't think the paint was even dry when I first approached her about Poland---yet the house was the last thing on her mind as we weighed the decision. Watching her here in Poland has been truly convicting. I know she misses our home but most of all she misses our church and yet she is so dedicated to the language, the ministry here, and most importantly our family. God help me to have that kind of dedication. She is a warrior and my lover. Wallowing in "self pity" was fun but it blinded me to the goodness of God. God's grace and goodness are amazing and its my prayer that I never overlook them again.


Matt and Courtney Jones said...

This sounds familiar somehow. :) Great reminder for all of us! We love you guys.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you're experiencing "culture shock." Your "feelings and emotions" are normal--you just got to go thru it keeping your eyes on Jesus. Your kids too. I remember what I did when having those "self pity" times--I went out visiting homes. Was an instant jolt in realizing how blessed I was. The first two years are the hardest and then your perspective really changes and Poland becomes "home."
You're in our prayers, The Seffingas

dan and cheryl forbes said...

Thank you for your transparency. Your comments, the issues you have been working through are a motivation to pray for you, your family and other families who are experiencing the same things, but may not be so open about expressing them. Thank you. I am teaching a High School class on missiology--I may be sharing your experiences with them, too.

NorthernChic said...

Your openness definitely encourages me to pray even more! Last Thursday midday, I was doing my dishes and looked over at my "prayer wall" of cards on my fridge (washing dishes is when I pray for my missionaries:) and I SPECIFICALLY was praying about the language thing and the HUGE adjustments that come with it. WOW…God brings about great timing I’d say:) Will continue to be praying for you guys!!! Thank you for your updates and transparency.
Love and Prayers,

The Stover Family said...

Dan, I think its a battle for us as we want to be open and honest about the transition so as not to paint a false picture about mission work, yet at the same time one risks whining or at least sounding like they are whining. There's a fine line but sometimes its hard to recognize (if that last sentence made any sense).

The Stover Family said...


You know what I was thinking about the other day? A year ago we were in the throws of deputation and just itching to get to the field. We are now on the field and at times desire to be home. It comes right down to contentment. Purposing to be content in whatever situation the Lord brings along. Easier said than done but no less a duty.

Auntie96 said...

Thank you for writting with such openness about adjusting to life as a missionary. Mom (Brenda Hesson) has been very sick and in the hospital. She loved reading this. And the e-mail that they got was also a blessing and a encourgment to her heart! Both mom and I both have such a heart for missions. And we are so blessed to be able to read about your blog each week. We read them all...some with smiles,some with laughter, some with tears. We are so thankful for them! As it helps us to know better on how to pray for your family as they adjust to life in Poland.

Thank you so much for your transparency!

We bring you before the Throne of Grace each day! (and Olga too)

Annette for the Hesson family
Isaiah 26:3

The Stover Family said...

Annette, we were sorry to hear about Brenda being in the hospital. We will be praying for her. Is she home yet? Thank you for your daily prayers for our family, and we appreciate your feedback on our blog.

The Stover Family

Anonymous said...

Jason and Ginger,
What you are experiencing is "very normal" so don't think you're whining. It's all part of the adjustment period. In my opinion, the first 2 years are the very hardest. Hang in there, it does get to feel like home. I'm praying for more special friends for you. Do you have that kind of phone that it's like talking to someone in the states? If so, what number? Barb Seffinga

Anonymous said...

Hello Jason and Ginger,

We have never met but we've met your parents at Bethel Baptist Church in Sellersville, PA and we know Ben and Sarah from our visit to Poland last year.

My wife and I can sympathize a bit with your language adventures in Poland. We also dreaded the trips to the store to buy meat. That is until we learned that saying thirty (trzydzieści) decos was closer to spitting than talking. :) Also, how many kinds of kielbasa do you really need to sell?

We are excited for your courage to stick it out. We were ecstatic to hear of the launch of the church and the growth being demonstrated by men in the church. Be sure to tell Ben and Sarah that we remember them and Derek and Amber continually in prayer. Poland and your ministries are on our hearts and in our prayers.

Be encouraged: Faithful is He that calleth you, Who also will do it. I Thessalonians 5:24.

David and Lori Emr

The Stover Family said...

Dave and Lori,

I think seven kinds of kielbasa is enough. I will pass on your message. Do you guys have any huskies of your own after your stay last summer? : )

David and Lori said...

Let's just say that we are happy with our one cat and two fish. :)

So how were the services today? I hope it was a good time of worship and fellowship.

Are you guys making plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas? You probably haven't thought about Christmas yet, but I ask because all the stores here already have stuff out.

Thanks for writing.

Erin Neiner said...

Jason, Thank you for sharing your heart! You are an excellent writer!

You do have a GREAT wife! It thrills and humbles me to see how God is using her in a way He has prepared her through her whole life! I admire her strength, self-discipline & confidence in God so much!

Don't forget...a language is conquered one pronunciation at a time, one word at a time, one phrase at a time! Rome wasn't built in a day either!