Monday, December 29, 2008

A Polish Blog

Christians in Poland are in desperate need of good Christian literature. Simply put, not much has been translated into the Polish language. As a result there are very few resources to aid a believer in their study of God's Word, and there are very few if any resources for pastors. Our coworker, Ben Layer, has started a blog that we are hoping will turn into a resource for pastors and Christians alike. You can check it out here. On Mondays we post articles that I find from various sources, on Wednesdays we post articles that Ben writes, and he hopes soon to be posting Spurgeon sermons translated to Polish on Fridays. As well, whenever we learn of a good book that has been translated into the Polish language we make it known on the blog. In a very short time the blog has had nearly 3500 hits, it will be exciting to see how God uses this in the future.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas in Poland

Being it's our second Christmas in Poland, we have been trying to learn about Polish traditions around the holidays. Christmas Eve is called "Wegilia" (ve-ghi-li-a) and its a busy day for Poles. Wegilia is a big shopping day, probably similar to the day after Thanksgiving for us in the States. It's not uncommon for Polish people to set up their Christmas trees on this day either. So you can imagine some of the strange looks we got when we put up our tree the end of November. Though Poles set up their trees quite late, they will leave it up for weeks after Christmas. On the evening of Wegilia is an elaborate feast at which all the extended family gets together. No matter how many people sit at the table there will always be one extra plate and chair at the table. Though mostly symbolic, the extra plate is set just in case a stranger comes to the door in need of food and shelter. Twelve courses are served, the number twelve symbolizing the twelve apostles. Something else that is common is the placing of hay either underneath the tablecloth or underneath the table, symbolizing the place of Christ's birth.

The main course on Christmas Eve is always carp. It's rarely eaten the rest of the year, but always eaten on Wegilia. However we haven't met too many who really care for it but it's tradition--kind of like the cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving right? The grocery stores in town have huge five feet tubs in which they keep the live carp, and it's rather amusing to watch as people try to grab them with the net. To keep the carp fresh Polish people will let them live in their bathtub until Christmas Eve.

Through our language study and through talking with some Polish friends we have begun to learn about the importance of "wishes" in Polish culture. "Wyszystkiego najlepszego" is a common phrase heard around the holidays and it means "I wish you the best in everything." This wishing culminates on Wegilia when after dinner the family brake off pieces of a specially made bread called "oplatek" (o-pwa-tek) and wish good things for eachother over and over again. Sharing in "oplatek" can also be a time of forgiveness or of letting "bygones be bygones" like we Americans do on New Year's Eve. Christmas morning is more of a time for immediate family and for opening presents, but Poles often travel to the homes of extended family later in the day. Ginger and I want to thank you for your continued prayers we wish each of you "wyszstkiego najlepszego."

Monday, December 15, 2008

For the Animal Lovers

Polish people love their animals, an estimated one in three Polish families have a pet. Because most people travel by foot in town, their dogs accompany them everywhere from the store to the post office. Being involved in the daily routine of their owners, the dogs here learn to walk on a leash quickly and obediently. After a time, it is not uncommon to see dogs walk with their owners without a leash. All of the crosswalks here have an alarm that sounds for as long as the light is green. Mainly this is to help the seeing impaired know how much time they have to cross the street. But it has also served to train the dogs. On three or four different occasions, Ginger and I have seen a stray dog wait at the crosswalk with the rest of the people and only cross when the alarm rings. It's quite amazing to watch really.

Because they are used to routine, older dogs are controlled simply by voice commands. The funniest example of routine is of a dog in our building. The dog and the owner are quite old and they live near the top of our building, so when it's time for a bathroom break the owner opens his door and sends the dog downstairs. He then waits until someone lets him out, does his business, and waits for someone to let him in the building again. Being old, he's learned a few tricks and instead of climbing 12 flights back to the top, he waits for someone to open the elevator door and give him a ride to his floor. Fortunately there are a few sympathetic ladies in our building who aid him in his journey back to his apartment.

One tip for visiting Poland, don't walk in the grass. Grass is for the relief of domesticated animals only. Children don't play in the grass because many people view it as something to be viewed rather than something to be tread upon. Besides, it's not worth all the time that it takes to clean your shoes later.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Serving in Peru

Loren Fitzgerald---Peru

I was thinking about what has helped me thus far. (I have only been in Peru for 7months)

1. Being able to speak the language (in order to have deep relationships with people)

2. Fulfilling my desire in having ladies Bible studies

3. Having nationals as friends

4. Having other missionary ladies to confide in here in Peru (There are 3 other couples

within 30 minutes) We get along great!

I am a people person and I have needed to be able to interact with other women: do what they do, have heart to heart times with them. I am pretty busy here, which has helped. I have three Bible studies going with different groups of women on different subjects. I have been learning to cook from scratch, for real! I try to get out and get to know people, the culture and such. There are times that I get frustrated and yell, “These people, this place!” Even though I speak Spanish, it is very different here (which can be frustrating), but I have forced myself to be teachable. There is so much to learn that it can be overwhelming, but I recite to myself the song “Little by Little, Inch by Inch.” I get up every day and ask myself, God, and my husband, “What’s the plan for the day?” I am learning to give God my plans and schedule. I know this isn’t much, but it’s what has helped me.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Culture Clash in Cambodia

Jennifer McPhail--Cambodia

As the plane soared above O’Hare airport, the elevation change reflected the rapid change in my life situation. I was raised in small-town Deep South America, child of a country church pastor, and very comfortable with my Bible-belt social sphere. Until I married Forrest McPhail, I had never been on an airplane, and until deputation, I had never been west of the Mississippi, much less outside of the U.S.A. To complicate my naivety, my doctor advised me not to accompany Forrest on our survey trip of Cambodia, since I was seven months pregnant with our first baby at the time. Now, on my third flight ever, I was moving half-way around the world to a place I had only seen in pictures.

Of course, the starlit glow of deputation had fairly convinced me that people everywhere were wowed by our sacrifice and commitment. The appreciative natives would doubtless dance around rejoicing once they heard the Good News of Jesus Christ we were bringing to them. I had prepared myself with missionary biographies, so I was ready to give it all, live in a hut, and eat rice and stir-fry at every meal. The complications of the 21st century were all completely outside my box.

We descended from the clouds into steamy Pochentong Airport, where the senior missionary we would work with during language school met us. His philosophy for 12-hr. time changes was to keep us busy until evening, so our first stop was the bank to set up our monthly wire transfers. I was stunned there when I met another missionary wife at the bank wearing jeans and a tie-dyed shirt! I expected a sarong and a checkered headscarf! From there it just got worse. I had bought a refrigerator and a washing machine by the end of the month, and life was looking more modern all the time.

Between language school, caring for our baby, and learning how to live with a house helper, we kept fairly busy and happy for the next few months. One big surprise for us was that the senior missionary would be relegating teaching responsibilities to Forrest and me after just seven months of language training. Their family was due for furlough, and the only other family had joined the team only two months before we had. The rookies were it!

Trials began to escalate. Our home flooded three times, twice above the electrical outlets, and we decided to move to higher ground, literally—we took a second-floor apartment. Our first landlady was less than happy, and so less than kind. My house helper was acting more like she was in charge of me, instead of the other way around, and she also began looking to us to take care of her financial crises, which came quite regularly. An attempted coup happened in the city, and the gunshots disturbed me greatly. Ever after, I could not tell if I was hearing fireworks or firearms until Forrest could comfort me (of course he could differentiate!). Worst of all, we began to understand Khmer, and so we could hear the less-than-kind comments about the “long-noses” or “frenchies,” as they call us. It seems we were not so popular as I had expected, and we began to sense this from church members as well!

Naivety was crumbling, but I was building some strong walls of resentment in its place. The beautiful smiles of the Cambodians I met began to look sinister. Forrest told me he felt like a walking dollar-bill, the way folks asked us for money all the time, especially if we wanted to tell them about Jesus. I had my pocket picked at market once, got price-gouged often, and experienced lewd remarks from the male population when I went out. I began to retreat into my home and garner my needed emotional support from husband, daughter, teammates, and email.

At this crucial point, God would not let me be. My husband disappointed my expectations, our toddler hit a most awful tantrum stage, teammates got busy with their own families, and emails from family never came when I needed them. My Sunday school class of 60-75 children ranging in age from three to twelve years was stressful, especially since my only assistant was my mischievous two-year-old. My carefully prepared lessons often came apart at the seams as I was distracted by snickers and echoes of my mispronunciations around the room.

I began to struggle with unreasoning fear at night. I would wake in terror that I could not shake, pull the sheet over my head along with a pillow, and tremble for hours. I knew oppression was a possibility, but looking back, I think adjusting to a place where I simply could not make things work like they always had led to anxiety that erupted in this way.

One morning, footsteps rushing past our landing alerted me to the fact that a missionary colleague was looking for Dr. Tom, our teammate, because the man’s wife had been hurt badly in a hit-and-run accident nearby and needed Dr. Tom’s help. The missionary community rallied in a wonderful way to get medical help, but our friend died. Their family had been staying in the building our church met in as they prepared to leave for furlough the day of the accident. I was thankful to have heard our friend’s testimony at supper a couple nights before. She told us of her great contentment with God’s working in her own life and in her relationships with her husband and children. Never had I known someone to show such peace before great tragedy. How I wanted that!

Finally, my bruised heart and thwarted will were ready to receive the feast God was preparing for me. God led my husband to a passage in Mark where Jesus was experiencing a difficult time, humanly speaking, in His ministry. In chapter 6, Jesus receives the news of the violent death of John the Baptist at the hands of King Herod. We read in verse 31 that the Lord and his disciples were so busy at that point that they could not even eat. They decided to leave by boat for needed rest in a quiet place. But the people saw them, and they ran and met them at their destination!

“And Jesus, when He came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.”

Jesus knew their hearts, their motives, and their thoughts. Many of these people wanted whatever they could get from Jesus. Others had a thirst to see the supernatural. Unredeemed humanity is not lovely, no matter what country it resides in. And yet, He was moved with compassion. I began to understand that what I needed most was Christ’s love for these Cambodian people, an unwavering love that is not based on the loveliness of the loved ones. Forrest and I began to pray to have that love, and God began to work in us.

For me, though, that was not the only issue at stake. None of the comforts that had eased my spirit at other points in my life were helping. Many of the pleasures I had enjoyed were not even available now! No libraries, malls, videos, or phone conversations. I had a gorgeous dream once that I was in a big department store where everything had price tags (Phnom Penh was still backwards then), and I shopped for hours! Comfort foods were gone too. I was shut up, like many campers feel when they go for a week of summer camp. But, like at camp, I was better prepared to hear God speak.

Desiring God, by John Piper, came into our possession, and I started to read. The more I read, the hungrier I got! Jesus Christ fulfills every longing that I felt then or will ever feel! I was craving things of the world without even realizing it, because I was dissatisfied and anxious without them. Hope sprang up in my heart that God would be all in all for me, come what may. It felt like a conversion experience, and my Bible was suddenly a personal letter for Jennifer-the-new-missionary-in-Cambodia.

If I had known what would await me on the nether side of the globe, I doubt if I would have so glibly fielded questions at our display table in the church lobbies of America. In fact, I think I would have left the task to someone better prepared. But now I would not trade my life for any other, not because of the adventure and romance of our calling, but because of how God has pushed and prodded me out of complacency and into joy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Serving in Ghana

Patty Sommer--Ghana, West Africa

I was quite sure when I moved to the mission field that I would be the first missionary never to suffer from culture shock. I had heard it talked about, and I even had one missionary friend try to give me some advice about it, but I was sure I would never have problems like "everyone else." Boy, was I in for a surprise!

When we came to Ghana we were supposed to work and live with an older missionary and his wife near the capital for a year; we were not supposed to learn the language, because the national language was English; we were supposed to go live in the Western Region after the first year. Within the first 12 hours, all the plans had changed - the missionary was only going to stay for a short while because of health problems; we learned that even though the national language was English, hardly anyone could really speak it; a problem arose with our contact in the Western Region. Within the first 24 hours, we moved into a "local" apartment in a very poor part of Kumasi, in the Ashanti Region. Needless to say, culture shock hit hard and fast. I was also six months pregnant (that's another story in itself :) ), and my hormones were going wild. I couldn't understand what was wrong with me. Some moments all I could feel was anger. Sometimes, I was overcome with fear. And sadly enough, I even struggled with hatred. Nothing made any sense. What was up was down; what was black was white. I had come to Ghana to love these people and lead them to know Christ, but most days it was all I could do to drag myself out of bed. I began counting down the days until I could go home! In fact, I was so excited each morning when I got to tear off another day on my calendar! I think I probably had the worst case of culture shock ever!

The wonderful thing about this hard story is that in the midst of one of the darkest times in my life, Jesus was right there with me. There were many days that I took my eyes off Him, but He never took His eyes off me. One of the first lessons He taught me in this time was that all I needed to figure out was what He wanted me to do each day, and then do them. Psalm 61 was a wonderful blessing, especially verse 8, "So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows." The second lesson the Lord taught me was actually from a quote on my calendar (the one I couldn't wait to see disappear!). It said, "Whatever you can do,...Begin it. ~ Goethe. It seems silly that the Lord would use that, but it really caught my attention. I'd lost sight of the fact that God had brought John and I to Ghana, and He had a reason for everything I was facing. He didn't want me to give up; He wanted me to get up! He wanted me turn to Him in my weakness and seek His strength, not my own. He wanted me to do what I could, not spend all my time and energy worrying about what I couldn't do.

I would love to say that after the initial six months everything was perfect, but that wouldn't be the truth. Culture shock often has more than one level. After about two years in Ghana, I started really struggling again with fear. I was scared to death to go anywhere without John, and most days I didn't even want to leave my house at all. This was exceptionally hard for me (and John), because I've never been a clingy person. This is when God taught me another important lesson - that fear is one of Satan's favorite tools! I had to cling to II Timothy 1:7, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." What freedom that verse brought me! For a time I had to pray that verse almost non-stop, but the wonderful thing is that God proved that verse to me. As I relied on Him to take away that fear, He filled me with the power, the love, and the sound mind I so desparately needed! What a mighty God we serve!

And now, I've learned another reason that God gives culture shock. He gives it to us so that some day we can help others! II Corinthians 1 :4-5 says, "Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Culture Shock

Sarah Layer--missionary to Poland

I had often heard about this much-discussed phenomenon we call culture shock: in college missions meetings, from other missionaries we met while on deputation, and from the missionaries we started to get to know when we got to the field. It just didn’t make any sense to me. We had already been in Cracow, Poland for a year or so and still I hadn’t experienced anything I would call shocking. There was stress, of course, trying to comprehend Polish grammar and use it in everyday conversation. At times I felt really uncomfortable, unsure of myself. Sometimes I even caught quick glimpses of how different this new culture was. But in general, my world was consumed with my brand new baby girl and with our study of the Polish language. While I felt frustration at times, I also felt we had lots of time to adjust. To tell the truth, actual ministry in Poland felt comfortably far-off. But before we planned our first furlough, my husband told me he felt we were ready to quit language school and move to a new town to begin church planting. “What?!” I thought. “Are you kidding me? We need several more years here to learn how to minister in Poland, to learn this crazy language!” Besides that, we were just getting to know a great young couple; we had fallen in love with our sweet landlady and her family; we had our American friends so close by for a support system. And we were going to just up and move to a brand new place in this already confusing culture?

Suddenly I started to feel some shock. Added to that, I found out I was pregnant. We went home to the States for a whirlwind furlough, came back, had our second baby girl and made plans to move. When we arrived in our new town, I felt like I had been tossed into the ocean without a life raft. In Cracow, there were many foreigners and often I could hear and speak English, but in Siedlce we were the only foreigners. To say that we didn’t get a warm welcome by the Polish people in our new town is an understatement, but we must have seemed foreign and scary to them too. Our coworkers were scheduled to arrive six months or so after we did, so for a while we were on our own. And I felt alone. More than I ever had in my life. Weird things started to happen: I started to get panic attacks and I couldn’t breathe; I felt overwhelmingly afraid at the oddest times. I knew at the time the fear was irrational, but even so, it felt very real. I felt as weak and helpless as my 6 month old baby. The only thing I had strength to do was cry out to God every minute of the day to save me, to keep me from going under.

It’s painful to remember those days, but I learned some important things. First, I experienced true dependence on God for the first time in my life. Before, I was proud of my independent spirit and of my ability to cope in any situation. Sure, I knew in my head that we humans are weak and dependent on our God, but for once I truly felt that I could do nothing, even take my next breath, without Jesus. I now better realize how weak and inadequate I am to the task and how desperately I need God.

I also have a new compassion for those struggling with depression. I recall a conversation I had a long time ago with someone battling depression. I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. I’m appalled now at how impatient and unfeeling I was when I basically told her to just shake it off. Compassion was the hallmark of Christ’s dealings with people and because of my own struggle, I now have a new appreciation for other peoples’ pain.

Ministry is always hard, no matter where you are, because we’re all human and prone to conflict. It’s even more complicated when you throw in a difficult new language and a sometimes baffling culture. But we’re not alone. There are many of us struggling with the adjustment to our mission field, struggling to love those we don’t understand. But we’re not alone. Don’t feel you have to trudge through all by yourself. If you’re an experienced missionary who has triumphed over some hard times, reach out to those who are new. If you’re new and floundering, reach out to those who have walked where you walk today. And most importantly, remind yourself daily of God’s goodness. He loves you and has you exactly where He wants you for your own good and for His own glory.

Monday, November 3, 2008

What ?????? NOT ME!!!!!

Polly Whitmore -- Yap Island, Micronesia

My husband Bob and I accompanied a young missionary couple to the island of Yap on their survey trip in 1999. We were both on staff at Faith Baptist in Taylors, SC. The Yap adventure was a real stretch for me - but I was glad to return to 'normal' as a mom of 2 boys. THEN Bob said he thought God was calling us to return to Yap with Paul and Sherry Zimmer and their children . WHAT????? NOT ME! I'm not a missionary! My boys may be someday - but not me! Well, we prayed for each other over the next 2 years - God worked slowly in my heart....We left for Yap with one supporting church and one individual supporter. We knew we would get jobs on island for the first term at least. MY job was teaching SCIENCE full time at the public high school! I have a business degree from BJU and HATE science! I taught 175 island ninth graders each day in the hot, hot, hot environment - where chewing and spitting bright red betelnut is standard activity, sitting and popping lice is a social activity, and toplessness is culturally accepted - one parent/teacher conference was really an adventure in solid eye contact for me!

Sherry and I cried pretty steadily for the first 6 months. I thought I was going insane. I'd frantically email for prayer and insight . Don't fall for the devil's lie about not asking for help - that's exactly what he wants you to believe - that people will think you're weak, but that's exactly what we are! We are weak people, willing to be used by God. One nice thing about the tropics, though, is that you can cry all day long and no one will notice because you're sweating so badly! I learned to sweat and cry with grace. After six months, one day I looked at Sherry and said, “You may not understand, but today I took my first deep breath.” She was shocked and said, “ME TOO!” It was like I was holding my breath on a scary roller coaster ride. Bob would take me in the car - with windows rolled up - so I could practice laughing again. I LOVE to laugh - but I completely lost the ability for the first 6 months.

We now have 2 granddaughters. Phone contact is still difficult due to cost - I miss the voices. But email is a blessing. Honesty about your struggles is crucial. Get a few close friends to be your prayer warriors. Keep good communication with your husband. Study His Word - sharpen your sword as a woman. I read When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn James. It’s VERY good (why women need to know their theology) - about how 'helpmeet' means 'ezer' and is usually used to refer to God riding in the sky with His flashing sword to battle. WOW! Search that word – it’s very enlightening. Also I'm studying about virtuous women - THAT word also has a lot of strength - like women of valor! Learn your theology - apply His truth to your fear. You personally are in a battle. One missionary wife balked about that and said, “My husband tells me what to think.” They are now off the field permanently. The devil loves to come after the wives - we don't always see the importance of studying and applying God's truth.

I asked a veteran missionary lady about all my crying. She nodded and said, “Oh, that's normal! I did too, AND I used to hide money under the couch cushions to secretly buy a plane ticket out of there. I didn't care what my husband and kids did - I just wanted out!” WHAT??????? Of course, I thought that was so funny - but immediately felt SO much better... and so 'normal.’ What a relief to know that God knew my need and was right there with me through the journey. The other thing I've noticed is that missionary wives’ experiences are very similar to anyone in transition or facing a new chapter - like adjusting to widowhood, a traumatic move to a new city etc., and THEY have Walmart and phone service! But I've listened to many who were in despair - just like I was as I adjusted to Yap.

It has been REALLY helpful for me to start keeping a notebook of various lessons I was learning on topics like contentment, peace, worry, fear etc... One book suggested choosing 5 things to look for as you read your Bible each day. My list continues to grow.

“ Problems don't keep us from serving God. Problems are the circumstances in which we serve God.”

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mary Delaney -- Kaohsiung, Taiwan

This is my constant burden when I see young gals and even some older women preparing to leave for the field…I have always wondered, are there veteran missionary wives sharing their hearts openly, honestly, candidly with the younger women? There has to be a balance - because it’s not all woes and sadness…. I hate the song “SO Send I You…. to labor unrewarded, unloved, blah, blah, blah… - THAT is not the truth either. God does give us rewards as we obey….. God does send unexpected blessings …. God does give us inner peace - but, yes - the first term on the field is tough.

Guess what? I met a veteran missionary wife at Christmas time - by accident - that’s a long story. But when I told her we were really enjoying Taiwan, she asked me how long we had been here. I told her 3 and ½ months. She looked at me and said, “You are still in your honeymoon period. When you hit the 6 month mark you will begin to hate everything - the dirt and filth, the lack of manners, the lack of American goodies, the politics among the missionaries, etc… etc…“ I thought to myself, “She obviously doesn’t realize she is talking to somebody who was in Singapore nearly 18 years.” But, guess what? Today marks six months…and I’m tired. And, once again, the pressures of settling into a new country/language/ministry have taken their toll on our marriage…. I feel lonely - don’t quite fit in YET with the church folks and other missionaries….I feel so far removed from our daughters, Sarah and Rebekah - and with a 14 hour time difference we have a tough time making phone calls…we are hounded with hundreds of mosquitoes…. The Chinese language is tough…. Everything is super, super expensive…. We really, really miss the food of Singapore (NOT America!) Some of the stuff they eat here is abominable… (You told me to be frank…) We are trying to care for a ministry on top of homeschooling and language school and that was not such a brilliant idea… We have a communication barrier here that we never had in Singapore…..

However, the people here are absolutely precious! The winter here has been colder than we’ve ever experienced before in Asia… but the temps are back up to the 70’s now - yippee! I am spending several hours a week in school with my teenagers - wow! What great bonding time! We are going to have our own secret code now when we go back to the US - we were always so jealous of families such as the Hayes - they could say all kinds of nasty things without anybody understanding them. The other young missionary couple from NBBC that is here short term have become great friends with our Daniel and Julia (though things aren’t always peachy-creamy!) I’m thankful to have our kids out of the USA for their teen years…. God has showered us with all kinds of unexpected blessings from unknown ravens, meeting all of our needs…. I really like the home God provided for us - nicer than any home we ever had in Singapore…. I thank God for Skype and e-mail and relatively cheap phone calls - things we didn’t have my first term in Singapore!

…Over time God will indeed knit your hearts to those of the people HE has called you to.. I can’t explain it… I can’t give you a time frame…. but it just happens. And you know what? Gradually, those people that you live with and minister with become your family and your best friends…. To the point that your own family and friends in the US no longer understand you…. Hard to explain. Make sure you are keeping your family a priority. Spend time with your children! Love them! Teach them! Have fun with them… Enjoy them! All too soon they will be gone.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What I Wish I Had Known. . .

Barb Fisher -- Marshall Islands

What I wish I had known...

Honestly, where do we even start on this one?! No matter how long we’ve been serving the Lord we are always learning or at least that should be our attitude, shouldn’t it? It’s easy to get proud about the things we learn and forget that it’s only by God’s grace that we can even move and breathe and learn.

*I would like to share a word of encouragement to ladies that will be serving in countries where English is a second language. The importance of learning the local language cannot be emphasized enough. Make the mastery of that language part of your ministry philosophy and don’t be deterred from it. At first there is an excitement about learning a new language. After about the first week, reality sets in, and you realize there is this huge mountain in front of you that seems quite impossible to climb. It’s very tempting to get pulled into doing “good” things, especially ministry related things, at the expense of being out with people “just” to learn their language. Remember, you will never have an effective ministry with those people if you can’t communicate with them in their heart language. As a wife and possibly mother you have family responsibilities as well. Ask the Lord to give you discernment as you seek to honor Him with the responsibilities you have at home. Depending on the ages of your children and the country you live in you could possibly plan to have your children with you when you are out learning the language. Another idea is to have 2 or 3 times a week where you husband can watch the children while you go out for an hour or more on your own.

*This next one seems like a no-brainer but I guess I just never thought it through. No matter where you go in the world, in our hearts people are all the same. For some reason when you get to a place where people have different complexions, different customs, particularly lower standards of living etc. you seem to think that they are very giving, not greedy, not selfish etc. It’s very easy to be sucked into the noble savage mentality instead of remembering what God’s Word says about man’s heart- how desperately wicked it is. No matter if you’re in the high rises of New York City or in a remote jungle, people are sinners rejecting God and their greatest need is the gospel.

To be honest, one of the things that I constantly struggle with is the lack of fruit that we’ve seen in our particular area. You know that things may be hard but after a few years you expect God to bless in a certain way. When you don’t see things happening the way you planned them it is easy to get discouraged and begin questioning why you are even there. Sometimes God brings us into situations where the only thing we have to anchor our souls to are His promises. One of the passages that I love to read is Isaiah 40. It sure puts into perspective God’s awesome power and sovereignty and man’s puniness.

At first you are popular-like the new kid on the block. Then when you have your first confrontation it can be a real struggle to keep the right perspective. One of the early confrontations I remember was when I had to tell a lady she couldn’t borrow my bicycle. We had allowed some people to borrow my bike thinking we were being kind. After several weeks my bicycle would be gone for hours at a time being passed from one person to the next. People would rather use my bike than spend their own money on a bike. Many of the neighbor ladies would spend hours gambling with their money or spending it on frivolous things. We had to think through how we could truly help these ladies. They thought I was truly kind and helpful if I gave them what they wanted. We realized that saying “yes” to whatever they requested would only encourage them to continue wasting their money knowing that they could just look to me to meet their needs. As expected, my refusal to let them use my bike was met with anger. We had to remember that our goal was not to win people to ourselves but to win them to Christ. Having this fixed in our hearts helped us not get too discouraged when people got upset with us. We asked the Lord to help us to continue to love them and to remember that but for God’s grace our thinking would be unbiblical as well.

What a thrill to actually see God open someone’s eyes. It truly is a joy to be in a place where day in and day out we have the opportunity to help people see themselves the way God sees them and then point them to the Cross. God in His sovereignty works in different ways but we can know that whether here on earth or in heaven we will one day rejoice TOGETHER with the one that sowed and the one that reaped.

As hard as it is to go through certain struggles, it is really the goodness of God in bringing us to the point of clinging to Him alone and anchoring our souls in His promises. It is very humbling to have to admit our weakness and helplessness but that is when, by His mercy, He allows us to experience a sliver of what it really means to trust in Him. It’s a funny thing though, how you can know certain truths “academically” but sometimes it takes going though some storms (more like typhoons) for those Biblical truths to be cemented in our hearts. What a wonderful thing to be able to entrust ourselves to Him who judges righteously. He slices it up perfectly. (I Peter 2:21-25)

One of the questions you asked was what makes you feel more at home in your new country? I guess many different things factor in to this situation. Take hope! You will eventually feel at home. Then you go back to America and you have a difficult time “feeling at home.” Sometimes it is a real challenge “fitting in” if you will, depending on how ungodly and to what extent the community you are living amongst is devoid of any Biblical foundation. Without meaning to, it is easy to be sucked into unbiblical thinking because we want so bad to be accepted so that we can share the gospel. Realizing that there will be many things that we will have to stand against it should demand a greater desire to learn the language and jump into the culture into whatever ways that we can. Even though we will always be outsiders it is neat to see God break down some of the barriers and in time you actually feel part of your new home country. Yes, all countries have their cultural distinctive etc. but it’s good to remember that inside we are all the same. The gals in Poland probably struggle just as much with hatred, jealousy, and pride as the women in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Once you are able to understand enough of the language it is very helpful to be in situations where you are in an informal group setting and you get to listen to them talking back and forth with each other. Those times can give you insight into how they think about different situations etc. We are going on 19 years here in the Marshall Islands and we are still learning new things and sometimes I think, “How could I have been here this long and never picked up on that belief or the way that word is used...or whatever.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Stay In The Moment--Look Around and Learn

Polly Whitmore (what I learned from Yap Island Culture)

(What is) the definition of ‘hope’? After reading various sources, I define ‘hope’ as faith that points to the future, knowing that God is completely in control. Hope allows calm confidence as we trust and patiently wait for Him to direct our steps. The expectations we have should be rooted firmly in God and not our emotions.

As I tried to understand the definition of hope, I saw that the opposite of hope is despair. When we feel despair, we are also pretty stressed out. As if there is nothing that can possibly help. Everything is out of our hands. Notice that despair is NOT rooted in God, but is rooted in our emotions.

How many times have we said (or thought) ‘this is HOPELESS! I can’t do this!’ Have you said it today? I certainly said it in our transition to living on Yap Island – the tiny 38 sq mile mound of vegetation in the Western Pacific.

There are several factors that contribute to a feeling of despair and hopelessness. We’ll look at one source of stress: When your mind is just racing and not really focusing on anything – except the myriad of problems that surround you. What’s your focus? How often have I missed out on God’s blessing and instances of joy that surrounds me each day as I focused on negatives: like teaching in a sweaty island high school? Or trying to clean out a freezer of rotting food – rather than realizing that my husband and I were actually sitting on the porch, enjoying a wonderful view of the reef as we munched on banana bread and drank steaming mugs of coffee.

Missionary Jim Elliot said “wherever you are, be all there.” There is such a lack of focus these days. Could this ‘fragmented thinking’ be a high-tech tool of the devil to keep us distracted? To keep us unaware of God’s hand in our day? To keep us from seeing His lessons for each of us? II Cor. 11:3 “But I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. God says:

Proverbs 4:26 “Ponder the path of thy feet and let all thy ways be established.” (plants are noticeably ‘established’ in Yap after you push a branch into the ground. They droop for a day or two – then the leaves stand up and the plant begins growing again) Proverbs 16:3 “Commit thy works unto the Lord and thy thoughts shall be established.”

In my transition to Yap, I lost my whole frame of reference. (new way of cooking, cleaning, shopping, interacting with others, reacting to the climate challenges, ETC) I didn’t focus on anything other than the very basics: get up, trust God and PRAY for my husband (and myself!) For the 1st 6 months on the island, I was in survival mode – emotionally holding my breath as though on a roller coaster ride. After 6 months, my coworker Sherry Zimmer and I both took our 1st deep breath and I was able to begin the slow task of allowing God to teach me as I regained my focus and actually studied my surroundings.

God can teach us A LOT about faith in Him through our surroundings IF we take the time to slow down, PONDER and observe (look closely). Like when our moms would tell us to STOP, LOOK and LISTEN before crossing the street. Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. BUT even the disciples missed some lessons. Mark 6:52 For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened. (What hardened their heart? Fatigue? Distractions of crowds? Physical hunger? Lay that aside and FOCUS! Let God increase your faith!)

The 1st step of our journey of hope is to be teachable. Be WILLING to learn. I’ll share some of my ‘island life’ insight and how God used that in my life to teach me more of His truth and to reinforce lessons from His Word.

    1. Crabs, Coconuts, and Creeping Weeds. (Things left alone don’t stay the same or improve. They rot, decay and become overgrown with weeds). Your coconuts won’t stay in a row in your garden – too many crabs are interested in moving them around. Your new plants won’t survive without protection – the crabs enjoy them for dinner! Soon tall weeds flourish and become an accepted part of your garden. We need vigilance and perseverance to fight decay in our surroundings AND in our heart. We need fresh vision so we won’t get used to seeing the “weeds” in our life.

  1. Weed seeds (pickers!) that grab onto your clothes relocate to other areas during the laundry cycle. You need to deal with them individually. Like little negative thoughts pop up in other areas in your mind. Don’t just do a general laundry: ‘forgive my sins’ – be specific. Remove those ‘weed seeds’ one by one.

  1. Rain keeps working after it falls. Isaiah 55:8-11 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

    As we share the Word with others – we need to realize that it’s not finished working when it leaves our mouth – God is in charge of its effect. The work is just beginning. We just need to be faithful.

  1. Even a clear path can be difficult to navigate—just be faithful and keep going! One morning I was staring at the asphalt of the wide open road on which I walked – increasingly discouraged by how HARD it was for me. “This should be EASY! No rocks, no limbs, no uneven pavement. I should have more victory on this path!” Then I stopped and looked around. It was VERY steep! And I was ¾ of the way to the top of the hill. As I stood there, I drank water, was refreshed and encouraged to continue my climb to my destination – home! It would have been so easy to turn around – only to have to start all over again if I ever wanted to get home.

    As Christians – it’s OK to pause and look around (but don’t whine!) – notice the progress you’re making. One step at a time. Drink from the water of His Word – it eases the fatigue and refreshes your tired spirit. DON’T turn back or take the easy way. You’ll just have to walk that way again as you move toward the mountaintop and victory. We need endurance: Long obedience in the same direction.

    Galatians 6:9 and let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.

    Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

  1. You don’t need an invitation to SMELL something! In Yap, the smells can be a little pungent! One classic night as we drove to the village with a van full of teens, I got relief by stuffing dried out raspberry scented handwipes up my nostrils! It was DARK, and I was in the front seat – so no one noticed! Just as freshly bathed fragrant islanders are a welcome addition to the van, we are HIS fragrance. People NOTICE! After Typhoon Sudal, as I worked to clear the imploded classroom, carrying out the rotting paper and books from the standing water, pulling out tin and cutting apart rafters with a smile, one atheist counselor exclaimed “Look at you, you must have the Holy Ghost in your life!” What an opportunity to explain the source of my happy ‘fragrance’, or “savor”.

    II Cor 2:14-16a Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. Eph 5:1,2 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. Take a whiff of your fragrance tonight: is it the fragrance of stress? The fragrance of a snippy attitude? Of bitterness? Of worry? Of fear? Of joy? Of contentment? Of hope?

    6. It’s hard to move forward in the dark! One night as I walked home in the dark – I realized that I was stumbling and groping along on a usually familiar road. I stopped and couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. Later as I was struggling with Dengue fever, I reflected on a statement I read in Calvin and Hobbes: “I think it’s dark at nighttime so that we can imagine our fears with less distraction!” As I thought about darkness, I came up with a ‘darkness test’:

    Do normal things scare you?

    Do you stumble at obstacles – making progress slow and painful?

    Do you lash out at problems or delays?

    Do you want to just STOP, sit down and wait until someone comes with a light?

    Why??? What does light do? Scary things are explained. You can see your way around or over obstacles. You can move forward using less energy. What is our Light as Christians? Psalm 119:105 Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” His Word is the answer for our darkness – we need to read and search for light!

    Light received in my dengue darkness:

II Cor 1:5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

    Psalm 40 David waited patiently – but was NOT idle! He was crying out from a PIT – from the miry clay!

  1. Hunting flies is more successful using the ‘fly swatoosie’ method! (keep waving your arms as you get the swatter and continue to wave the swatter in archs… the fly remains unaware of your intentions!) When flies are ‘focused’, they see the attack coming. When they are distracted they are vulnerable. If I can observe and figure out how to bring down a fly, don’t you think the devil watches us in that same way - understanding what will cause us to stumble; stalking us to determine a method that will hinder us? I Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” We need to focus on God who is always watching! II Chron 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.”

    8. Our large fruit bats have the wingspan of hawks and fall headfirst through the trees before they soar. We also have to let go of our efforts before God can take over and bring victory. Christians and fruit bats both seek fruit in the darkness and we both find rest in the Light.

  1. Dogs and cats: Dogs walk like their mom. I had read about this – but in Yap, I saw it! (the mom with the broken hind legs produced dogs that also limped on the same leg!) What are we teaching the young people who are watching us? Do they limp like we do?

    The other thing I learned was, don’t mess with a fight that is not your own. Our dog loved to join in any fight and really suffered as a result. As Christians there are times when we just need to stand back and pray!

    Cats: When bored, dogs would pester the neighbor cat. He would stop and look at them. They’d just walk away. My lesson was: don’t run from situations when you’re afraid! Just turn and face your fear. It’s no fun to chase you! Sometimes I realize that the same scenario always makes me panic – time to stop, turn and say “I’m not running from that anymore – that doesn’t scare me!”

  1. Storms: The harder the wind blows, the less the birds have to flap their wings to soar high. Louisa May Alcott said “I am not afraid of the storm, for I am learning to sail my ship.” Our hardest job is to let go of the controls and trust GOD to sail our ship.

    Storms give us a glimpse of God’s power – that same God, bends to help ME! By resting in His strength, we can rise above the storm in our life.

    Storms remove our cover. The gigey birds in Yap are normally shy and hidden. After the typhoon, their cover was torn away. We were able to match them with their unusual sound and we said “YOU’RE the one that makes that sound!” Changing circumstances and trials put you in a place for people to clearly see and hear His message.

    11. The Tide makes the difference!

    THE TIDE IS SURE TO WIN by Amy Carmichael

    On the far reef the breakers recoil in shattered foam,

    Yet still the seas behind them urges its forces home;

    Its chant of triumph surges through all the thunderous din,

    The waves may break in failure, but the tide is sure to win.

    O mighty sea, thy message in changing spray is cast;

    Within God’s plan of progress, it matters not at last

    How wide the shores of evil, how strong the reefs of sin.

    The wave may be defeated, but the tide is sure to win.

    Individual waves may be ineffective – but the tide will win! God sees the big picture! We need to have faith! For we walk by faith, not by sight (II Cor 5:7)


…Take time to pray and ask God to help you focus on Him. Let your mind and your body be in the same spot – don’t be distracted by what is ahead, or what was behind you. Think about what you are doing and seeing right now. Ask God to help you notice His hand in your life and ask Him to help you make the applications that are needed. Be willing, and teachable—let’s become Women of Hope.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Testimony of Christy Mock

Missionary to Cairns, Australia

My husband and I knew even while we were dating that we were headed to the mission field. Both of us had opportunities to travel to Australia while in college with the Bob Jones University mission team and certainly felt a tug to go back there one day. In 2002, we had opportunity to once again travel on the team as a married couple. We had just finished our Masters degrees and Steven was planning on returning for another three years of school for his MDIV and then we would start deputation. So I was excited about going to Australia in a few years time. When we came to Australia that summer of 2002, the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, Steve Gibb, asked us to pray about and consider coming back to help at the church. And we replied that we would love to after Steven finishes some more schooling and we go on deputation. Steve replied by saying that he meant he wanted us to come now and not in a few years. I got panicky at that point – yes, it was exciting but all of a sudden this was looming much closer on the horizon. We said we would pray about it and pursue it until the doors closed. We went back to the States and literally every door flew wide open and we were back in Cairns, Australia within one year.

I remember before we moved asking a lot of missionary wives if they struggled with homesickness and it seemed as though none of them did. I was already struggling with thinking of leaving family and thought there must be something wrong with me. It was during that time through some missions conferences that I heard some missionary wives be very transparent and tell of some of the struggles and hardships that they faced. I was so encouraged to finally meet some ladies who were willing to be honest and share some of the trials that were specific to them as missionary wives. I realized that my struggles were not uncommon and that God would give the grace and strength for me to follow His will.

It was certainly a difficult time leaving the security and comforts of life in the States but even more so I struggled with leaving my family. Both of our parents were very supportive of our decision and knew this was what God had for us, but it didn’t make saying goodbye any easier. And I certainly did struggle for a long time with homesickness. But I finally came to the realization that it was okay for me to miss my family and friends as long as I was content with where God had me right then and not wishing for something different. I was certainly thankful when I thought of missionaries years ago who left home with no thought of ever seeing their friends and family again. Now we have all the modern conveniences of cheap phone calls, Skype, internet, being only 30 hours away by plane.

Thankfully we did not have the added pressure of learning a new language in Australia. However, there were many cultural adjustments we did have to make. I remember the first time I went to the grocery store just wanting to sit down and cry because everything seemed to have a different name and I couldn’t find all the things I was familiar with. Around Thanksgiving time I went in search of canned pumpkin and it was nowhere to be found. I asked a clerk and she looked at me as though I came from a different planet. Another time I went in search of Cool Whip which again was nowhere to be found. America is an extremely affluent society and although Australia is by no means a third world country, it can still be a struggle to find the things you need without searching a million stores. After being used to going to Wal-Mart and getting everything I needed it was quite a change. Those all seem like seemingly insignificant inconveniences but when piled on top of each other it was a struggle I had to face to learn how to cook in a different way.

We also quickly realized that Americans do not always have the highest reputation when you’re in another country. Most Australians think of Americans as loud, obnoxious, pushy, arrogant people. So that was a hurdle we had to overcome even within the church. It took time to break down barriers and make new relationships with people. Even after living here for five years as soon as we open our mouths to a new person the first question is, “Where are you from?” I also struggled with people thinking everything I did was because I was American and not just because of who I was as an individual. From the way I baked cookies to decorating my Christmas tree to holding a baby shower was all very “American”.

As a pastor’s wife there was also the struggle with loneliness. Steven was the one out having the adventures with ministry and I was at home with the kids. It was difficult making new friendships without ladies always looking at me as the pastor’s wife. But the Lord certainly has blessed as I have learned to be open and transparent with the ladies here and have been able to make some wonderful friendships.

We also had some great trials with the birth of our children. We found out three days before leaving the States for Australia that we were expecting our first baby. We were blessed abundantly by being able to get on the public health system here in Australia as soon as we moved here. Gregory arrived seven weeks early and was in the hospital for the first four weeks of his life and had to have major surgery when he was nine months old. Now, all those things would be a struggle for anyone but we faced the added struggle of being away from family during such a difficult time. I continued to learn of God’s faithfulness and grace in my life. But there were more hard times to come. Our second baby, Emily, arrived ten weeks early weighing only 2 pounds 11 ounces, and in the first week of her life we were told that she would probably not survive and if she did she would probably never lead a normal life. She was born without most of her right lung. After nine weeks in the NICU she was able to come home. She was home for a few weeks before she had some very serious instances of stopping breathing. After many hospital visits and consults with doctors, we ended up in the ICU in Brisbane. We stayed in the Ronald McDonald house for two months in a city where we basically knew no one and were far away not just from our family but also from our church family in Cairns. Emily was on a ventilator all this time and was gradually getting worse. There were many times when we thought we would not be bringing her home with us. After six weeks she had heart surgery and was gradually weaned off the ventilator and, all thanks to the Lord, she has been fine ever since. That, of course, is a very condensed and abbreviated version of some of the hardest times we have ever had to face. There were times when the trials and burdens were so heavy that it was a struggle even to pray. How grateful we were to know that there were people all over the world upholding us in prayer. Emily is three years old now and only has to go for a yearly checkup to her doctors. It was during that time that the Lord helped me to learn of His sovereign goodness – He not only is in control but I can trust that He is a very good God. And through that time, the Lord helped us to be drawn closer to our church family – they saw us go through a trial and were able to see how we handled that and we were able to be shown such tremendous love and care by them that it really knit our hearts together. For the first time, I really felt like Cairns was home. The Lord was very gracious in allowing me to carry our third child nearly to full term and what a joy it was to bring Caitlyn home from the hospital two days after her birth. So in the five years we have been year, there has been a combined total of over 22 weeks in the hospital, seven surgeries, numerous special medical flights, and everything that goes along with all of that and have not had to pay anything for all of that because of the social health care system. While the health system certainly has its downsides, we are so thankful for the Lord putting us in a place to provide for us both physically and financially.

The Lord has shown me that even in the midst of a storm I can have peace and joy knowing that He is in control of every situation. He is good and gracious and it’s important for me to judge my circumstances by His character and not look at my circumstances and judge God through them.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Adjusting to the Mission Field--A Wife's Perspective Pt. 2

Kim Melton - BWM missionary to Japan

Several years ago, we sold our first house and bought another on the other side of town. We were so excited. Our family had grown and we needed a 3rd bedroom. The Lord had answered our prayer abundantly. A few weeks after the move, we were finally settled and I was so lonely. My kids did not change schools, we were attending the same church, I was hanging out with the same friends, but I felt so isolated. I missed my old neighborhood and familiar stores and roads. I told my friend that I did not understand this. She told me the grieving process was settling in. I didn’t quite understand this at the time, but I knew she was right.

When we moved to the field, I experienced this at a new level. Part of grieving is adjusting to a new way of life. It’s sort of like after a funeral. The hubbub of the funeral is over, the family meal is finished and everyone returns to their normal routine, except for the immediate family of the one who died. They have to learn to live day by day without the lost loved one. When you move to the field, the old way of life is over. If you add to that the unfamiliar, it is overwhelming. We have to turn to the God of all comforts (2 Cor. 1:3-4). He is waiting with open arms. “The Greek word for ‘comfort’ is related to the familiar word paraclete, ‘one who comes along side to help,’…’comfort’ often connotes softness and ease, but that is not its meaning here. Paul was saying that God came to him in the middle of his sufferings and troubles to strengthen him and give him courage and boldness”(MacArthur Study Bible).

When we arrived in Japan, I felt unprepared for the emotions that I would experience. I had no choice about the home we lived in. I was frustrated because I could not communicate. I felt lost driving on the “wrong” side of the road and not being able to read the signs. I didn’t know where to shop. I didn’t know what prices were good. I had no friends and I had to put up a good face for my children who were watching me. It was terribly overwhelming. I remembered what my friend said about grieving and I was helped. It is o.k. to grieve. It is not a sin to feel sadness. It’s even o.k. to cry. The attitude behind it is what can be sinful. Where do we turn when the emotions flare?

Many times, when I have shared my struggles, I was told that “we all have to go through it.” I did not find this comforting. If our comfort comes from the Lord, we have an obligation to share with others (2 Cor. 1:3-4) what brought us comfort and gave us strength. I was determined to find some answers in the Word. When another missionary lady came to me, I wanted to have an answer.

Memorizing God’s Word has had a life-changing affect on me. Find verses that help you and memorize them. If you do this, God will bring them to your mind when you need them most. For example, I had to have a mammogram here. It was not something I looked forward to. I will not go into the whole big, long story. They do things differently here and it was pretty traumatic. I couldn’t talk to the doctors, so my hubby was translating. That was a different stress of its own! As I was lying on the examining table fighting the tears, the Lord brought to my mind 2 Cor. 4:17-18, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” I had instant peace and the tears fled. If I had not memorized those verses, they would not have been there when I needed them most!

Several verses have helped me on a regular basis. I meditate on the fact that God is present with me (Ps. 46:1, Jer. 23:23-24, Ps. 139:7-10, Mat. 28:20). Others may forget me, but God does not (Is. 49:15). When I am overwhelmed, I must go to the Lord. Sometimes I am so overwhelmed, that I can’t remember to do this and then He leads me to Himself (Ps. 61:1, 2). Spurgeon said about these verses that “he who communes with God is always at home.”

Perhaps the most exciting truth to me about God is His faithfulness. He keeps His promises. I have seen this in my life before, but it has been magnified on the field. He strengthens me, helps me and holds me up (Is. 41:10). He guides me with His eye (Ps. 32:8). He goes before me. I do not need to be dismayed (Deut. 31:8).

When we moved to the city we are in now, there was no one living here to show us around. When we needed a doctor, God led us. When we needed an eye doctor, God led us. Both of these speak some English! I needed a friend. God went before me and hand-picked one and put her in my path. Then there was the time I needed something at the store and I couldn’t find it. I couldn’t ask the clerk and even if I could, I wouldn’t have understood her answer. After several minutes of searching and mounting frustration, I cried out to the Lord and He led me right to it. I could go on and on…

Another lesson I am still learning is to not compare myself and my situation with others. 2 Cor. 10:12 tells me that if I do this, I am not wise! There will be someone who raised support faster, learned the language faster or has a bigger and better house to live in. We prayed for a teacher for our children. God did not see fit to give us one; but yet, I saw Him supply this for another family. Another friend has been on the field less time than I have and she already has the language ability to lead a Bible study. My language study is slow and difficult. At this middle age that I am in, sometimes I feel too old to do it! Someone younger would do a better job! Some missionaries are able to plant a new church every term. In our country of service, it may take the rest of our lives to plant one. We are all different. Every country and language is different. My focus must be on God and His will for me today. I cannot compare myself to others. God has put me where He wants me to be and has given me what I need to accomplish His will (2 Cor. 9:8, Phil. 2:13).

I remember well when the “culture shock” started to set in. In the USA, we talk about “bad hair days.” Here, we have “bad culture days.” =) I was reading the fruits of the Spirit in my study Bible and the notes that went with them. I realized as I read, that these fruits manifested in my life will take care of any “culture shock.” Longsuffering is “the willingness to accept irritating or painful situations.” Gentleness is “a humble and gentle attitude that is patiently submissive in every offense, while having no desire for revenge or retribution” (MacArthur Study Bible). When I offend the culture unknowingly, when I am stared at because I am different, when things are done differently than I would do them, when I am mistreated or misunderstood, what fruit do I exhibit? Is it longsuffering and gentleness? The only way I can do this is to be in the Word, walk in the Spirit and have lots of grace from my Lord (2Cor. 12:9-10).

In closing, I want to share some practical things that have helped me.

  1. While on deputation, I begged the Lord to give me a verse that would keep me on the field when the going got tough. As we went through the Netcaster program, the Lord began to burn 2 Cor. 5:15 into my soul, “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” My life is not about me, it is about the One Who died for me.
  2. Several years ago, a friend counseled me to fill my mind with good Scriptural music. I play it in the car, on the subway and while in the house. This has helped me countless times when I couldn’t seem to control my thoughts. One time in particular was after a rough day of language school. I put in my earbuds on the subway and started to listen to the cd A Quiet Heart by Soundforth. One of my favorite songs, “I Could Not Do Without Thee” began. When I arrived at my destination, the frustration and turmoil were gone. God met my need through the music. Another favorite cd is Come and Sing by the Stouffer men. This brought me tremendous comfort during the days before and after our departure for Japan.
  3. Keep a journal of what God is teaching you and the blessings He gives. The entries don’t have to be long. A simple “I was so lonely today and God gave me Mt. 28:20” or “I wanted cheddar cheese and God led me to it and it was on sale!” is enough. When the emotions are threatening to drown you, get out the journal and read. It is hard to remember God’s help in the past when you are overwhelmed. Having something to read will help you to remember and encourage your heart.
  4. And last, but certainly not least, read missionary biographies. Others have gone before us and we can learn from them. The circumstances are different, but the struggles are the same. I have been helped greatly by the writings of Isobel Kuhn. She is very candid about her struggles. My two favorite books of hers are In the Arena and Green Leaf in Drought.

I hope that someone will be helped by these things. It has been worth the time for me to reflect on them. I think that we do others a disservice when we hide behind a mask and pretend that everything is o.k. We are human and we will struggle. We can help someone else through the struggle, if we are willing to humble ourselves and be transparent. God knows that we are dust (Ps. 103:14)! How marvelous that He still chooses to use us!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Adjusting to the Mission Field--A Wife's Perspective Pt. 1

*****Ginger has spent quite a bit of time compiling the thoughts of missionary wives all over the world. Each Monday for the next several months we will be sharing those thoughts on our blog.*****

Why is it that most, if not all, missionary ladies are shocked by all the emotions and struggles that accompany the first year on the mission field? Why do we feel so guilty for being so overwhelmed? Why are we not more prepared for the inevitable? If so many missionary ladies struggle in their first months on the field, why are we not sharing our struggles and trials with those that come after us so that they can better prepare?

As I collect stories from women who are serving all around the world, I am continually seeing a similar pattern. First, we are so excited to arrive on the mission field the Lord has called us to. Then for the next six months to a year we struggle with a variety of emotions and doubts. Finally, we find refuge in the Lord. The Lord gives us strength to overcome our emotions and guilt. We find ways to accept the new culture around us and we start enjoying the work God have given us. Is there no way to make these first few months easier on us?

As a new missionary wife myself, I think that knowing I was not the only one feeling so lost and confused would have helped me not feel so guilty. I felt like I must have a spiritual problem because, how could I not be overjoyed to be in this new country which desperately needed the Lord? Praise the Lord I have a patient and loving husband who was and is always patient, and is always willing to listen and never judge.

I remember not wanting to call anyone from back home cause I didn’t want to disappoint them. I didn’t want them to think their support was all in vain. Pride set in and I didn’t want anyone to see how weak I was. I was an MK, I was suppose to have no problems adjusting to a new culture. I was supposed to be able to learn the new language in no time at all. How could I call them and let them know that I had failed them?

I am so thankful that after ten months of living in Siedlce, Poland I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I finally realize that I am not alone in these struggles. It is okay to miss home like crazy. It is normal to question if you made the right decision to be a missionary. It is okay to cry and cry and cry a little more. It is okay to call home often and share your struggles with friends and loved ones. It is okay to feel overwhelmed; there is nothing to feel guilty about. I would encourage any new missionary lady to find another missionary lady who can be your accountability partner. Find a missionary lady who is either going through the same thing you are or someone who has recently gone through it. No one else can quite relate like another fellow missionary lady.

Over these past ten months the Lord has continually given me ideas of how to better understand and relate to the culture and people around me. The first few months when everything was at its worst, nothing was better than reading God’s promises from Psalms and Proverbs. I also read, “Lord Change My Attitude” by Pastor James McDonald. I would definitely encourage new missionaries to pack their bags full of good Christian books. Good Christian literature is hard to come by on the mission field and can be such a great encouragement.

Looking back on these past ten months I would have to say that the things that helped me start to enjoy living here more where just simple things, nothing extraordinary. I would describe myself as outgoing and fun loving. I love being with people and having a good time. One of the things I miss most about the States is spending time with my girl friends and the ladies in my church. I miss calling up a friend and running out for a cup of coffee or going grocery shopping together. I didn’t know many women here who I could call up and run out to the store with. I felt so cooped up and so claustrophobic. I decided that joining an aerobics class might give me the opportunity to meet some new ladies, and of course get fit in the mean time! The aerobics class has been GREAT!! I have met so many nice women. I now have a list of ladies I can call up and go out for coffee with. Over the last couple of months I have really enjoyed going out for coffee with different ladies. It has been fun getting to know them and hearing their stories. It has also given me the opportunity to share my story with them and tell them why my family and I are here. The Lord has also given me the opportunity to spend time with a group of teenage girls in our neighborhood. Almost every Monday night, after the kids go down, the girls come over and we play games or I teach them how to make American desserts. Spending this time with these girls has really given me a heart for the teen girls of Poland. Spending time with these ladies and teenagers has given me even more motivation to learn the Polish language.

Can I say that I am over and pass all my crazy emotions? I think not. Do I still have bad days? Yes, who doesn’t, right? However, I can honestly say that I am excited about my future here in Poland. I am excited to see what the Lord has in store for our family and ministry here in Poland. Praise the Lord that, “His compassions fail not.” Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants his footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines

Of never-failing skill,

He treasures up his bright designs

And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy, and shall break

In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust him for his grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour;

The bud may have a bitter taste,

But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,

And scan his work in vain:

God is his own interpreter,

And He will make it plain.

Eighteenth century poet William Cowper