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It’s All the Same to Me!

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hum n flowers

 

   I just read an article by CHAD BIRD | JULY 26 2018, entitled Let’s Stop Romanticizing Missions.  Basically, I think he is asking us to examine our expectations of God and how He works in our everyday lives as well as life on the mission field. 

   I think the unrealistic expectation of how God works in our lives and our missionaries lives is problematic. If our expectations are flavored too much by our flesh or the world, then we will likely be blind to how God works in our every day lives, as well as life on the mission field. 

   Those of us who are parents & families of missionaries perhaps have a more realistic view of life on the mission field. I suppose the sacrifices we had to make in releasing our loved ones to their calling, has brought reality up close and personal. 

   This realism helps us get a clearer picture about what serving God looks like. Because we have witnessed our children on the mission field dealing with financial problems, relationships problems, health problems, with emotional and spiritual problems (basically the same problems we encounter), we understand that God works the same no matter where we serve. Our context may be different, but how God deals with us is common to all. 

   As parent’s of missionaries, we have a unique responsibility to help others recognize that serving God looks and feels the same no matter where they serve. This should help others be more realistic about recognizing the work of God in their everyday lives and clearer about how God works in the lives of those serving on the mission field. Which, I believe, will enhance our perspective and service in our personal walk with God and how we support our missionaries.

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It’s a matter of obedience!

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Me & my boy! It's a mom thing!

Me & my boy! It’s a mom thing!

     I don’t know if you have noticed or not  that while my blog never plays down the struggles of living so-o-o-o far apart from my child, I always make it clear that God’s love, grace, and mercy champions me in those struggles.  Since releasing my son to the call of missions on his life, joy and peace have been my constant companions and have made what would have been an impossibility in my own strength a glorious possibility in His. (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13)

     I write this blog to encourage other parents who find themselves on a journey such as mine. I want to assure you that releasing your child to missions or whatever God has called them to is not something to fear. (Remember, the safest place on earth is in the center of God’s will!)

     Recently, a grandmother of a brand-new missionary shared with me that she had expressed to  her grandchild her heartfelt wish that she wasn’t going so far away. Her missionary grandchild responded with, “Granma, would you want me to disobey God so I could be near you?”  That grandmother began to understand with greater clarity the priority of obedience. 

     My dear parent, releasing your child to do the work God has called them to is hard, I know! But the pain of releasing your child should not be your focus. Instead, the obedience to release your child should be.  As you obediently release your child, God’s grace, peace, and mercy will wash over you as a soothing balm. Your heart will be comforted; joy and peace will be your constant companions as you make this journey. It’s a blessed life and you will be just as grateful as I am to be living it!

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

It’s a process, so hang in there!

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The Original Six

The Original Six

     The above picture was taken only a few hours before our son and his sweet wife left to head toward a new land and a new life far, far away from us and all that was familiar to them.  You can’t tell by the smiles on our faces that our (especially mine) hearts were breaking. 
     Just a few months later, we welcomed a baby girl into our family as our youngest daughter was pregnant when her brother left. Oh the blessed distraction this little girl was during those struggling days. That was three years ago and since then a new grandchild has been born. But this time we didn’t get to jump into our car and travel to a nearby hospital. Instead, my husband and I jumped aboard a big ole’ jet and flew hours and hours to where our baby grandson, who was a little over a month, lived to hold him and rejoice with his mom and dad. That was a little over a year ago! 
     I compare my life of emails, phone calls, sparse video chats, and a singular visit with my son and his family now, to my life when my son and his wife left to live so very far away. You know, those first days (weeks, no months) there were times when I thought I just can’t do this–it’s just way too hard and it just hurts too bad. But here I am today, 3 years later and my heart has slowly grown stronger. Oh, it’s still painful. I see my little grandson growing up and knowing he has no idea of who I am or that I exist, yes that’s hard but God has equipped me to deal with that so that it doesn’t overwhelm me. 
     The peace that is constant and has been ever since my son first told me he was leaving is with me today, was with me then.  I think of dear young people I know who are heading off to distant lands to serve God and of the families that are having to release them.  Let me remind you, dear people, you can’t do this alone. You MUST hold on to God every minute because without His grace & mercy, the pain will overwhelm you.  Remember, the safest place on earth is in the center of God’s will, and that’s where you and your children must be firmly set. As you and they abide with God in the center of His will, you will be supplied with ALL that you need to see you through the initial goodbye’s and life to be lived apart.
     It’s a process but I speak from experience, it is worth every moment! If you are fresh to this process, I recommend that you go back and read my first blogs after my son left. I hope it will encourage you and give you hope, that your pain won’t always be so constant and will become more manageable. Camp down on the following verse:

Philippians 4:6-7New International Version (NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Following Christ. What does it require?

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Today is 2/5 (Tues)/13.  “I am feeling somewhat better.  Trying to drink enough water, and consume enough food continues to be a struggle.  But I am trying. “

This American gal found that my culture from back home, worked against me in the bush! Here people eat for sustenance.  You eat whatever is put before you because who knows when your next meal might come. But back home, we have such plenty that we can eat pretty much whatever we want, whenever we want.  We don’t eat for sustenance, we eat for pleasure.  Therefore, it was a struggle to eat when I didn’t feel like eating.  Back home, if I don’t feel like eating, I don’t.  The mindset behind such a choice is that I know that when I do feel like eating there will be all the food I could want.

As I struggled with such thinking, I got some of the most welcomed news.  The staff, that included me, would be leaving in a couple of days to return to the compound where my son and the other missionaries lived.  There we would recoup and reassess.  You know what I thought of when I found out I would be leaving for a few days?  Yep, a comfortable bed, a nearby bathroom, good food (because my daughter-in-law and the other missionary wife are fabulous cooks), and nice accommodations!

As a matter of fact, the routine was going to be: 4 or 5 days at the camp, then 2 or 3 days back at the missionary’s compound (for the staff).  When I was told this, I felt encouraged. I began to feel not nearly as overwhelmed and began to form a more positive attitude about my ability to endure and be successful.  God had not led me there to be overwhelmed by the negatives. Actually, He never does.

Because of what I was going through, my son and I got into a thought provoking conversation about suffering.  American Christianity, it seems, rejects the main tool of God’s to transform us to be more like Christ. Suffering!  When something unpleasant happens, what is the first thing we ask God to do?  Yep, you guessed it.  We ask God to remove it.

I know, that is certainly what I did.  But guess what?  He didn’t immediately change anything for me.  Instead, He forced me to find Him in the midst of my unpleasant circumstances.  During my sojourn through this difficult time, I discovered some pretty impressive things.  God was my constant companion.  I talked to Him almost nonstop. Time and time again I would hear Him speak to me through His word, through conversations with others in camp, through the experiences I would have as I interacted with the people and their environment.  Seems God was consistently pushing me to focus on everything but myself. (I so needed that!) 

Here’s a thought to ponder:

We tend to become self-focused in our suffering.  That’s the way of the ‘old man’, you see.  But the ‘new’ man becomes focused more on Christ in his suffering.

2 Corinthians 5:17 puts it this way: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

or  Colossians 3:9-10, Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, . . 

I learned a lot from my illness (and I continue to learn as I write this blog). And one of the most profound statements made to me by my son during this challenging time was:

My decision to follow Christ meant that because of Christ, I would know suffering. My life would not be easy; nor would my family’s.

We American Christians focus too much on having it easy.  And sitting here in all our abundance, we think  the question we have to ask ourselves is,”What would we have to give up to live our lives for Christ?”

Yes, we focus too much on what we have to give up to live for Christ. Therefore, we never get to consider what we have to gain.  When I was with my son and the other missionaries, I never once heard anyone talking about how hard their lives were.  No, instead I kept hearing about how exciting it was to live the life God had called them to. They felt privileged to get to live like that.  And believe me, I got a good picture of why they feel that way and why that is true.

I’ll close now but I want to leave this with you.

If you laid aside your fears of what living your life for Christ might require, would you hear God calling you to be a missionary?

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