Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Escape Artist

It was our final Sunday in the States many summers ago. Dropping off the toddler in the nursery, I noticed one of the volunteers was a woman just like me, a tired mother with seven children still at home. I was thanking her for her dedication, and added that working in the nursery was about the last place I would prefer to be that morning. I was looking forward to one last good sermon in English before returning to Mexico. Her words are etched in my memory after all these years:

“But you would if God asked you to, right?”

As I walked away, I had to face the unwillingness in my heart. I whispered to myself, “No, maybe not even then,” wondering if I would have even hear God’s voice if he asked me to volunteer for Sunday school that morning. I was so intent on worshiping in English.

Dropping off the next child for class, I found the teacher all in a panic because she had already taught Sunday school during the earlier hour, and was really counting on going to the upcoming service. I nobly offered to stay until a replacement teacher could be found. The teacher was almost in tears as she explained that there was no substitute coming to fill in; she would simply have to stay and teach the class again.

I began to argue with the Holy Spirit, begging for the blessing of just one more live sermon in English, but I heard words coming from my mouth about how it would be a privilege to teach her class that morning. It was one of the most fun impromptu lessons I ever taught. Preschoolers are so easy to teach, especially when God Himself puts the ideas in my head.

This story came to mind because again I find myself in a situation where surely God could find other people more willing and capable of filling a need, but for reasons beyond my understanding, his hand is on me, compelling me to do the right thing. Everything fleshly in me (insecurity, selfishness, pride, etc.) begs me to say no, but again I hear the words come out of my mouth: “It would be a privilege to teach this class.”

This class is a Bible study in our local church. This will be only my second time to ever lead a class in Spanish. I know, after all these years, right? It’s shameful how I have avoided all such entanglements with the Mexican church. The time has come, and I am actually looking forward to this new challenge. Friday afternoon is our first lesson. If you think of me then, I’d appreciate some prayer.

Someone’s got to do it…. Why not me?

IRL* Over my head and way beyond my comfort zone, but right where I need to be.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A-Z Things I Took for Granted

They say that misery loves company. While I don’t want to turn this into a gripe-fest, I thought you might enjoy participating in a recent discussion I had with some of my online colleagues. In some warped way, as my friend Latte Mom says, it is always encouraging to be reminded that we are not the only ones….

First, I have to tell you a funny on myself. The title of our discussion was: “I don’t take “that” for granted any more.” Here’s what my initial response was before I started reading about washing machines and things like “that.” I am still just blushing that I actually thought that “that” was, well, “that” is generally what I call, um, in my prudish way, I say "THAT" when I don't want to say... Oh, never mind.

My head is in the gutter. (*see below to join me)

Here is the compiled list of serious answers people submitted. Feel free to add to the list in the comment section.

A = availability of grocery items
B = bridges (here we drive through rivers)
C = chicken packaged nicely with no evidence that this was once a breathing, pecking, feathered, living thing
D= death not displayed for my children in newspapers and on the side of the road
E = exercise in air-conditioned house or outdoors without being stared at
F = fuel at the gas station
G = grains and flour that aren’t bug-infested
H = hot water any time I want it
I = Internet working reliably
J = just being able to drive where people respect the laws and speed limits
K = keeping the house presentable with no sand, dirt, and dust after cleaning
L = laundry without hanging, ironing, etc.
M = menu items I order at the restaurant actually being available
N = neighbors that don’t have loud music blaring all night
O = oven and stove not shutting off when the gas runs out unexpectedly
P = power
Q = quality for a price (here you pay more but it may not be better quality)
R = restaurants open before 7:00 P.M.
S = seatbelts and other safety measures
T = telephone service everywhere
U = urgent care help, ICU, emergency room facilities
V = vegetables and fruits that don’t require soaking and scrubbing
W = water
X = expiration dates being accurate and expectation that people will stand in line
Y = yucky stuff removed from the nicely packaged, already dead, meat
Z = zoos and other safe, fun places to take the kids to play

IRL* “THAT” is what you can't take for granted on furloughs when every bed in America is super squeaky and behind thin walls.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Of Leaves and Leaving

Autumn is in the air. Or is it? For many of us, autumn is just a tricky spelling word we must teach our children, totally apart from any physical colors, sounds, or smells from our own childhoods.

Personally I miss that feeling of crunching through the leaves and the cooler air that smells of bonfires. Every year I reminisce, and then go back to life in perpetual springtime. We only have two seasons here: wet and dry. I love when the bougainvillea and jacaranda provide a bit of color, but it’s still not the same.

What do you do to celebrate the changing of a season that doesn’t exist? Do you drape your house with fake fall leaves like I do around Thanksgiving time? (This week for Canadians, next month for Americans) Do you put hot cider on the stove to make your house smell autumny? I would mention baking pumpkin bread, but I’ve learned that the very suggestion of canned pumpkin can make some women who can’t get it, weep.

The one thing we can do in the autumn is to look back and reminisce. I’ve spent the last week doing nothing more than to revamp my old blog full of personal stories, and to start up a new ministry blog. That has been an interesting project in itself.

Some of you may prefer to look ahead during the dreary days of fall. This brings up a question I have been mulling over for several weeks since it came up on the Sonlight international forum. My friend Kris wrote:

You know that old saying...

"Send Me, Send Me"...

we hear about it all the time, back home, everywhere.

Where's the saying "Go back, Go back"...

how come there is never any talk of that?

Is there such thing as a graceful exit strategy? Just curious.

Several readers wrote very insightful remarks, but I thought I would open it up to a wider audience. Having never done it, I’m not the one who can say. We just take it a day at a time, a year at a time, and trust God to speak clearly if He wants to redirect our steps. That sounds so overly simplistic.

I agree with one of my cyber-friends who said she wants to be as intentional about leaving as she was about going to the mission field in the first place. I don’t want to stay until one day I go berserk and miss the grandchildren (again with the imaginary grandchildren of the future), and just pack up and go home to be closer to them. Others have been forced to leave the mission field on short notice, and there was nothing graceful about their “exit” for sure.

Is there such a thing as a graceful exit strategy?

IRL* we know what clumsy looks about graceful or even grace-filled?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Until Last Week

Today is my dad’s birthday. It’s been eight years this week since he died unexpectedly, and I still miss him. I’ll never forget those tears of anguish when I heard the news of his death, how I cried inconsolably for hours. I haven’t cried that hard since then, until last week.

For all these years I have often lamented that I have no ministry outside the home. However one thing I take very seriously is prayer, which I can do from home. I love hosting short-term teams partly because I am more actively involved in the ministry, but mostly because I know I can recruit a few more prayer partners.

There is one unreached people group not far from where we live that has been on my prayer list for many years. I remember recruiting a prayer team back in 1999 and asking them specifically to target this group for prayer, that God would open the doors for ministry to the Mixe of Tlahuitoltepec.

That’s a hard name to pronounce, let alone remember, and I often wondered if people were still praying for Tlahui. I sent an email prayer update in September, rejoicing that we have finally found someone (an unbeliever) to help us record the Mixe New Testament for the non-literate people of Tlahui.

Tuesday, September 28, I awoke after a fitful night of attempted sleep, having had nightmares about villages being washed away by the non-stop rain of the prior few days and weeks. Later in the morning, my husband showed me the Internet news about a tragic mudslide that had washed at least 100 homes down the mountain in Tlahuitoltepec.

How can that be? After all my years of prayer, to think of 1000 souls (as the paper predicted) facing eternity without knowing the Lord, I just bawled. My family didn’t know what to think, but I would not be consoled. I wanted so badly to go back to bed and wake up to discover it was all a bad dream. Like the day my dad died.

Instead I sent an urgent email prayer request, which soon got forwarded all over the globe, especially once I posted it on my Facebook page. We even got a call from Mission Network News, who interviewed my husband and broadcast the prayer needs for Tlahui across Christian radio stations in the U.S.

Later in the evening we read updated news reporting that it had been a mistake. Only 11 lives were lost, not 500-1000. What a crazy thing! Only God could orchestrate the events, creating such media hype, to bring attention to one unreached people group in Oaxaca, Mexico.

I’m humbled, amazed, and very grateful for the hand of God preventing the destruction of people just as undeserving of His mercy as I am.

IRL* Tears for a loved one preceding me to heaven are very different than bitter tears for people who die without hope.


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