Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Daily Annoyances & Hidden Treasures

Wouldn’t you know it? After “only” having a cactus needle in my thumb, then real troubles started. Nothing serious, but more costly for sure. I am just glad they were all impersonal (mechanical/electronic) problems. I’d much rather replace a broken washing machine than to try to fix a relationship rift. Wouldn’t you?

This week I thought I would share with you my list of things to pray for my friends on the field. Feel free to share this with your friends and family back home. If you find something I have omitted, please add to the list in the comment section. These are in random order.
  • Encouragement in God's Word daily

  • Evidence of spiritual fruit being produced

  • Genuine love and compassion for the people

  • Satisfaction of accomplishing each task she is called to do

  • Someone to call a friend, to share burdens

  • Grace in family relationships

  • Clear communication with supporters and home office
  • Unity with coworkers

  • Adequate medical care when needed
  • Flexibility

  • Wisdom in setting priorities and diligence in keeping them

  • Finances

  • To remain hidden from the enemy

  • Adjustment/ continual readjustment to the culture

  • Salvation for unsaved loved ones

  • To not weary in well-doing

  • Willingness to suffer when needed - keeping eyes on the unseen reward
  • Cheerfully making necessary sacrifices

  • Victory over daily annoyances (noise, dirt, unreliable amenities, lack of conveniences, etc.)

  • Good relationships with local authorities (if applicable)

  • Energy, endurance

  • Spiritual renewal

  • Awareness, repentance, and freedom from besetting sins

  • To pray without ceasing

  • Rejoice in all circumstances

  • Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit

  • Daily needs (devotional time, rest, diet, exercise, solitude, companionship, etc.)

  • Discernment and diplomacy to proclaim the truth

  • Passion for serving others

  • Emotional stability

  • Health and safety of family on the field and of grown children / aging parents in the home country
  • Protection in travel

  • Hidden treasures: daily reminders of God's love, mercy, and grace

  • Balance of responsibilities (family and ministry outside the home)

  • Provision of educational needs for children, particularly those with special needs
IRL* I’m praying for each of you today, dear Women of the Harvest.
Don’t forget to submit your "Ask Jamie Jo" questions for next week’s blog (see sidebar for details)!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Paper Cuts

Did you ever see the movie “The Main Event”? An unforgettable scene has replayed itself in my mind these past thirty years. Ryan O’Neal and other prizefighters are recounting past injuries, oblivious to Barbra Streisand who is trying desperately to contribute to the conversation. One is telling how his manager had to throw in the towel after he was beaten to a bloody pulp. Another embellishes a fight where part of his lip was hanging by a thread, and the manager snipped it off so the fight could continue.

Barbra’s head goes from one end of the table to the other listening to the gory tales until finally she ventures in with what she considers a humdinger. She gets their attention and then declares, “Once I was licking an envelope and I got a paper cut right on my tongue!” The guys all stop talking and stare at her dumb-founded.

That’s sort of how I felt at a Bible study in north Dallas, when someone seriously asked for prayer because the tape deck was stolen out of his fully insured BMW. It was all I could do to not laugh out loud. Generally I am cast in the opposite role. I learned early not to grumble about not having hot water, recalling how the old-timers used to haul water up from the river to heat over an open fire.

Now once again I am Barbra Streisand with the paper cut. At my weekly Bible study with the local ladies, I listen to their hair-graying experiences with evil personified. As they share about family members involved in witchcraft and drunken rages, I fall silent; humbled again by the hell on earth that is their daily existence.

Likewise my heart goes out to those of you living in sensitive countries with trials you dare not mention. I keep praying that my dream of an online forum will soon become a reality, where you can support and encourage each other more freely, comparing battle wounds (while secretly snickering at my outrageous attempts to contribute).

Again this week, my complaints are petty. Literally I have a thorn in my flesh that is miniscule but annoying. I am on a doctor-monitored diet requiring a daily green juice containing nopal, a locally grown cactus that is high in fiber, helping to balance blood sugar levels. Several weeks ago I bought some that was supposedly already stripped of spines, but one invisible hair of a thorn poked me in the thumb. I never could get it out. It pricks when I hold a pen and bugs me when I type.

Sometimes it’s the little things that cause the most distress. I handle the big crises fine, and then some tiny paper cut throws me over the edge.

No way am I asking prayer for this festering thumb, but hey, on a positive note, I’ve lost ten kilos so far!

[Editor’s note: Please send in your questions about your cross-cultural conundrums for the “ASK JAMIE JO” post.]

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Paranoids are People, Too

Exactly one day after sitting serenely in cap and gown with thousands of other identical Baylor graduates, I traveled to Thailand, thus beginning a career of being “different.” From the early days as a single teacher in an Asian culture where my height, skin, hair, and eye color were a novelty—to later years in Guatemala as a mother with a string of blonde children attached to me, I was destined to stand out in any crowd.

For two or more years at a time, I used to long for a brief respite in my home country of Texas where I could finally become invisible again, blending effortlessly with the culture. At one point, I confessed to a friend that I was becoming paranoid. Even in America, people seemed to be staring at me as some kind of oddity. My friend tried to conceal her amusement as she gently suggested that maybe the stares might have something to do with the now-seven children tagging along wherever we traveled, when 2.3 was the average number in a “normal” family.

By the time the kids had finally grown responsible enough to occasionally stay home and babysit the younger siblings so that I could freely roam public places, I still was not inauspicious, even in the U.S. Rather than keeping a low profile, as I had always dreamed, I was recognized as “that missionary with the big family” who had spoken here or there, particularly in Northern Ohio.

I’ll never forget one incident at a thrift store in Cleveland. After an episode of hollering at the younger ones to stay corralled in a general location and then arguing with an older child about a heavily worn item that was not a good value, a woman approached me with wonder in her eyes, exclaiming, “Why, you were the speaker at our Ladies’ Tea back when…!” I have no idea how much of my tirade she had witnessed, but I was mortified. That was just one of many times God did not vaporize me on the spot as I had wished.

During one of our summer mini-furloughs, I was tired of being recognized wherever I went and a bit weary of people in general. One of our last stops was Orlando, where our home office is located. Back then I only knew a handful of people outside of Missionary Ventures in that part of Florida. Jim graciously agreed to stay at the mission house and watch the children so I could go to the mall and “be invisible” for the evening. Coming out of a lingerie store, I heard my name being called. I couldn’t believe it! Of the six or eight people I knew in the city, one was there at the Orlando Mall, and it was none other than Steve Beam, the founder of our mission.

My lot in life is to stand out and be different. Like it or not, I must guard my words, actions, and attitudes because others are noticing. Maybe it’s just as well. Whether I am a “farang” (foreigner) in Thailand, a “gringa” in Guatemala, or now a “g├╝era” in Oaxaca (pronounced “weda in wah-HAH-kah”), I am bound to be watched by those who know I am attempting to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

IRL* Aiming to be a good ambassador for Christ whether I’m invisible or infamous.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Panache: Where did it go?

I miss my panache. Isn’t that a great word? It comes from a French word with the connotation of flamboyant manner and reckless courage. It stirs up images of Cyrano de Bergerac in the play of the same name. However, unlike this fictional character, I don’t seem to be keeping my panache intact.

Cyrano's last words: " ... yet there is something still that will always be mine, and when I go to God's presence, there I'll doff it and sweep the heavenly pavement with a gesture — something I'll take unstained out of this world ... my panache "

Maybe some of you imagine me to be a person who exudes confidence and flair, but you should have seen me earlier this month as I shriveled in the face of another cultural faux pas. I was anything but effervescent. Instead I was insecure and trying to shrink myself to a more acceptable size in this culture.

The occasion was a wedding in which I was to be the ring bearer. You read that right. Technically I was the “madrina” of the rings, which is supposed to be quite an honor. It means I was the sponsor for the bride and groom’s rings. In other words, I paid for the rings. That much I understood. However, I didn’t know what else that would entail.

Arriving at the church on time, I sat in an inconspicuous place and waited and waited. An hour later the bride and her family arrived, and the bride’s sister came and asked me what on earth I was doing sitting there. I was to process into the church and be seated in a place of honor on the front row.

Still in possession of the rings and uncertain what to do, I awkwardly walked into the church in solemn procession, feeling like a giant directly behind the bride’s parents who are both at least a foot shorter than I am.

Shortly into the ceremony the pastor asked the bride and groom what tokens they had, and they announced “rings.” The pastor looked over to me, and I nervously went up in front of a very packed church and handed the pastor the black velvet case from the jewelry store. He looked at me blankly, and then told me to open it. Oh, so I guess I was supposed to know that. Anyway then I went back and sat down, totally lacking in any degree of panache. I felt like a complete idiot. A rehearsal might have been helpful.

When the pastor asked for the next token, the “madrina” of the coins went up with a flourish of panache, and presented her token in a gorgeous, ornate little box. The next gift was presented in a decorative glass case, and another token was displayed on a silver platter. I soon learned that the rings were to have been presented in a similar way. Ack. How was I supposed to know? I cringe with the very memory of my publicly humiliating loss of panache.

IRL*You’d think this feeling of being an outsider would fade after 25 years, but it keeps returning.


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