Monthly Archives: June 2013

WMI — Week 3

This has been quite a week. It started Sunday with Chimp and Rosebud being sick and all three of us missing the visit to the house church. Fortunately, the illness was short-lived and didn’t affect any more of us.
Classes started off with two days of academic talks on culture. Ted and I both enjoyed these very much. Although they were academic, they were also helpful in getting us to think about the different ways other people view things and allowing us to see our own lenses. We spent quite a bit of time taking about gift-giving and the related expectations. It was very interesting to note that, on that topic, there are similar beliefs and expectations the world around.
Monday night we had a “cultural experience.” None of us knew what to expect going into it, but it turned our to be a Swazi worship service. It was a very moving service and made us all appreciate what other cultures can contribute to the worship experience. Here are a couple of the songs we sang.

[audio http://audioboo.fm/boos/1476507-thank-you-jesus.mp3 ] [audio http://audioboo.fm/boos/1476505-siyahamba.mp3 ]

ImageWednesday and Thursday were a bit more challenging days. Wednesday we spent learning how to learn a language. Although I really enjoyed learning the skills and suggestions for how to work with a language helper (and that Daisy joined us for that part! see picture), it was a bit discouraging that he kept emphasizing that it takes 2+ years to really learn a language well. Since the biggest parts of evangelism is relationships, language is pretty important, and EMM rightly stresses it a great deal. I’m hoping we’ll be able to pick up enough wherever we go to be able to build some good relationships even in our short time. Being here with mostly long-term missionaries means some of what is taught doesn’t apply to us in quite the same way.
Thursday was challenging in an entirely different way. We talked about contingency plans and what to do in case of kidnapping, or illness, or political upheaval, etc. Although it was hard to think about the possibilities, especially with four young children, I’m glad EMM does think about them and have procedures in place. The most important sentence of the day? “The safest place to be is where God had called you to be!”

Friday was a breath of fresh air with some team-building exercises and a case study on decision-making in teams where we looked at a touchy situation we could encounter on the field.

We are continuing to discern where our destination will be. We have spent a good bit of time this week talking with people involved in both locations (Albania and Kenya). I’m sure we would enjoy either location, so we are continuing to seek God in the process.

One week left of training! It’ll be nice to be home again, though getting back into the real world with having to make our own meals and keep the kids busy all day could be challenging. 🙂 We’ll definitely miss all the new friends we have made here too. Many of them will be heading to various locations around the world in the next several months: Thailand, Kosovo, Guinea Bissau, Chile, Albania, Czech Republic, China, Tajikistan, Honduras, and Germany.

A few more pictures from this week:

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Daisy and the girls

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A pre-breakfast chess game

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A team-bulding exercise to build the tallest house of cards

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Rosebud!

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WMI — Week 2 in pictures

If I wait for the time to type everything up in words, it’ll never happen, so here are a few snapshots of from our second week of training:

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At church last Sunday. The service was led by the Ka-ren population and they greatly value Father’s Day (and Children’s Day) and so celebrated all the fathers with handmade yarn leis and had something for all the children as well.

It was interesting to experience church as foreigners in a way. Although they interpreted much of the service into English, there were a few things that were not translated.

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A fun evening of play: a pick-up game of kickball in the background with Rosebud in the foreground. We have class two evenings a week, but the other evenings are usually filled with outside games and fellowship (weather permitting).
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The church at Philippi initially consisted of Lydia (a Jewish businesswoman), a slave girl, and the jailor (Acts 16) — a rather non-homogeneous lot. James Krabill encouraged us to consider why Paul wrote Philippians as he did with this audience in mind.
 
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The kids’ class having fun times in the sprinkler!
 
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Friday afternoon we visited a local mosque to help us understand more about Islam. Many of the families here are going to countries with a high Muslim population and we have spent a good bit of time learning about that faith in the last couple of weeks. I have been surprised by the number of similarities to Christianity, although the differences are still very significant.
 
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More fun times: Friday night we had trivia contest, splitting up into three teams and trying to answer some pretty challenging questions. The bonus question that totally reversed the scores was “Name all the oceans in the world.” 10 points to the first commenter to name them all correctly…no smart phones or other internet browsing (or other reference materials) allowed!  We followed that with a wonderful fire and fellowship outside our house.
 
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World Missions Institute — Week 1

We have just completed the first week of our month-long training program. It has been a challenging but very informative week. Each morning, we have the opportunity to hear the life story of a different missionary. It is exciting to hear about how God has worked in others’ lives and used them around the world. We also had the privilege of spending two days learning from David Shenk about missions and the Old Testament and world religions. He is an amazing teacher; he sprinkles his lectures with many stories about places he’s been and people he’s encountered. He has learned so much about people and cultures through his studying and travel that he has gained the respect of many non-Christian communities around the world, particularly in his work with Islam. He explained how revolutionary just the first three chapters of Genesis can be for some cultures that have no understanding of basic human rights (created in God’s image) or marriage (husband leaves his parents and clings to his wife). It was so wonderful to sit and listen to story after story of lives revolutionized because of hearing and understanding these ideas that I so take for granted. His understanding of the Muslim faith is great as well and I found it particularly interesting when he shared that the Qur’an actually says that if the Muslim has a question, he should ask a Christian because they have the ‘former Scriptures’ (Torah, Prophets, and Gospels).

Friday we learned about missions and the New Testament from James Krabill. We looked at different ways Jesus changed how the Jews view time and worship as well as how the early church developed from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria to the ends of the earth. He emphasized the need for contextualization–changing how you tell the message of Christ depending on the culture/situation you are in. That discussion continued into the evening session on contextualized worship–a workshop Ted particularly enjoyed 🙂 –where we discussed worship and the arts in different cultures and how it can be used to share the gospel. This is especially important in this age, not only for cultures that are still illiterate, but also in cultures that have so much technology, that very little book reading is done anymore (texting, audiobooks, music, etc, etc). Sometimes drama and other art forms can be much more effective in spreading the love of God. God gives us enormous freedom in how we worship Him; allowing each culture to find the way that most speaks to their hearts is important.

The kids continue to do well. We hardly see Daisy and Cub throughout the day; they spent every free moment playing with the other kids. Rosebud has been doing great once we figured out how to best work feedings and naps. Chimp is struggling a little bit being away from mommy and daddy so much, but hopefully as they are able to get outside more this coming week and maybe even be with the older kids more, things will improve.

We are truly being blessed by this time to study and reflect on God’s plan for mission and the world. Tomorrow we are looking forward to attending a local Mennonite church that has a large Ka-ren’ population from Burma/Myanmar. The third Sunday of each month, they lead the service in their tradition.

On the where-are-we-going front, we are pretty much exploring just two options at the moment: 

1. Helping to start a dairy-processing business in Korce, Albania. Currently, the majority of milk is acquired by taking used coca-cola bottles to a local farmer and having them filled with milk.

2. Managing EMM’s Guest House in Nairobi, Kenya, including a construction project. 

We truly appreciate prayers as we continue to discern where God can best use us. 

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The Middle East

No, that’s not where we’re going…that we know of. That is where we are currently staying…MCC’s The Welcoming Place in Akron, PA has four different guest houses that are designed and named after four different continents. We are in the Middle East/Europe house. They are very nicely setup so that our family has three rooms in one wing that we can close off when needed and have some private space.

Today was day one of our training at World Missions Institute, and it was a very good day. We started this morning by hearing about the history and present-day mission of EMM from the president himself, Nelson Okanya. I didn’t know much before about the history and it was quite interesting and inspiring. I also really appreciate how much EMM supports their workers–not only in the expected spiritual ways, but also that all around well-being is so important to them as to be listed as a core value. They have systems in place to help with missionaries’ emotional and mental health as well as their spiritual needs.

This afternoon we had a session discussing Spiritual Formation and Sabbath Rest. We talked about different methods of spiritual formation and how to continue them while on the field, away from the fellowship and community we are accustomed to. We also heard about Sabbath rest and how important it is to truly have some time apart from all the demands of ministry to recharge, refresh, and reflect. Although I knew many of these things before in principal, I learned some new ideas for implementing them and was inspired to work harder to accomplish them as it will become more important as we experience new cultures and other challenging situations.

The kids also did very well today. Although I was called twice to take care of Rosebud, I actually prefer that. I’d hate to think I’m really not that important to her. 🙂  The child care workers clearly care for the children and really respect the parents’ wishes. There are quite a few other kids of similar ages that Daisy and Cub have especially enjoyed getting to know better. Tonight we had a family fun night to get to know each other better and have some fun. Both goals were accomplished exceedingly well.

Ted and I also really enjoyed getting to know the other families here and learning the stories of where they’re going and how they got there. It feels a bit awkward to not be able to say where we’re going yet, but it is encouraging to here about others’ journeys and know we are not alone. The way God has brought each family to this point is awesome, there’s really no other word for it! There are some wonderful families, couples, and people God is sending throughout the world, and we are privileged to have a month to get to know them better.

 

A quick addendum: in one of the emails I had a chance to skim today was this quote from a book that feels quite true at the moment: 

“Fear camps out right next to whatever it is you’re most called to do. That means the closer you get to your calling, the louder fear sounds.”
~ You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream, Chapter 5

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The Great Unknown

Today is the day. The day we start our month-long training–this big unknown that’s hanging over my calendar for the next month. I like to plan things–to know what’s going to happen and when and how and who… I know very little of that about this adventure and it’s caused a bit of anxiety. This morning, I picked up the Jesus Calling devotional and read this: 

Rest in me, my child. Give your mind a break from planning and trying to anticipate what will happen. Pray continually, asking My Spirit to take charge of the details of this day. Remember that you are on a journey with Me. When you try to peer into the future and plan for every possibility, you ignore your constant Companion, who sustains you moment by moment. As you gaze anxiously into the distance, you don’t even feel the strong grip of My hand holding yours. How foolish you are, My child!

Could it be any more plain? So, I’m working to relax and trust that God will work it all out–even with the fact that Rosebud, Chimp and I have all come down with head colds and mine includes a bit of sinus pain. Not a great way to start out a month of intense learning. But God is greater than even that!

In just over an hour we will be meeting with someone from EMM to continue the discussion on some of our options, and training starts in full force tomorrow morning.

 

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Passports, Pocket Change, and Campfires

After spending several days this week trying to get passport photos that fit all the requirements (ever try that with a 3-year-old and 6-month-old? “Don’t smile; no, don’t tilt your head; look at the camera; nope, you can’t smile;” etc; etc), we finally called it good enough and had them printed. So, yesterday we all trouped down to the local post office to send off the applications. We should all have the official paperwork to prove we are U.S. citizens within 4-6 weeks!

ImageAnother chunk of time this week was spent with a 20-year-old five-gallon water bottle. A friend in high school gave me this jug as a reject from the bottling company where he worked. I (and then Ted) have since been using it to put our pocket change in–saving it for something big, someday. Last week, the kids decided this trip is “someday.” So, we started counting, and counting, and counting… We finally dumped the final coins from the jar last night, and the grand total was just under $1400! We’ll use just over half of that to pay for the passports and put the rest toward our trip.

One night this week we had some friends over for a nice chat around a campfire (and s’mores, of course). It was quite nice to catch up with them as we hadn’t seen a couple of them in quite a while. As we were chatting, the conversation naturally turned to our trip and what we hoped to do. Ted shared some of his thoughts on building businesses in poorer countries and how to do that to best help and not hurt the poor. The others then shared some of their thoughts and experiences on the same topic. It was enlightening and refreshing to hear about other projects and ideas with the same goals. All of the couples present shared a desire to someday (some sooner than others) be a vehicle to bring reconciliation (see my last post) to others around the world. God is truly opening my eyes to how much we truly do take for granted in this country and it’s exciting to think that we can be agents for Him in bringing hope to others. (Of course, that doesn’t have to mean traveling around the world. God calls each of us to a different place.)

This week I finished up school and all the reporting required, submitted the camp cookbook that I’d been in charge of, and got the passport pictures taken and applied for. Now, I just have to figure out how to pack up the family and the house for a month. I must confess it’s a bit overwhelming at the moment. I’m very thankful for friends who have helped in big and small ways.  

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When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself

NOTICE: This post is not about our trip; it is a book summary for a book we are required to read for training. Skip this post if you don’t enjoy theory.

When-Helping-Hurts

This book was quite a different read from the last one. It required concentration to read–not one to read while the kids are playing in the same room. 🙂 That said, it was a very good read and this review will probably get quite lengthy.

This book is not necessarily about missions, but rather about helping the poor. Though since much of missions involves working with the poor, this is a very useful book for missions work. I really like how it explored the issues; it helped me to understand why I’ve felt how I’ve felt about different situations I’ve encountered in the past. The gist of the book is that the primary way that we in the United States try to alleviate poverty–by throwing money at it–actually does more harm than good–both for the poor and for us!

It opens by looking at what the Bible has to say about the poor. Repeatedly, throughout both the Old and New Testaments,  God told his people to care for the poor. When Jesus came, he preached and showed help for the poor.

Next, the authors establish exactly what poverty is and why it is such a problem. Contrary to what many people think, the main issue with most poverty is not the lack of material goods, but the psychological and social issues that go along with it: shame and inferiority, hopelessness and voicelessness.

God created us as humans with the need for four foundational relationships: with God, with others, with self, and with the rest of creation. When one or more of these relationships is not functioning properly, poverty results. Sometimes this is material poverty, but other times it is a poverty of stewardship or community, or a physical or spiritual weakness. As a result of the fall, we are all broken in at least one of these areas. The authors state, “until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do far more harm than good.” We need to be able to say “I am not okay and you are not okay; but Jesus can fix us both.”

Continue reading

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