Friday, September 26, 2014

unexpected harvest

One day our family took a boat ride out on a day's excursion to a tiny island in S.E. Asia.
It was Mark's birthday, and by his request we went hiking through the wilds of the island. 
The things we will do for one another in this family to celebrate milestones!  
 As we rounded a corner, I was surprised by the sight of this man, 
harvesting basket loads and boat loads
not of fish, 
but of fresh seaweed from the sea.

This boy's job was to sort and clean the seaweed
We never really know, do we, what kind of harvest God will bring from fields where we serve? 
In my limited perspective, my expectations of how He will work 
are far too confined for our amazing God. 
I expect fish every time, but there are other things He's harvesting.

If I would just stop and notice the good things He's growing,
right here and now,
I might not overlook the seaweed in expectation of the fish.

How many times do I pray for His hand to work in a situation,
but then neglect to see how He's doing good things, 
because I'm so focused in anticipation of the end result I desire?  
Or waiting for the solution that I expect?

His ways are not my ways.
His thoughts are not my thoughts.
But He holds back no good thing from those who fear Him. is faith he is looking for, a quiet confidence that whatever it is he is up to,
it will be a wonderful thing,
never mind whether it is what we have been asking for.   
- Elisabeth Elliot

What good thing is He growing in and around you today?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

is it worth it? part 2

"Is it worth it?  
I mean, moving your family overseas, giving up your good job?  
Do you think that what you do is worthwhile?  Like you make a difference?  
Is it worth it?"

In the last post we took a look at the second part of the question, so today let's look at the first part:

"Is it worth it?  I mean, moving your family overseas, giving up your good job?"

This move we took, to leave regular employment, to live by faith, and to transport our family to a foreign country, was a bit of a step of faith.  We really had no idea what we were getting into!  But we were convinced that God was leading us, and so what else could we do?  And the move resulted in amazing blessing for our family.  Together we left what was 'safe' to venture into the unknown, and together we watched God be faithful over and over again.  That bonds a family pretty tight.

So many missionaries, intent on doing something, 
forget that His main work 
is to make something of them.

-Jim Elliot

Worth it for our family

We had unique opportunities (read the past 4 years of our blog!) together that we'll always fondly recall. The community we lived in was close, and that gave us even more closeness as a family.  We struggled together with minor inconveniences, laughed together once they were over, and spent more time around the table than in vehicles on our way to events.  It was a rich environment offering unusual chances to learn, serve, work and play.  Our kids mused at one point how good it would have been to have arrived in Davao earlier in their lives!  It was worth it.

 Worth it in our marriage 

The move was healthy for our marriage, too.  Yes, every season of transition puts pressure on a marriage.  But once we had settled, we found that for the first time in our lives, we were truly working toward the same cause.  We worked with the same people, and I could visit Mark in his office at any time of the day without special permission and a visitor's pass (like at his former job!)  We found that we only grew in common goals, and that our marriage was strengthened through the change.

 Individual benefits

Not only was the move into missions good for our family as a whole, and for our marriage, but it was worthwhile for each of us individually. For Mark, this move into missions was not a flight of fancy, nor the whim of the moment.  I believe that it was a long-term calling which I, perhaps unwittingly, actually held him back from pursuing earlier in our marriage by my love of security.  He has never been so vested, so excited about any work he has ever done.  Though he still loves aeronautics, he never ever found such fulfillment in that industry.  He has been challenged, and his background and personal strengths have equipped him well to do exactly what he does.

For me, this move was a step of faith which God used to challenge me spiritually, and to reveal more of my need for Him.  Could I ask for anything better?  He's given me rich friendships with Filipinos who love Him and me, and with missionaries who love me for who I am, and for the fact that we are working together in service for Him.  He's faithfully provided all I need, and given me opportunities to share with others who have so very much less than I. How rich is that?  He's opened doors for me to do work I've never done before, and I can see even more opportunities in the future that look incredibly interesting to me.  Yes!  It's been worth it.

For Amy, it confirmed her early frugal bent, and provided her with a plethora of ways to find inventive ways to be creative, which she never would have needed to employ in this land stocked with every craft supply you could dream of.  It opened the door for her to play competitive sports at the high school level, to make friends in a multicultural community, and to play her flute and ply her pen and learn contentment in a world away from the materialism of America.

For Elise, it fulfilled an early calling that she felt to become a missionary - long before she knew that we were considering missions.  As someone who had strong sentimental attachments, it gave her the grounds to grow in holding the things of this earth less tightly.  Elise had opportunities to use her artistic skills in ministry, doing both graphic design work and photography in ways that blessed other missionaries around us.  Like Amy, she had opportunities to play high school music and sports, and to grow beautiful multicultural friendships.

For Michael, it shaped his world view. He was overseas during some of the most formative years of his life. He's not entirely at home in the US where you have to use cross walks and seat belts, and there's no rice at McDonald's.  He had a community where he was free to come and go on his own.  He was friends with everyone, from the local grave diggers to the local guards, from poor kids in rags sporting smiles just as bright as his, to wealthy kids so rich they had their own chauffeurs.  He has learned early that material stuff can be unnecessary baggage, and that friendships make you rich.  I think it's been worth it.

Millions have never heard of Jesus. We ought not to ask, 
"Can I prove that I ought to go?' but, 
"Can I prove that I ought not to go?";

-Charles Spurgeon

So, what do you think?  
Could this sort of decision be just as worth it for you?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Is it worth it? part 1

"Is it worth it?  
I mean, moving your family overseas, giving up your good job?  
Do you think that what you have done was worthwhile?  Like you are making a difference?  
Is it worth it?"

I've been asked this question by more than one person, and I'd be surprised if it isn't an unspoken thought in the minds of others. It's a valid question; one that I've asked myself, too.  As I examine the answer, I can't help remember that for all of the challenges you've seen us face, we've also known incomparable blessing.  So I can say, from the bottom of my heart, that yes, it is worth it all.

In this two-part post let's unpack the two-part question, "Is it worth it?

Let's start with,

"Do you think that what you have done was worthwhile?  Like you are making a difference?" 

We can't show you quantifiable results of our work; no lists of people who came to know the Lord because we went.  In fact, on this blog I can't even tell you about specific ways God used us, because we really can't go public with much about the projects we were involved with in the Philippines. (But if you ask me in person, I'd be happy to share some stories!)  When I look back and see how many people Mark has helped, some who continue to seek help from him via emails now, I can say from the bottom of my heart, yes it is worthwhile.

A parallel question

Indulge me for just a minute, and consider a parallel question. Is it worthwhile to have a sound technician, or a janitor, or a secretary at your church?  What they do is not really bringing souls to Christ, is it?  Yet without their work, would the Word of God be proclaimed as effectively from the pulpit?  Would the congregation be clearly hearing the message?  Would they be well-informed, and would the events of the church be carried out in an orderly way?

In essence, we are those kinds of people in missions, providing some of the services which enable the work to happen more efficiently.  Is it worth it? Those who are on the front lines think it is.  When they are in critical need of help, and they have no idea how to address the issue themselves, should they spend valuable time working to locate the tools or research the information that Mark could give them very quickly?  It's a little like asking the church pastor to set up and test the sound system Sunday morning, play the piano, keep the prayer chain going, pay the bills, write the Sunday School curriculum, and sweep the floors.  And make sure it's a really moving Sunday morning message, please!

Instead, God in His goodness uses His entire body, rightly fitted together, to do His work.  We happen to be some of the inner ligaments of the body - little ones, yes!  But the work God allows us to do makes a difference.

"...from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, 
makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."
Ephesians 4:16

Beyond the job description

Your church support staff not only have specific jobs to do in order to help the church run smoothly, but hopefully they also are being used by the Lord above and beyond that.  They and their families are likely ministering in other ways - by their fellowship within the local church,  by their giving,  by intentionally raising their families to walk by faith,  by showing care and hospitality, and by being salt and light in their own communities.  Their impact has the potential to go far beyond their designated roles.  Similarly, we've had the privilege to fellowship and give, to teach and be an example, and to encourage and disciple within our local church and our community there in the Philippines.

God opened doors and gave us opportunities which we never dreamed of before we went overseas.  Was it worth it?  Did it make a difference?  Maybe only eternity will tell.  But we know it made a difference in us.  That God used it to shape and mold and temper us in ways that no American experience could have done. 

We'll talk about that more in the next blog post topic, "Was it worth it?  I mean, moving your family overseas, giving up your good job?"