Saturday, June 22, 2013

Missionaries should not have to beg

There is something about mission work and missionaries that fascinates me.  Over the years I have read dozens and dozens of missionary biographies.  I have read them to my kids and in fact, I am reading the biography of Gladys Aylward (missionary to China) to the boys right now and they LOVE it!  The fact that missionaries leave their homes and families to serve people they don't know with passion really intrigues me.  Learning more about them and from them is something I can't get enough of.

Over the years Blaine and I have supported missionaries through prayer and some we've personally supported financially.  We have given to support missions in our church.  I have friends who are missionaries or who are currently working to get to the mission field.  And of course now I have a daughter and son in law in the same position.  Seeing up close just how much work they do to get to where God wants them has surprised me.  Even though I love missions and missionaries and I thought I knew quite a bit about that field I realize now just how much I didn't know.  Which is the reason for his blog post.

Allow me to go back a bit.

When God lays on a persons heart to be a missionary, He gives them an unquenchable desire for them to be there.  That place and those people are on their minds every hour of every day.  Because of this deep feeling, they naturally hope that once others hear their heart and see God's vision they will want to join them in helping them get to that goal.  They will pray and they will give.

They meet with families, sharing their video and God's calling on their lives.  They speak to groups, showing them the people they will be working with and explain why they are needed there.  They start a blog and putting themselves out there on Facebook and begin asking for supporters.  This may be very uncomfortable for them but they do it anyway because it is essential to build up a strong base of support.

While all this is going on, they often sell their home, their cars and their belongings.  They live with family, which is not always comfortable.  They write letters, fill out hundreds of pages of applications, have endless Skype meetings with their sending agency.  Often times they have to quit their jobs to go to the mission training required by their sending agency.  They spend thousands of their own money on that mission training.  And all the while they wait.  They wait for the supporters they need in order to be allowed to go.

Many mission agencies won't let a missionary go until they reach at least 80% of their yearly budget. Some of their yearly budgets are $70,000 for a single person.  Add to that  a spouse and children and you're talking a lot of money. What I didn't know or understand was that most missionaries need a lot more money than I thought.  They need travel expenses, housing expenses, food expenses...that's all obvious.  But they also need to take language school when they get to their destination (which can cost hundreds per month), they have to pay taxes to the U.S. Government (who knew?) and they need to set aside money each month for a yearly vacation.  The burn out level among missionaries is huge if there is no down time.  I have to admit, I hadn't thought of this. How does it make sense that we as Americans take a yearly vacation from work because we need the stress relief and time to regroup but missionaries do not need that? The pressure on them is great.  They miss the comforts of home and their families.  Often times the culture is completely different to the one they came from.  The spiritual battle is exhausting.  If we want missionaries to stay and do the work God called them to, they need a vacation!  I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't see that before but I do now.  Missionaries don't take a salary.  They just need their expenses covered.  They're not making money on the deal:)

As my friends shared with me their frustrations on fundraising, God gave me an idea.

If Christians ALL chose just three missionaries to support monthly, they wouldn't have to go around begging people for their support.  They could leave and be on the ground much sooner.  Yes, they still would have to go around and speak to groups and families but they would have a LOT more support.  I'm not talking about sponsoring a child, giving to a cause or any other wonderful giving Christians give to monthly or yearly.  This is in addition to any other giving you do.  I'm talking about directly choosing 3 missionaries per person or per family who you would support as a family with prayer, encouragement through emails or letters or care packages while they're on the field and with monthly financial support if and until they are off the field.  And at that point, you choose another missionary to support.  Just think if everyone did that!

I know I'm probably stepping on some toes here but that's not my intention.  It doesn't have to be a huge amount per month or it could be.  You could give more to one than the others depending on need.  Ideas are endless here.  When you give ongoing support it gives you and your family a sense of partnership with your missionary.  You learn about and care about people on the other side of the world who you otherwise wouldn't have known even existed. Don't we all want that as Christians for ourselves and our children?

There are a LOT of Christians who are not themselves goers but we should all be givers. If we all "Supported Three," my giving will overlap with the giving of many, many others and missionaries will feel supported the way God intended them to be.  The Bible is full of commands to give and to go.  By giving, we get to participate in the mission directly.  And we receive the blessings that go along with that.

"You can be a goer, a sender, or disobedient.  The Bible does not assume that everyone goes.  But it does assume that ones who do not go care about goers and support goers and pray for goers and hold the rope of the goers." John Piper

So there it is.  Choose three missionaries to support monthly today.  Support the ones you know.  Go to your church and ask for missionaries needing support.  Get involved.  Give.  Go.  Pray.

Be blessed.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Years in the making

So many times I have started this blog post only to delete it and think, "Later.  I'll write it later."  My thoughts and feelings have changed so much over the last year and a half that I'm glad I waited to write until now to share them.

Katie and I are incredibly close.  She's not only my daughter but one of my very best friends.  What a privilege to be able to say that!  Not only that but De and Blaine are extremely close.  They work out together every day.  De admires and loves his father in law fiercely.  It is something a mother could only dream of.  But we have that kind of relationship.

I knew ever since we went to Ethiopia to adopt the boys in 2007, God had placed in Katie's heart a call to go back and serve Him there.  We supported that idea wholeheartedly.  But that was a LONG way off, right?  She had to graduate first and that seemed like forever away.  Well, graduation came and went.  She and De married.  Soon after that they wanted to have a serious talk with us.  Uh oh!  Here it was.  What I always dreamed of for my child and my worst nightmare all rolled into one.  They both had prayed and felt the Lord calling them to serve in Ethiopia.  Would we support them, help them and guide them through the process?

Somehow I managed to keep it together throughout that conversation.  Somehow the tears that formed in my eyes didn't roll down my cheeks.  I couldn't do that to them.  They were so excited!!  Of course we would do whatever we could to help them through the process (and what a process it has been!).

Ever since Blake and Katie were little, I read missionary biographies to them.  I so badly wanted them to see the difference one individual can make in the world for eternity.  I wanted them to see how God miraculously provides and protects.  As I would read the stories, I would get so moved by them that I would get choked up and hide my face behind the book.  Blake and Katie would giggle.  They knew how these stories moved me.  They also know Mom can't cry and talk at the same time.

So now my daughter was asking ME to help send her away from ME.  All I could think was, "I need her."  She is a huge support for me.  She helps me with the boys so much.  I bounce ideas off her.  She is incredibly wise and discerning for her age.  She gives me advice.  The boys LOVE and ADORE her and De.  What will we do?  What will they do?

I really struggled for months.  On one hand, this is what I trained her for, right??  This is how we raised her.  To serve others.  To put others ahead of herself.  We dedicated her to God when she was a baby and she is His, just on loan to us.  There is nothing I would want more than this.  If I could have known when she was a baby that one day she would be doing this, I would have BEAMED with joy!  But that was a LONG way off, right?

Blaine and I have helped and guided them through this process, which has proven to be longer and much more difficult than they would have liked.  Part of me thinks God did that for me.  I needed the time to adjust to the idea, really.  I needed to see their true longing to be there.  I needed to realize they won't be truly satisfied until they are doing what God has led them to do.  I know if they stayed here it would extinguish a fire in them that is a beautiful thing to see.  I now see, after all the paperwork, applications, letters of recommendation, Skype meetings, interviews, schooling, expense, etc. that they are resolute in their call.  I know they have stepped WAY out of their comfort zone to get to this point.  (Katie tends to be shy)  They have not stopped moving forward.  They haven't wavered for a second.

So now I can honestly say I am ready for them to go.  I am excited for them to live in Ethiopia.  I am excited to see the impact they will make.  I am excited to see the way they are going to change by living there.  I am excited to see them serve.

I am excited.  I can finally say that.  I am excited!

I am waiting to get the ok to share exactly what they will be doing but I can tell you that they have a huge responsibility...HUGE.  They are not concerned at all because they know God is in this.  He will help them.

Katie and De hope to be there this July.  They are needed there as soon as possible.  Last summer we had a huge garage sale, 2 actually, to help raise money for them.  They were both very successful and they were well on their way but then found out that they needed to go to Missionary Training school.  Although they loved the school, what they learned there, and the people (other missionaries who will be lifelong friends), all the money they had raised was used to pay for the plane tickets and the school so they are now starting fresh.

We are having a fundraising dinner for them on May 4th.  We will serve Ethiopian food, hear from them and watch a video about what they'll be doing.  We have sent out invitations but if you would like to be included, please contact me.

God is good, always good.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Officially scolded

 I have been a terrible blogger over the past year.  In the past week I've been asked to get back to being a faithful blogger by more than one person I am again.  There is a lot going on in our family and I'm told I need to share it all.  I am blessed that this little blog has been an encouragement to people I don't even know:)

In the next few days I will do a post with lots of details about Katie and De and their moving to Ethiopia.  It's gonna be good!

Blaine and I took the three youngest kids on a spring break trip this year to Washington DC.  We visited Colonial Williamsburg, the Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center.  We celebrated Easter Sunday having brunch at Mt. Vernon, the home of George Washington.  The kids all loved the things we saw, telling us each night, "Thank you for bringing us here. Thank you for today. It was really fun!"  Awww, sweet huh?  Other than all the walking around the entire DC area there were no complaints.

Below are some of the 500 pictures we took.  Enjoy!

                                                              My sweetie and me.

                 MJ, Mihiretu and Aliya in front of the Vietnam Veterans beautiful.

 This was taken at night in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  The Washington Memorial is behind the kids.  It was very special to stand in the place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his, "I Have a Dream" speech.  All I have to say about that is, "Wow."

     Aliya at Arlington National Cemetery at Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee.

 If we had to chose a favorite it is here, Mt. Vernon.  It was so neat to be where George Washington walked, see his home and all it's furnishings, visit all the outbuildings and see the amazing view he had from the front porch.  No wonder he loved it there so much.

                               The garden at the Governors palace at Colonial Williamsburg.

                The Jamestown Settlement was a fun place to explore and even dress up as a settler.

                                                            Mihiretu is one strong boy!!

                 It was a lot of work living in Jamestown.  Mihiretu carrying heavy buckets of water.

                MJ, General Washington and Mihiretu.  MJ wore that tri-corner hat every second of our trip.

My little soldiers.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The July tornado

4th of July week is "family week" at the cabin.  Blaine's sisters' families and his mom and our whole crew head up north and spend the week swimming, fishing, playing cards and eating!  It is a blast:)  We look forward to it every year.  

Katie and her Aunt Jenny share July 2nd as their birthday.  This year Joani made her famous chocolate cake and Blaine and I made homemade ice cream.  We knew a storm was coming and it looked like a bad one but we were going to enjoy our ice cream on the screen porch while Auntie Laura read a book to all the kids.  It wasn't raining or windy.  There was no thunder or lightening.  

I was sitting in the far back corner of the porch with the kids sitting all around me.  It was then that we heard the wind.  It was coming from behind me.  I asked the kids, "Did you hear that??"  They did.  I kept reading.  A couple seconds later I said, "That's bad you guys.  Let's get inside now!"

They say it sounds like a freight train coming.  That may be but I have no experience with freight trains.  I would describe the sound as a jet airplane.  A very eerie sound like nothing I have ever heard come from nature.

At the same time Blaine was getting in the shower.  The power went out and he got out of the shower to see lamps and items in the bedroom flying around.  He yelled to everyone to get downstairs!

We were already on our way.  I don't believe we made it through the living room, through the dining room and down the stairs before it hit.  And we were running!  

Once we got downstairs, Blaine asked if everyone was accounted for.  Someone said, "Yes," but that wasn't true.  Katie and De were missing.

They were also out on the porch eating ice cream and decided they'd better run over to the cabin they were staying in next door and close the windows to keep the rain out.  So they did and were in that little cabin with no foundation when the tornado hit and all the trees fell.

All these pictures were taken the next morning.  It was getting dark when the storm it....around 8:30 or later.  Katie was very afraid and they made the decision to run back to the house we were in since it had a basement.  By this time (all happened in minutes) the worst was past but it was raining and still windy.  Katie and De literally rain over the tops of fallen trees to get back.  The little cabin they were staying in (above) is the one with the green peak on the roof.  They ran over those trees which were maybe 9 feet tall (once fallen) to get to us.

Thank God they made it safely!!  It really is a miracle they did and that a tree, limb or debris didn't fall on them.  Click on the pic above to see.  She told me that she thought she was going to die on her birthday that day.  :(

 The trailer we'd brought bikes up on was now up on Jenny's car and the power line was also down, the pole snapped in half.

 The view to the right down the road.  Blaine and De cleared the entire way with their chain saws all the way to the main road.  I love men like this.  They get it done!

 The view to the right...much worse.  They let the county clean this part up.
 Katie and De's car parked in front of their cabin.  Looks bad but barely a scratch:)

 The new view of the hillside.  I honestly never knew there was a house on top of the hill so close.  There were huge mature pines completely covering the hillside.  The tornado took them all.  We lost 75 trees on the property.

Debris from the storm.  Click on this (above) picture to enlarge to see one of the wicker chairs that was sitting in the porch now resting by the little pump house.  It flew through the screen and landed there!  And it's heavy!

Thanks be to God for prompting me to get the kids out of the porch and down the stairs.  I am not normally the person to be alarmed during a storm.  I thought it would be cool to sit outside in the porch and read and eat ice cream during a thunder storm.  I'm thankful I didn't stand my ground and stay a second longer.  The kids would have been severely hurt or killed.  After all, look where the wind took that heavy chair.

The next day the clean up began.  Gene, Blake and Wayne, who had left for home previously for work came back up and for seven morning till night days they worked until all the trees were taken down and chipped.  They yard was raked and repairs were made.  A little garage had to be taken down due to damage.  Power was out for 5 days and it was HOT!  Water came from the lake, cooking was done with the help of a generator and grill.  Toilets were flushed with buckets of lake water and showers were taken in the lake..The refrigerator stayed on thanks to the generator.

We were so thankful that no one was hurt and that there was very little damage done to the main house.
We were also so thankful that so many friends came up to lend a hand with the clean up.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think we'd be in the direct path of a tornado.  I mean...really??  In the grand scheme of things and all we've been through as a family, it seems weird to say that being in the direct path of a tornado is on the minor end of things.  No one lost their life and no one was badly hurt. Funny how our perspective has changed, huh?

We're just thankful.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bringing them home!

A couple weeks short of a year ago in October, we went to Ethiopia.  Katie and De joined us along with our friends, Kevin and Denise.  We had asked if any of our friends would like to join us on that trip and Kevin and Denise were the only ones who took the bait!  Having been to Ethiopia twice before, we want so desperately for our friends and family to get a glimpse of the place that has captured our hearts completely and changed our priorities.  Well, Kevin and Denise weren't just 'willing' to go but were very excited and enthusiastic!

If you've been following this blog for a while you will remember the pictures and experiences I shared last year after we returned.  We had a BLAST serving the people of Korah and helping out with the medical mission group there.  We loved visiting Sheshemene and the boarding school kids.  We'll never forget visiting the kids we sponsor through Compassion International in Hossana and also visiting with our kids families.

Truth be told, I did have a teensy little agenda in some of my visits.  I really wanted to visit Layla House (orphanage where Aliya lived).  I believe every person should visit an least once in their life.  Just look into those kids' eyes, see them run and play and realize they are 'real' children, not a pretty face in a photo, who will not be tucked in by a parent that night.  It will profoundly effect you.  Well did just that...visited Layla House to deliver a letter to a little boy who was waiting to join his family (he just got home a couple weeks ago-YEA!!).  I wanted Kevin and Denise to visit the orphanage.

Today, October 3rd 2012 Kevin and Denise find themselves once again at an orphanage in Ethiopia.  This time it is for the farewell ceremony for the 3 children they are bringing home on Saturday!  Yes less than a year ago they first stepped foot in Ethiopia and they've been back twice since (once for court and again now)...3 times in just one year!!  Not fair:)

God got to their hearts in a major way.  Why?  They saw, they smelled, they touched, they loved, they served, they shared, they laughed with, they cried with, they got into life with REAL Ethiopian people and they fell in love.  They knew that because of what they experienced, God would require something of them.  Because they saw they were responsible before God.  And they obeyed joyfully.

I'm reading Jen Hatmaker's book called "7".  I like the quote, "I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not KNOW the poor...I long for the Calcutta (or Addis Ababa, my input) slums to meet the Chicago suburbs, for lepers to meet landowners and for each to see God's image in the other...I truly believe that when the poor MEET the rich, riches will have no meaning.  And when the rich MEET the poor, we will see poverty come to an end."

Hmmm....think about that one for a day of two. There is action in that statement.  But who has to do the acting?  The rich!  The poor can't afford to come meet you.  We must go to them.  Action.  It takes action on our part.

Anyway, Kevin and Denise took action.  Boy did they ever.  I like to think they are "crazier" than we are!  3 kids AT ONE TIME????  Who does that?  Crazy, obedient Christians who have taken action and had their hearts broken and have the desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  And they couldn't be HAPPIER!!!

On Saturday at 1:00 we will go to the airport to meet our new friends, Tigist age almost 13, Melkamu age 9 and little Besu Isaac age 4:)  I giggle at the thought of my friends having a child younger than my youngest.  Girl, boy, boy...just like our kids from Ethiopia.  Do you think God had any thing to do with this?

It won't be easy.  They know full well the struggles we've had along the way.  They know that bringing a teenage girl to a new culture is an enormous undertaking.  Everyone knows that adding 3 children to your family who only had 2 grown ones is no small feat.  None of this is for the faint of heart.  But thankfully they are not the faint of heart type.  They will learn to rely on God in ways they never had to before.  And He will never leave us.  I am so thankful, SO THANKFUL to now be joined in our nuttiness by our great friends.  We can't wait to walk every new step of this journey with them!

We are not alone!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The grandmas love De

 I gotta let you in on a little secret.  De (our son in law) has the grandmas wrapped around his little finger.  They have loved him from the first time he met them.  What's not to love about a kid who walks up to you, opens up his arms to you, flashes the brightest smile you've ever seen, hugs you and says, "Hi Grandma!"  Yep, they were immediately smitten and won over.

So this is my pretty mom again.  All I wanted was a nice picture of the two of them together.  But De...

 De is loaded with personality.  It oozes out every pore of his body.  He's loud, he's funny, he's loyal, he's loving, he's responsible, he loves the Lord and he loves my daughter:)  He's a great big brother in law to my little kids.  I'm sure it's kind of funny for him to think of MJ, a 6 year old as his brother in law but it's cool and it works.  Did I mention he was loud and funny??

De loves to mess with people.  As you can see here, my mom is trying to be serious and get a good picture with her beloved grandson in law.
Mom is trying to get De to be serious for the camera.  It looks like its beginning to work:) 

De is also from Ethiopia.  He has been through the wringer and not only survived but thrived.  This young man has been transformed by the love of Jesus Christ in his life.  If I can get his permission, I want to write a book about his life.  It would blow your mind. You would cry.  And you would see just how real Jesus is.  You would see a life changed and remade.  It would be beautiful and inspiring.  It would challenge you to never give up.  Movie companies would beg me for the rights.  It would be "Blindside," just a little different. 

Like Big Mike in "Blindside," if anyone ever had a reason to hate everyone, trust no one and always be looking behind their back, it would be De.  But God got ahold of him and he is in 100%.  So much so, he and Katie are going to be missionaries in the very country he got away from.  His faith amazes me as does his obedience.

So grandma got her picture.  I LOVE IT!!!  See the joy and peace in his eyes?  That's what Jesus can do.

Who wouldn't want that?


Monday, September 24, 2012

Fun at the cabin

 It HAS been a long time since I posted!  Blogspot has changed the uploading of pictures so it's not all done backwards.  So I loaded these the "old" way which was always too much for my little brain to figure out.  So not that it matters but these are all posted completely backwards:)  Thank you, Blogspot for making things simpler.

Anyway, we did spend a lot of time at the cabin this summer.  It was wonderful and we had beautiful weather each time we were there.  Well, except for the tornado but that will come later.  Above is Aliya and my niece, Heather (who incidentally told us last night that she is expecting their second baby...YEA!!).  Aliya loves to ride backward and get whipped around and usually doesn't fall off.  We had a great summer with Aliya as it's always good for her to keep busy.  Seems to help her to stay positive:)

 I LOVE this picture of Mihiretu and my beautiful mom.  I wish I looked more like her!

 This is my sister in law, Karen, my brother Tony and their dog Charlie.  It was fun getting them out on the pontoon boat.

 Mihiretu is quite the diver.  He had me take a million pictures of him diving and this is but one.  Pretty good, huh??

 MJ was positive he would be able to ski alone this year.  See the confidence below?  Well he did get up but on the skis of his dad.  I've never seen this done before but it worked great.  MJ was terrified at first then once he realized he was safe, he unveiled his million dollar smile.  He begged daddy to do it every day.

 Skiing on his own wasn't going to happen this summer.  He did hold onto the rope but forgot to let go and therefore got his sinuses cleaned out pretty well.

 I wish you could smell these!!  Heather's husband, Bryant is a master cooker of ribs.  These have been cooking for 6 hours and are about the most amazing things you could smell or eat.

 My boys fishing and looking pretty cute from behind:)

From the youngest to the oldest.  Many people get these two confused.  Look alikes.  Blake and Blaine.
Blake graduated from the U of M in May.  We were so proud that day!  After much searching, he has a full time job here locally.

This summer Aliya got a job at Burger King.  Since she doesn't have her drivers license yet, she was often forced to ride her bike the 4 miles there and back.  She enjoys earning her own money and has learned she doesn't want to make this her career:)  The interviewer told me after the interview that Aliya was the most impressive person she interviewed for the job.  She answered her questions correctly.  For example:  "What would you do if someone complained that they received the wrong order?"  She answered, "I would apologize and make it right."  Apparently, few answered like this.  Scary, huh?

When she got the job, she'd never eaten at a Burger King.  She dislikes hamburgers and hates fries.  So when she first worked the drive thru, she said, "Welcome to King Burger!"  Oops!  Better learn where you're working, girl!

So this is the first installment of getting caught up on posting summer pics.  More to come!