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.