Mom’s Graduation To Heaven

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Mom’s Last Moments

Many of you may have already heard that Norm’s mom took her final breath and then stepped into heaven to be with our Lord Jesus.  This occurred on Saturday afternoon, March 22.

Mom had been in hospital for about six weeks, fighting a bladder infection which was resistant to the antibiotics, and was struggling with some laboured breathing.  It was discovered that there was fluid building in her lungs and abdomen which they needed to drain off.  Testing of the fluid, plus more examination of her body revealed that mom had Stage 4 cancer throughout her intestines.

Mom was moved quickly to a hospice after that.  We had been wanting to talk with mom on the phone, but time zones and communication challenges had not allowed that for us.  But on our early Sunday morning here in Papua New Guinea, one of our cell phones alerted us to a message.  It was from Norm’s brother who said time was now short for mom.

We were able to get through this time on our phone and via speaker phone were able to say our last words of love and goodbye to mom.  Jill sang “Yes, Jesus Loves You.”  God gave us that opportunity to reach out to mom, and then five minutes after our call, mom took her last breath and then graduated to heaven.

Norm’s brother Murray sent a text back later and wrote, “Yesterday, we were a complete family again during the final moments. Blake held the phone close to Mom’s ear while I held her hand and studied her face closely.  There was an almost imperceptible reaction to your voices and your song – like an internal struggle to hear.  She stopped breathing a few minutes later.  I thought you should know this.”

Our niece Becky wrote this about that special moment,

“When I saw her at 2, her eyes were closed, and her breathing still laboured, but when I sat beside her and held her hand, I felt her try to respond, and her eyes flicked open 3 times. This was around the time that Murray got you on the phone. I know my Dad has said that he believes Granny heard you. I will tell you that I KNOW she heard you.

The peace that washed over the room as you spoke to her and as Jill sang, it was different than how the room felt before. As Jill was singing, I heard Jesus speak, “I am coming soon now.” It amazed me that within moments of hanging up that phone call, her breathing suddenly changed, it slowed and her eyes became heavy and peaceful. And just like that, she walked with Jesus into glory.

The presence of God in that room was like nothing I’ve experienced. He loves us so much, that He knew Mom’s wishes was to hear your voices and your wishes were to share your hearts with her one more time. He honored that, and I just love that about Him. Your voices were the balm to her heart, and I am forever grateful that the Lord had compassion to allow for that beautiful transition to be the way it was.”

Mom is now free from all the restraints and decay that we all experience in our mortal bodies.  Now she is liberated to a new and eternal life of joy inexpressible as she now inhabits her heavenly home.  God did give us this beautiful moment to say goodbye here.  But it won’t be that long before we are saying hello once again to each other when we too will graduate into our eternal home with God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Celebrate with us this passing of a great woman of God, Mavis Elizabeth (Knight) Weatherhead, whom we affectionately call “Mom”.

Norm & Jill Weatherhead
Missionaries to Papua New Guinea

Mavis Weatherhead

What Happened To Norm?

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I’m wondering if this is a question that has been in anyone’s mind recently.  Although I should qualify this question.  I know my family all know where I am.  And many of my friends know what I am doing.  But for those who are not in the category of “Norm’s family” or “Norm’s friends”, for those who have been visiting The Listening Post or are subscribers to the blog, this question may have come up.

Why would I raise  this question?  Well, for all those who are following me on this devotional blog site, it should have been noticed that the frequency of articles coming out has been declining over the past year.  Back in 2011 and 2012, I was writing three articles every week: to share about all the missionary experiences I have had over a lifetime, to walk through a Christian book chapter by chapter, and to do a Bible study on the Gospel of John.

But since the beginning of 2013, I was only able to write two articles a week for about half a year, and then it became only one article a week.  And then suddenly there were no articles for the past few weeks.  Oh no!!  Did that horrible monster called “Writer’s Block” come up and attack Norm!  Or did the “fount of knowledge” simply run dry for him.

    

Nah!!  Nothing so ordinary as that.  The simple truth is that God has been so good to allow me to be more active for Him in ministry over here in Papua New Guinea, that there really is so much to say, but so little time to sit down and write about it.  There is an interesting universal law at work here I think, which goes something like “The universe cannot stand having a void.”  The idea is that when there is extra space, something will fill it up.

We see this in normal day living.  When a family lives in a small house, the rooms, cupboards and storage spaces all get filled up.  Now what happens when this same family is able to move into a much larger house?  In almost every case, within less than a year, you will still find all the rooms, cupboards and storage space are still all filled up.  How is that possible?  Simply this: we like to fill up our space.

    

Now consider with me this universal law from a Christian perspective.  What happens when a Christian gives freely of their time, their talents and their treasures (money or material possessions).  It is said that a person “can never out give the Lord”.  And this is very true.  When we give some of our money or material possessions away in order to help others or to advance the work of God, it is so often true that God will turn some situation around and bring back an awesome material or financial blessing in return.

Now don’t get me wrong here.  We should never give with the sole purpose or intention of getting something from God.  God does not operate this way.  For Scripture tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver.”  (2 Corinthians 9:7)  But the Bible also says that when we give, it will be given back to us by God in “good measure, pressed down and running over”.  (Luke 6:38)  When we give of what we have (in any form) then God will fill back up our emptiness with the abundance of His overflowing blessings.

    

So what has all this to do with my question at the beginning  of “What happened to Norm?”  Well, when the muscle disease first hit me back in 2008, I suddenly found my world shrank down to place very tight boundaries on what I could do in life.  In many ways, my space of existence during the day was not much more than the easy chair recliner in my living room.  But thankfully, I could still do some of my mission work on my computer, and the Internet became my doorway through which I could go to access the rest of the world.

Slowly over the past two years, Jill and I have together been challenging those boundaries by faith, and we made longer and longer trips over to Papua New Guinea so that I could sit in another reclining chair and do the consultant checking of translated Scriptures that is happening among many Papuan languages.  So as we challenged and expanded those boundaries, God filled up the space with more ministry activity.

This expansion of my space and physical abilities (in spite of what the doctors have been telling me) has been an exciting journey of faith.  And it culminated in January 2013 when I was chosen and elected by the Members of our mission group here in PNG to become their Director over all the Language Programs.  Wow, isn’t God amazing.

    

So for the past 8 months, I have been on quite a steep learning curve to know how to fulfill my role as the Language Director, overseeing 13 translation and literacy projects within our Madang Province.  Pretty much every little corner of free space I had before has become full of very exciting ministry work among the peoples of PNG.  And it is because of this that I have reduced down to writing only one blog story each week.  And I do hope that they are meeting some need in your life.  I pray that my articles can be used by God to fill you and to bring healing and joy to you as well.

But to answer the last question as to why I have not written a story for almost a month now is mostly due to a much simpler reason.  Jill still works back in Canada as a nurse, and her income helps us to live on two continents.  Well, Jill was able to use her vacation time to come over for three weeks.  And what great three weeks they were.  After not seeing Jill for nearly two months, you can understand and forgive me that I did not write a new article for you.  Besides the “urgent” aspects of my job, all my eyes could see was my fair maiden Jill.  But starting yesterday, she flew back to Canada again.  So I hope I will not disappoint you  now to get at least one new article posted every week…..(at least until my darling Jill shows up again in February.)  😀

God, Help Me Overcome My Unbelief

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Mark 9:22b-24

“But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us,” he answered.  “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”  Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Everyone struggles with doubt and some level of unbelief.  No matter how strong our faith may seem, there will always be moments when we have our faith challenged and we seem a little shaky in believing for the best.  Sometimes it feels like we are believing for the impossible.  Don’t despair though, this is exactly where God excels.

The context of this story here in Mark 9 is that there was a father whose son was possessed by an evil spirit that caused the boy to throw himself into fire or into water to injure himself.  The disciples of Jesus had not been able to heal the boy, and so the father turned to Jesus, hoping against hope that Jesus could heal the boy.

The man had faith and believed that healing was possible for his son.  But his faith had been shaken when the disciples could not heal the boy.  Jesus’ challenge was that we who believe must hold strong on to this belief.  Even when we do not see the immediate results of our prayer and faith, we are still challenged to stand strong and believe.

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I can identify with this story considering what has happened to me this past month.  Exactly four weeks ago, I was boarding the first of four flights that would take me from Madang, Papua New Guinea all the way back to Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  One day I was still serving the Lord doing my Bible translation work, and the next moment I was flying to Canada to get laser surgery to fix a retinal tear in my right eye.

Now my faith has always been there believing that God is with me no matter what the circumstances are, that He will take care of me, and that He will bring good out of every situation for those who love Him.  (see Romans 8:28)  And so I trusted God that He would work things out as I left PNG on this medical emergency.

And God did take care of me.  In an amazing 52 hour journey from PNG to Canada, I was given such good treatment all the way, made all the connections, and had an incredible amount of energy that sustained me through the trip.  That alone was like a miracle to me, since for the past five years that I have battled with a muscle disease I have not had the stamina to travel far without needing to get rest.

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The next incredible part of this journey was this: after I landed in Calgary, my family picked me up at the airport and we drove straight to the hospital with the eye clinic and within four hours I was seen and scheduled for laser surgery by the city’s top retinal doctor for the following morning.

Then came the hard moments, both physically and spiritually for me.  The first laser surgery was blinding, painful (when the laser burnt some nerve endings), and not conclusive.  This led to a second surgery.  This time the doctor opted to go in the other direction and used the freezing method, not the laser surgery to seal the tear.

This second procedure is called cryopexy.  The doctor had a hand device that was connected by a tube to a tank of nitric oxide.  On the other end of the hand tool was a long metal probe.  The procedure was to insert the metal probe around the side of the eyeball and get to the retina from the backside and use the freezing gas to seal up the retinal tear from behind.

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Needless to say, this second procedure was extremely painful.  (Imagine getting a fat needle poked around behind your eyeball, then afterwards the gas gives you a “slurpie brain-freeze”.)  I was sure that this would take care of everything.  The doctor told us to visit in a week for a follow-up, and we began thinking, “Maybe I can go back right away to PNG and continue my ministry work there.”  But to our surprise, the doctor said it still wasn’t complete and I immediately got a third surgery, this one being again a laser surgery.

When the doctor said he hoped this would take care of it all, but he was worried about an artery that was crossing the tear which might mean an invasive surgery to remove the artery, we didn’t know what to think.  And for two weeks, we wrestled with this question, “Do I believe that the surgeries are finished, or will the situation continue to get worse.”

We were just like this father who had said so long ago, “I believe.  But God, help my unbelief!”  We prayed and prayed and asked many others to pray too.  And then we left it in God’s hands.  We went in yesterday to see the doctor.  He carefully examined the retina.  And then with a broad smile he said, “I got that pinned down really good, didn’t I!”  Oh what a relief to hear those words.

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As I reflect on the mental and spiritual battle I went through, I knew that my mind was playing all kinds of mental tricks on me which fought against my faith.  But my heart believed, ultimately, that God would see me through this positively.  And even if it had meant a fourth surgery, my God had never changed from being my God who loves me.

I know He would have brought me through and restored my eye no matter how many surgeries it would take.  And I believed that God would allow me to return again to PNG (in His timing of course).  And so this is now our prayer and belief that by the end of September I will be in PNG continuing to do my ministry for God there.  I invite you to stand in faith with us and also believe.

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Overcoming Discouragement By Our Faith – Pt. 1

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“I remember you talking about how you knew, at a relatively young age, that you wanted to be a missionary, and that’s what you ended up doing. You had a big dream, a chosen career path early and it came true. What I don’t always think about or remember is what it took for you to get there. You’ve certainly told some stories of life in those years, at the very least I haven’t always connected them.

Would you be willing to share with us some of your story of the difficulties you had on the journey to PNG, the doubts or discouragements that came up in those years? How did you keep “the big picture” in view while being a pastor, a youth leader, a “regular employee”, a student for years in different cities? How did you deal with having that dream interrupted when you came back to Canada?”

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I received an email today that included this portion that I have placed above.  I felt very honored by some compliments given in it.  It has also caused me to look back and reflect on my life and how things have all turned out.  The person who wrote this is very perceptive, in that he knows it has not been an easy road that has brought me this far.

Now I’m wondering how I can adequately answer the questions he has raised.  It’s true that I believed in my heart from a very early age that I would end up doing mission work.  And many people today who know me, probably also have this picture that I have always been on “the missionary track”.

But that would oversimplify the truth.  More precisely, I had the desire to become a Bible translator from the time that I visited a missionary couple in the mountains of Peru when I was just 16 years old.  But it was 20 years later in 1997, when I was 36, that I finally stepped off the plane in Papua New Guinea and I really began my career as a Bible translator.

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This brings us back to the questions that were asked in the email portion at the top.  What happened during those 20 years?  How did I handle ups and downs and discouragements during those years?  Perhaps I should begin by reflecting upon those early thoughts of “I want to become a Bible translator.”

To be really honest, this thought of becoming a Bible translator was just exactly that – a thought.  Now it was a good thought, and just like a little seed that gets planted in the ground and watered over time, it grew to become a life-dream for me.  But that did not really happen for many years.

The primary focus I had when I was a young person, was the thought “I believe that God wants to use me in full-time mission work.”  Now that’s a BIG idea, and also so very broad that it can include most anything I would do, as long as it was ministry work for Him.  I also felt strongly that this ministry work would be cross-cultural in nature and very likely to be outside of North America.

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In the early years of my adult life, I had many thoughts about what my mission life might look like.  I developed a passion for reading everything that I could find about missionary work.  I read the autobiographies of George Muller, the German missionary who founded orphanages in England, and of Hudson Taylor, the man who opened up China to missions, and of William Carey, the father of modern missions who lived in India and other S.E. Asia countries and brought Bible translation to dozens of language groups there.

I also read about modern mission efforts.  For a while there, I was fascinated by the stories of Christians who were persecuted behind the “Iron Curtain”, the Soviet dominated countries of Eastern Europe.  I kept reading the book “God’s Smuggler”, about a man who they called “Brother Andrew”, and how he would smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union in the trunk of his car.

These ideas captivated me as a young person, and I felt I was ready to give my life for Christ, to serve Him and even to suffer for Him if necessary behind that Iron Curtain.  As I look back now, I smile at my youthful passion that I had back then.  Now, was I wrong about this passion?  Was I supposed to go to Eastern Europe, and then other interests or “cares of life” came along and distracted me?  It’s hard to know now.

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What I can say is that the desire to serve God in full-time work, most likely in overseas cross-cultural settings, was the beacon that burned within my life.  How to flesh that all out was something else altogether.  I will write in my article next week more about what happened in those late teen and early twenties years for me.

So in part, I can answer the question up above, about the “big picture” path of life.  I do believe that there are some basic facts that are true about each one of us and we must discover to see “how God made us”.  From the time I was 12 years old, and pretty much ever since, I have been a traveller by heart and in life itself.  That has made me a good missionary.

What each person must do (that includes you!) is to find out some of the basics of what they enjoy and want to pursue in life.  Are you a “city boy” or a “country girl”?  Do you work well with people, or like to work on your own?  Are you more of a leader, or a good follower?  What motivates you in life?  Answer some of the basics, but make sure you include God in your thought processes.  Because He may have a plan for you that you need to discover yet.  We’ll talk more on this in one week.

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2012 Review In Pictures

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Looking Back At 2012

So much has happened for us in this past year.  There just are not enough words to tell all the stories and to convey our joy over what God has been doing in our lives as a family and through our lives in this work of Bible translation.  Let me share a few pictures with you then to try to capture the highlights of 2012.

Translation Checking in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea

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Working with a team of national men from Papua New Guinea in January along with their missionary translator, a good friend of ours who is also a Canadian.

Glen Graduating From Basic Training With Canadian Army

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After four months of Army Boot Camp, Glen graduated in February 2012.  He was one of three recruits chosen to march in the flags, and he had the honor of carrying in the Canadian flag.

Translation Checking in the Lowlands of Papua New Guinea

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Most of March and April, Norm worked in Madang where our field office is for Pioneer Bible Translators.  He worked with national men from two language groups and checked the books of the Gospel of John and the book of Daniel.

Home in Calgary Enjoying a Canadian Summer

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In June, our family celebrated Jill’s birthday (with Glen’s picture in the background); Norm enjoying freedom on his electric scooter; and visiting the Calgary Stampede in July.

Visiting and Preaching in Prince Edward Island

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After being away for three years, we visited three churches in PEI and Nova Scotia to tell about the great things God is doing through the work of Bible translation.  On an off day, we would go spend a day together on the red sandy beaches and cold Atlantic waters.

Together Again

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We were thrilled when Glen was able to come home for two weeks in September.  We had our family together, including a special meal time with my mother, and my brother and his wife.

Time in Dallas and Illinois

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For the benefit of my health, and to work on translation projects, I was going to be in Dallas for two months away from Jill.  We were able to have a short holiday of fun before I headed south to work at the center where our International office is for PBT.  In the middle of this, a trip came together to visit four of our supporting churches in Illinois.

Home For Christmas

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Christmas with family.

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Happy Birthday Jesus!

Celebrating Christmas With Family

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Family Christmas 2012

It is quite natural for family members to get together and celebrate Christmas together.  And yet, we hear of so many families that are not able to do this either because of certain family dynamics, or simply because so many people are mobile and spread out to live in places that are far away from each other.

Less than two weeks ago, our family was spread out between Alberta, Ontario and Texas.  So I realize what a blessing it has been for all of us to be able to come together here in Calgary to be with each other.  It was so wonderful to come home on the 18th and be with my family after being away for two months.  And seeing the decorated tree encouraged my heart to know we had entered into the Christmas season.

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This particular Christmas tree has special meaning for us. When we were in Papua New Guinea years ago, a church in America sent this artificial tree to us so that we could have a Christmas tree in the village way out in the jungles of PNG.  We decorated up the tree in the front lobby area of our house so children in the village could see it, and it became quite the center piece for many discussions with the people and the children.

We had kept many of our special ornaments with us that reminded us of previous Christmas times together.  What a treat though, for us to have a tree from back home to be able to hang all our special decorations.  And of course, as many parents do, we stayed up late on Christmas Eve to wrap up presents to surprise our boys the next morning.

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Even with all the gifts that seemed to multiply around the tree each year, we still made sure we had taught our boys the true message of Christmas, of Jesus who was born as a baby, but who would one day die for us and be raised as our Lord and Savior.  We always tried to have special gifts for each other which we names as our “gold, frankincense and myrrh” gifts.

Now that our boys are young men (one is married and one is in the Canadian Army), we tend to buy less and less gifts and put the emphasis more on the message of Christmas and just being together.  It was still nice to give gifts to each other, (for the very spirit of Christmas is that of giving), and it’s amazing to see how creative we can all be after we said, “Let’s not spend much on gifts this year.”

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One thing we got this year to add to our Christmas tree was a special ornament.  We had found this beautiful ornament of the nativity scene, placed within a small hand-crafted gourd.  It has the family scene of Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus, who are surrounded by the shepherds and the stable animals.

Just about any nativity scene touches my heart.  But when we saw this scene carved and placed within the little painted gourd, it reminded us of the fact that Jesus came to earth for men and women of every culture.  And gourds are something that we would associate with tropical countries, like that of Papua New Guinea, where this Christmas story needs to be shared with all the people who live on that tropical jungle island.

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And that brings me back to my first thought, of how special it is to celebrate Christmas with one’s family.  I am so thankful that I was able to return from my time down in Texas, and that our son in the military was able to get three weeks off for the Christmas break to come home to be with us.

We never know in this life when we will all be able to be together like this, now that we are all adults and leading very diverse lives.  We have a very short time together, but we are trying to make the very most of these few weeks.  It is my prayer that you too have been able to be reunited with family members this Christmas.  And I pray that Jesus is the center of your family, just as He is the center of ours.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS, AND MAY YOU HAVE A BLESSED AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Prayer, Praise & Heading To Texas

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PROVIDING HIS STORY

A Ministry Update of
Norm & Jill Weatherhead

To the Bible-less People Groups of the World

Exodus 6:2     וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֵלָ֖יו אֲנִ֥י יְהוָֽה׃

This verse is perhaps one of the most important ones in the entire Bible.  In it, the Creator God (Elohim) reveals His personal name (YHWH) to Moses.  He goes on in the next verse to explain that He did not reveal His personal name to Abraham, Isaac or Jacob.  But from now on, the people of God would come to know Him in a personal and powerfully intimate way, as the Israelites (and now us) became His people, and He truly became their God.

During the summer months, Norm spent many hours studying the “Basic of Biblical Hebrew” to be able to once again read the Old Testament in its original language.  It had been 18 years since he last took a Hebrew course, and he is so glad to be able to get back into the OT text again.

The reason that Norm first studied the basics, and then now is working at understanding the various discourse features of Hebrew (such as narrative, instructional and hortatory discourse and poetic style), is so that he can be ready to do consultant checking of Old Testament books for various translation projects.

In our next trip to Papua New Guinea (Jan – May 2013), Norm will work with one language team as they do the final checking and the revising of Exodus 1-24, and Psalms 101-150.  Pray for everyone involved in this translation project that they will be able to find the right words and sentences to be able to express these OT portions well in the language of the people.

Heading To Dallas Again

In just a few weeks, Norm will be spending two months (Oct. 25 – Dec. 18)in Dallas to work on the various translation projects from there, instead of back in Calgary.

While in Dallas, Norm will do much of the initial checking of Exodus 1-24 as mentioned above.  He will also work on preparation questions for the books of James, 1 & 2 Peter for the Tay translation in PNG and James and Jude for the Mborena Kam project, also in PNG, which is being done by national translators.

Please pray for us as Norm goes south and Jill stays in Calgary and continues to work at the Foothills hospital.  We thank God that Jill has been able to get many overtime shifts which she then banks as hours into the future so that she will be able to be with Norm longer in PNG.

We are also so grateful for the prayers of so many people for God to bring healing to Norm.  It was especially moving when the churches which we have just visited called us up and prayed over us.  We see some great improvement, so keep on praying.

Our Family Is Doing Well

We praise God that all of our children are doing well.  Our older son was not only was able to stay on working full-time with H & R Block after the regular tax season at their Call Center,  he was also asked to become part of a special team that would totally rework the interface and the graphics for the website of their company.  His wife is continuing to get good praise reports at her job, and has moved from being cashier to working in the Flooring Dept.

Our second son, on the other hand, has been on the move a lot this year.  He finished his Army Basic Training in Quebec back in February.  Next he went to a base in Borden, Ontario for a few weeks before doing his Soldier Qualification course in Gagetown, New Brunswick.  Now he is back in Borden for his last long course to get trained in his area of being a Vehicle Technician for the Army.

It was wonderful then when he was able to come home to Calgary on a two-week leave period in September.  We packed in as much family activities that we could: a zoo day, movie outings, a few family BBQ’s, pizza and movie nights and lots of good visiting.  We are proud of all of our kids who are maturing well in life and in their faith in God.  Please continue to lift them up in prayer as they seek to make an impact for the Lord in their world around them.

Sharing The Ministry Work Through Media

Many of you know that for almost two years now, Norm has been writing articles in a devotional blog site called “The Listening Post”.  This has been so therapeutic for him over the past two years.  In his articles, he shares a lot about the ministry work that he has done, and is still doing in the area of Bible translation.  He also shares insights into spiritual topics that are based on a couple of Christian books, one of them by Max Lucado.  And currently, he is doing a weekly Bible study as he goes through the Gospel of John.  Click on the title above, or on the words “Sermon” or “Trailer” below to link to the stories.

While in PEI, Norm preached a sermon that gave an excellent overview of what all is involved in Bible translation work.  That sermon was recorded and put online and can be viewed by clicking here (“Sermon).  And then we were very pleased to have two other sources pick up on Norm’s blog site.  A Korean editor of the Christian magazine “”Guideposts” did an interview of Norm and wrote an article in their magazine about him and his work with PBT.  Most recently, a friend of ours produced a Christian movie called “Remember” and did a trailer interview of Norm.  (“Trailer”)

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So this is what is happening for us.  We would ask you to please keep our family in your prayers as we all seek to serve God in our various ways.  Please pry for the time of separation that is coming up for me and my wife that we will be okay while I’m gone.  Pray I get much done in my preparation work while in Dallas so that I will be fully ready to do the consultant checking of 6 New Testament books and 2 Old Testament books for people of three different language projects.  May God bless you richly as you remember us and our work in your prayers.

Parents Of Missionary Kids

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It’s Hard To Let Them Go

For most of my life, I have been a missionary.  That means my Mom and Dad were parents of a missionary kid.  I’m still a missionary kid who also happens to be a father of two great sons.  Both of them are launched out into life, but that does not mean that I don’t still worry for both of them and commit them and all their ways to God.

I read an excellent book recently by Will Hathaway called “What If God Is Like This?”  In this book, Hathaway presents some intriguing ideas and insights into what God might really be like, if we would take the time to really get to know Him.  Many times in the book, he states that he has such a better grasp of how great God is and how much He loves us, because now he is a father too.

    

There is just something that is very special that can exist between a parent and a child.  I do realize that not every parent is a good parent, but nevertheless, even the toughest and meanest person can have their hearts broken when they sense their child is in danger or just simply needs love and approval.

Back to the thought of me being a missionary kid, I’d have to admit that there have been many times in my life when I headed overseas (even as young as 16 years old) when all I could see was the adventure and the challenge that lay ahead.  It had to be hard on my parents to let me go at times (even when I was grown and had a family).

Then recently, I read a newsletter written by a colleague of mine that helped to remind me (and anyone who has read their newsletter) just how tough it can be to be a parent of a missionary kid.  It reminded me to be thankful for parents who worried about me, but still were okay with letting me go.  I pray that this letter below will help you too to appreciate your parents, even if you might not be a missionary kid.

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“My dad asked me jokingly the other day if he could take us to court to prevent us from taking his grandkids to Africa. I told him that if the judge were a grandfather, he would probably side with dad against us. We both spoke in jest, but we knew that the feelings involved in taking our family overseas are very real.

Most people know that packing up their children and moving to Africa involves some sacrifice. But what about the sacrifice of those we leave behind? We get all kinds of accolades for what we are doing. We get to go through the line first at church potlucks. People bring us up in front of crowds of kids and tell them to make us their role models.

One might say we have received our reward in full. But there are no awards for being the parent of a missionary. Yet what they give up to allow us to follow God’s calling are some of life’s most treasured moments – birthday parties, ball games, heart-to-heart chats, Sundays around the dinner table, and thousands of precious hugs.

    

They had little say in our decision, but just as with so many things over which one has no control, they got to decide how they would respond to it. Our parents would have had every right to be angry with us, to obsess over the perceived dangers we are exposing ourselves to and discourage us at every step, or to refuse to do anything to move us closer to our goal.

But they also have the option to offer us up as sacrifices willingly, to embrace and make the most of their position as long-distance grandparents, and to encourage us like no one else can when we face difficulties. What a blessing it is to us to have parents like that!

Our families have given of their time, their finances, and their talents to help us every step of the way. They have made plans for how to stay connected with us and our kids once we leave. They have said they would like to make the long trip across the Atlantic to visit us if they have the chance. And, perhaps most difficult of all, when faced with the opportunity to remind us of what we are asking of them and saddle us with guilt, they have refrained.

    

I hope that someday, if our children tell me that God is asking them to go to some place where I can’t follow, where I can’t keep them safe or get to hug and kiss them every day, that I will have the faith to give them my blessing and help them on their way. Our children are the most precious of God’s gifts, and nothing is more natural and right than to hold them close.

But at the same time we have to remember that they belong to God first of all. We have to raise them to be the kind of people who will love Him with their whole being and follow Him anywhere. And when they follow Him far away from us, we have to pray and give and speed them on their way, even when it breaks our hearts.

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I want to thank my colleague for the honesty shown in writing this message that should be a challenge to us all.  Let us all be thankful for our parents, and let us in turn do all we can to be the best parents possible to our own children.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

The Beginning of Missionary Life

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One of our fellow PBT missionary couples wrote a in their monthly newsletter in 2010 a summary of the experiences they had during the first year that they were on the mission field in East Africa.  It is truly amazing all the things that they did.  Enjoy their story, and then I will write about a few things that I recall from our first year of living in Papua New Guinea.

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Reflecting on our first year on the field as full-time missionaries, I recall both triumph and trial but through both evidence of the hand of God at work in our lives. Here’s a snapshot of the last year:

We arrived on September 17th, went through basic orientation to life on the field, attended language school for 2 months, spent a month living in a village to further our culture and language acquisition, became involved in branch and community life, attended our first Branch meeting, participated in two consultations, took on responsibilities as exegetes and taught in the annual training all the while continuing in our language learning with the help of several tutors.

    

Those are the facts, these are the feelings we’ve experienced:

We have felt excitement over the distribution of Scripture portions, discouragement due to the complex and challenging task that we still face and feel inadequate for, and hope for the transformation of a culture. We have experienced several bouts of parasitic and bacterial dysentery, skin issues and other consequences of physically adapting to a new place and climate. We feel relief over being spared from malaria this first year.

We have felt a sense of accomplishment as we successfully communicate something in a second language! We have felt encouraged by our team-mates and national co-workers. We have ached over our longing to be with our families back in the States. We have rejoiced over babies being born to friends and colleagues and grieved over the loss of parents and even children.

    

We have felt like children having to learn all over again how to speak, act and live in our new culture. And we have felt grown up after successfully learning how to feed ourselves and set up our home and drive on the left side of the road! All this and more has been packed into a single year of our lives.

God has not only seen us through but given us all that we need mentally, emotionally and spiritually to be His witnesses. Our triumphs are ultimately His and the trials have served to deepen our dependence on Him. We are so grateful for the amazing support we have from the home front and the mercies of God which are new every day.

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For anyone who has not travelled outside of their own country, and I think especially for North Americans, it can be difficult to really appreciate all the challenges that missionaries face when they first leave their home country and culture and start their lives over within a new cultural context.  In those first hours and days, the missionary is bombarded with sights and sounds and oftentimes smells that can be very overwhelming.

Quite naturally, as missionaries prepare to go to the field, they will talk to those who will support them through their prayers and donations about the ministry work that they will do once they get there.  Pioneer Bible Translators helps to train and send linguists, church planters, administrators, and many other support workers to the field.  But we must never forget that these highly skilled people are still just ordinary people.  And we have experiences of joy and sorrow and fears just like anyone else.

    

It certainly was a big adjustment for me and my family as well when we first came to Papua New Guinea.  Jill and I had already had a number of other mission field experiences.  But when we came to PNG, we were also bringing our two young boys with us as well.  And just like any other parents, we worried for the safety and the health of our children as we settled into a small village in a remote part of the tropical forest of PNG.

I remember quite clearly during those early days how I would walk through part of the village and around the grass airstrip area holding on to the hands of my boys.  I would then carefully explain to them what the boundaries were of where they could go and where we did not want them to go. 

Those boundaries were pretty restrictive at first, since we had no idea yet of what to really expect.  But as we got to know the people and the area, and as we continued to experience God’s hand of protection and provision, we grew to love the people and the village where God had placed us.

    

The “missionary life” is not something that everyone is cut out to do.  But it is also not something that only those who are “spiritual giants” can do.  But leaving the safety of our own personal comfort zone to reach out to people who are hurting and don’t know Jesus yet is something that God calls all of His children to do.

You have probably heard about or seen the sign that hangs over the door on the inside of some churches, “Entering the Mission Field”.  The saying is cute, but it is also very true.  God calls all of us to be missionaries.  It won’t be easy for most of us.  Some of us may travel thousands of miles to respond to this challenge from God.  Some of us only need to step outside of our door.  In either case, God is faithful and He will help us to do all that He asks us to do.

God Loves Ordinary People – Pt. 2

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 2

Every second Saturday of each month this year, I will be writing an article about this book by Max Lucado called, “GOD’S STORY, your story.” The first article per month will be an overview and my reflections on what is in the chapter for that month. The second article will pull out some of the questions from the back of the book. Listen to what Lucado’s intentions are for this section:

This guide is designed to help you reflect on God’s Story, Your Story and take action on the ideas contained in the book, to see how your own story fits into the grand plot of God’s story. Each chapter guide has questions to consider on your own or with a group devoted to discussing the book. Have your Bible handy in order to dig into the Scripture verses noted.       (p. 173)

There are certainly enough thought provoking questions and action points included within each chapter study guide to keep a person or a small group engaged in learning and growing more spiritually. It is not my intention to copy out these entire study guide sections. Rather, I will pick out a few questions from each section and reflect on them in my articles. I pray that you may find my reflections helpful and stimulating to your own spiritual growth.

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Chapter 1: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….

ORDINARY MATTERS

Question #4: Discuss how it might be reassuring that Jesus was “normal” and like you in many ways? How might it be reassuring to know he is unlike you in other ways?

I think what bothers me most about my own Christian walk is the great number of times that I blow it and I do not act in a godly way. This can be simple things like not wanting to talk with the person next to me on the plane, or turning my head away when I see the beggar on the street corner. It’s much more serious when I allow myself to become angry with someone else, when I allow lustful thoughts to dwell in my mind, or I become proud or arrogant.

It’s at these times that I remember that Jesus was just as much a human as I am. I’m sure there must have been times when he was exhausted from all his ministry work that he really didn’t want to see another person. I know that he got upset with the disciples often. And he must have had some struggles as a man in a world that had many attractive women around him.

But we are told in Hebrews 4:15, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” And in Hebrews 2:18, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” How wonderful it is to know that Jesus understands exactly what we are going through, and that he can help us get through it.

Question #5: Think about an ordinary person you know who has been a giver of extraordinary grace. What motivated that person?

When I think about someone who was quite ordinary by human standards, but was also a person of great humility and who demonstrated a wonderful spirit of compassion and service to others, I think of my Grandma. At a very young age, Grandma Knight determined that God was calling her to be a missionary to China. She went there in the 1920’s as a single woman, which speaks of her deep commitment to follow God wherever He would lead her.

She married my grandfather while in China, a British man who loved God but who she would say was a bit of a “stuffed shirt with a stiff collar.” But Grandma loved him, and served him well as a missionary wife. And she also served well the many demanding needs of a mission compound up to and through the beginning years of WW 2 over there, before they were recalled to Canada.

Then when my Grandfather became a minister in western Canada, Grandma would faithfully type out his sermons and patiently listen to him practice. They did this for many years. When Granddad died, Grandma continued to serve others by volunteering thousands of hours of service in our Calgary hospitals. And why did she commit her life to such service to God for all these years? Because she loved Jesus and she loved others, and she knew that by putting the love of God into action, others would come to see and know God too.

Question #7: In what ways do you need God to “dwell” with you this week? (See John 1:14)

This may sound bad, but I need an extra measure of God’s grace in this coming week and throughout the next month to really love these national men from Papua New Guinea that I am working with. We are working on the translation of the Gospel of John into their language.

The work of translating the Bible verse-by-verse into another language is very tedious and demanding. Most days, I find it to be a great joy to work with the Papuan people on these translation projects. But there are also many frustrating days where the heat in the room is not just the hot sun beating down; it can be easy after long days to let tempers flare and frustrations stop our progress.

So I ask for all who read this article to say an extra prayer for us as we work on this translation. We are hoping to smooth out a good translation of John in a six week period. Then it will be ready for the last consultant check before being published. Pray that I remember the goal: getting the Word of God into the hands of the people here in PNG.

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

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