The Bomb That Did Not Explode

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It is always exciting to read a suspenseful story.  It’s quite something else if you are a part of that story.  For most of who are involved in doing mission work, the exciting stories usually have to do with some experience that we have had while living overseas doing our work somewhere in the mission field of the world.  But the following story, which just came out in September 2013, has to do with something that happened over 50 years ago.  Read Linda’s story:

                                

Powerful Providence

A radio news item caught my ear last week and quickly had my full attention. It was not about a current event, but rather something that happened 52 years ago. A recently revealed secret US government document showed that on January 23, 1961 an atomic bomb was accidently released from an American B-52 bomber over Goldsboro, North Carolina. It was 260 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. [i]

The errant bomb was equipped with four safety switches to prevent detonation in an accidental release such as this. The first three switches failed to operate. The fourth, a very vulnerable low-voltage switch was the only thing that kept that bomb from detonating and decimating the US eastern seaboard.

My parents, brother and sister were living in Jacksonville, North Carolina on that day, just 70 miles from Goldsboro. The blessed event of my birth in Jacksonville, North Carolina in December 1961 obviously would never have happened if that fourth switch had malfunctioned like the other three switches. I believe God made sure that last switch worked. I believe He saved us.

    

Really Linda? You think that was about you? Well why did God save your family but He didn’t save the people who died at the mall in Nairobi last week? Or those who died from the earthquake in Pakistan this week? Or the people who are being killed in Syria and Afghanistan right this moment? I honestly don’t know. I don’t understand. But I do know for certain it is God’s will for me to be serving Him in Africa in September 2013.

It was His providence which orchestrated many events in history to make this possible. He could not accomplish His will of sending me to East Africa if I had never been born. So yes, I believe that one of the myriad reasons His hand was on the switch that day was because of my calling. I remember the stories of God’s providence throughout the Bible, and I believe He is the same today as He was in those days – willing and able to do what it takes to accomplish His perfect plans.

    

That is just how my mind works and how I live my life – I believe. I trust God; I rely on Him and know that even though I will someday die, no one or nothing can take my life unless and when He decides for it to happen. You see, my life belongs to Him and no one else; not to even me, because I gave it to Him. So what is my part in all of this? To cling to God’s grace, love, provision and mercy; to listen to His Spirit and to say yes to whatever He asks of me.

You have a part in it too. I long to hear you (yes you) say to me, “… we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” – 2 Thessalonians 1:11b-12 (NASB)

                                

I would have to agree that one of the great mysteries of our world is that we can never know why some good things happen to certain people, and bad things happen to other people.  We would want to conclude from our own human reasoning that good things should happen to good people, and bad things should happen to bad people.

But the Scriptures do not support this idea.  In Matthew 5:45, it says, “For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” [ii]  In other words, God will allow both good and evil things to be distributed to all people, though not necessarily in proportionate amounts.  Our family has felt that it has carried more than our fair share of crises: a pregnancy death, considering the option of bankruptcy, our son getting leukemia, and now I deal daily with the family genetically inherited mitochondrial disease.

The question we must all ask ourselves is this, “In light of what has just happened, how should we respond?”  Jill and I learned an important life skill statement to help us through.  It says, “Given this…then what?”  All of us will experience many experiences in life.  When we find we are in the middle of a very difficult life situation, we could get angry, but that almost always back fires on us.

    

We could choose to simply accept the situation as being out of our control, but I would contend that this is self-defeating as I believe that there is always some action we can take, under the leading and the power of the Holy Spirit’s guidance of course.

And so that leaves me with the saying, “Given this… then what?”  We will all need to realize that there is the possibility of happening at any time.  Our response to this is not to get angry, but simple decide what the most appropriate action would be, and then to do it.  And Linda, I’m so glad that that bomb did not go off, for then I would never have had the privilege to be able to call you my friend.  Blessings upon you.

Praise God

 


[ii] Tyndale House Publishers. (2007). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (3rd ed.). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers

My Life Testimony & Being a Missionary

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When I was very young, going to church every Sunday was the normal thing for our family to do.  I should qualify this by saying that it was my mother who would bring the kids with her to church.  My father wanted nothing to do with religion.  By the time I was in Grade 6, my older brothers were in High School and we were not really serious about God.  Only my sister seemed to like going to a Youth Group at another church.

My sister invited me the next year when I was old enough, and I started to see that not all Christians were boring.  In that Fall of 1972, our Youth Group went to a Youth Conference in northern Alberta, and I was surprised to find hundreds of young people getting “excited about Jesus”.  It was at the banquet night, when a girl sang the song “For Those Tears He Died”, that I suddenly found that I too was crying, for Someone was starting to melt my toughened little heart.

    

I started to attend this church in Calgary with keen interest and I would listen to the messages each week.  Afterwards, I would go up to the preacher and ask lots of deep questions.  I also started to read through the Bible to see if the same answers could be found within this Book.  For six months I searched for the Truth, and by the Spring of 1973, I was ready to give my life over to Jesus.  I was baptized then at age 12, and I committed to making Jesus the Lord of my life.

Within two years, I felt the strings of my heart being tugged by the Holy Spirit as He began to call out to me to walk toward the path of becoming a missionary.  I would go to many evening services at church and listen to the missionary stories and I knew that someday I would also be a missionary.

The next step forward in my life happened when I was just 16, serving a year in the Canadian Naval Reserve.  The ship that I was stationed on had traveled from Victoria, Canada to Lima, Peru.  While docked there, I was given permission to go up to the mountains of Cuzco and visit a family that I had heard about.  They were missionaries which our church supported, and they were doing Bible translation work.  After spending a few days with them, I knew in my heart that this was the kind of ministry that I would want to give my life for.

    

Over the next four years, while finishing High School and entering University, I sought out mission groups and was able to do some short-term mission work with Teen Missions Int’l.  I enjoyed that so much that I actually stayed past the summer mission and became part of the staff of TMI, allowing me experiences in Brazil, Honduras, Scotland and doing mission presentations across America.

I became convicted though that my zeal for the Lord did not match my understanding of the Scriptures. In 1981, I entered into Bible College and worked diligently at learning the Bible and being involved in church life and ministry.  I found preaching hard at first, but as my love for God and my knowledge of Scripture increased, I found that 30 minutes was often not enough time to express the truths of God.

I still hungered to go work in overseas missions, but it seemed that so few people around me had any concept of what that was all about.  There was one person though with whom I would spend long hours into the night talking about the things each of us would like to do for the Lord in missions.  We developed a great friendship, even having good arguments too about how life ought to be lived.  But our friendship prevailed, and our passion for missions led us to become husband and wife one week after I graduated from Bible College.

Wedding Pic

Jill and I both felt strongly about being well prepared to serve overseas, so I pursued a Master’s degree in missions, while at the same time, Jill pursued one of her heart’s desires, to become a nurse.  We felt like we would make a great team together for the Lord.

Married life and education bring with it financial responsibilities, and so we found that God led us through a winding path of nursing jobs for Jill and church preaching experience for me.  And we also started a family in this time with God blessing us with two wonderful sons.

Always the mission field beckoned though.  And after some good advice from a friend, I returned to do a little more study of Greek and Hebrew at a Seminary in Illinois, and that is when we found out about Pioneer Bible Translators.

    

The moment I met some of their leaders in Dallas, I knew this was the mission group we were looking for.  In 1994, we moved to Texas to get the linguistic training I would need.  And then in 1997, our family stepped off the plane over in Papua New Guinea and began our five year ministry among a tribal people group there.

In that time, after learning the language and culture, a team of national men and I were able to translate the book of Mark for the people.  That is the beginning of what is now almost 20 years of ministry with PBT, first in PNG, then across Canada while our son underwent some cancer treatment, then to East Africa for 18 months, and now for five years of travel back and forth to PNG to do Bible translation consultant work.

This adventure of serving the Lord began 40 years ago, and I find that it is still just as exciting to me today as it was the first time that I stepped out of North America and into a different culture group.  I look forward to what the next 20 years will hold.

25th Anniversary Pic

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.

Sunset Cross

Pioneering New Mission Fields – Pt. 2

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[Editor’s Note: The second article of this series was written by the Area Director of Pioneer Bible Translators who oversees the countries of Asia and the Pacific.  As you will read below, some of the countries which are included within this region are some of the most difficult countries for missionaries to enter and be engaged in activities that are overtly Christian in nature.  Despite this, God not only calls us to reach out to the people groups of these countries, but He is also helping us to find legitimate and creative ways to enter into the countries and work among the people.  Read on and you will understand more.]

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Access Strategies

“I am not sure what I expected to see when I drove through the city on my first trip to East Asia, but it wasn’t a Lexus or Louis Vuitton. Yet I saw those trappings of economic prosperity throughout the city, along with modern malls, department stores, and new high-rises. Amazing changes are taking place here as a result of increasing openness to economic development.

One thing that hasn’t changed after centuries of spiritual oppression is the people’s need for the Gospel. We know of over 300 languages spoken here; the actual number is probably much higher. Most of the people groups speaking these minority languages are both unreached and unengaged– they do not have a church presence, and no outside agencies are bringing them the Gospel. They are among the most spiritually impoverished peoples on earth.”

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“Pioneer Bible Translators is committed to serving people groups like these. This is a challenging task in East Asia, where the government controls many aspects of domestic life, including the ability to travel freely. Expatriates cannot simply move to a remote area and set up housekeeping. They need a reason to be there. Unfortunately, the most believable reason–that we are there to share the Gospel of Jesus–is the very one we cannot use.

Therefore Pioneer Bible Translators is working diligently to develop creative access strategies to engage the unreached peoples of East Asia. These strategies require an entrepreneurial spirit coupled with the ability to analyze needs and opportunities in the community and facilitate business ventures that give us legitimate reasons to establish our presence there. Ethno-tourism, eco-tourism, coffee brokerages, and small-scale manufacturing are among the promising possibilities.”

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“However, for reaching some language communities, creative access strategies such as these will not be enough. Some areas are simply off limits to expatriates. Period. To reach the Bible-less, church-less peoples who lived there, we must find ways to engage them from a distance.

One possibility is to train other East Asians as cross-cultural evangelists and church planters, then send them into those areas. Another involves identifying members of those language groups who live outside their home areas and engaging them in the work of Bible translation.

Yet another possibility is to equip mother-tongue translators to work on-site, bringing them out of their home areas periodically for workshops and training.”

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“Our most important strategy, however, does not require creative access. It involves availing ourselves of the access we already have–access to the very throne of God. If the peoples of East Asia are to be reached, it will be through the prayers of God’s people.

We need to pray fervently and regularly that God will raise up workers to serve here, that He will lead them to find creative strategies that work, that He will grant them favor with government officials, and that He will work through them to bring His Gospel to the unreached.”

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[Editor’s Note: We truly live in exciting times today.  We are literally seeing the Gospel message of Jesus Christ go to the very ends of the earth.  But as the article written above points out, there are still some nooks, crannies and corners where important people groups are situated that have tremendous barriers still to getting traditional missionaries into those areas.  Please be praying along with us that God will show us the way to get the Light of Jesus to shine in these spiritually dark corners.]

Population in this region: 1.3 billion people

Languages in this region: 334

Languages without Bibles: 287

 PBT Logo

Used by permission from Pioneer Bible Translator’s monthly publications.  If you would like to receive this quarterly magazine, click on the link here for “The Latest Word ” and subscribe to it.

Starting Our Mission Experience In PNG

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Our Orientation To Papua New Guinea

Last week I shared a story about a young couple that had just started their missionary experience in East Africa.  I was very happy to hear how well their first six months went in their new country of residence.  They sounded like they got a good start to learning Swahili, making new friends, and beginning their time of ministry over there.

I also shared the fact that things did not go quite so well for us when our family went over in 2006.  One of the things that was taken for granted, both by ourselves and those with whom we would work, was that we would do well very quickly since we had already served as long-term missionaries in Papua New Guinea.

What we all neglected to realize was that there are huge differences between life in PNG and life in Africa.  In PNG, our family lived in a remote jungle village of about 200 people and learned a Papuan language slowly over the first couple of years.  Whereas in Africa, we were in a city of about 200,000 people and had to start communicating in Swahili within the first few days we were there.  That is why an orientation to the mission field is so important.

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I am very thankful then for the training that our family got in 1997 at the Pacific Orientation Course up on Nobnob Hill near the town of Madang, Papua New Guinea.  Following their advice, we landed in Madang (after 52 hours of travel) and were immediately whisked off to the training center on the hill.  They believed it was best to go straight to the training center so that we did not “learn any bad habits” by being in the country on our own first.

It was certainly a culture shock for us seeing as we left a frigid Canada behind that February and then came into PNG where it is almost always above 90 F year-round on the coast.  The funniest thing happened though when we first entered PNG at the Port Moresby airport.  Jill saw no reason to keep a winter coat, so she stuffed it under the seat ahead on the plane.  In the customs line, they called her name out (oh no!!) and said, “I think this is your coat, Ma’am.”  🙂

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Once we got to the training center, we had more surprises to adjust to.  Back then, when emails and cell phones were just really beginning to take off, we were told that there would be no communication with family or friends except by letter.  (Really??)  The idea then was that if we were to get posted to a remote area that had no contact with the outside world (except by snail mail), then it was important to start practicing what that would be like while in our orientation course.

The other big challenge for some was that they didn’t even want us to bring any soft drink cans into the center.  (That was hard for Jill who liked Coke so much back then, but more in a minute.)  What was more important, was that they helped introduce us slowly week by week into more of the culture of PNG and the trade language Tok Pisin (a pidginized form of English).

Not only did we learn to speak with the local Papuans, we spent time with some of the families that lived around the center.  We were assigned to one family and we were to visit them once a week and begin developing a relationship with them and learn how the average Papuan lived.  We built fires to cook our food, hiked the jungle trails, and constantly worked at language learning.

The big “test” for all of us at this orientation course was to go live in a village with local people for five weeks.  We lived in thatched roof houses just like they did, built fires to cook on, and lived and worked right alongside of the people.  This was definitely a huge challenge, but after preparing for nine weeks at the center, we felt ready to live just like the Papuans.

Now back to Coke.  I knew what a big thing it was for Jill to have to give up Coke for the 3 1/2 months.  Right in the middle of our village living experience we were going to have our “midway visit and evaluation” by the center directors, which just happened to coincide with our wedding anniversary.

So I had prearranged with the directors to spring a surprise on Jill.  We had a very nice visit with them when they came to our village.  We showed them around.  They talked with the people to see how we were doing.  We had our interview with them.  And then we all relaxed when they said we were doing fine.  Then just before the main director got back in his car, he said to Jill that he had a surprise for her in the car, via my request.  She went over and lo and behold, he pulled out an ICE COLD COKE!!  (I got triple stars in her books for that anniversary surprise.)

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Well, if I haven’t been able to get the main point across yet through my stories, here it is: to be able to enter into a cross-cultural environment and have the most effective ministry possible among the people, you really need to have a good orientation period into the local language and culture.  That is not to say that someone cannot minister to people of another culture without any training.

But to really be effective in reaching the people, we need to learn to “live where they live and walk where they walk”.  And how much better it is if we are carefully trained and eased into that environment.  I pray this article will be of help and encouragement to new and aspiring young missionaries.

First Exciting Months On The Mission Field

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[Editor’s Note: It is always exciting to go to another country and experience the richness of a new culture and a new language spoken around you.  Below is a portion of a newsletter that was written by some friends of mine with Pioneer Bible Translators back in August of 2010.  Try to picture yourself being with them as they discover new things, strange things, and maybe a few things to be worried about.]

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6 Months…

Wow! We have already been here six months . As we reflect on our time here we can definitely say that we are truly blessed. God has provided for all of our needs and even some of our wants. Sometimes as we live day to day, it is easy to overlook just how far God has brought us since arriving in February.

We have settled into our home here and into somewhat of a routine. We are now more than 2/3 through our formal language study and are gaining more confidence with each passing week. God has blessed us with new friends both expats and nationals and we have been able to strengthen some of the friendships which began while we were in Texas.

None of what has happened in our lives during the past 6 months would be possible without an awesome and faithful God and wonderful and faithful supporters like all of you. Praise be to God and many thanks to you for your prayers for us and our ministry.

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A Volcano

About 30 kilometers north of the city that we live in is an active volcano. The last time it erupted was about 27 years ago. Now it is a popular place for tourists to visit. You can hike or ride up to the top of the mountain and view the crater.

This month we had the opportunity to visit and experience some pretty amazing sights. The thought that kept running through my mind was, ’God is so cool!’ I am sharing a few pictures but they really do not compare with the beauty of God’s creation. Oh, and the (not so pleasant) sulfur smell could be very strong at times as well.

We spent the day with some friends sightseeing and hiking around the mountain. The weather was cool at the top of the crater and the hiking was extremely pleasant. Although somewhat scared, I even enjoyed looking over edges where there was either no railing or a railing made of bamboo or walking across a bridge constructed out of bamboo and rope that looked like thick yarn (not bad for an acrophobic!).

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Independence Day

Independence Day was celebrated this month but we were told that this year was not typical. Usually there are neighborhood parties, games, food and lots of excitement. This year we were told it was much quieter than normal because of fasting month. People of the majority religion (about 85% of the population) do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. So this puts a damper on celebrations because people have much less energy.

Last weekend however our church held a small gathering in honor of Independence Day. After worship service we listened to the children sing songs, joined in playing some traditional games and had a lot of fun.

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Cultural Corner

There are many things to get used to in a new culture. We will share some of the things we are learning about the culture here.

In the area where we live it is not polite to point to things or to point at people with your finger. There are several ways to indicate what you are referring to without pointing your finger. You can move or nod your head in that direction, use your elbow or simply use your thumb (which is our favorite). This does take some getting used to.

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Neighborhood Noises . .

In the neighborhoods here you can buy many things right in front of your house if you want. There are vendors that walk, ride bikes, motorcycles or trucks, push carts, or carry large items who roam the streets daily selling their goods. Each will have a certain sound that after a few months becomes very familiar. Some will play or sing a jingle, others will bang on hollow bamboo with a stick or tap on a plate or bowl with a spoon and some will repeat a phrase over and over again.

At first the sounds in the neighborhood were a little hard to get used to. Five times a day we hear loudspeakers that call the people to pray and several times a week speaking is also broadcasted. During the night there are security guards in the area that will bang on the metal street lamp poles as they make there rounds. This usually begins around 10:30 pm. Now all these sounds are becoming normal and at times even welcome (like when we need bread).

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[Editor’s Note: Cultural anthropologists and psychologists will say that the first few weeks to about the six month mark for a person in a new cross-cultural experience will be exciting and even euphoric.  This is called the “Honeymoon Stage”.  But at some point the newness wears off and it becomes difficult to work in the foreign environment.  During this time, a person can get depressed or even hostile.

If the person stays long enough, they may go through a period of resignation, where they function in the culture, but they lack joy.  Hopefully, the person will stay long enough to be able to adapt and integrate joyfully into the local culture and world around them.  This couple who wrote this newsletter has reached the last stage of cultural adaptation.  But please pray for any missionary you might know who may be struggling and has not reached that final stage yet.]

Heading Overseas To Be Missionaries – Pt. 3

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Our First Week in France – Pt. 2

This will be the final article of three which looks at what happens when a family moves to a new country for the first time and needs to learn quickly how to acculturate, to understand and be comfortable in a cross-cultural environment.  One of my fellow colleagues from Pioneer Bible Translators did this with her husband and children in 2010 when they moved to France to learn French in preparation of being missionaries in West Africa.

My friend gave me permission to take excerpts from her journal that she kept for the first couple of weeks once they had arrived in France.  I found it very interesting that some of the cultural stresses that they faced while adjusting into a modern western-based culture are not extremely different from when we need to adjust to the cultural challenges we find in developing countries of the world.

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Let’s look now at some more areas of life that they had to face and overcome in their new location:

Food (Always the first challenge when you find yourself in a new environment.)

Day 1: “The kids are now (impatiently) waiting till 7pm.  That’s when dinner time is.  They have breakfast in the morning.  The kids go to school at 8am (well, ours won’t-they’ll restart their homeschooling next week).  They have lunch from noon till 2pm.  At 5ish comes the gouter (snack) usually some juice and bread with Nutella or Peanut Butter.  Then dinner at 8pm.  Since us American types would positively starve waiting that long, we’ve compromised at 7pm…at least for tonight.

Day 2: “Unfortunately we discovered that the eggs from the grocery store apparently come from free-range chickens because Sophia got grossed out after finding a blood spot in one helping with breakfast.  We’ll see if she eats breakfast this morning or not.

Day 3: “These were no Pizza Hut cardboard pizza’s but homemade dough rolled out very thin and baked right there in a very hot oven (in less than 15 minutes!) pizza’s!!   It was nice to have something that reminded of home.  And we felt proud that were dining at 8pm…the decent dinner hour in France!

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Language

[Note: Nothing is more mentally and emotionally challenging than landing in an environment where you cannot speak the language of the people around you.  Thankfully, this family had some experience learning French by living in Quebec, Canada for a while before going to France.]

Day 1: “Murrielle spoke English to me at the store and boy did heads turn!  We are glad to be in an area where English is rare.

Day 2: “I think it was the Pastor who called, and I think he wanted to come over, and I think I told him we were going shopping, and I think he was ok with that!  If I am brave (read “willing to be humiliated again today”), I will call him after dinner time (8:45pm) and ask him if he’d like to come over for a visit tomorrow.   I hope he’ll stick to the script I have in my brain.”

Day 5: “I think he was not impressed with our French and is wondering how we’ll survive in Africa but that’s ok.  We actually are feeling rather good about our communicating ability in the community at large and have no qualms about Africa where French is everyone’s second language anyway.

Later on Day 5: “There was a different librarian.  She wanted to show Sophia the books for 10 year olds but I explained that Sophia didn’t read French and I needed younger books as well.  I was looking for a basic (think 1st or 2nd grade) history of France but couldn’t find one.  I did find an older one and will try to wade through that.  When I read my library books, I try to write down every word I have to look up.  I began reading an easy general book on France.

[Note: What an encouragement to others.  The secret to learning a new language is to get out among the people and just keep trying to speak and learn new words as you go along.]

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Telecommunication (i.e. “the Internet”)

Day 2: “Perhaps we will finally get to McDonald’s where there is wifi (pronounced wee-fee :0).

Day 4: “The man who is helping us get settled into our home here is supposed to come today and help us get insurance on the car.  That way we can get to McDonald’s for the weefee :0)

Later on Day 4: “We likely won’t get internet at home so will try to get on Tuesdays and Fridays.  I’ll be sad not to keep up with all my Facebook friends’ lives but will email and post my notes to keep everyone in the loop.  And it will aid my French not to have it at home!

Day 5: “They went out to try and buy a “cle” that you can insert into a computer to make it hook up to the internet anywhere (thus making our computer our cell phone using Skype), but were told that while we may be able to buy the “cle”, we wouldn’t be able to use an American credit card to renew the hours.  So we were stymied again on getting internet at home.

Day 7: “We went to the neighbors across and down the street.  They had said we could use their land line to access email today.  After we were through, they offered a cup of coffee and we were able to talk some.

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From this article, and Part 1 last week, we can see that moving to live in a place where the language and culture is foreign to what you know from back home can be very challenging.  But look at how much progress this family made in just one week.  When we believe that there will always be people to help and trust in God to give us the strength and courage, we can all do what we thought was impossible.

Heading Overseas To Be Missionaries – Pt. 2

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Our First Week in France – Pt. 1

In last week’s article, we caught a glimpse of the heart of a missionary wife and mother, just before they headed overseas to France where they all would concentrate on learning French.  This was an important step for them to become much more proficient in French before they would go next to West Africa and minister there where most people are bilingual in French, the official language.

In the first two weeks that this missionary family spent in a small rural town in France, all of them had some interesting and often demanding experiences.  I’m sure that the leaders and experienced field personnel from our mission were careful to teach them what kind of things to expect when they would get to Africa, and to be prepared for the culture shock that would happen once they got there.

What they may not have been prepared for was the initial stages of being enamoured by the differences they found in France, followed by shock and frustration that comes when they realized that that was not their home.  Familiar activities that would normally be quite easy, could suddenly become very difficult and frustrating when they didn’t work the same way.  Then add to that the language barriers, which can get anyone discouraged and frustrated.

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Thankfully, God built most of us to be somewhat in awe, filled with excitement when we first get to our new environment.  This is called the “Honeymoon Stage”, where everything is just so fascinating because things are both different and interesting from what we are used to.  God also has designed us to be flexible and learn how to adapt quickly to new situations that occur in new environments.

That is what I would like to do now, in this article and one more, is to see the interesting differences of life in another country seen through the eyes of a new missionary family.  The wife kept a kind of journal, which she would then email back to her family and friends over here.  She has given me permission to put out excerpts from her notes.  I hope you will find some of the things she writes as interesting to you as they were to me when I first read it.

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Let’s get started, and I think the easiest way to do this is to focus in on some of the main topics which she wrote about:

Traveling & Jet Lag

Our flight was uneventful and we were actually able to get a little sleep in preparation for our 8am arrival in Paris.  Since we had 6 hrs between flight and train, we didn’t feel at all rushed even with the transportation strike.  And the luggage carts are free at Charles de Gaul!  We blessed our French professor many times yesterday!  The kids did great too!

[Note:  most missionaries now will tell you the best flight you can have is an “uneventful one”.]

Many, many trains were cancelled because of the strikes, but ours went right on!  Thanks for praying because it truly was a miracle – the folks in Mours St Eusebe (our town) were told it was supposed to be cancelled.

[Note:  when a missionary first arrives in a non-Western, developing country, we’ve heard enough stories to know to expect things not to go smoothly, especially in the area of transportation and logistics.  But note how this family arrived right in the middle of a transportation strike in France.  So no matter where we travel as missionaries, we always need to keep up our prayer support to cover us for whatever lies ahead.]

On Day 1, she wrote, “After a brief time up around 2:30 this morning, we slept until noon!  Jet lag must be gotten through. 

On Day 2, she wrote, “The whole family was up at inappropriate times last night from jet lag.  Tonight we will try Tylenol PM.  We did get up at 8am though.

And on Day 5, “Have had a rough couple of days/nights.  Jet lag isn’t our favorite.  We were up at seven-ish this morning though so hopefully we can make it through the whole day awake.

And for Day 6, “The girls are the first ones to sleep completely through the night!  Progress has been made!  Our son got up for some decongestant last night but was able to go right back to sleep.  The two of us are still struggling but will get there.

[Then, after Day 6, jet lag and poor sleep is not mentioned very much again.  One conclusion: tough times (like no sleep) can hit us hard, but they only last (usually) a short time.  Trust God to carry you through tough times, and know that better days lie ahead.]

Be Careful At First

We will plunge into our new community and language learning this afternoon.  One thing we were advised was to just tell our neighbors we are here to learn French and not to mention being missionaries right away.  He said people will put you in a category that might hinder the relationship if you tell them right away that you are an evangelical Christian. 

A few days later:

On the way to Bingo, a lady was parking her car near our house.  Since it was raining, I offered to share my umbrella.  We chatted about many things.  Of course, our work in Africa came up.  I tried real hard to dodge the “what will you do” question in accordance with the advice given to us.  But she wheedled it out of me.  She said she was Catholic when she was young but now she was nothing because (here she paused for a long while and I inserted, “La vie est difficile? (Life is difficult)” to which she nodded her head yes). 

[I would agree that we should be cautious at first in new situations with new people.  But we must also be sensitive to the hurts and needs of others so that at any time we might be there to offer words of hope and encouragement.]

Tune in next week for Part 3.

God Opens Doors and God Closes Doors – Pt. 2

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 16

At the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences.

                                          

Chapter 8: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
THE RIGHT DOORS OPEN

Question #1: What blocked doors have you encountered in your life?  As you look back on them, how might God have been protecting you by blocking your path?

I have no doubt that God was watching over me to help place before me the right woman to marry.  There had been three other women I had given serious thought to about marrying, but a number of circumstances and differences in personalities were revealed to me to stop me from making a poor decision.  The funny thing is that Jill had been in front of me all along.

You see, while I was away from home doing mission work, my parents had taken Jill in as a room-and-board person.  When I came home from the mission field, I ended up in our dusty downstairs bedroom.  (We still laugh about that.)  I tried and failed to date these other young women, until Jill asked me one day, “I thought you were interested in me once.”  With our passion for missions, and then focused interest in each other, it wasn’t long before we became husband and wife.

The other event that certainly had to be from God, was how Jill and I ended up being with our current mission Pioneer Bible Translators.  After attending a month long recruitment retreat led by Wycliffe Bible translators, it was clear we were not ready to go overseas yet.  Two years later when we had our finances and other issues taken care of, we applied again, but heard no answer.

God led us next to Illinois so I could do further work on Greek and Hebrew.  That is where we first learned about PBT.  We saw this as God’s direction, so we wrote to Wycliffe to have our personnel file sent from them to PBT.  The women we had worked with said yes she could do that, but asked why we had not accepted their invitation from Wycliffe.  Somehow that letter never found us as we moved.  We were approved by both missions, but God had wanted us to be with PBT.

Question #2: On the other hand, has God opened a door in your life?  Explain what happened and how you could see his hand at work.

Twice, while I was with Teen Missions, I saw God’s hand move and do the impossible for me.  To go on my first TMI team (to build a church in Dominican Republic), I had to have all my support of about $1,400.  But by the beginning of May I was still quite short and it was getting close to the deadline for the final payment.

I looked to the Lord and pleaded with Him to allow me to go to Brazil and serve Him there.  Incredibly, a final check came in for me and it was almost the exact amount of money I would need to pay for the whole summer, and even lasted into the Fall.  I knew that I was called by God to serve Him that year in Brazil.

The second event with Teen Missions happened less than a year later.  I had received a letter from their mission office asking me to join a newly formed Staff Travel Team to minister to churches and advertise in churches about Teen Missions in hopes of recruiting some more young people to come on a summer mission trip.

When I got to the airport, the Customs Officer came to the conclusion that I must be hiding the truth and that once I was let into the United States, I would try to work for pay, which is not allowed   Two supervisors argued about me and I tried to calmly reassure them that I would not be taking a job while in the States.

The supervisors finally left and the Officer wondered what to do with me.  Finally, he said he couldn’t see that I would be a threat, and even though it was going against his supervisors’ opinions, he still decided to approve my US entry visa.  I ran to the plane as they were literally shutting the door.  It was a “God-thing” for sure, and it was a reminder to me all year long that I knew I was where God wanted me.

Questions #5: What blocked doors are you facing right now?  Pray for one another that God would blast them open in his perfect timing.

A door that has been closed to us for many years, but still is within our hearts to do is to actually make the move over to PNG and live back there again.  We have not heard God say “Yes” to us, but He also has not said “NO” either.  It has been assumed by others, and by us I think, that it would be too difficult for us to live in this under-developed country with the health needs that I have.

But I think we need to look at this carefully and consider which is more powerful: the discouragement and sense of defeat which Satan can throw at us because my health has been seriously compromised with this muscle disease, or the power of God and the stripes that Jesus took on our behalf to free us from spiritual death and the diseases of this world.

We leave this decision in God’s hands, but we ask you all to pray for us to have wisdom in this matter.

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Heading Overseas To Be Missionaries – Pt. 1

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Leaving Loved Ones Behind

As you listen to the stories from missionaries, it is easy at times to think, “Wow, what adventures they have had.”  We must remember though, that missionaries are also just ordinary people like you and me.  And for those who are going overseas for the first time, especially when they go with children, it can be quite a scary enterprise for them at first.

In these next articles, I want to take excerpts from what one couple wrote about their experiences and feelings just before they left the United States, and what happened for them in their first week of cross-cultural living and learning.  One thing to note, this family went to France first to do language learning before heading to West Africa to serve with Pioneer Bible Translators.

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Let’s listen in on the thoughts of the wife just before they headed to France:

Me: God, I’m scared. I’ve never been scared like this before now. What’s up?

God: What are you scared of, little one? Are you afraid to go?

Me: No, it’s not that. Ok, well, yes a little bit but mainly it’s just that things are going to change here at home while I’m gone. I know some of the folks I’m saying goodbye to…well, it’s probably going to be the last time, God.

God: Yes, that’s true.

Me: And the rest, Lord. Will they come to know you? Will they hold Your word dear, Lord? Will they persevere through the really tough times? Will they continue being faithful to You? These concerns are why I’m afraid, Lord.

God: “I am”, Child.

Me: I know, God.

God: I am God, Child.

Me: Ok, Lord.

God: I love you. I love them, too. Okay?

Me: Ok, Lord.

Me: Hey, God?

God: Yes?

Me: Thanks. But I’m still going to miss them.

God: I know. I made your breaking heart. I love you, dear one. And don’t forget about your secret weapon.

Me (chuckling): What’s that?

God: From anywhere in the world, in any circumstance, you can always pray to me about them. I love it when you pray!

Me: Ok, God. Right now could you make my husband quit snoring so I can sleep?

God (chuckling): When would you take the time to pray if I didn’t wake you up at night?

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Isn’t it interesting that the concern that lay the heaviest on this mother’s heart before taking her family overseas, which included young children, was for those whom they would be leaving behind in the States.  I know she must have had some concerns for her family’s welfare and what lay ahead, but her greatest fear concerned what would happen to those left behind.

I’ve talked to other missionaries over the years about how hard it has been to be away from their home country, and quite a few have mentioned the idea of how difficult it is to have to say goodbye to family members and relatives.  But for some, it is not themselves that they are most concerned about, but rather people like the parents and grandparents.  We do forget sometimes about the emotional cost there can be for those who let their children and grandchildren go off to the mission field.

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I think perhaps this emotional and geographical separation for me and my family was not quite as difficult for all involved when we first went to Papua New Guinea in 1997.  Jill and I had been on a number of short-term mission trips to various countries already, and we had been training for mission work for a very long time.  In some ways, I think our friends and families rejoiced along with us when we were finally able to head over to PNG for our first three-year term.

That does not mean that the pain of separation never happened to us.  In that first year term, we learned of the death of a very close elderly friend who had befriended our young boys like a grandmother.  Before we left Canada, she handed each of our boys a large envelope.  In it were tiny wrapped presents which they could open, one for each day of the first few weeks that we were gone after leaving Canada.  That meant a lot to us.  We were sad that the boys would not see her again.

Then we heard the news of the death of one of Jill’s most special uncles.  He and his wife had truly been the patriarch and the matriarch of the clan of families that made up Jill’s side of our family.  What a loss that was to us.  And finally, we got the news that my father was diagnosed with throat cancer and would probably not have long to live.  We made arrangements for me to go see dad for two weeks.  He died just as I rejoined my family in PNG, but they never got to say goodbye to him.

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This is one of the realities of missionary life.  Even with the advancement of telecommunications and rapid airline travel, we still find as missionaries that we get caught on the other side of the world when critical events happen to those whom we love back home.  So what do we do about that?

Praise God that we do now have the technology to get email, just about anywhere in the world.  And the explosion of cell towers around the world means that we can talk with family and friends almost at the push of a button.  But the most important thing, as portrayed in the humorous dialog above, is knowing that God loves our loved ones even more than we do.  And so we trust Him to watch over them.  And I rest assured that He can do a better job of that than we ever could.  So, thank you God.  Amen.

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