Jun 28, 2014

The bread crumb trail to life as a missionary

This is the story of how we ended up in the Dominican Republic from my perspective:

If the Lord had shown me earlier in my life that I was going to end up serving Him in a third world country, I would have RUN as fast as I could the other way.  Not because I didn't LOVE or TRUST the Lord, but because earlier in my walk with Him, I allowed my feelings and fear to rule me.  However, my ending up in the Dominican Republic is a story of God's peace that passes understanding, His leading, and ultimately His love for me. The complete unfolding of how we (my husband Jon, my children and I) came here is chronicled in my husband's telling of the story, but what I would like to share is the Lord's sweetness in how He deals with His children, specifically me in this story. But I think that there may be something in here that applies for you as well. 

In His grace, the Lord offered me baby bite size pieces of His plan for us, allowing me to chew and digest each piece, spit some out, breathe and take another bite.  Before I moved here, I would not have considered myself an adventuresome person.  In fact, those that have known me best I think would agree that I have always been "safe," (excluding hair color, style and paint colors).  But in a series of events, the Lord called me from what I deemed as safe, and told me to walk with Him in a foreign place where I did not know or speak the language, where I would arrive 7 months pregnant with baby #3 and give birth, and where I was terrified to go.  

At first, I thought I'd try my hand at being logical: 1) I was pregnant.  2) We wouldn't make enough $ to survive on.  3) We would have to raise support and we didn't know how to do that. 4) Jon had been unemployed and we had no way to make a move like this.  CLEARLY, God could NOT be calling us to do this thing which made NO SENSE!  We (meaning mostly me) tabled the possibility for a while, but the return of that sparkle in my husband's eye, which had been absent for a time of "comfortable misery" in his life, at the mere mention of the possibility caused me to begin to pray earnestly for the Lord's will to be done in our lives. 

There were other options on the table: safe, small town options within the same state. I liked those options. But earnest prayer led me to say a very scary thing, "Lord, I am not strong enough to choose what scares me.  If you want us to go to the Dominican Republic, please show me in a very clear way.  I surrender to you and will go where you want me to go."  Safe doors closed, within 48 hours of said prayer.  And a few months later, with a miraculous amount of support, prayer and financial, away we went . . . 

Here is the really cool part about the Lord's sweetness:  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knows what we need.  He knows how to grow us in our faith, how to teach us to not be ruled by our emotions and the inclinations of our hearts, He knows the little seeds that He has planted in our being that we may not even be aware of.  

You see, I knew that my husband was called to the Dominican Republic.  His giftings and years of experience in residential child care would be clearly used.  His talents would be called into motion for the glory of God.  It was obvious to me that this was a move that would bless, stretch, challenge and fulfill my husband—and as his wife, that meant that I was called too.  But for what?  I know that there are some obvious answers to that question: to glorify the Lord, to support my husband, to also be stretched, challenged and fulfilled, to teach my children about following the Lord, trusting and obeying and worshipping Him with our lives.  But there's more.

Back to that little seed planted that we may be unaware of . . . before we came, we took a series of "tests" to show our strengths and weaknesses, personality traits, etc.  The person who scored those tests reported to me that my husband's score for missions was thru the roof high, but that mine was so low that normally someone with such a low missions score would not do well in a Dominican type setting. But by virtue of Jon's outstanding missions score, I would be allowed to continue on in pursuit of making the move to the D.R. 

Now I'll be the first to confess that I was not very missions-minded prior to moving here.  When we moved, I shipped Christmas trees, decorations, mattresses, picture frames, etc.  (Nobody at that time really did that!)  I was going to build a NEST, by golly.  The Lord called me and I showed up with 2,000 pounds of stuff, baggage to make me comfortable.  But the thing is, there was a hidden seed in my heart for missions that I had no idea was there.  The Lord began to water it, fertilize it, grow it—and today it is a seed that has grown into a bountiful vine and has flourished in my life.  The Lord knew it.  I didn't.  I shutter to think now: if I had run, if I had logically convinced my husband to dismiss His calling, if I had allowed my life to be ruled by fear, if I had not listened to the Lord.  I would have missed out on an incredible adventure as well as a process of having my faith increased and enriched.

If perhaps you are reading this and are yourself at a crossroads in your life, I encourage you to say an earnest prayer, to not run the other direction even if you are afraid, and to trust the Lord with those seeds, even if you don't know what they are! In His grace, He will meet you where you are and give you the strength to do that which He is calling you to do. He did that for me and I believe that He offers that to all of His children.

Jun 24, 2014

Trusting God's Plan (from the heart of Jon)

This is the story of how we ended up in the Dominican Republic from Jon's viewpoint:

When God first called me to the Dominican Republic, I was working in Dallas at a job I did not like. But as my wife has said, I was “comfortable in my misery.”  I found out in December that, starting the following month, I would no longer have a job.  Shortly after the realization that I was going to lose my job, we found out that my wife was pregnant and due in the fall. Prior to my job in Dallas, I had worked for 10 years with a ministry that helped struggling teens and their families.  Looking back, I can now see that these circumstances were clearly God pushing me out the door and back into ministry.  

I began to fill out job applications and take interviews anywhere that was hiring.  The interesting thing was that only ministries responded.  The main issue that seemed to be preventing me from getting any job was the fact that I had a family of four with one more on the way!  I spent the next six months unemployed and taking on any day jobs that would come my way. Meanwhile, my pregnant wife worked the early shift at the Container Store unloading trucks. 

As summer rolled around, I had two job opportunities: one in the United States and one in the Dominican Republic. Both my wife and I were leaning towards remaining in the United States.  We could not imagine moving out of the country, raising support and having a baby in a developing country.  God had other plans! Soon after our discussion, circumstances caused the job opportunity in the United States to no longer be an option. At that time, we were assured through prayer and tears (mostly my wife’s tears) that God was clearly calling us to move to the Dominican Republic.  Following God’s call, that August we moved our family and the majority of our unsold belongings across the ocean!

We have now been serving in the Dominican Republic for 9 years, and are continually blessed, stretched and molded by being here. We have seen God work in amazing ways during our time here, and are confident that this was His plan all along.  

From my experience, I can understand the difficulty in taking that first blind step of faith, and then the next one.  However, I would encourage others to trust God's plan and to let the  Holy Spirit guide them in endeavors marked by the thumb print of God - even if they're afraid. Trusting God's plan always leads to deeper relationship and great surprises, and I’m glad that we trusted Him!  

Jun 21, 2014

Walk with me if you will . . .

Down an unfamiliar road we go. It is bumpy but beautiful, full of raw creation pointing to it's maker with child like faith.  It winds into  strips of straightness and curves to reveal the complicated simplicity of poverty, and together we walk - wondering how we can help in our own skinky brokeness. Having pared down our lives to what we thought was bare bones, we realize that we are walking under the heaviness of creature comforts we thought we would need - only to discover that those that have nothing, materially speaking,  have come out of their homes to help us carry our boxes of Christmas decorations, containers of shoes, paintings and crafts, etc. etc. etc. - the list of boxes countless, glitter and lights and bedding and linens and throw pillows and baking sheets and magazines and books and clothes - oh the clothes - and stuffed animals and dvds and and and and.  And they happily help me carry my load and place it in my home, and me full of embarassing conviction and them full of friendship and smiles, I find myself more broken than I thought.  Who is rich and who is poor?  Is it the one who has material abundance but trusts not OR the one who has little and without hesitation extends a hand?  Maybe its not an either/or but a both/and . . .  Of course it is entirely possible to have material abundance AND trust OR to have little and trust not.  It's simply complicated and complicated not.

What would it do to your soul to have the contents of your home moved carried by hand down the road by someone who lived with significantly less than you?  Will you walk with me?  Will you share  what the Lord is speaking to you? With fear of offending and vulnerable conviction I confess that I wrestle with this experience  and pray that the Lord works in my heart in a mighty way that I may be a vessel for Him.

Jun 19, 2014

The gift of GRACE

I've been pondering in my heart so many things lately, feeling a little lost at times, trying to find my way.  This transitioning- to - something - new - thing is somewhat tricky, and for all of its smoothness and surrounding of helpful and Godly people, I still feel a little turned upside down.  There's been no shortage of excitement: internet connectivity issues, baby tarantula epidemics, lice outbreaks, three incoming teams that blessed our socks off that we have personal connections with, time connecting with our new Makarios team mates on the ground here, a small oven explosion and most recently a bacterial sickness for Jon and me.

I've struggled with answering the reoccuring question when introduced to new people, "So, what do you do for Makarios?" since I don't officially have a position on the ground here other than "Mom."  I rather like my life position right now, but I still feel a little small when I don't have an official ministry related title.  I've tried out options in my head, "I'm support staff for the Director."  True story.  "I am ready to do whatever is asked of me to support the legit staff." Also true.  "I teach my son whom I am homeschooling to bake so that when staff come over we can feed them sweet stuff." Again, true.  This feeling of smallness I think does not come from the attitude of the people posing the question, but from my subconcious thought that my position dictates my significance.  As if "just a mom" glorifying God while she sweats hanging  the laundry on the line, is not adequate.  Not true. I know this lesson. I've learned it before.  My significance is in Christ alone. True.

I have wrestled with things I can't reconcile, and have had to lay them at the feet of Jesus. Again.  

In the midst of these wrestlings, we have had some well timed groups that have drenched us in love - among them our home church, Grace Bible Church, Dallas, TX.  A highlight for me was watching this group of teenagers love on the kids from Pancho Mateo, one of the villages Makarios International serves.  It is a cool thing to witness small children choose a member of a group to be their horse for the afternoon - horse back rides on the backs of visitors are expected, by the way.  So, if you come this way, prepare to be a child's chosen horse for the afternoon. Witnessing this interaction reminds me of some things . . .

"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared for us in advance to do." Ephesians 2:10

"God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his son, Christ Jesus our Lord." 1 Corinthians 1:9

"And He said, 'Truly I tell you, unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'" Matthew 18:3

"But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are MINE!" Isaiah 43:1

"I shall run the way of Your commandments, For You will enlarge my heart." Psalm 119:32

"How precious is your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of your wings!" Psalm 36:7

The gift of grace has been two fold, the gift of Grace, our church, visiting us here and serving alongside us, and God's sufficient grace in the midst of life's wrestlings.  I am grateful for both.