Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Word to Senders

We’re super fortunate and grateful to have really awesome senders who support us.  Not all of my friends living cross-culturally have this so I thought I’d put a word out there to help those who maybe haven’t thought much about those they’ve sent.  I've got 4 tips for you.

 1. Tell them when you’re praying.
While we love getting an email back from our newsletters letting us know you are reading it and praying for us, but it’s even more encouraging when we know you’re praying for us at other times.  If the Spirit has brought sent ones to your mind one day send them a text/email/viber/twitter/skype etc that you are praying for them.  We’ve experienced that when the Father is bringing us to the minds of our friends it’s because we are under an unusual spiritual attack or experiencing some difficulty.  During our first few months overseas a friend told me that she was waking up every morning at 3am thinking of us and was continually lifting us up in the middle of the night.  What she didn’t know was that at 3am her time was when our family was out walking far in crazy traffic trying to catch taxis to get our kids to school and get us to language.  It was by far the most stressful time of our day and the Spirit was leading her to pray for us when we needed it most.  There are many examples of this and while it’s not necessary that senders tell us when they are praying it sure is encouraging!  I think it also blesses them to know that they are in this battle with us and then get to hear how the Father answered their prayers with healing, a practical solution, or a national friend.  

2.  Encourage them in the Word.
One of the most difficult things about being in an unreached place is the isolation from community.  Not only are workers more than likely facing the most difficult challenges in their marriages, families, walk with the Lord, emotionally, and physically in their first year on the field they are facing it without the fellowship and encouragement of the local body.  One of the most encouraging ways our pastors have blessed us is by doing a devotional for us on Skype.  Being fed in the Word by people we love has brought a lot of healing.  You can also simply send them an email about what the Father is teaching you or text them some verses from the Word.  Even if it’s a verse that I have memorized, reading it in a text from a friend is reminding me of truth and a blessing.

3.  When Skyping…
We LOVE Skype calls with friends and family!  Sometimes we get the impression people back home aren’t sure what to say.  So here are some tips…  *Ask specific questions.  Sometimes when people ask, “So how are things going?” I get so overwhelmed I say, “We are good.” When I’m thinking, “Well, our kids are screaming every morning when we leave them at school, the mold in our house is really bothering me, someone has been sick for 3 weeks, we have been really hurt by our teammates, learning language is so exhausting I have nothing left for my kids and husband.…”  So if you really want to know how your workers are doing ask specific questions like, “How are the kids doing in school?”  or “How is your relationship with your teammates?”  This allows workers to give complete answers with honesty without being overwhelmed with all their struggles.  Pray for them on Skype.  Tell them how you are doing and how things are going in your city.  Oddly enough we don’t want to talk the whole time!  We love hearing how you are doing so we can stay connected to the body there.

4.  Send a team the first year for the purpose of care and encouragement.
This was one of the biggest blessings for us this year.  A small team from our sending body came for a week with the main purpose of feeding us the Word and encouraging us.  Every night one of the men lead us in a study and we had worship together.  At the end of the week we took the Lord’s Supper together.  They loved on our kids and allowed us opportunities to share our heart and our struggles.  Nothing can replace this face to face opportunity.  They also had a chance to share truth, meet national believers under persecution and see our life firsthand.  They then took all this and shared with the body back home so they can be praying more specifically.  If you are a sending body I would get on my knees and beg you to do this for your sent ones.  

We are legitimately in an active battle.  Knowing our partners are fighting along side is crucial.  This is my humble rookie opinion on how to so effectively.

A Year of Doubt & Pain

We’ve come to a milestone of sorts and it has brought on a time of reflection.  Our conclusion: we wouldn’t repeat the previous year even if you offered us $10 million.  Seriously.   No exaggeration.  Wouldn’t do it.  

This year had some victories and of course the Father added a little blessing to our crew who we love to pieces and are so grateful for.  But overall as we look back over this year it has been one of doubt and pain.  Sure there are some stories that we can look back at and laugh.  Like the time I told the plumber, “My husband is fun” Instead of “My husband is coming”.  Sigh.  However, most of our experiences only bring us to look at the deep wounds they’ve caused and are just beginning to heal.  But the fact that they are beginning to heal is because of the Father’s faithfulness, love, and grace.  We knew it would come, we knew we were being refined by fire and that we’d come out on the other side trusting Him more and having a new understanding of His love and faithfulness.  We waited for it and longed for His return and we are starting to emerge from the flames.  Not that we have yet reached our goal but press on towards what is ahead.  

I remember texting with a girlfriend on a particularly rough day and her encouraging me that the other side of this will be peace.  I found truth in her statement and told her that but didn’t want to suffer through the present.  It hurt too much.  

He brought us through sick kids, living on three different continents, medical uncertainty, a birth, travel to a fourth continent, a house full of mold & backed up sewer, hurt and rejection from co-workers, cold water, unreliable electricity, frustrations in our marriage, being quick to anger with our kids, tears, lots of tears and a huge cultural learning curve.  We not only survived but are beginning to thrive in this new life.

We survived on the Word, it was our food, I was starving for it.  Before I even opened my eyes in the morning I would think Psalm 3:5 “I lay down and slept; I woke again for the Lord sustained me.”  And while the Word of God is living and active and sharper than a two edged sword and is always truth this verse became my lifeline.  Nothing outside of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ could sustain me.

Prayer became a constant. As I dressed I asked for strength to do so, as I got my kids ready I asked for their protection as we sent them out as sheep among wolves, as we searched for a taxi I asked for provision, when our water heater shot out flames and I was heating water on the stove for kids bathes I asked for perseverance, when I was angry with my husband and kids I asked for forgiveness and prayed for a loving heart, and it goes on….  Before when I read 1Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  I thought, “Is it possible to pray continually?  Like ALL the time?”  Dear friends, let me tell you, it is possible and this year for me it has been necessary.

So here we are.  There are even days now that we can get through and it seems almost normal.  But those days are followed by a week of doubt….is this really what we are supposed to be doing?  Are we making a difference?  Does it even matter eternally that we are killing ourselves to do this?  The pain of loneliness and uncertainty resurface. 

On those days I write verse after verse on post-it notes and stick them everywhere around the house.  So even when I dare not pick up the Word that will wipe away all the doubt & uncertainty it’s there in my face speaking truth to a broken heart.  

From a few of my post-its: 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”  Prov 3:3-8

Often my doubt was from trying to be wise in my own eyes.  Thank you Father for drawing me back to you and giving me refreshment!

“Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress.  Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” Psalm 4:1

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that but we rejoice in our sufferings…which produces hope and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5

And of course the truths that keep us going:

“I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Phil 3:12-14

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.  So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4: 15-18.

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ ”  Matt 28:18-20

I didn’t write this post to bring pity on us but for you to rejoice with us in the Father’s faithfulness.  Dear friend if you are in the midst of the flames turn to the grace and hope of our Lord Jesus Christ and do not lose heart because you are being renewed day by day.  

If you’re a music fan here are my defining songs of the year that were often on repeat while I cooked dinner: 
Though You Slay Me by Shane & Shane

Pilgrims Progress by Matt Papa

We are living the promise that He is with us always, we are seeing His grace being extended to more and more people to His glory and we are pressing on.  The hurt from this year will no doubt leave some ugly scars and we are certain new wounds will come .  We live a broken world and in a particularly dark place.  But though the pain we can look ahead to His promises being fulfilled and so can you.  We will not lose heart.

A popular blog posted an article related to this, there are no shortcuts to living this life: