Contentment and Discontentment

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It is the best and the worst here.  I’ve never been so happy to be somewhere and so challenged at the same time.  I am learning a lot about myself in India!  One thing I have learned is that I have been very spoiled.  I am used to having what I need at my disposal.  I am used to having exactly what I want at my disposal.  I am sad to admit that I get really upset sometimes when I can’t get things I want.  Although I knew that it would be challenging here and I tried to prepare myself, there have been one or two times where I’ve laughed and said, “Are you kidding me?” Is this really how the majority of people live?  Am I really this spoiled?  Yes… and yes I am.
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The little things

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For the past few months, our lives have been filled with excitement and activity as we prepared to leave for India. Our friends and family surrounded us. We prayed and dreamed of the things we want to do in Nagpur. We want to help orphans and adopt them; we want to tell people about Jesus; we want to train and encourage evangelists; we want God to use us to change the world. These are lofty goals.

But on the ground here, we knew we would come face to face with the reality that some of these goals will be long-term; they will require perseverance, patience, and suffering. Accomplishing them will be nothing short of a miracle. It will be God’s doing, in His timing. By ourselves, we are very incapable here.  We started experiencing this reality almost immediately upon arrival!

Even in daily life, it has been painfully humbling for me to be so dependent on God and others for (literally) everything. At this point, we cannot eat a real meal, get around town, shop, hold a conversation with most people, or even go to church without someone else’s help. This level of incapacity is so frustrating to me. I know God is using it to teach me to lay down my pride and depend on Him in each moment! I read Proverbs 3:5-6 Sunday and it really encouraged me in this area. I cannot even try to lean on my own understanding here, so I am learning to put my trust in the Lord and submit to Him.

I know that we will continue to pursue our long-term goals here as God leads us, and we are in this ministry for the long haul. I also think God is calling me to have faith that the small, daily things we do are meaningful too. Sometimes, I have a very limited view of what meaningful work looks like: Bible studies, counseling sessions, children’s services… Hopefully we will eventually have the opportunity to participate in these kinds of ministry here, but for now, what should we do? I am missing the activities I got to be part of in the US, and I’m dying to do something big and “meaningful” here.

This weekend I read what Jesus told his disciples about the kingdom of God. He uses three similar parables (the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost/prodigal son) to demonstrate a principle in Luke 15:10, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” In all of the parables, Jesus is talking about one individual. One sheep… one coin… one sinner who repents. Although this is not the only point of the lesson, I noticed that Jesus puts value on the individual… on the small things. One sheep out of 99 doesn’t seem like a “big” deal, but it is very meaningful in the Kingdom. Even if we see one person’s life changed, it will be meaningful and important. Angels will rejoice.

I started thinking more about the little things in life. What resources do I have? Our friend and mentor wrote a book about biblical principles that I just finished copy-editing. One of the principles is use what you have; don’t worry about what you don’t have (2 Corinthians 8:12). I remembered this for my life and decided that I would try to use the gifts that I do have in order to impact people’s lives.  I will strive to be faithful in the little things. If that means all I can do is smile and greet the boy who takes out our trash, I will do it. If it means I can say a word of encouragement to a friend, I will do it. If I can be uplifting to my husband, I will do it. I can be righteous and practice the fruits of the Spirit, and I will do it. I will look for any way I can show love to others. These things are really not what I would consider “ministry” – but they are the only things I have right now.

For now, I have faith that God is in control and will accomplish His will. I have faith that the little things are also important.

Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Passage to India! (Ben & Jaimie’s Perspectives)

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Ben’s Perspective

Jaimie and I are down to a few bags in which we crammed all of the things we deemed as important to take to India. Everything else we either sold or stored. We both packed enough clothes for seven of our 360 days (tomorrow will be day 3).  We packed a couple of bibles, a few important books, computers, and Jaimie’s peanut butter. See the picture above for an idea.

Our Itinerary

We left our house at 6:15 a.m. and arrived in Washington D.C. around 11:00a.m. From D.C. at 3:00 p.m. to Newark at 5:00 p.m.  When we arrived at Newark, my mom surprised us with lounge tickets! We got a couple of glasses of wine, showers, and some snacks. We also sat next to some world travelers that were a blast to talk to – and taught us how to use the lounge the most effective way.

From Newark we got on a plane at 9:00 p.m. and arrived at Mumbai, India at 9:00 p.m. (14 hours w/ the time change).

After a 30 minute cab ride we finally made it to the comfort of a hotel room and went to bed around 11:30. 7:00 am came around and we got up, and took the hotel car to the airport and flew to Nagpur, India (our destination).

What is Nagpur like?

Nagpur is at the end of their monsoon season – which looks a lot like the beginning of summer/hurricane season in Florida. It’s bright and sunny during the day at about 90 degrees, then around 4:00 p.m. it begins raining and cooling off. It’s almost like we are home.

When we arrived in Nagpur, we were greeted by our great friends. We ordered Dominos pizza for lunch, rested, then headed off to see our apartment. Our friends are the most accommodating and friendliest people anyone will have the pleasure of meeting. We are so excited to spend time with them. Around 4:00 p.m. they took us to see the apartment they found for us, and it is amazing!

You’ll have to check back in a few days to see some pictures, and discover the new things we are finding out we need – and had no idea existed, and more!

Troubles

I have a saying: “I’m not afraid of the dark, I’m afraid of what’s in the dark.” Basically, it’s the unknown that strikes fear…which, coincidentally, are most of the things that are 100% out of my control. I don’t like to fly, check bags, switch planes, get into cabs in foreign cities with strangers, get rude looks when I don’t tip more than $10 to put my bag inside the cab when I asked him not to, wait for lights to turn green in the slums at 10:00 p.m. at night, etc.etc.etc. But this morning was a little humbling when I was reading Galatians. In the first chapter alone Paul mentions he went to Jerusalem, Arabia, Damascus, Syria, and Cilicia which seemed to be all within a 3 year period (could be wrong). I went to Nagpur…just one place, which causes me to lose sleep with anxiety.

I am excited that with this trip, I can already see that I will have to rely on God’s control, and the strength of our marriage. I alone, it turns out, can’t control much at all.

- Ben

Jaimie’s perspective

We made it! After a pretty leisurely flight schedule (two short layovers in the U.S., a 14 hour overnight to Mumbai, a hotel stay and a 1-hour flight to Nagpur), we finally arrived in our Indian hometown this afternoon. None of our luggage was lost, which is a huge bonus! Compared to our last trip, this one was a cakewalk.

Our Friends found a wonderful apartment for us, and we met the landlord (who also happens to be a doctor and lives directly next door). Our kitchen is huge, and we have two bathrooms and two bedrooms. Tomorrow, we will go shopping for a few furnishings and other necessities! The apartment is in a great location, safe and close to a market and Ben’s office. We will be able to walk to many of our destinations.

It has been comforting and greatly encouraging to have friends praying for us during our travel. I can truly see the impact of these prayers already. Our fears and anxieties, which have been many, have been overshadowed by the faith we share in Jesus. His hand is guiding us in it all.

- Jaimie

God’s Family

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Sometimes I get lonely

Sometimes following Jesus gets lonely. Walking a narrow path can make us feel like we are alone, with no one to our right or left. Sometimes, we are even misunderstood by those close to us. Thankfully, I usually don’t mind being alone!

However, on special occasions in our life, I have noticed how God rallies his family together to encourage and build one another up. He reminds us that we are not alone at all! There are believers here and around the world who share our same hope. During these special times, we make connections with amazing people with whom we have nothing in common except our faith and obedience to the Lord Jesus.

Importance of friends and family

Recently Ben and I have spent time with our closest friends and mentors, our family, our church, and some disciples who we are just getting to know. Many friends are supporting us in our mission to India through prayer, fundraising, and encouragement. One dear friend is organizing a Zumba class fundraiser; others have given financial gifts so generously; some are discipling us and helping us develop godly character; still others have been our advocates and spread the word so that other brothers and sisters can pray for us. We are so grateful!

It is good to remember that we are not alone, and we cannot accomplish Jesus’ mission for our lives alone. God sets the lonely in families! (Psalm 68:6) Praising Him today.

Don’t Look Back

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This morning I read Hebrews 11:13 “They (heroes of the faith) admitted that they were aliens and strangers on the earth.”

As we prepare for August, I am continually challenging myself not to look back and long for comfort. This is hard because honestly, I am SO comfortable here. I will fight disappointment when we have to cancel my membership at a state-of-the-art fitness center I use. I will mourn when my friends are far away and I can’t see them face to face. I have started to cherish every minute on the treadmill, every conversation with close friends, every meal cooked in my familiar kitchen. I have also read several books this month that I have been “meaning to read” for years, because I will be selling them next month. It’s amazing the things I can accomplish when I realize that our time is running out here. (I think I should live like this all the time – I would be rocking life!)

But despite the comfort we are giving up, it is a joy to obey Jesus’ commission! It is getting easier to discard, sell, or give away our things. It has become an exciting challenge to save our money for the mission field. I know we are called to accept inconvenience, sufferings and uncertainty. We are aliens and strangers here! We are looking forward to something better.

Counting the Items

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Counting the Cost Items

As Jaimie and I go through our things a thought keeps popping into my mind.

“How did I become like this?”

As I sit and type, I can barely move because of the clutter. I have so much stuff. I have a 5′x3′ desk, and it’s completely covered. I have accumulated so many things. The kitchen, by far, is the most organized distater in our home. It’s a whole room of storage cabinets. One of the smallest rooms in our home holds the most. It’s incredible. I counted the other day, we have 8 frying pans. How could this be? I had 6 guitars (for sale now), two cars, three couches, 2 beds, 5 dressers…and the list goes on. How did I become like this?

False Teachings

I believe it’s because that I have been taught that since I live in a “christian nation” that I can have my cake and eat it too. When Jesus says things like sell your things and give to the poor, or go and make disciples… He wasn’t really talking to me, right? What he meant to say is, stay where you are, work hard and make a lot of money, and then you can give a measly 10% to the local church and feel good about yourself.  That’s what Jesus meant to say, right? I look around, and shameful to admit, I must have believed that.

Here is some news. Jaimie and I don’t give 10% to the local church. If there is a specific need that the Church is asking for, we’re more than willing to help. But why would I only give 10% of a piece of my life to the local Church? Jesus commands us to give it all. (Which I have by no means figured out). How can I give it all? Every day I’m told through words or example through friends, family, media, government, etc. that I should keep it all. I should save, I should invest, I should buy fun things and take fancy trips. I should buy more homes, watch more TV, work longer hours to get overtime. Should I go on?

Giving it All

I have no idea what it means to give it all. But could it mean what I’ve believed it to mean for so many years? Save my things and write a small check once a week? I don’t think so. This is why going through all of my things and either throwing them out or selling them is so hard. Not because it’s hard to get rid of things. It’s because every day I see another item, I realize how much I failed Jesus in the past by collecting these things and holding onto them so dearly.

American Perspectives

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Today I reflect on American culture and how it influences our thoughts and decisions. This reflection was prompted by a conversation I had with a friend in which I explained our reasons for moving to India. I said, “We are going to build relationships with other disciples and encourage them. We are going to spend time with the orphans. We are also going to try to qualify our non-profit as a certified adoption agency.” Of the three reasons I listed, only the last one is quantifiable in the short term. None of them are grandiose. Worst of all, none of them seem sufficient to justify our move, at least through the American cultural lens.

I got to thinking: are we really going to accomplish anything? Is it worth it, if we do not come home with big “results” to share with those who support us? What results are we hoping for, realistically?

We Americans are obsessed with speed, numbers, and results. We believe in all things “mega” – the bigger, the better – and we supersize things that were never meant to be supersized. We get annoyed when we have to wait 5 minutes in line at the store. We expect to “get ahead” in life, and quickly. And while I believe it is wise to be efficient, accountable and purposeful, I think some of these American ideals are a hindrance for people who want to follow Jesus. For example, as I evaluate the purpose of our mission according to American cultural values, it does not seem significant. The relationships we build will not be seen as “progress.” The nine boys in our orphanage will not have been adopted by the end of one year. We will not have built wells or churches. We will not have conducted mass revivals or evangelistic campaigns. When we return, America will shake its head and say, “what a waste of time.”

But then, should American values be my standard by which to measure success? As Christians, our measuring stick is God’s Word. What does it say about missions? How did Jesus do it? This is a question worth asking, and an answer worth researching.

Upon observation, it appears that Jesus didn’t shoot for big numbers or speed. He spent most of his three year ministry with twelve regular guys. He fled a large crowd once when popular sentiment was so strong they “threatened to make him king by force.” His family members were perplexed that he did not make an open show of himself to gain popular support. While scripture is clear that He does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), he did not stake his mission on the easily swayed masses. Instead, he focused on the slow, tedious and unassuming task of training leaders who would reach the masses. His twelve disciples were his plan; relationships were his priority, not results. By American standards, his mission would have been considered insignificant with only a few hundred followers, including the eleven remaining apostles. But have you read about what his disciples did?! As recorded in Acts, they “turned the world upside down” as each did his part. They reached individuals just as Jesus had reached them. Jesus’ ministry was multiplied eleven-fold when the eleven faithful apostles began preaching the gospel, and it continued on.

I suppose we must, in the words of author Robert E. Coleman, “decide where we want our ministry to count – in the momentary applause of popular recognition or in the reproduction of our lives in a few chosen people who will carry on our work after we have gone” (Master Plan of Evangelism). While our mission fails in America’s eyes, it may still be significant for the kingdom if we are obedient to God’s plan.