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.

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.

Driving Toward the Storm

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Today was my last teaching day. As I left work, I reflected on my time there and felt a sense of finality; things will not be the same from now on. I have spent months refining a familiar and effective routine which will be no more. While I look forward to our move, my prideful side resists the new and daunting environment ahead where I am again a novice.

I drove away from the sunny campus and turned to the west, where dark storm clouds loomed a few miles away. Driving toward the storm, I contemplated the direction our lives are headed. I am sure we are willingly headed toward challenging times. I am naïve, but not enough to believe that our move will be easy, fun, or even successful. I know our faith, minds, and relationships will be strained. I know I will feel incompetent, which is my worst trigger for sinful behavior. As I headed for the clouds, I prayed for God to allow us to grow in all the difficulties. I know He always uses these times to shape my character. “Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:2

New Priorities

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I have dedicated myself to completing the Rosetta Stone Hindi lessons by the end of August. I believe I can do it and it might provide a decent foundation for learning the language once we arrive in-country, but so far I am not convinced that what I’m learning will help me share God’s Word in India. As of yesterday, I can say “The red fish is swimming” and “I am a teacher.” I can also say “That girl is not driving the car.” Hmm..

Ben sold one of my favorite textbooks today, the Mexico Reader. What a sacrifice. I think it will be worth it, though 🙂 Books have been the hardest thing to get rid of so far. Most everything else is replaceable in my eyes. Besides, when Jesus says to sell your possessions and give to the poor, I think he meant it. I know that in practice, following this command will look different for each family; I also know that Ben and I are in the perfect season of our lives to go all-out here.

Are we there yet?

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For about a year now, my husband and I have been scheming and looking for a way to move to India. Most of our family and friends think we have suffered some sort of brain damage. Why, they ask, would you want to move to India? When most people think of India, they think about blistering heat, packed streets, spicy food and restrooms without our coveted TP. They assume India is sub-par in luxury and convenience. Frankly, they are right. But there are certain aspects of India that we lack in all our luxury, like variety, community, vibrant color and sound. Also in India are 1.27 billion people, most of whom have never heard the gospel. That last reason is more than enough for Ben and me to pack our bags! We long to share the good news with people who are hungry for hope.

Anyway, a few months ago we got the opportunity to work with an orphanage in central India we helped establish in 2012. We decided to pursue the opportunity. Two months later, there’s still a wide open door for us to move, so barring any precluding factors – it’s a go!

We have been working hard saving money, applying for our visas, and selling things to raise funds. I am starting this blog to update friends and family, and also to attempt to record all the little pieces of our journey. Let the adventure begin!