Frenos Calientes by Jan Beiler

August 29th, 2010

The setting sun cast long shadows across the narrow highway that hugged the craggy mountainside.  Our van crept down each steep decline, rounding tight hairpin turns and struggling up to the crest of yet another ridge.   Sheer drop offs fell away from the side of the road, way, way down to the rocks below.

The van was packed to capacity.  My brother Dale’s family of five, from NC, and seven from our family had left home long before dawn that morning.  A tray, attached to the hitch of the van, carried a small stack of firewood and a disco* which we had used for cooking lunch at the Thousand Foot Falls.

Three little Indian boys had lurked on the outskirts of our lunch time gathering, savoring the fragrance of potatoes and hamburger sizzling in oil over the fire.  A mangy dog with one blue eye and one green eye salivated in the near distance. We had prepared plates of food for the boys and inadvertently spilled enough to make the dog happy before hiking to the falls.  Indian women sat on the blankets they’d spread over rocks, displaying their woven baskets and shawls.

After leaving the falls, we had driven another couple of hours to the El Cerrito mission among the Tarahumara Indians.  That had been an interesting experience, hearing about the challenges those missionaries face – a fire, a baby without a home, a sister who faces opposition from her family, and a bad case of homesickness.

And now, tired to the bone, we were heading home with our capable nineteen-year-old son, Harlan, at the wheel.  Suddenly, at the bottom of a mountain, in the middle of a curve where the ascent of the next mountain began, the van stopped and Harlan said quietly, “We don’t have brakes.  When I step on the pedal, there’s just nothing there.”

For an instant not a sound could be heard except maybe my heart thumping in my chest.  No brakes!  Somebody would be coming down the mountain behind us in a minute – we couldn’t just sit there! There was certainly no place to pull off beside the road but how could we negotiate all those curves without brakes?  I thought about the family whose bus had crashed down the mountainside in Honduras after brake failure.  The parents had died.  I thought about our two school-aged sons who had stayed at home. “God help us,” I prayed.

Phil and Dale and the four teenage boys climbed out of the van to take a look.  The brakes were hot as asphalt on a summer day.

“We’ll have to go on,” the men decided.  “Let’s just keep our eyes open and pull off to let the brakes cool at the first place where there’s enough space to park.”

Slowly the van eased up the mountain.  Inside, all eyes were glued to the shoulder, looking for a place to pull off.

“There’s one,” Harlan said.  “I doubt we’ll do better than that.”

The men decided the best thing was to drive past and back onto the rock table beside the road.

“I’ll get out and motion you in,” Dale said.

“Grab a chunk of that firewood to chock the wheels,” Phil suggested.

Since we were going uphill, it wasn’t hard to grind to a halt but my heart fluttered in my throat as Harlan inched backward onto the handkerchief-sized piece of real estate.  What if the chock wouldn’t hold us?  What if the bank caved away?

I’ll never forget Dale standing there in the dusk with a chunk of firewood in one hand, signaling with the other, and the relief that washed over me as the van came to rest, free of the road, and high above the valley.

We climbed out, stretched our stiff joints and peered down over the precipice.  Through the scrubby trees we could see a sprinkling of adobe huts clinging to the steep mountainside.  Dogs barked. The lonely wail of a guitar wafted toward us.   Real people lived here.  I couldn’t help but wonder what hopes and fears made up their lives as they eked their sustenance from this barren soil.

The chill evening air nipped at us and we drew our jackets closer.

“Let’s build a fire with the leftover wood,” Phil suggested.

The men laid the kindling and placed the wood, teepee style over the small sticks, blowing the flickering flame to life.

Meanwhile my nephew Anthony gathered small rocks.  “I need to set up a marker for time to come,” he said, spelling out the words, ‘FRENOS CALIENTES’ (hot brakes) with the rocks.

Sitting there in the glow of the fire on that rocky mountain ledge, helpless to improve our situation, but saved from harm, God suddenly seemed very near.

“Let’s sing,” I suggested.

Together, our voices rang out over the still valley, echoing off the rocks, and rising to our Father, “Oh, Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder, Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made…   Then sings my soul, my Saviour, God, to Thee, How great thou art! How great Thou art!”

*A disco is a blade off a farm disk, with the center hole welded shut and three short legs welded to the bottom.  Place the disco over the fire, pour a puddle of oil into the center and cook finely diced potatoes and hamburger in the oil until tender.  Serve wrapped in a tortilla with refried beans, guacamole, peppers and onions.

More Righteous Than I by Jan Beiler

July 20th, 2010

There had been lots of hurdles in the seven years since Rhonda and her husband, Kent, had come to the mission field. First of all, they’d had to learn the ropes themselves; such things as cultural differences, which practices to avoid, and which to pursue.
Then had come the relationship challenges with others workers. About the time they’d get used to working with one set of people, those folks would terminate and another set would take their place. Tall, thin Carl and his short, frizzy-haired wife, Anna, had come just over a year ago.

Rhonda shifted the baby on her lap and turned her head toward the open truck window for a whiff of fresh air.
This child smells like it hasn’t had a bath for a week! She thought.

Unpleasant odors associated with Carl and Anna were nothing new. They assailed Rhonda every time she walked into her fellow missionaries’ home. Her hands fairly itched to get a bottle of Mean Green and attack their bathroom.
Rhonda had actually even dreamed one time that she was teaching them how to use deodorant.

The Anderson’s zeal was as overpowering as their presence. Just now, as they rode toward the mission headquarters for a staff meeting, Carl leaned forward from the back seat of the crew cab and tapped Kent on the shoulder.

“I’m going to propose mass tract distribution,” he hollered over the noise of the engine and the open windows. “We need to be reaching more people.”
A muscle twitched in Kent’s cheek, but he nodded. “That’s what staff meeting is for,” he yelled back, “to exchange ideas and figure out how best to extend the kingdom.”

Muscles weren’t just twitching in Rhonda’s stomach. They were knotting and cramping. We’re not reaching around to all the needs now, she thought. There’s a steady stream of people who already come to our door.

She thought of Idalia, who needed so much nurture in her choice to follow Christ. She thought of Beti, who didn’t want to be a Christian but who came nearly every day, just to talk. She thought of Yesenia, who was counting the cost. And there were others. Every day there were others. How’re we going to stretch farther? Maybe if we never cleaned our house…

The baby had fallen asleep. Rhonda laid his sweaty little body across her lap. He’s kind of cute, really, she decided, brushing a damp curl behind his ear, but I wish I’d brought another dress along. I’m going to smell like him all day today.
“I think we have time to stop at the Post Office and check the mail,” Kent said.
“I’ll go in,” Carl volunteered, pushing his door open as the truck slowed to a stop.

A moment later he returned, riffling through the stack of letters in his hand.
“Seventeen!” he announced. “Anna, we got seventeen letters, plus it looks like our rent check’s come.”
Casually he tossed a letter into the front seat. “Here’s one that came for you,” he said.

“Did you only get one letter?” Anna asked as she tore open an envelope.
Rhonda fought down a surge of annoyance. “We’ve been here so long, folks have forgotten about us,” she said dryly.

Anna, busy devouring a letter, looked up and giggled. “People back home really miss us. They tell us they just really want to stay involved in our lives.”
Rhonda forced a laugh but she couldn’t bring herself to look back at Anna.
Oh, stop it; she scolded herself, as a dart of guilt stabbed her conscience. Love bears all things, believes all things… But it wasn’t that easy to stop.
In fact, she didn’t really want to stop. Rhonda recognized it by the surge of delight she felt at a conversation she overheard between the director, Brother Amos, and Carl.

She really couldn’t help overhearing. She and Kent stood in the food line for lunch and it wasn’t moving very fast. Brother Amos and Carl were planted off to the side of the line, but not far enough.

“Carl, I understand you went to the airport last Sunday to pick up the guests from Ohio.”

“Yes, we did. It just didn’t seem like the thing to do to make them wait until after the church service at Saragosa. They hadn’t ever been outside the US and it seemed like we should look out for them.”

“ That may be true, but do you remember we as a team discussed this issue? All the unit leaders agreed that church services should not be interrupted to accommodate Sunday traveling.”

The food line moved on and Rhonda couldn’t hear the rest of the conversation. He had it coming, she thought. It’s not the first time they’ve bent the rules to accommodate their viewpoint.

She remembered the time the Anderson’s had decided to exchange their little gas refrigerator for a nice big electric one and send their “old” one to another mission in the boonies. They’d made the decision on their own in spite of the board having just cautioned against living above the native’s life style.

One of the items on the business agenda for the afternoon session was the VS Youth outing to Lake Azul.
Going to Lake Azul in the beautiful foothills of Aguas Calientes was the highlight of the year. One of the missionary families always chaperoned. This year the vote  was between Carl’s and Kent’s.
Rhonda wanted to go. It had been five years since they had accompanied the youth and it just seemed like the rigors of everyday life could be relieved by a refreshing trip to the Lake. Besides, she enjoyed the youth. They were interesting and fun.

She and Kent had talked about it at home earlier. “I don’t think I can vote for Carl’s,” Kent had said. “I hope it’s not carnality, but in my mind they aren’t qualified.”

Rhonda shifted in her seat as Brother Amos said, “Well, we’ve come to the final item on our agenda. Who shall we appoint to chaperone the youth this year? I believe it’s between Carl’s and Kent’s.”
Carl cleared his throat. “I’d just like to say something here.”

Rhonda stiffened. Probably wants to say that the youth like them so well they want them to be involved in their lives as much as possible, she surmised.
“Go ahead, Carl,” Brother Amos held his pen poised above his paper and looked across the circle at Carl.

“It’s not that Anna and I wouldn’t enjoy going along on the outing, but we feel Kent and Rhonda should go. We’ve only been here a year and I’m sure they need a break more than we do. We’ve talked it over and we’d like to recommend that they be sent.”

Rhonda felt like the wind had been knocked out of her. Why, he’s more righteous than I! she thought.

Love is a Verb Jan Beiler

June 26th, 2010

I held the flash cards in my hand and whispered the words to myself.

“Puesto – perfect participle of poner ( put, set)”,
“Roto – perfect participle of romper (broken)”,
“Visto – perfect participle of ver (seen)”,

These Spanish verbs! It just made me so mad. Take doler, the word for pain or ache. If a person wanted to learn to use it correctly in all situations, he’d have to learn one hundred and twenty-eight variations of the word. And doler was only one of the five hundred and one verbs listed in Christopher and Theodore Kendris’ book.

Worse was the feeling of ineptness I experienced around the other missionaries. Cheryl probably dreamt in Spanish. She’d spent more years of her life in a Spanish culture than otherwise. The blundering feeling increased the morning the two of us went to visit Lola, a dear sister in the church.

Lola was getting close to seventy and didn’t have many teeth left. She talked about a hundred miles an hour, dropped the endings of most of her words, and held her hand over her mouth because she was embarrassed about her missing teeth. I caught only words and those at great intervals- never two in sequence.

We sat together in Lola’s kitchen, at a round table, sipping coffee. Lola began a long story, something about mules and the city and días. At great intervals, Cheryl translated for me. Through the window, I could see Jesús, Lola’s husband, chopping wood for the range. Two geese wandered around, stretching their necks and looking for somebody to scold.

“¡De Veras!” Cheryl laughed. I thought it sounded a little smug. Oh, quit being so critical, I told myself.
Lola chuckled and developed the sequel to her tale. Her wrinkled face wreathed in smiles, her hand motions punctuating the air.

I loved Lola. I used to love Cheryl, too, but something about this was getting on my nerves. It just wasn’t fair. Cheryl didn’t even remember learning Spanish. And now while I was still deliberating over whether to use estaba or era, she was already off on another subject.

She didn’t seem properly sympathetic, either. I’d heard her make, what seemed to me, pointed comments about pride keeping people from using the Spanish they knew. “That’s the best way to learn,” she’d say, “Go ahead and use what you know.”

I actually rather enjoyed trying out my Spanish with the natives if nobody else was present. Since they didn’t know English, we were on equal footing or maybe I even had a little advantage. I could handle that. But I couldn’t handle faltering through a sentence in baby language with Cheryl present. I didn’t know what to call it, self respect, maybe, but not pride. I just didn’t want her to know things about me I didn’t know about myself. Like when I’d messed up.

The school picnic came up later in the week. I carried a casserole of baked beans (we had to have beans in one form or another), and set it on the table next to the grilled hot dogs. Spanish swirled around me. Cheryl seemed to be in the middle of a friendly argument with two native ladies. I turned my back.

Later, after most everyone had gone home, Cheryl settled down beside me on a rock. “Is everything okay? You seem so quiet.”

At home, if someone started to get under my skin, there were enough buffers to keep them from rubbing the sore places raw. In Mexico, I figured I may as well go for surgery. We rubbed shoulders too often for salve and bandages to hold up.

“I’m envying your Spanish,” I said. “Today is torture for me, straining to understand. Groping for the correct words with which to reply. It’s so automatic for you that I’m starting to feel resentful.”

“Oh, Jan,” Cheryl said. “With all your nice things!”

“My things!” I was aghast. “What do I have?”

Cheryl laughed apologetically. “Nice wall hangings. Interesting books. Your place doesn’t have that dog-eared look of having been on the mission field for decades like mine has.”

We talked for a long time and it felt so good. She agreed to help me with Spanish. I offered to loan her my books. We talked of redoing her bedroom. And we talked about our goals for the mission, similar goals.

I stood in the back of the auditorium of our beloved little adobe church, at our next worship service. There were two spaces available for my little daughter and I, one was beside Lola, the other beside Cheryl. I hesitated by Lola’s bench, and then settled in next to Cheryl. She held the song book for me to see. We smiled at each other. Love is a verb.

It Didn’t Feel Like Perfection By Jan Beiler

June 8th, 2010

“Your Mom wants you to call home.”  The little neighbor girl delivered her message and skipped away in the morning sunshine.  Way back in the mountains of La Esperanza, one didn’t take phone service for granted.  Our neighbors had a better system than we, but now with a signal amplifier on top of the refrigerator, we could call out - if we sat right beside the fridge.

Before the advent of the amplifier, in order to make a phone call, a person had to get within range of the cell tower in San Borjas.  That meant crossing the dirt road, which ran just outside our house, ducking under the rusty barbed wire fence, and following the cow trail through the sage brush, steadily upward to the top of a high hill.  There surrounded by caltoñas, (thorn bushes of a tenacious variety), and with our dog, Grizzly, grinning and panting beside me, I’d start punching in the long series of numbers to call home.

On this day, with a feeling of foreboding, I arranged for the house to be quiet, situated myself beside the fridge and called home.

“I was going to wait to tell you ‘til we came to see you next month because I didn’t really want to tell you over the phone,” Mom said.

Mom continued, “The doctor thinks Gary has Parkinsons.”

I didn’t know much about Parkinson’s.  I remembered the father of one of my friends had it when I was young.  He walked with a cane.

I learned, over the ensuing weeks, how serious Parkinson’s really is.  It destroys the neuro-transmitters in the brain, leaving the victim with less and less mobility, until eventually he is helpless.

Gary.  My next older brother, the one I had trailed around in my childhood, played ping-pong with by the hour and confided all my secrets to.  Gary.  The athlete in our family of non-athletes, the singer, the public speaker, the writer – surely God wouldn’t afflict him with Parkinson’s?

I felt so far away from home, and so unconnected.  My brother was going someplace I couldn’t go.  He felt like a stranger.  I thought about him all the time.   When I sang, I thought about his song eventually being silenced.  When I saw a handicapped parking space, I thought about his agile gait, stiffening to a slow shuffle and worse.  How could God do this?

I thought about folks I knew.  It seemed to me there were others who could be debilitated without causing much of an impact on anyone, except maybe their caretakers.  Why couldn’t it have been one of them?

One night I lay in bed, unable to sleep.  The omnipresent wind rattled the loose panes in the window beside me, a fan whirred on the desk, stirring the sheets, and I wished life could go back to the way it use to be, uncomplicated and unthreatened.  Tears rolled down my cheeks in the darkness.   “God, isn’t there some mistake?” my heart cried out.  I didn’t want to be rebellious.  I believed in God’s goodness, even when things didn’t turn out the way I chose, but this was so hard…

As for God, his way is perfect:” Without warning, this verse from Psalm eighteen filled my head.

His way is perfect.   His way is perfect. I mulled the words over.  Perfection is superlative.  You can’t get better than that.

My thoughts became a prayer, and the prayer, after a while, became a prayer of submission which brought peace to my troubled heart.  And with the peace, came rest- and sleep.

The Parkinson’s hasn’t gone away.  It still wrenches my heart to watch my brother lose agility, but God is receiving glory from Gary’s response to his affliction.  More glory, I’m quite sure, than he’d receive from someone who hadn’t been making much of a contribution to life.

And I keep remembering that God’s way is perfect.  That means it can’t be improved upon.

Ps 18:30

the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. {tried: or, refined}

A Narrow Life? by Jan Beiler

May 26th, 2010

The rusty barbed wire gate lay open. Brown dirt tinged the white plaster on the Medino’s adobe house, turning it the same color as the grass-less lawn.

Chickens, not Rhode Island Reds, but an assortment of scrawny brown and black hens pecked about in front of the door.

“What a depressing life”, I thought. “Their world is about as big as from here to Cuauhtémoc”.

Maggie saw me coming and met me at the door with a welcome.
“¡Siéntese!” She waved a hand toward the bench behind the table.

A gauzy curtain drawn up at the window, bright red geraniums in a tin can on the window sill, and a red and white checked oil cloth on the table, graced Maggie’s kitchen.

Maggie bustled about setting out instant coffee, as well as sugar and creamer in a pretty little ceramic tea set. Her black eyes sparkled in her round, wrinkled, face.
We visited about the weather, and Maggie went on to tell me of her son who had been electrocuted several years ago, when he was working in the States. I vacillated between guessing at what she was saying, and grasping for Spanish words with which to reply.

José Medino, Maggie’s tall husband, with his weather beaten face and shock of unmanageable looking white hair, entered the room.
“¿ Cómo está?” José shook hands with me and then straddled a stool, joining in the conversation about his son’s widow and her children.

How I longed for these good dear people, to find salvation. You couldn’t ask for better neighbors. José had shown interest in our remodeling project and already our boys had borrowed his horse to go riding. They were honest, dependable, and God fearing. But they were not Christians.

At the funeral of the village drunk, José had said we must pray for Blas, (the deceased man) because God is a merciful God and would yet forgive his sins. It was a convenient but dangerous way to believe. Could we help to show them the Truth?

Maggie set a steaming cup of water in front of me and placed a plate of pink and black and cream colored Mexican cookies on the table.

Just then a horrible growling, barking commotion shattered the pleasant atmosphere. With a sinking feeling, I followed José and Maggie outdoors. There, sure enough, in the tangle of legs and snarling mouths were the plainly recognizable forms of our two feisty mutts, Tigre and Grizzly, in an all out brawl with Medino dogs on Medino turf.

“Tigre! Grizzly! Go Home!” My words fell to the ground as the frenzied dogs darted in and out of the muddle – snapping, biting, yelping.

Someone came running with a five gallon bucket of water and dashed it into the melee. The dripping dogs separated and with a little encouragement, our two mongrels started for home, not exactly with their tails between their legs, but with a subdued air.

We returned to the kitchen. I was greatly embarassed.
“¡Lo siento mucho!” I apologized.
“That’s alright. That’s just the way dogs are.” Maggie said. She went on visiting as though nothing unusual had happened.

My regard for our native neighbors was steadily climbing. Anyone who had the ability to take life in stride, to make the most of the few resources they had, to accept us as we were, did not have a narrow life. Indeed, we were blessed to live among them.
Yes, we had the glorious gospel message to share with them, but on the day to day level, there was much we had need to learn from them.

HOME, Where the heart is. By Jan Beiler

May 8th, 2010

Chalk board green paint with splashes of blue, peeled from adobe walls. I could see traces of sodden clouds through the vacant stove pipe hole. The unpainted, pock marked concrete ceiling, seemed to press down upon me. The whole place had a shut up, damp smell.

Housing on the La Esperanza Ranch in Mexico was limited to three options. A tiny four roomed house belonging to Consuelo, and filled with an accumulation of ceramic praying hands, china dolls, and pictures of Jesus, or, the abandoned public schoolhouse, or Antonio’s leaky roofed house which we were now examining.

I would have gone crazy within twenty-four hours in Consuelo’s house. Our family of eight would be jostling things off shelves and sweeping up debris from the outset.

The public school had plenty of space but I couldn’t come up with a single idea for making the drafty edifice homey. The windows , corrugated fiberglass panels that had to be wrestled open along rusty metal tracks just so one could see outside, were enough to make me faint-hearted. The restrooms were two cubicles with outside entrances, just big enough for a commode, with barely enough space left for an occupant.

In Antonio’s house, each room opened into the next, without so much as a door to separate them. The last of the six rooms was the chalky pink bathroom (at least it had one). Mouse dirt littered the commode tank. The shower and the sink shared quarters.

My husband, Phil and I looked at each other. I had always wanted to live in a purple adobe house. This one wasn’t purple but it was adobe and it had nice wide window sills. I liked the log ceiling beams. “It’d be fun to see what we can do with it,” I said.

Realistic Phil said, “It’d be a lot of work. For one thing, it needs a new roof right off the bat.” He waved a hand toward the puddles that seeped across the floor, “See how it rained in here last night?”
“You’re good at fixing things,” I said. “And look, since there’s no electricity and no plumbing except in the bathroom, we can pick whichever room we want and turn it into a kitchen. Not just any renter can do that.”

God wanted us on the ranch, Phil and I agreed. We had to live somewhere. Now we had to make a plan. A partition here. An opening there. Block off this entrance with a piece of plywood and a book case. With plenty of plaster and paint on all surfaces, it just could be quite livable.

Every nail and stick of wood with which to improve our house had to be brought from Cuauhtemoc, a two hour drive on rough, rocky roads, through stream beds, over cattle guards, up mountains and down into valleys. Black Angus cattle roamed the hill sides, jack rabbits with long ears sharply erect, darted in zigzag lines for cover, and road runners trotted briskly along, minding their own business. An occasional coyote slipped through sage brush and disappeared.

Phil set up shop in the back yard, covering his tools at night with a blue tarp. He, with help from our neighbors, fastened metal on the roof, patched plaster and replaced ceiling beams. We bought cheap kitchen cupboards that a fellow missionary had in storage, filled in the stove pipe hole, cut a window over the sink, and built doors.

The older children helped work on the house and the younger ones took every available opportunity to run like wild things over the mesas or play in the sand in the arroyo. Our three dogs promptly made enemies with neighborhood dogs.

We rolled gallons of white paint on thirsty walls. At last, I put my roller down, rubbed the small of my back and scrutinized our work. The rooms seem airier, and the ceiling not so low. I couldn’t wait to arrange furniture, put down rugs, hang pictures and curtains and place our own familiar dishes on the newly crafted shelves.

In the flickering lamplight of that first meal in our new home, I looked around the table at the dear faces of my family and thought, This house is tiny and inconvenient but my loved ones are here. If home is where the heart is, then this is home.


April 4th, 2010

READ: Revelation 21:1-7

The private room was deathly still. The doorknob  clicked. In walked the cardiovascular surgeon. he  slumped into a chair and wiped the sweat from the  defeat lines on his face.  ”I’m sorry.” He hung his head. “I tried everything I  knew …. ”

We were sorry, too, but there were no words to say,  so we didn’t say them. My husband started weeping  softly.  There were phone calls to make, to grandparents  who would never see their tiny grandson alive. On the  phone, you have to find some words.

Of the thousands of words I phrased in my mind,  only one sentence was worthy to be uttered: “May I  hold my baby?”  As I cradled him and stroked his silky hair (his face  was too cold), I hoped he looked down from heaven  and understood. It was my way of telling him how I  had longed to be with him when he died.

I read and reread a line in an imaginary book. “She  woodenly gathered up fragments of shattered hopes:  handmade booties, a sleeper, a pacifier.” Wooden.  Numb. Down the hall, past the intensive care waiting  room full of dozing parents. They were still hoping.

I wanted to announce loudly, …” Our baby died.  Hope yours makes it.”  But I didn’t. I wasn’t in their shoes anymore. For us the anxiety was over. Forever.
Grieving had begun. A new experience. So this is how it felt.

God knew grief too. His only Son died too. But for
Him it was different. He could see death from
heaven’s comfortable mansions. We see death from
earth, and it hurts. Hurts terribly.

But Jesus saw death from earth’s side. He knew
pain. By that, I am healed. By that, heaven is opened
to me. I can meet sorrow and suffering surrounded by
heaven’s comfort.
Thank You, God, for Jesus.

From Tea Leaves. ©1990 Christian Light Publications, Inc.; 1-800-776-0478; All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Stretched Too Thin

February 11th, 2010

Many people back home have no idea what  life is like on the foreign mission field. Home folks adjust to the missionary family’s absence and go about life as usual.
The missionary family’s everyday life, on the other hand, may be very unusual. Five years later they may still be adjusting.
Language is often an obstacle. The missionary may only be learning or, at best, not be fluent. Home folks don’t realize how comfortable it is to express themselves without giving attention to the words. They have not experienced the fatigue and frustration involved in studying how to say every sentence.
Though a missionary may have thought he was prepared for cultural differences, he may often find himself frustrated as he copes with new customs and new ways of thinking. The missionary is used to starting meetings on time. The nationals may arrive on their own schedule.

The missionary does not want to offend the nationals, but their ways are not second nature to him. He must keep reminding himself… In this country, I must not use my left hand when I eat or when I give or receive a gift– they consider it unclean. Dining with neighbors, I must leave some food on my plate so the hostess will know I am satisfied. It is inappropriate for a woman to shake hands with a man.  I must not touch a child (or anyone else) on the head- that is considered sacred.  Moving the head from side to side means “yes”; up and down means “no”.  Pointing at some thing with my index finger is considered rude… and more.

Adjusting to a new culture, a new climate (which may include new diseases), and new foods, and lacking home comforts such as running water, electricity, comfortable beds, a one- family car, and easy access to the supermarket,  may not be the hardest tests a missionary faces.

In many locations more workers are needed.  When a family serves alone, Dad may be the spiritual leader at home, the Sunday school teacher, and the minister in charge of all Sunday services.

When two or more families serve together, there is more fellowship, but also  more potential friction. Mission families must plan together for their  individual work as well as group activities. A family is not free to decide their own course of action based on their perception of needs. The mission group must be united in their ways of carrying out  mission policies. Satan loves to see a work hindered through jealousy, personality conflicts, and disagreements.

Many missionaries can identify with Paul’s concerns: “beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily,the care of all churches.” So many needs crowd into their schedules that the missionaries may find it difficult to maintain their own close relationships with the Lord.

Foreign missionaries often struggle for answers to questions their home church never faced.

How can a needy mission congregation provide for a widowed church member with six small children? How can they encourage  Christian teens or mothers standing alone in the midst of immorality, dishonesty, distrust, broken homes, and threats from anti-Christian family members? How can missionaries strengthen each other in the face of physical dangers, robberies, kidnapping, and threats against them? How can missionary parents meet the educational, social, and fellowship needs of their older children in a foreign country?

Missionaries may struggle with discouragement when a sizable number forfeit church membership in order to vote in national elections. “Where did we fail?” they ask themselves. The devil knows discouragement can hinder progress.

What is the answer to all these pressures and perplexities? The missionary should trust God. Home folks may glibly say that, and that missionaries firmly believe it. With sincere hearts they are trying to cast their cares on the One who has many times been their fortress and their deliverer. But demonic spirits are often a very real spiritual opposition. And missionaries are human. Pressures, sleepless nights, and the constant battle against evil take their toll physically, emotionally, and spiritually–they may lead to burnout. In addition to these things, the missionaries may feel out of touch and forgotten by the congregation who blessed them and sent them on their way!

What can home folks do thousands of miles away?

Jesus, who said “All power is given unto me,” also said, “Lo, I am with you always.” The same all-powerful Lord is with the missionaries and with us–a direct link. Holding their needs up to the source of power is supporting them, much as Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ arms until the victory came. Does our failure to pray enough sometimes limit the missionaries’ ability and successes?

One mission board chairman says, “Praying regularly with compassion about needs of specific persons and places is better than simply praying for “missions and missionaries all over the world.”

Praying is a most important service, but contacting the missionaries themselves is also needed. In Paraguay Ponderings, Miriam Schrock reminds us that letters from home supporters bring encouragement. A people, starved for news, soul-hungry for fellowship, lonely in the hidden corners of their heart. No visitors to bring news, no fresh ‘Budgets’ to read, no telephones to contact far-away friends and family. No mailboxes. No fax machines. No visiting ministers for months on end.

And then, letters come!

“Letters! Letters!” The cry resounds through the house, flows through thin walls, and is joyfully echoed by each one who hears. “Letters!”

Quietness falls, interrupted only by rustling papers, a chuckle, or by a tidbit of news to share, interrupted also by little voices asking wistfully, “Did I get anything?”

And the happy squeals of delight as we joyfully hand them a bit of paper with their very own name on it. The little ones were not forgotten. We were not forgotten. Far from it! The dear folks at home wrote that they are praying for us daily. Our hungry hearts are still. Almost reverently we return to our forsaken tasks and find that they, too, are lighter, for we have gotten letters.

Jesus was moved with compassion for the fainting and scattered multitudes. Will we be moved with compassion for our workers before they faint and are scattered?

Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (Luke 10: 2b).

©2004 Christian Light Publications, Inc.; 1-800-776-0478; All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Blog Coming Soon

June 20th, 2009

Welcome to Mission Resource Network’s Mission Blog.  This Portion of our site is still in development, please check back later!

We will be posting articles that are written to encourage missionary wives.

Many mission women struggle with supporting their husband’s ministry, raising their family,  entertaining visitors,  meanwhile being in a foreign culture without the conveniences of home.

We want to encourage, uplift, and empower mission women everywhere. Your role in the ministry your family has been called too,  is vital for long term success!

Thank You and God Bless

MRN Administration