Posts Tagged ‘mennonite’

Marriage Problems by Jan Beiler

Monday, March 21st, 2011

“Watch out!” I sat rigid in the mama’s seat of our GMC van as we rounded yet another sharp bend in the road. I felt edgy and disagreeable and I wished Phil would slow down.

He looked at me with mock pain and said, “Why, honey, don’t you trust me?” Normally I would have laughed and shot back something like, “All except your driving.” But today I was in no frame of mind to banter.

“What time does your bus leave?” I asked, voice flat, eyes straight ahead.

Phil glanced at his watch. “It leaves at ten twenty. We’re already half way to Chihuahua so we should make it in plenty of time.”

If we don’t crash over the bank, I thought morosely.

Phil hummed a snatch of song as we sped downhill, turned a sharp curve and crossed a narrow bridge. I grasped the door handle and bit my lip.

I knew the problem wasn’t his driving. That was nothing new. I’d had an accident as a teenager when the road ahead of me made an unexpected turn and I’ve been an unreasonable passenger ever since. Most times I try to regulate myself but I didn’t want to this morning.

It irked me that he was taking the cell phone on this trip. People do take cell phones when they travel. I knew that and I also knew I was childish to mind. But I did mind. That cell phone was our only means of communication and now Phil was getting ready to bus out to El Paso and take a plane to Canada. He’d be far from his home responsibilities, sitting through inspiring messages at minister’s meetings, and visiting with people from all over the nation.

In the meantime, I would be at home with all the children. At home in our humdrum little village, without even so much as a cell phone connection with the big world. He won’t need it to call me because he can’t, I told myself. It’s just an accessory. I could picture him sitting in the airport terminal calling the 800-555-Tell and listening to the weather. THE WEATHER mind you! The thought annoyed me. You can look outside and see the weather.

I hated feeling guilty about missing the cell phone, and I vaguely perceived the cell phone wasn’t the real issue either. For one thing, I had to climb the hill to get a signal, and I probably wasn’t going to have much time for that while he was gone. Still, I couldn’t quite identify what the real issue was.

I could tell Phil was eager for the trip. He acted like he didn’t notice my ill-humor but that’s one thing about Phil. He’s always the same. And he always believes the best about me, even when I don’t deserve it. Which I didn’t.

At the bus station, Phil stopped at the curb and unloaded his luggage. “ I’ll just tell you ‘good-bye’ here and you won’t have to park and come inside. It’s almost time for me to board anyway.”

My heart should have melted at his thoughtfulness but it didn’t. I gave him a stiff little hug and bid him adieu. I knew something could happen to him but I didn’t think it would.

With my poor mindset it’s amazing things went as well as they did the week Phil was gone.

The children built a tree house down over the bank behind our house using scraps from Phil’s building project to make a platform. They nailed slabs of wood to the trunk for steps and found tattered cowboy boots in the trash heap to nail to branches for decoration. One evening we packed a picnic supper of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bought Cokes and chips from Rita’s store to eat in the tree house. To be perfectly honest, even buying the Cokes wasn’t so much for the children’s sake as for me, because I thought I deserved them.

And that set me to thinking. I deserved the Coke because I stayed home with the children. I deserved the cell phone because I wasn’t getting a vacation. And yet, I hadn’t even wanted to go to minister’s meeting. So what was wrong with me? What did I want?

I mulled that over for awhile and then I knew. I wanted him to say, “I know it’s not going to be easy for you while I’m gone but thank you for being willing to do it.” Maybe he could even say, “You’re a brave womanIn plain English, what I wanted was recognition.

Then I wondered how much recognition I had given to him. Dear, good, patient Phil. Hardworking, unassuming Phil, who always treats me with respect. Those last days before his trip had been hectic for him. He was trying to get the house he was remodeling in good enough shape that the lady of the house wouldn’t have to climb over the china closet to get to the kitchen sink while he was gone.

And in Mexico everything has to be done the round-about way. If you try to hurry it only makes it worse. In spite of that pressure, he’d made sure there was a new tank of LP gas for our kitchen range and had fixed the latch on the back door to make our house more secure. Had I in any way applauded him?

One can always hope for tomorrow.

When we arrived at the bus station for Phil’s return trip, he was nowhere to be seen. I walked around the terminal trying to figure out if there was another section where he could be. Finally, after alternately pacing back and forth and perching on hard station chairs I spied him far down the corridor, walking toward me… talking on his cell phone.

The relief from my anxiety choked on the cell phone and for just an instant I felt my body stiffen. Until I remembered. I have a choice.

“I’m so glad you’re home,” I said, taking his hand. “We’ve missed you!”

His eyes lit up. “I’m glad to be home.”

Chicken is…Just Chicken Jan Beiler

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Those chickens must’ve had to work for their living, I thought as I looked at the scrawny chicken drumsticks for sale in Hermanos Castillos.   I turned away from the display.  Much as I longed for the taste of fresh chicken, it wasn’t worth the price they were asking.  Converting pesos to dollars and kilos to pounds it would have been over a dollar per pound… unreachable on a missionary stipend.

In the mean time, Dad and Mom came for a visit.  Dad had been the Bishop over the Mexico  churches for many years, so, like it or not, we had to share them with everybody.  Still, they were my parents and when it was time for their return flight, we were privileged to take them the six hours to El Paso, Texas to the airport.

As we neared the border town of Juarez, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Mom dug around in her ample purse and pulled out fifty dollars.  “Here,” she said.  “I want you to go to Walmart and stock up on meat.”

Such riches!  I picked out several ten pound bags of chicken leg quarters and three five pound rolls of ground beef and I think I even bought a ham.

Gratefully, I stored the meat in the freezer in our little house in La Esperanza.

Phil was adding a second story to the Pastor’s house.  Dave and Phyllis’ family of ten had crowded into the three bedroom, one bath house for the last five years.  They frequently hosted large groups of visitors, who stayed for weeks at a time. It seemed the addition wasn’t happening a minute too soon.

A work day was scheduled.  Folks were coming from the Pedernales mission, and three men from the states had arrived to help with framing.

“I’ll bring the meat for the casserole,” I offered.  “I have all those leg quarters.”

Phyllis planned to make pies.  Pies were her specialty.  The tender crusts melted in one’s mouth and the chocolate filling with real whipped cream from Naomi’s cow, would be sure to make every worker glad he had come.

The bone to meat ratio is high, even on chicken from El Paso.  The early darkness of winter had fallen by the time I finished picking the last piece of chicken off the last bone.   The mixing bowl full of succulent meat was a treasure to gloat over, especially when one is in the habit of eating beans.

A kerosene lamp flickered on the table, not quite able to dispel the shadows in the corners of the room.  I pushed the cookie sheet full of bones off to one side and turned to the cupboard for a container in which to store the meat.

“Chad,” I said over my shoulder to my eleven-year-old son, “Take this stuff out to the dogs.”

“This?”  Chad asked.

“Mom,” Francie said at that precise instant, “do you want me to start bathing the little ones?”

“Yes,” I said to Francie.  I was still rummaging in the cupboard.  In a kitchen as small as mine, everything had to be stacked and packed so that getting a container was not a light matter, especially in a dark cupboard.

There!   This one looks like the right size, I thought, seizing a square, six cup Rubbermaid with a matching red lid.

I turned back to the table.  Where was the chicken?  I moved a lid and a basket of tea towels, placed there in my quest for a container.  I looked on the chair at the end of the table and on the bench by the wall.  The only sign of chicken was a silver pan full of bones.

“Where is the chicken?”  I asked as the horrible reality began to sink into my unwilling brain.

“Chad, WHAT did you give to the dogs?” I asked.

“The chicken,” he said innocently.  “I asked you if that was the pan I should take out and you said ‘yes’.”

“I said ‘yes’ to Francie,” I moaned.

“Well, I kind of wondered,” Chad replied.

“You kind of wondered?” I choked.  “How could you not know?”

Never one to accept what he considered undeserved blame, Chad shrugged and said, “I’m sorry, but I asked you.”

I slumped onto the kitchen chair.  All that precious chicken!  Brought clear from El Paso, cooked and picked off the bone for two lousy mutts! I felt like I could not accept it.

In the end I didn’t have any choice but to accept it.  I grudgingly carried the chicken scraps out to the dogs, and watched resentfully as they pounced upon the spoil. Low growls rumbling in their throats as each warned the other not to take more than his share.

I fried hamburger for Phyllis’ rice casserole and tried to figure out what was left to be thankful for.

We still had plenty to eat, nobody was hurt, and, after all, chicken is… just chicken.

Frenos Calientes by Jan Beiler

Sunday, 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.

Love is a Verb Jan Beiler

Saturday, 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.

A Narrow Life? by Jan Beiler

Wednesday, 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.

Blog Coming Soon

Saturday, 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