Posts Tagged ‘mennonites’

A New Year, And New Steps Jan Beiler

Monday, January 24th, 2011

“Shhh! We have to be quiet! I hissed.  “Richard and Esther are trying to sleep!”

It was New Year’s Eve.  All seven of the La Esperanza youth were squeezed around the table playing games with our family while 2006 ebbed to a close.

The only problem was that Richard and Esther Hostetler, our honored guests from Texas, preferred to start their new year well rested.  We had given them the girl’s room which had a thin, very un-soundproof, plywood partition and a book case blocking an erstwhile doorway.

We had learned to know the Hostetler’s twenty years earlier, when we were muddling through our first adoption in Honduras, and they were terminating missionaries.  I well remember the day Esther and I were working together in the kitchen and she said, “Sometimes I wonder if being here was worth all the investment of these sixteen years.  Then I think of The Last Day and I know that when we see the Hondurans we have influenced, pass through those pearly gates, I will know it was.”

The Hostetler’s had gone through some bumpy times in Honduras.  When they arrived there as a young family, it had been an Amish community.  Long before we came on the scene, the settlement had accepted cars and electricity and more recently it had weathered a church split.  Richard’s family put themselves into the work, loving the natives without reserve, teaching, nurturing, and caring. No doubt they struggled at times with the frustration of not being able to accomplish all of their vision.  Perhaps there were misunderstandings with co-workers, or maybe they battled loneliness.

I knew about frustration because we were still groping for the elusive language.  As to loneliness, I had discovered a depth I hadn’t known existed before.  There were times in the past year when our best efforts hadn’t been good enough, and how can you do better than your best?

We wondered sometimes if our paltry contribution to the work was accomplishing anything at all for eternity?   We loved the natives, but we certainly didn’t have any heroic conversions to our credit. No non-heroic conversions either, for that matter.

How long would we remain here in Mexico? What did the Lord have for us?  I didn’t know the answers to any of my questions, but I could look back and see that God had been there all the time.  The loneliness had compelled me to reach out to Him.  The misunderstandings caused me to search my motives. The shadows helped me rejoice in the sunshine.

There were times in 2006 when we seemed to be in a round room with a dozen closed doors. But always, just when we had to make a decision, we could perceive a faint ray of light shining through a crack in one of those doors.  When we gave it a tentative nudge, it had swung open a bit more until we could sense the direction we were to go.

God hadn’t promise we’d know the end from the beginning.  He only promised to lead us one step at a time.

“Wake up, Mom, it’s your turn!”

“Yeah, and it’s almost midnight,” Phil said, glancing at his watch.  “If we’re going to pray in the New Year, we’d better get started.”

A feeling of security enveloped me.  We may not have chosen the same way to welcome the New Year that Richard and Esther had, but we both knew by past experience, that we could go into 2007 with joy. Knowing that whatever came, God would be there with us.

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.  Isaiah 43:2

More Righteous Than I by Jan Beiler

Tuesday, 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.

GRIEF

Sunday, 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; www.clp.org. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Stretched Too Thin

Thursday, 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; www.clp.org. All rights reserved. Used by permission.