Posts Tagged ‘spreading the gospel’

Part of The Package by Jan Beiler

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Splat!  A drop of cold water hit me on top of my head, right in the part of my hair.  Splat.  Another one hit me on my arm.  Splat. Splat.  Two in quick succession landed on my shoulder and my back.     “Disgusting!” I mumbled to myself around the froth of toothpaste in my mouth.  “I need an umbrella in the bathroom just to keep dry while I brush my teeth.”

Before we moved into this house in La Esperanza, Mexico, the former renters took the wood fired water heater along with them.  I hadn’t ever seen the likes before, but a little door beneath the tank provided access to a fire pit.  Put in a few sticks of wood, light a fire, and presumably the water in the tank eventually would heat enough for a tepid shower.     Actually there wasn’t much original equipment in the bathroom.  Phil had built a door first thing. He had leaned it against the wall until he could purchase hinges to install it.  One of the children accidentally knocked it over and it fell on top of the commode, breaking that fixture.  I was secretly relieved because I had dreaded cleaning the ancient receptacle, stained as it was.            The sink hung precariously from the adobe wall of the shower.  Four-year-old Merideth, hoisting herself up to wash her hands, had permanently dislodged it.  A sink in the shower has its own set of drawbacks, but there weren’t a lot of options when we  replaced it, because the shower took up three-fourths of the bathroom.

The shower consisted of a two-inch drop in the concrete floor, a drain, a shower curtain, and a tiny window.  An oil lamp and a bottle of Pert Plus sat on the wide adobe window sill.  But it was an indoor bathroom and I was glad about that.     The new gas water heater Phil installed worked wonderfully.  On these chilly autumn evenings, a hot shower in the unheated bathroom was amazingly comforting.              One always had to be wary of the village water system shutting down or of depleting the hot  water  before the last member of the family had a chance to shower.  But still, it was a thing to relish.                          Mornings in the bathroom were not as nice. Condensation from our good hot showers the night before, froze against the metal roof/ceiling.  In the morning, as the sun warmed the metal, cold droplets rained upon hapless victims in a most annoying fashion.     As soon as he could, Phil fitted Styrofoam sheets up against the metal. That largely took care of the problem except one place where two of the sheets didn’t fit quite tightly enough.  Moisture tended to pool up and leak through the crack.

Well, you know what? I said to myself one day as I wiped a puddle off the floor.  I always wanted a cabin in the mountains and now I have one.  This is part of the package.        I thought about packages.

A big package had come from our relatives with gifts for all of us at Christmas.  Meri delightedly unwrapped a ceramic tea set. One of the cups promptly fell on the concrete floor and broke.  Donovan eagerly opened a set of John Deere match box toys and set up farming.  Chad didn’t know what to think of his gift of a book on astronomy until Auntie displayed the pull out charts and graphs.     With a package that comes in the mail, one can either accept or reject the contents.  Life isn’t quite that easy.  Some things we don’t have a choice but to accept, for instance Parkinson’s or cancer.  Other things we accept because it is important to us to have God’s blessing on our lives.  Like caring for a crotchety relative who used to yell at others when he was in his prime.

Our package in La Esperanza, contained a house that was too small and a leaky bathroom.  But it was also comprised of black faced cattle and cute, spindly-legged calves, horses of varied descriptions; the Llavero, the zorse (a mule with zebra-like markings), and a donkey that begged for bubble gum.  It included the musical yipping of coyotes, the speedy road runner, and the darting jack rabbit.

Our package held the bluest of blue skies just overhead. The craggy bluff straight out from our kitchen window, and wide open trails to hike on crisp, clear mornings, were part of it too.  But most of all, it contained a ranch full of dear friends whom we had grown to love, and for whom we prayed daily.  There was Nena, whose eye glasses had only one temple, Casi Miro, who sometimes gave his age as fifty and other times eighty, and shriveled Angel, who talked to himself as                                                                                                                                                                      he patrolled the range.  On the other mesa lived Estella who had such beautiful flowers growing in her patio, and Jesus and Lola, who loved to serve.  And others – too numerous to mention.

What Makes the Difference? by Jan Beiler

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

High on the mesa, beneath the clear blue of the Mexican sky, are crumbling remains. Years ago the owner of a silver mine lived in this very spot. With him lived his twelve wives, and no one knows how many children.

I stood in the center of the adobe courtyard and wondered how it must have felt to be one of those wives.  The courtyard wall had been the outer circumference of the living structure.  Rooms, not accessible to each other, opened into the yard.

In the center stood the remains of something, was it the cooking ring?  Did the wives take turns patting out tortillas on this flat rock and heating them over the fire, each for her  own brood of children?        Did the favorite wife have priority?  Did a less favorite wife cast dark looks as she shushed her hungry, crying toddler? Did each woman gather her children into her cubicle as the evening shadows fell and echoes of yipping coyotes on the trail of a jack rabbit, rolled in from the hills?  Did she hope her husband came to her that night or did she fear that he would?

What about the patriarch?  Did he ride his mule home from checking on his mines, and look across the hills at his vast land holdings, feeling like royalty returning to his humble subjects?  Or did he ride home with slumped shoulders wondering how he ever got himself into this mess?  The whole set up was so far from God’s plan for a home…  how could it have been a happy situation?

I thought about humble Jesús, faithful native member of the church, descendant of the silver mining genitor.  Jesús, who limps into church at nearly every service.  His black, thick framed glasses, held together by a length of lime green yarn. Jesus, with his tee shirt with the slogan ‘Ernesto Sigalo for presidente’, highly visible through his thin dress shirt.

Jesus, who halts painfully through the reading of his verse in Sunday school and who waits quietly while one of the young fellows helps him find the number in the song book, but joins in singing with full, rich fervor.  Jesus, who, right on cue, shuffles to the back of the auditorium, grasps the wooden offering box, and carries it to the front row. He faithfully attends it the whole way to the back, nodding agreeably as the coins plunk inside.  After the service, it is Jesus who shakes hands with everyone, and makes each one feel like the most important person present.

I thought about how it would feel to be the wife of Jesus.  He doesn’t have a silver mine as his grandfather did, just some cattle, and a smattering of turkeys.  He doesn’t have vast land holdings to gloat over, just a narrow strip of rocky soil. He isn’t rich and he isn’t polished, how can he be so happy?

What makes him provide a Christmas turkey for the missionary’s guests from the states?  What caused Jesus and his wife, Lola, to count out enough money from their meager savings to buy a block of cheese as a love gift for the missionaries?

Why is it that their home is a place for anyone to come with their troubles? Where, no matter who you are, you’re treated to a cup of coffee, a warm smile and a listening ear?

I can still see Jesus and Lola sitting together in their sunny kitchen, after the last drop of coffee, rich with sugar and creamer had disappeared and the last *sopaipilla had vanished, and they were satisfied they couldn’t get us another thing.

“Could you sing for us?” we asked.  “The song about the ovejas pedidas?”

Lola chuckled self consciously, and looked at her hands in her lap.  Jesus cleared his throat, threw his head back and together they launched into the song of the lost sheep.  What makes them have such a burden for the lost?

Could it be the joy they have experienced at being rescued by the Good Shepherd??? They haven’t forgotten the  ancient Jeep Wagoneer rattling into the village of La Esperanza all those years ago bringing the gospel to fan the flickering flame in their hearts.  The flame of longing for something better, something that would make a difference.

*Sopaipillas are deep fried tortillas which are rolled in a mixture of confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon while they are still warm.  With honey drizzled over top, they are delicious.

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.

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).

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