Saturday, July 4, 2015

An Open Letter to Missionaries and Other Expats.

My Dear Friends,

You have chosen to leave your life in your home country and move across the world to a place that may or may not speak the same language, have the same currency or even similar weather. It is an admirable thing that you have done.

I understand the desire to make things as comfortable and familiar as you can in order to adjust to your new surroundings. If you have children, that desire can be even stronger in an effort to help your children adjust.

You look for things that you can bring into the home setting to make it feel more like what you are used to. Could be furniture or wall hangings or pictures of the family back home. But please consider, before getting a pet the consequences of that choice.

Most missionaries go for terms os one to two years and then go back home for a period of 4 to 6 months. Pets are a commitment. A long term commitment. A dog or a cat cannot just be put away like the belongings you put in storage.

Someone down the road is going to be forced to make the tough calls that you didn't have the guts to make when you left. No one likes making the choice to put an animal down. Why force someone to take care of an animal that you selfishly decided to get for a few years and then had to leave it for others to deal with.

Please, unless you know you are going to be someplace for the next 10 years, think twice or maybe three times before getting that nice little puppy or kitten. I know there are valid reasons for having both, but unless you are willing to do something BEFORE you leave, don't. And no I don't mean emotionally blackmailing another person to say they will care for it.

If you really want an animal, get a fish or a hampster. Or better yet get a chicken or pig, or cow. Have mercy on those coming after you.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

You Don't Know What you've Got Till It's Gone.

If you are singing that title you must be as old as I am. ;)

The life of a missionary is a life of many comings and goings. People come for a season and then move on, places change, things seem to be always changing.

This past week we came within hours of being pulled out of Doro due to fighting that had broken out in Upper Nile State. This is where we call home these days. The fighting itself did not really endanger us, but it threatened to pull us in the fighting because our airstrip would be the only one left in Upper Nile State if the one in Poloich had fallen to the rebel forces.

We got the message that we were going to pull our team out on two flights, one on Thursday and the other on Friday. I was quite surprised by the emotions that this raised in me.

If our entire team was pulled out it would be weeks before getting back in. Then it would take more time to get reestablished and back up and running. The thought of this made me ill. If you had asked me a week before this happened to tell you what tasks I do that hof any long term importance, I might have had a hard time giving you a list.

But as soon as I was told we would be leaving, it occurred to me. What about the school that is supposed to open June 1. These students cannot afford any more time away before they have to face the national exam. What about Ruth's English class that I teach the Bible section for? What about the young man that I have been developing a disciplining relationship wih in the past few weeks? All this is just going to end? I was mortified that so many people were going to be impacted by this decision.

The people here are used to this. They have been running from war for the last 30 years. But that doesn't change the relationship  I am trying to develop with them. Scripture tells us that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. How can we do this if at the hint of trouble we head for the hills.

I struggle with what the correct response is. Do I fly off to safety because I have the ability to do so at the first sign of trouble? Do I hang in there until the bullets are flying around me?

I am thankful that I did not have to make that decision this time. By Thursday evening, after half our team had left, the UN cancelled the relocation and we were able to stay. Lord willing school will start on time. The relationships I had begun will continue. These people get to live in peace for a while longer. How long? Only God knows. We pray it will be a very long time.

So while people come and go. Governments rise and fall. it is the relationships that we develop that endure. So as you look at the things in your life, what is it that you value most? Job, house, car, all these things can be gone in the blink of an eye. What will live on even after you are gone is the relationship you had with others.

How will you live on in the lives you have touched?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Step Over This Line

Step Over This Line

Today is our Anniversary. Forty one years ago at the ripe old age of nineteen we said I do to one another and pledged the rest of our lives in front of God and family.

I have had people ask me "what is the secret" and I have thought a while on that since it really does seem that so many people are not making it to forty one years. I have come to one conclusion. Most people have no idea what marriage is.

I think most people think that getting married means that two individuals agree to "share" their lives together in order to make each one more fulfilling. While this may sound very comforting, I believe it is a complete falsehood put forth to trap people in a no win situation.

God created marriage back a long time ago in the garden. One man and one woman ( I know, I never claimed to be PC) joined together for life. This is what happens when two people get married. God created the contract of marriage, therefore He gets to write the conditions. Everyone who gets married enters into this contract. It does not matter if they believe they are doing that, they are.

Once you step over that line, once you say "I do", something happens. Matt 19:5 says and He also said: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh".  Now people can say I don't believe the Bible, it doesn't matter. I can say I don't believe in gravity, that does not give me the ability to fly.

This was put into words by a Psychiatrist friend of mine Jeff. The moment you enter into the covenant of marriage, the creature that was know as I or me, ceases to exist. And a new creature is born. This creature is the "us". This us creature is going to have different priorities than the I did, it is going to have different goals than the I did and it is going to have different strategy of life than the I did. Every decision made from here on out must be made to benefit the us.

This new creature can bring you great joy and a very fulfilling life, if you acknowledge it and respect it. If you refuse and attempt to drag back in the I, you will be frustrated, angry and both will be destroyed.

I have often thought of it this way. If you take two different colors of Play Doh and join them together they become one lump. Now while it may be theoretically possible to get the two back apart it is going to require quite a bit of pulling and tearing, and I doubt you will ever them them back without leaving at least some of the other behind.

 Once the two are joined, to bring the I or me back into the picture is to begin the tearing process. It is going to happen. It does to everyone. The question is are you willing to kill it when it does.  Only one can exist over time, either the I or the us. Too much of the I is toxic to the us and the I cannot remain within the us.

Sure there are going to be moments when like a screaming child we demand our way, but anyone who has been married knows what that does.

So before you step over that line. Before you walk down that aisle. Are you willing to give up the I? Is what you want more important than any other thing right now? Or are you willing to give up your hopes and dreams for the chance at something better with the us.

We did not come to this realization for many years after we said I do and we have the scares to prove it. Once you are joined there will be great pain getting the I back again. Think before you step over that line.