Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tuesday topic: Food stories

Alyssa said: I would love the hear stories about how different families adjusted to different foods, especially with the children. What funny stories do you have about thinking you were buying one thing, but it was actually something different? About trying to find something like ketchup, or like peanut butter? We are new to our country of assignment and are in this phase now, so I'd love to hear other's stories.

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Monday, July 29, 2013

"When in Rome"

It inevitably happens every furlough. I find myself in totally common situations but realize that I have no idea what is the culturally correct thing to do! Over time and mostly without any thought, our family has learned to adopt some Russian cultural norms that cause all sorts of funny situations when we head back to the States. So, are we supposed to bus our own table at Starbucks? What about borrowing another kids' bike on the playground?... Did that mom really just give me the stink-eye for my child asking to take a ride? And how are my kids supposed to dress for birthday parties/church/the weather? We got invited to someone else's home for dinner...What should I bring? Maybe a bag of walnuts and a few apples? Would a salad be more appropriate?

Then there are things like how our family has adopted the custom of wearing "house clothes" at home and then changing into "outside clothes" when we leave home. To most Americans who would observe our family at home, we'd seem like lazy slobs who wear our jammies all day! In reality, there is just so much dust and yucky stuff outside that we prefer to not wear the same clothes indoors most of the time. Besides, pajamas are just way more comfortable, and in a culture where they aren't associated with laziness, why not?!

Here are some other Russian things that we've adopted:

-We love buckwheat, sour cream on everything, and cooking with lots of dill.
-I bathe my newborns using "bath herbs" and have treated various baby skin issues by washing with chamomile tea.
-I feel like my little girls are practically half-naked if I send them out of the house without at least a ponytail or some other hairdo (but my oldest loves having her hair down!).
-I now think it is weird (and kind of gross!) to go into a doctor's office in the US and to not have to wear plastic shoe covers

"Bahili!" These little blue shoe covers are a huge mark of the Russian culture. 
We can't even go into our pre-school without them!

So, my question for you is, what are some cultural norms that you've adopted from your host culture? Also, what are some situations that trip you up culturally when you go back to the US on furlough? Maybe we can help keep each other up on US cultural norms!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Kids on the Field: When your Kid Hates the Language

So, remember when I said you all need to think of this series as a conversation starter not as a "Liz knows oh so much about raising kids on the field?"  Yeah...this is a perfect post to keep that disclaimer in mind.

Ok, so if you haven't figured out yet, we have three boys.  One is our little professor, talked at a year (didn't walk until 17 months though!), he absorbs the world around him.  He was 4 when we left for language school and he did well with the all Spanish preschool program.

Our middle guy is our engineer.  This kid at a year was studying the baby gate to figure out how it worked and how he could get around it.  If I don't know where he is, most likely he's trying to construct a zipline between our mango trees.  He was 2 1/2 when we left for language school and struggled more with the all Spanish day care situation.

And then there is our baby, who I am pretty sure is say "Hiya" and "Hola" already at 13 months.

But our middle guy is the one who I am praying hard for these days in regards to the language.  He is just flat out frustrated and doesn't want to have anything to do with Spanish.  He is hating Sunday School right now because it's Spanish, he doesn't want to listen to Spanish music or TV and well, just pretty much shuts down.

So.  Help!!! We aren't trying to pressure him into it, but the kid does need to go to Sunday School.  And he needs to be able to function here because we live here and will for the foreseeable future.

So, how about you?  Have your kids gone through this?  What helped?  What didn't?  Thoughts on the issue of kids learning their host language?

Other posts in this series:
Cloth Diapers

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tuesday Topic: Six-month slump?

I'm back! And you sent me a few questions. Keep them coming!

Tamara asks: My family is six months in on the field. We have had numerous people in our community ask us for money. We have explained that we are here to help then with projects or programs to better their community but we will not be giving anyone money. Those same people have come back numerous times requesting money and explaining how poor they are. Everyone here is poor. It is a small village about about 1.5 hours from the capital city. We are now getting frustrated and our attitudes toward the ones that we serve are suffering. Is this what happens at the six month mark? It feels like the rose colored glasses have come off. If this is normal, please let me know and how do you change it. If not, does anyone have advice to help us change our attitudes?

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Yet more about Phyllis

I feel a little weird, writing even more about myself, but I figured this is one way to fit it in, as a continuation of the Meet the Missionary Moms series. (We might have a few more interviews stil coming, too.) A while back a few people in the comments here were curious about how we "do language" in our family. That is something I always like to hear about in other families, so I guess I can try to start a conversation on that here now.

I do have to say that this is probably the one area where we have taken more criticism for our choices than anything else. Would you have guessed that? That makes me a little wary of sharing. Although, I've probably heard it all now, and I'm not scared of you sweet ladies. But I don't want to make anyone else feel judged by the way I word things!

There are quite a few approaches to family language learning: one language at home, the other in public; OPOL (one parent one language); less focus on other languages; school for language learning, etc. In our family, when our first child was born, we spoke Russian to him, and that has continued until now. I don't remember a big powwow to decide that or anything. It just happened. Although, language was already very important to us, and we already knew that from lots of earlier discussion. My husband and I do speak English between the two of us. Russian is our main family language, though, by choice and by default, now that they--the little people--outnumber us adults.

Honestly, I expected our children to be more bi-lingual sooner. I have seen plenty of bi-lingual kids, and they're all supposed to be little sponges, right? Not always. So far, ours have all preferred to learn one language well, and then start branching out into the second language at about age 3. None of them have responded well at all to pressure. What has helped most in becoming bi-lingual, is time with other children. When our oldest two were ages 4 and 2, we spent two and a half months in the states, with a good bit of pressure to speak and almost all their interaction with adults. They left that visit not seeming to know any English. But immediately after that, we spent two and a half weeks with an American family (lots of children to play with!), and that got them speaking. Like I said, by age 3 they usually start to show interest in English. Then, when they get to school age, and I start using some English in our homeschooling, they really take off. Our oldest is 9 years old now, and he can carry on a conversation quite well.

People often ask about how our children can speak Russian so perfectly, when it is a second language for both my husband and me. (As in, "You make so many mistakes! Why don't they?" or "You have such a crazy accent...!" ) Mostly we've learned right along with them. For a while, when our oldest was a toddler, I often felt like I was just a step ahead of him. However, they really have not picked up our accents and mistakes. That was something I worried about at first, but it has never been an issue. Even though they have really mainly learned language from us, all the community interaction, audio books and reading must pay off.

This is getting long.  You also asked about homeschooling. I really don't do anything all that special there. I do use a lot of Russian books. We study Russian history, along with other history. Our math is British (MEP), so it has an international flavor; I explain the lessons in Russian but also try to make sure that they hear the terminology in English. That's about all.

So, did I answer your questions about how we "do language"? Do you have anything more you'd like to know? And what about you: what does language learning look like in your family?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Online Friends

Hello from Costa Rica!  I love thinking of women in different countries all over the world reading this blog and hopefully gaining encouragement from the thoughts posted by other missionary women!  I remember first finding Ashley's blog Missionary Moms when we were relatively new on the mission field.  Reading the posts there helped me so much, knowing that a lot of what I was experiencing and feeling must be normal, because there were other women around the world experiencing and feeling the same things!  And, I love that Phyllis started this blog last year to continue that encouragement and blessing to missionary moms. 

While I have absolutely loved reading the posts on both of these blogs, it took me a long time to actually start commenting or being very active in the community provided here.  As I began to interact more with the community here, I was so blessed to start to feel like I was really interacting with these women and becoming friends!  While I still very much prefer face to face, heart to heart talks over a good cup of tea (really, here in Costa Rica, that should be a cup of coffee), I am thankful for the opportunity to learn more of what missionary life is like for women in different settings and cultures.  I love getting to know you all! 

A couple of weeks ago, I had the blessing of meeting one of these friends face to face.  From this blog, I learned that another contributor, Liz, also lived in Costa Rica.  In fact, my husband and I had even been to the camp her husband works at!  As we began to interact with each other online, we realized that we also had gone to the same language school, that she knew some of my teammates, and that our kids were relatively the same ages.  After several months of writing each other back and forth, we finally got together in person!  She and her family graciously drove all the way from their cool home in the mountains of the province of Heredia to endure a day of heat in our little coffee town in the province of Alajuela.  We enjoyed a lunch together and our boys had a blast playing with Legos on our front porch.  I loved that she jumped right in working with me in the kitchen and sharing mommy hearts and our experiences raising kids here.  It was so fun to meet an online friend in real life!  We're looking forward to getting together again!

Liz and I meeting in person
As Liz and I were talking, we wondered if there other missionary women in Costa Rica reading this blog.  If so, we'd love to meet you!  Also, we wondered if there were other women in other countries that could maybe meet through this blog and meet each other in person.  How cool would it be if this blog brought together real life communities of friends in various countries?! 

So, in the comments, please - whoever is reading this (even if you don't usually comment!) - let us know your names and where you are serving, if that is ok to make known online.  Maybe we'll find some new friends!  Also, does anyone have a fun story of meeting an online friend in real life?

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Father to the Fatherless

A father to the fatherless ... that is my God. There I was ... a 13 year old in a revival service desperately needing a "father" in my life. My father was an alcoholic at the time and was not there in the emotional sense that I needed. The preacher explained that God wanted to be not only my savior, but a father. My hand shot up as tears poured down my face that night in the revival service. I have known Him to be my father, my friend, my healer, my deliverer, my savior and so much more. 

We are serving in Germany, but several months prior to our arrival here we were in a Sunday morning church service. Following the service, the pastor asked the guest speaker if he would pray over us. The man prayed the he looked at my husband and told him that God would give him the insight to be able to reach the German people. He said that God wanted them to know that Germany is not the father land meaning Hitler, but it is the Father's land. It wasn't until a month ago that I realized how important this was. As my son and I were walking down the main street in Kandern, Germany we came across an ordinary light pole with an extraordinarily sobering message. 


The sign translates to .... "No God, No State, No Father Land." My heart broke as the words sank in and I was reminded of the prayer and promise of that Sunday morning. In essence, the author of that short declaration is saying that the people of Germany are fatherless, unprotected and forgotten. In six short months, we have been told on two different occasions that God and church are for the old people here in Germany. The first was a young couple in their early thirties, the second was a lady in her fifties. God is wanting to wrap his arms around the people here in Germany and show them the Fathers love. He wants to do that through His people ... through me. 

Isn't it a privilege to share the love of God and to see hope in the faces of people without hope? We are blessed to be on foreign soil and I count it all joy! Let us never forget the reason we're here ... never forget the passion we once felt ... never forget the fatherless desperately needing a father. 

Sing praises to God and to his name!
    Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds.
His name is the Lord
    rejoice in his presence!

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—
    this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
God places the lonely in families;
    he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.

Psalm 68:4-6

How are you doing in your part of the world? Are the people receptive? 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Hello, I'm Heather. Beloved daughter of the King.

Ava, me, Amber and Dusty
These are my peeps.  
It was really encouraging to introduce my self after a long break from writing.  
Having moved to a Muslim country and all, the risk of blogging and 'fear of man' took over and I took a break.  It was a sad time of inner-blogging, like where one might store up a years worth of stories in their mind and one day explode!   I almost did just that, but then our Father prompted me to get back onto the blogger field.  
Whew, it was a close one! 

Dusty, a team from Russia, our girls and Khloe.  Beautifying the community by picking up trash.

I almost forgot about or 5th family member, Khloe Purple.  Our American Bulldog pup that we brought with us here.

Thanks for your questions about my journey.  
Here I go sharing with you our story, I will try to keep it PG13. 

Loving on the unlovable, the thrown away race of our city.  These 13-15yr. old girls are at a high risk of prostitution and some are known to be involved.  

How did you and your husband meet?

This is a tale for the ages.  A real cinderella story.  I was a hot mess.  Just like Cinderelly was.  Broken home, no earthly daddy, and a mama that desperately longed for a touch from God, but found it in the arms of men.  This was my model growing up.  I had a pretty face,  a great personality and a bag of hurts that I carried around from one relationship to the next starting at about 15.

At 10 yrs. old I had a vision from God that shook me after my grandfather died, at 14 yrs. I read the Pentateuch while grounded to my bed for a month.  At 15 yrs. I went to church with a friend for a few Sundays.  At 16 yrs. old I met with Mormon Missionaries at the public library, and at 17 yrs. I called a synagog to ask about who Jesus was to them, when they did not answer I drove to see them and the Rabi told me I could not come in and that I needed to consult my pastor.  

I never once as an American Teenager, seeking for truth had an adult share the gospel with me.  Never one time. The day I turned 18 yrs. old I moved out of my mom's house and into an apartment with a friend.  Together we clubbed, drank and did cocaine.  One night after the club my roommate sat on our kitchen floor and wept.  She had come from a similar home as mine, but an aunt of hers took her to church and helped her see who Jesus was a few years prior.  She called out to Jesus and asked him for forgiveness.  At 3 am, after making a lot of bad choices.  She talked to God like he was there with us in that apartment.   I could not believe it, this was the God I had been searching for since I was 10.  I began to pray to 'her' God to meet a boy that loved Jesus like she did, like I wanted to.  It was a funny process, my prayer life at first.  I was like, "God, I know your real, and I want to know about Jesus, my friends' Jesus..."   

Literally , at that same time my now hubby  was on Spring Break on an Island off the coast of Mexico.  He walked out of a bar at 3am, with no way to get back to his hotel. A man was waiting there for him to give him a ride.  A youth pastor that was asleep until  Holy Spirit woke him and told him to go to the parking lot Dusty walked out into was waiting for him.   He took Dusty back to his hotel, asked to pray for him and then left.  4 hours later the pastor returned to Dusty's hotel room and woke up the group of people and offered to take them to breakfast.  Free food could not be turned down so they all went.  They ended up in a church, for a "Spring Break Outreach".  But, there was endless pancakes so they stayed and ate.  2 weeks later the same pastor called my sweet hubby and over the phone he gave his life to Christ. 

 We met at a bar a month or so later and it was love at first sight.  I was 18 he was 21 and my mom was there in person partying with us, she approved so we decided then and there we would become a couple.  Not for real, but for the night.  I remembering asking him after the bar closed as he sat on my couch if he knew God.  He told me he did and then he LEFT.  It was nice actually.  He treated me with as much respect as could have been had, considering the circumstances we met under and called me the next day and then every day since then for 15 years or more.  

We were engaged 5 months after meeting and married a year later.  We knew no believers, not one.  Not even a granny or cousin.  It was truly a 1st generation pioneering process for us as a couple.  It was messy and raw first few years of marriage.  I gave my life to Christ somewhere along the way.  I do not have a date, just a season of exploration and Him revealing himself to me in real ways.  My prayer was answered, I did meet a Christian boy.  I believe God used that prayer to save me from possible years of drug usage or a party life at least.  Dusty was a cops kid and did not date girls' that did drugs.  I remember how easy to was to give up the party scene and be Dusty's girl.  For the first time I felt safe, loved and  protected. 

Ephesus, Turkey
 How did God call you to your country of service?

How about that!  I moved to Germany with my mom at 13 and more than half of my friends were Turkish.  As she sought after her birth parents for 1 year, I made relationships.  Years later our family went on a Missions trip to Honduras where God spoke to my hubby and told him to pursue a life of missions.  We sold everything we owned and went to be trained up.  Week one of training the 'Turkey' words of the Lord began.  One of the times we prayed as a family our youngest then 5, had a picture in her mind that she described as the exact image of Cappadocia and the persecuted early church.  We spent 3 years in and out of Turkey before moving in April of 2012.  Looking back over the events of my life it looks like a tapestry.  Woven are the parts together that I can look back on to see the path that led me here.    

 Kids camp for under privileged kiddos .

How is the adjustment phase going for you? 

We have been living here officially for almost 18m.  It was the best ever first couple of months I tell ya.  (We lived for 6 months in a different city and then went back to the States for Christmas then moved, so really we have been here for 2 years.)
Then, something happened.  I had to learn to ride a scooter with 2 kids on it and I freaked out.  My hubby left for a month and I at that point was still a none walking American so I had to learn how ride it.  This was about the time where I had the "What have I done, I have ruined my childrens' lives coming here and, so on season." It was hard to get through, and I felt really alone.  Our team mates were both MK's themselves &  could not at all relate to the major life change we had just made.   It was not a sacrifice, more like an adventure we were embarking on that Father had been waiting for us to walk into.  We now have a car and a scooter and I drive both, and I even go on the highways too.  In all honesty, I feel like I have adjusted well to living in the field.  

In your experience, are the hardest challenges the
constant mundane that weakens you, or the infrequent extreme that has potential to break you? 

Romans 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I was afraid someone would ask a question like that!  Glad you did.  You know, I was the queen of challenges in my old life.  I was a Celebrate Recovery alum,  bible study leader, served all over the planet really over the years.  Challenges are what come about when dealing with relationships.  I thought I had mastered it all.  I had not really under went suffering though in the church up until now. His glory is being revealed, I will share in it! 

Then, I moved to Turkey and all my perfect little American church experience went out the window.  (Figuratively speaking) The same window that does not have a screen in it that let the mosquito in that's buzzing in my ear right now....  The day to day things have been fine here really.  Nothing comes pre made in Turkey. Not the corporate times of worship that we are used to or the food that were are used to eating.  I have become the cook I always dreamed of being.  And am on the way to having a authentic deep relationship with my Father as a result.  

I have gotten used to always having to have my house spotless incase of the random unexpected guest (that expects my house to be spotless).  Homeschooling my girl's is actually going well and I am in a 2 month season of daily commuting 2 hours to a city of 1,000,000 for language school.  Hard, yes but necessary.  The only months I can go are in the summer when the kiddos are not in school.  Mundane, I am cool with it.   

It is the infrequent extreme that has rocked us recently.  We are well known at our local church in Kansas and with our training/sending agency.  But here, we were not well known and have been miss understood.  Very. It is part our fault.  It has been really hard explaining who we are as a family.  And in the end, we are this week asking God to reveal His path for us as we were released from our team to do so.  Extreme.  A clean slate, a fresh start and one Good Father.  I am feeling rejected at times, and bummed at how unfair things seam.  I have 3 year old tantrums occasionally.  My Father comforts me and reminds me of His great sacrifice to us. In the most gentle of ways. 

After the final round table meeting was finished I wept.  Somehow this feels like a failure.  

Then, the 3 ladies on our team went to Greece together to meet with some folks that have a heart for the exploited over at  A-21.  IT was an incredible 4 days of choosing love, choosing relationship, and choosing to lay down my flesh.  The trip had been planned for 3 months, I did not want to go, but God spoke to my heart to 'go away with Him'.  So I did.  He helped me choose love.  The old me would just run.  It is easier.  Much easier.  But the reward was immediate, I got to eat pork steak for the first time in a year and a half. We ate pork pizza, pork sausage and we were blessed.  Really blessed. 
Choosing Love while enduring the Storm is not easy.  It stinks a lot.  It does not feel fair.  I imagine how our Savior might have felt as He chose love.  It was not fair, it it was not easy and He endured the storm of the ages.  We serve a humble, forgiving Father.  I am honored to be made more into His sons' likeness through this difficult time.

Pork hotdogs wrapped in Bacon in Thessaloniki, Greece

I am going to wrap 'er up.  It is a tad bit late and I have a worship set to sing at church in Turkish in the morning.  I hope this encourages someone out there dealing with what seems like extreme circumstances.  My family will recover, we will seek the Father and He will speak to us a new path.  I will not fear it, because I trust in his plans and guidance.  

New Covenant Church of Ephesus 

To wrap up.....
I was encouraged by another sister from England to talk a bit about çay, or tea.  Turkey is the worlds' largest consumer of this this tasty dark friendship potion. There is a special thing about çay. It is just plain delicious. 
Also, it is a fraction of the cost of a Starbucks peppermint mocha.  Score!  It demands a smile, a conversation and teaches hospitality.  I never ever drank it as a Kansan, ever.  (For real, I never had a glass of tea ever.)  Now I am proud to say I do and I really like it.  More than coffee even.  I am becoming Asian, and I think I like it.   If I brought you to my neighbors' house she would make us çay, and insist on us staying for dinner, at 10pm.  

This is a night culture we live in here.  
Because it is just too hot to fellowship in the heat of the day. 
And it's Ramadan...so no one is eating until then anyways right now.  

Blessings sister and fellow Heirs!  His glory will be something marvelous to behold!  Never give up the good fight.  

In His love-

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kids on the Field: Babies

So last time we talked about Kids on the Field, we talked about cloth diapering.  How 'bout we talk about having babies on the field?

Quinn wasn't born here in Costa Rica.  We say he's "casi Tico" (almost Costa Rican) but I was too chicken to have him here.  You think I am joking.  Check out our middle son's birth story.  We just felt like it was a wiser decision for our family to have him near family.  So that's what we did.  We left Costa Rica when I was somewhere around 34 weeks (still able to fly internationally.  The ticket counter guy really thought I shouldn't be flying!) We moved back when Quinn was just 3 months old.  Really, we were in the States long enough to have him and get his passport.

I did most of my prenatal care here while we were in language school. We saw a general practitioner
here who works with language school students.  He speaks perfect English and knows both the North American practices and Tico practices. He works with a lot of expats, so he was able to help maneuver the coming and going with the records and all.  When we were in Michigan for Christmas I saw the OB that I had when I was pregnant with our oldest.  That was the practice that delivered Quinn when we got back stateside.

So while I didn't personally have a baby overseas, I know plenty of women who did and had great experiences.  Sure, there were differences, some good, some bad, but all lived to tell the tale.  And isn't' that a funny thing about us women?  We love a good birth story!  I was once in a conversation with a North American, and Costa Rican and a Korean in which we were all exchanging birth stories.  It's just universal.

So, what's your overseas pregnancy or birth story?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tuesday Topic?

I don't have anything to ask you right now.  This is my personal favorite part of this blog, where we interact with each other. Please help keep it going! If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!

And, actually, I'm out of town right now. This is a pre-scheduled post. If I'm not back by next week, there won't be a Tuesday Topic then, but if you send in your questions, we can start back up the week after that.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Meet Chrysti

Wouldn't it be fun if we could sit down with a 'cuppa' (British English for 'cup of tea') and chat for awhile? But seeing as we're all over the world, this space will have to do. So let's get ourselves a cup of tea (or coffee if you prefer) and have a little chat. :-) Last week, you all got to ask your questions, so I'll do my best to answer them this week!

I wanta know about this missionary dating story!

First, for those of you who may not have heard the term before, 'missionary dating' usually refers to a Christian girl who is dating a non-Christian guy with the hopes that she'll influence him to accept Jesus. Our definition of missionary dating is a bit different. I won't share the whole story here since it's kind of long, but I'll do my best to share the important stuff! We met at his brother's wedding, but didn't communicate until a year later when his brother and sister-in-law (a good friend of mine) set us up. He was in England at the time, already serving in his ministry. So after chatting through emails, a few phone calls and Skype, we started officially started dating on Thanksgiving Day in 2009. I was in the US and my husband was in Singapore on one of our organisation's ships.

When I was sharing with a friend that I was dating a guy, I mentioned that he's a missionary and that most of our relationship up until that point was over Skype. She replied with, "Well, that redefines 'missionary dating' doesn't it?"

Obviously, the rest is history, but if you'd like to read the rest of the story, you can hop over to my blog if you like. :)

How has it be been for you adjusting to a culture that your husband had already been living in for a long time?

It wasn't easy at first. My husband had his life already set up here, and it was a challenge at times to feel like I was now included in his life in England. One thing that helped me adjust was getting to know a family who didn't know us before we got married.

What do you love about England?

I love the history in this country. England has been around much longer than America so homes, castles and the like that are more than a couple hundred years old are quite impressive and it give me a new definition of 'old.' Hadrian's Wall, an old Roman wall goes through our town, and there are still parts of it remaining. How cool is that?

I also love the people. I know that might sound a little cliché, so maybe I should explain. You may be familiar with the mantra "Keep Calm and Carry On" that the British adapted during the War in order to cope with the changes and unrest that was happening around them. All these years later it's still part of their culture to remain calm and keep to themselves. It has been so neat over the past 3 years to see God working in the hearts of the people we've met here from our neighbours to my midwife to the people in our home group from church.

What are some of your ongoing challenges?

Every missionary struggles in the area of raising support. But we find that with my husband's role in IT that it's an ongoing challenge to raise support because we're not actually "on the field" doing outreaches and translating the Bible. My husband helps provide the technology side of things so that those doing the outreaches and translating can do their ministry. It's been a challenge to share with people that IT is a ministry, too.

What do you think is the biggest cultural difference?

You know, it's strange. The differences in culture are so subtle that I don't notice them until we go back to the US on home assignment. The biggest thing I've noticed is that people generally aren't as friendly here. I walk into a shop, and everyone working there more or less stares you down, not saying anything unless I ask for help. In the US, it's the opposite: I walk into a store, and everyone working there jumps at the opportunity to help me find what I'm looking for. When we were on home assignment, my husband and I would go for walks in the subdivision near my in-laws'. People working in their yards would say hello, which was really strange to us now because we just don't see that in England. My husband spent a couple of weeks asking me, "Why are they saying hello? We don't know them!"

Do you have a British accent yet? Or does your husband?

This question makes me chuckle. :-) Whenever we go back to the US, people say we have a British accent. But compared to those who actually do have one, we definitely don't. We use British words and spellings, and speak with the inflection that the British use. But I wouldn't say we have accents. My husband has been here almost 8 years and has yet to pick up an accent, except the words and inflection. People here say we have a beautiful American accent, although I don't understand what's so nice about an American accent!

And now it's my pleasure to introduce to you Heather!

Romans 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Hello beautiful sister's and fellow heirs.  My name is Heather.  I am the Lord's beloved.  I have a tattoo on my wrist to prove it ;)  I am a mama of 2 very spunky tween-agers, and have been married to the 'BFF of Jesus' for 14 years next week.  That's code for, 'my man is really relational and has a friend on 6 of the 7 continents'.  I was practically a child when I was engaged, but that works out great for me now because everyone is pleasantly surprised to learn that my daughters are indeed not not my little sisters.   My hubby and I are both 'first gens', as I like to call us.  Delivered out of generations of bondage and slavery into new life in Christ Jesus.  All we knew when we got married was that we couldn't repeat the mistakes we endured as kids from broken homes and that God was real.  Radical transformations in our early 20's, was followed up by healing through Celebrate Recovery at our local church in Olathe, Kansas.  We have been ministering in modern day Ephesus for about 2 years.  If God would have said in the begining of our missions training that he was sending us to a Muslim country with a heart for the exploited I might have pretended not to hear and gone back 'life as normal'.  (I miss my minivan and Mexican food a lot, by the way. ) I love how our Father shows us what we need to know when we need to know it.  He is trust worthy.  He calls 28 year old soccer mom's that wear too much mascara to the nations.  He truly has a sence of humor too.

So what is all this talk in the 8th chapter of Romans about... 'indeed sharing in his sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory' ?  I have been truly stripped of some flesh recently.  Our Father has been patient and, oh so loving with me during our years together.  He continues to be, but today is hard even still.  I am in a season, where everything I have been taught can be applied and lived out IF I decide to.   I have been stretched to the brink of utter dependence on God.  My middle name is 'Taffy' by now.  I have been depending on 4 words,  Love God and Love people.  I am humbled and find freedom in saying, that I am suffering right now like I never have before, and despite great difficulty I can remain Christ like.
I feel like I finally have a glimpse, a fragment of understanding into the rejection that our precious Savior felt.   He told me he sees my tears today.  I was thankful.

So, can we talk about Suffering?  About how it makes us stronger, and is directly linked to endurance?   Can we remain upright in trials and have a sweet attitude knowing God permitted it?  Are we really able to give thanks in everything?  I think we are.  Let's talk about it in the comments section below.  Do you need encouragement?  Do you have a victory story to inspire others?  Got to it, people are needing to hear from God, and your typed words might be what he uses.  

 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, LONG-SUFFERING, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." (Galatians 5:22,23) 

 What questions do you have for Heather? Please leave your questions in the comments and she will answer them next week!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Is It Okay to Celebrate?

I feel a little torn sometimes about patriotism. Sometimes from pressure I put on myself, sometimes from the culture I currently live in, sometimes from my home culture.  And it all leaves me a little confused about how I should feel, how I should teach my children.

It seems it's become politically incorrect to be patriotic in the U.S. except on national holidays.  Even then, there are subtle warnings and hidden messages to keep that in check and remember that we're part of a global society.  At the risk of hurting other people's feelings, we squelch the pride we feel in our home country.

This past week, I sat in on a workshop presented to Paraguayan high school students learning English language and culture.  The American woman giving the presentation was teaching about Flag Day and shared a brief history of our flag, the meaning of the stars and stripes and various designs as states were added to our number.  She then showed a few other flags from other countries and asked if the students could identify them.  The last flag was a banner with a dark background and a photo of Earth.  She ended her presentation by saying, "And this is my favorite flag of all, the world flag."  And a little red flag of my own went up inside me, causing a few days of reflection on why.

The American flag at a ceremony we attended
at the US Embassy in 2011
When we first moved to Paraguay, I almost felt embarrassed to be an American.  I quickly learned that here, the reputation of a typical American was either a young hippie into loose sexual relations and heavy drinking or a tourist/business person a few years older who threw around his dollars and his supremacy, looking down on the poor Paraguayans and talking down to those he took the time to speak with or do business with.  The local people's impression of missionaries was only slightly different--spoiled folks coming in to say how things were different (better) in "my country" and to set the poor natives straight on how they're not living the Christian life right, according to the missionary's version of American Jesus.

We worked hard to shatter those stereotypes and take the focus off where we'd come from.  When kids asked us about the lifestyles they'd seen in the movies and assumed all of America lived in mansions on cul-de-sacs with butlers, we explained carefully about Hollywood vs. real life.  When adults asked us how we could take our girls from the land of plenty, we sang the benefits of living in Paraguay and told all the reasons we were happy our children were being raised in a culture of community.

We neglected to wear those Old Navy flag tee shirts and didn't plaster our motorcycle helmets with the stars and stripes, as we'd seen others do.  We tried to fit in here, choosing a local soccer team to root for, putting out the Paraguayan flag on holidays and draping our car in national colors on the appropriate days.  And I felt a sense of pride rise up in me for this country.  I saw people celebrating their heritage, their spirit of survival, their successes and their failures.  I saw how nice it was to have a sense of belonging and I felt my own sense of pride in my home country climb.

I thought back to my high school and my college.  On game day, you'd better believe I was rooting for MY team.  I had a history there that connected me with what that team represented, and I still deck out in orange when Clemson plays Carolina.  Does that mean I don't appreciate the people of the other schools?  That I devalue the education received there?  That I look down on those who graduated from Carolina or the fans who choose to root for them?  Not at all.  It just means I am proud of my hometown, proud of my college, proud of my state.

Of course, I have to be smart about throwing around that pride, not wanting to seem "better-than" the people I've come to live with who already struggle terribly with an inferiority complex.  But I have learned from the pride I see the Paraguayans (and other Latin Americans) display in their country, that I shouldn't feel ashamed of pride in my own heritage.  I shouldn't feel like I have to include myself in the world community at the expense of denying my roots.  I can be happy about my present, hopeful about my future, and still proud of my past, and I can't imagine why that would offend anyone.

We won't be celebrating with fireworks or a cookout here (it's cold and rainy), but tomorrow when I meet with the teens and tell them about our Independence Day, I may just be wearing that tee shirt with Old Glory on top of my long sleeves.  :)

Happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tuesday Topic: Prayer requests

How can we pray for each other right now? Post your prayer requests in the comments!

We're leaving tomorrow for two weeks at a family English camp. Please pray for health and safety for us and a great time of fellowship and outreach for all involved.

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)