Saturday, March 29, 2014

"You are... You will be..."

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). (John 1:43)

Is it just me, or does this seems like an anti-climatic "confirmation of/or call" to ministry? 

After all, this is Peter we're talking about.

You know... the guy who would
  • walk on water...
  • only to then sink dismally;
  • recognize Jesus as the Son of God...
  • only to turn around and tempt Him to walk a different path;
  • be chosen to keep watch and pray
  • only to repeatedly end up snoring instead;
  • bravely and loyally step forward with sword to defend Jesus
  • only to deny even knowing him when confronted later;
  • give up on himself and go back to fishing fish
  • only to become an impassioned preacher, gifted with words and a heart for souls that could only come from one mightily forgiven.
...Paul's conversion and call to ministry was nothing short of miraculous and amazing. I guess, if I didn't already know the story, I would have expected something similar for Peter. Fireworks exploding or the like!

That just isn't the case. 

Sometimes only the one called knows something is going on... sometimes the one called only knows that God has quietly given a new name... a new identity... as His ambassador. 

That means something to me as a missionary, as one convinced He'd called me to serve on the mission field at the tender age of five (no kidding!).

There really isn't much to this part of Peter's story. His brother Andrew comes home after meeting the Lord. He tells Peter he'd found the Messiah and then takes him to meet Jesus. Once there, Jesus identifies who he is: "You are Simon..." and then gives him a new identity: "You will be called Cephas."

This wasn't the first time that God gave a new identity when He placed His hand on a life. Think of Abraham... Sarah... Jacob... Joseph... Daniel... 

God doesn't always clearly give His reasons, although we can certainly make some inferences and guesses from what we read in the biblical text. I believe it is possible that He's showing each one of them they are now embarking on THE mission, the one for which He created them, the one for which He had been preparing them. That new name clues the receiver in on God's divine plan while reassuring them that He still orchestrates all. 

Those name changes seem to correspond to life changes resulting in very different people, each time. Only thing? The change didn't always happen immediately. Sometimes it took time. Sometimes it happened very quietly and unnoticeably. Abraham didn't immediately become a father of multitudes... Simon still had much growing to do before he became recognizable as Cephas, a... if not the... key leader and preacher in God's newly established church.

I find that so encouraging. 

God recognizes me TODAY for who I will become SOMEDAY... by His grace. 

Who are you, today?

Who do you pray you will be someday, by God's grace?

Can you show God's grace to a specific someone who is today... but by God's grace will be, someday? How?

(Edited post and much needed-for-me reminder from the archives of Our Wright-ing Pad.) 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday Topic: Food

Erin asks, "How do you adjust to different foods than what your "home-culture" eats? Did you experience a lot of sickness at first? Any tips or tricks for this?"

And that's the last question I have in my queue. Send more!

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

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Traveling with Littles: My Best Tips

We are actually winging our way to the States today!  It's been a year and a half since we've stepped foot on US soil (well, we did go to the embassy at some point this last year...does that count?  Or is that just a urban legend?)  We are going for a two week time with family and we are thrilled!

Anyway, as I was packing, I felt myself fall into a normal groove.  You know what I mean.  This packing thing is so natural now.  And I have needed something natural and normal this last couple of weeks.  We've been in the mists of a hurricane with ministry stuff, and while everything is completely out of control and nothing is nailed down and the winds are hollowing around me, at least I can put things in suitcases and organize backpacks.

That got me thinking about my List of Things that Work when Traveling with Kids.

Ok, so in no particular order, here's what works for our family when traveling by plane.

  • Stroller.  Yes, my boys are getting big, but we're still taking our double stroller.  This maybe one of the last trips for the double.  But it works well when little legs get tired.

  • Empty water bottles/sippy cup.  Since you can't bring a water bottles full through security any more, we bring empty ones and then fill them up.  We've even had it where the flight attendants fill them up with juice on the plane.  And I mean FILL them.  All the way.
  • Backpacks.  I know this may not work for everyone, but for us it does.  I keep them light because there are times when the little people get tired.  This time, here's what's in each kids' backpack.  And each boy has patches from every country they have traveled to.  We love the LL Bean ones (I buy them used on Ebay.) They are sturdy and have taken a beating and still are great!

1.  Colored pencil roll                                     
2. New Lego minfig. My boys are obsessed!
3.  Large popsicle sticks.  You can make just 
about anything with these                      
4. Large dot stickers. To make faces, to stick 
on Dad, to use as tape                             
5.  Pipe cleaners.  Theses things are amazing!
         They are lightweight take up almost no room 
      and provide endless hours of entertainment
6.  Headphones and mp3 player loaded           
with audio books                                
7.  Large drawing pad.  I love how these are   
 such a common thing here in Costa Rica
8.  2 books with multiple stories                     

  •  A lightweight piece of fabric or blanket to sit on in the airport picnic style.    This is nice for baby to lay on and get some wiggles out, and for bigger people to sit on too.  We actually look for spots that have lots of floor space to help us stretch out.  You can also put your stroller at an angle and sorta create a space for your family. 
  •  Limit the blankets/stuffed animals/lovies.  My boys want to have a blanket, stuffed animal and....and...and...nope.  Sorry.  One thing man.
  • Snacks.  Need I say more?  I try to pick snacks that won't spoil and that are bit different from our normal routine.
  •  Audio stuff.   Remember item #6 in the backpack?  Books on Tape...errrrrrr mp3?  I think they are called Audio books now.  Anyway.  You can sometimes get these from your "local" library's website.  Yeah, go grab your library card out of that drawer from last time you were stateside!  Or email your sister and beg for her card number, because yes, you can access a lot of libraries digital stuff from overseas! Sweet!  Also, include a pair of kid friendly headphones.  Our boys have these. (Thank you Grandma and Grandpa!)  They are great because they actually stay on and don't hurt their ears and they are pretty rugged.  I just made these drawstring bags for them for their backpacks so they can keep the headphones and the player together.

  • Don't use up everything all at once.  Ration, people.  Don't let them break out everything the second they get to the airport.  Take your time.
Ok, so your turn.  What is your best tip for traveling with kids?  Share the love sistas!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday Topic: Loneliness

Bonnie writes, "My husband and I are new (8 months) missionaries in Central America with our 6 yr old and 4 yr old children. One of the things that I have been battling lately is feeling very lonely. We're working on relationships where we're at but it's slow going and there is a lot of mistrust with Americans, especially missionaries! Our friends back home have young families like us and have the desire but can't seem to find the time to communicate with us. I would love to hear how other missionary moms have dealt with this. Thanks!"

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

Monday, March 17, 2014

Guest post: Birthday giving

Hi, I am Teisa. I am a mother of two girls with big dreams for many more (boys and girls). My husband and I have served in South Africa since 2009 and were in Mozambique for five years prior to that. We currently help oversee an Iris Ministries base in White River, RSA. We pioneered a family-based care center for abandoned/orphaned/abused children called Michaels Children's Village. We continue to serve at the children's village, but spend most of our time with community outreach at a local Bible school, feeding center, and equipping ministries. Our personal website is Run with the Glory.

Recently we celebrated our sweet four year old’s birthday. Our first gift from Papa God, we named her Johanna Joy (God’s gift of joy). For all who know her, Johanna is truly a bringer of great joy. Like any proud mama- my heart swells at the enormous privilege of loving, training and stewarding her well…..I say stewarding because she is not mine….even though she was biologically born to me…Johanna belongs to the one who formed her in the womb- our Heavenly Father. She is His daughter first and mine second. A very rich truth indeed. Something I am only beginning to understand…Since she is a daughter of the Most High King Jesus, how can I daily walk this out? When she is melting down? When she sick? What about on her birthday?

How many times have we read or spoken “It is better to give than to receive…” As missionaries, I believe most of us truly experience this beautiful truth daily. But what about in the most personal places of our hearts/home….what are we modeling to our children? A birthday celebration is just an easy example. If the day is centered around a child receiving, is our child perhaps missing out on a greater joy?

Please, please, please hear my heart. I am not against the traditional western birthday celebration! Of course we need to celebrate these amazing little people and lavish our love on them through gifts, cake, parties, etc. However, I do strongly believe the traditional birthday celebration can be improved by giving!

In Africa, many children never experience a birthday day celebration. Many families struggle to provide one-two meals a day, so something as luxurious as cake and presents are not an option. Because of this, children grow up not really knowing their birth date. A great example- Johanna’s best friend and neighbor, Panach.

We live in an informal settlement in South Africa where unemployment is crazy high and HIV ravages the community. Due to the felt need- our ministry started a daily feeding program for local children and adults. That is where we first met Panach. Johanna and Panach hit it off as fast friends. When walking her home one day, we discovered she living right down our street! Soon Panach became a daily part of our lives….racing to our house after school and staying till dark. We affectionately introduce her as our “day daughter.”

Since birthdays are in important part of our family, we asked Panch about her birth date several times…she never knew quite how to answer…Jan? Feb? As Johanna’s birthday got closer, Panach began to say “Feb 26” which was Johanna’s birthday.

So we asked Johanna what we should do? Like any almost 4 year old, she thought about her answer carefully. She was really looking forward to her party. “Maybe we can have the party for me and Panch?!”

We were already asking the Lord how we could use this opportunity for Johanna to give and not just receive. She already prepared special gifts for her local friends (little goodie bags with art work, fruit, candy). But now Johanna had another special mission…to love Panch well and give her the best birthday ever! And because sweet Johanna tapped into God’s truth- she super enjoyed her own special day with deep abiding joy!

Last year, an eight year old girl named Eden, asked everyone to give a financial gift to MCV (Michaels Childrens Village- the childrens village we help oversee in SA) instead of receiving presents on her birthday!. Although her love gift made several kids quite happy on their birthdays in Africa, we are pretty sure Eden experienced the greatest joy of all!

Fellow mamas- search out opportunities for your children to give especially on special occasions like birthdays, Christmas, etc. Continue to model Christ-centered giving before them every chance you get….it is the fast track to JOY in your home!!

Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, "prompt to do it") giver [whose heart is in his giving]. 2 Corinthians 9: 7

He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses. Proverbs 28:27

In everything I have pointed out to you [by example] that, by working diligently in this manner, we ought to assist the weak, being mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, It is more blessed (makes one happier and more to be envied) to give than to receive. Acts 20: 35

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tuesday Topic: Helping kids move

Recently Ingrid said that she was "wondering if anyone has any reading or activities that would help children leave their home country and transition into another?"

I'm sorry I didn't post anything last week! It's a bit crazy around here. Even though we're physically safe, just living in a country that is in turmoil takes a lot out of me. You probably understand quite well. Please pray for Ukraine!

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

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Grieving with Our Countries

I don't know how many of you have seen this video by Save the Children circulating Facebook and Twitter this week. It shows what life would be like for British children if war came to the U.K. The purpose is to help Westerners identify with what is happening to children in Syria and other conflict zones.

The video struck a chord with me because I know so many adults in "our country", El Salvador, that lived through the trauma of war as children. I know that many of you are serving in countries that are currently conflict zones, or have been in recent times.

In El Salvador, everyone my age grew up during the civil war. They lived through terrifying home invasions, and the terror of having relatives kidnapped. They also remember seeing dead bodies on the side of the road, and hearing the roar of helicopters over their heads as they fled their homes.

My childhood was so different. I didn't have a care in the world and the concept of war was something relegated to an occasional evening news report. War never came to my doorstep.

But now here I am in a country that still lives with the trauma and fear of over a decade of civil war. The legacy echoes down to the many issues that we deal with in our street ministry. One generation affects the next as wounds continue to bleed, and scars have not yet healed.

And I grieve with my country. As you grieve with yours.

When we are called somewhere as a missionary, we enter into the story of a people that we may have never even known before. Their dreams become our dreams, and we take on their pain as we work so desperately to bring some relief for it. We enter into the grieving process with them when their losses become ours, and we celebrate with them in their moments of joy.

We find ourselves awake long hours into the night crying out on behalf of the people we love, and we waver in our faith when we don't understand what God is doing. We strive, and we fail, and we persevere, and we press on to see God's Kingdom come in some small way in these places that are now part of who we are.

And God hears our cries.

He uses us, and He grows us, and we have the privilege and the joy and the seemingly impossible task of being the ones He chooses. And we thank Him, and and we ask Him why, and we trust Him to take care of our countries.

Today I am in prayer for my country, El Salvador, as we go into an election weekend. A lot is at stake and emotions are high. And I pray for your countries around the world, and for your hearts as they are breaking.

How can we be praying for each other and the countries we serve this week? 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Like a nursing mother...

"But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.  So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us."- 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

Perhaps it is the emotions of having a newly weaned baby and having weaned earlier than I had wished due to my own body’s inability to produce the milk he needed, but these verses have been strongly on my heart for the past several weeks.

It has been a long and hard year here, and a discouraging one in many ways, and a year where I’ve vividly seen and felt the brokenness and sin that has consumed this country where I live. As I’ve meditated on this verse, God has renewed that tender love for the people here that He loves and has created. His heart is affectionately desirous of them, and though I feel like I’ve felt the aggression and harshness of those around me, God has refreshed an affectionate desire that they would know our loving God who can change even this broken place that has a way of urging everyone toward bitterness. My heart breaks for these people. 

The part of this passage that has struck me in a new and profound way is the part that says that “we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” As I’ve nursed and cared for our fourth child, my sweet baby Jude, I have felt what it feels like to literally give myself. In the midst of this year full of trials, illness, discouragement, a traveling husband, and many other challenges, I’ve had this sweet baby boy who needs me, literally needs my own body, in order to be nourished. First, he grew within me receiving from me every nutrient that God would use to knit his little body together, and then even once he was outside he was nourished for 10 months from food that my own body made for him. Nursing has sometimes been very easy for me, with hardly a thought that I’d need to do a thing to help make this nourishing food, but this time around, literally from day one I’ve had to work so hard to sleep enough, eat enough, take the right vitamins, drink enough water, drink special teas, sit down often enough even in the midst of busy daily life to let my baby boy nurse to try to keep the supply of food coming, and so on. I have been constantly aware that I am giving myself to him, and yet I so desire his well-being that I want to do all that I can and give all that I can to him. 

As I think of this hard but lovingly desirous experience of nursing, I am encouraged again with a vision for what I want my life of ministry to be. God gives us the love and desire for the hearts and souls of people, and he calls us to give of ourselves sacrificially and personally out of that love. I desire to think of my life in ministry in this personal nursing-mother sort of a way rather than with the sometimes cold-sounding name called occupational ministry. I pray that God will make me, and you too, so affectionately desirous of the people that we serve that we will lovingly, joyfully, and willingly give of our own selves for their spiritual well-being.

How is your heart toward the people that you are ministering to right now? Is this a season where affectionate desire comes freely and easily, or perhaps are you in a season where you’ve been hurt by those that you are ministering to and struggle with that desire? Let’s pray for one another in this as self-sacrifice can be so very hard and desirous affection is something that I believe at times can only come from the Lord.