“I would I had a thousand lives that I might give them…”

On Aug. 27, 1888 while working in Zhenjiang, Lottie Moon made the above statement finishing with the words “…for China.”


It’s one of those inspirational missionary quotes likely to land on a striking or haunting photo featuring those in this world who most likely don’t know Jesus. The desired response is conviction and motivation. Get people moving, doing, giving, going, supporting, praying, partnering… something… anything! Animate and embolden others so that they engage and global missions benefits.

It is also one of those quotes that usually prompts me to self-evaluate, asking: “Can I say the same, only substituting ‘Africa’ or ‘Quebec’ or wherever else the Lord might lead our family before our missionary journey is finished?”


This time, however, this quote provoked neither typical response.

Instead, I started thinking about all those lives already given – and not in the martyr sense. I allowed my mind to dwell on what has been sacrificed heretofore as well as what will continue to be sacrificed:

  • in my life,
  • my husband’s,
  • my kids’ childhoods and their potential futures,
  • time with tck grands and great-grandparents,
  • closer relationships with aunts, uncles, cousins,
  • weddings, funerals, family celebrations,
  • old hopes and dreams of what might have been,
  • potential jobs and careers,
  • scholarship opportunities,
  • the illusion of safety and security,
  • the innocence that was… before we saw more of this amazing yet very broken world…

No, it isn’t thousands… It’s not even hundreds.

It certainly isn’t actual martyrdom or such sacrifice

But it still costs lives, relationships, security and dreams of what could have been:

  • owning my own house and land;
  • to not have to daily depend on the financial gifts of others just to put food on the table for my children to eat;
  • actually taking a cruise with my husband for our anniversary;
  • actively planning for someday… or retirement;
  • sitting with loved ones during difficult health challenges;
  • dancing and celebrating together at weddings;
  • not leaving my family in one land while the rest of us go to another;
  • never having to uproot this family once again to go through the really hard starting over; and
  • no tears because I drop children off for school – in a new place and a new language – again.

But the very hardest part?

Knowing this:  It isn’t just me sacrificing because of these choices.

This calling that my husband and I are following requires everyone who knows and loves us – parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, children  -to sacrifice.

Once upon a time, I watched a play entitled “The Cost of Greatness.” It portrayed the life of Adoniram Judson, another one of those missionary giants from yesteryear. In this world and from a human perspective, he sacrificed much. Judson worked in Burma for 38 years until he died – 61 years old and physically broken by the difficulty of his life in that land. He endured long separations from his family, buried two wives and several children. His “first term” of service was 33 years long – after which time he made his only return to the United States. During this “home assignment,” he was treated like a hero and was much in demand as a speaker. One historian wrote about this time: “At times he would disappoint audiences by not telling of his labors but declaring the wonderful story of redeeming love. He found it difficult to frame sentences in the English after so long a time thinking in a foreign tongue.” The price he paid was immense.

I used to think the title of the play referred to the greatness of such a man, one so willing to sacrifice for God’s cause.  Not anymore.

I now believe that such sacrifice is to be anticipated for those who long to proclaim God’s greatness to those who need Him above all else.


This is the expected cost – NOT something extraordinary – for those who want our world to glimpse the greatness of our God.

I’ll never forget when our Jonathan first began school for the first time. It was a French school so we had talked about it, what he might expect and how it could be very different from what his other missionary kid friends might tell him about their school. A few days into the school year he came home and started to tell us about his day: “And Mama, did you know they say zshee for ‘J’ and zshay for ‘G?’ THAT. IS. JUST. WRONG!!!”

I get what he was saying. French school took something that Jonathan knew and believed good and right… then turned it upside down and backwards.

In the economy of this world, we’d think that those willing to proclaim God’s greatness should receive great reward.

That price tag of “sacrifice required – and not just by me, but by all who care about me” seems upside down and backwards

~ but for these words ~

I long to know Christ 

and the power which is in His resurrection, 

and to share in His sufferings and die even as He died…

Philippians 3:10 – Weymouth New Testament


Do you agree? Why or why not?

Why do you think so many of want to proclaim God’s greatness but then feel like we shouldn’t have to sacrifice to do so?

Has sacrifice surprised you? How?

final photo by Danette Childs, missionary with Via Abondante, Niger

This time? Anything but typical!

What does your typical home assignment time look like?


Ours has always looked like a whirlwind of travel – visiting with ministry partners, family and friends spread across several states – and a whole lot of busyness at our home church and the Christian school our children attend during those furlough times.

Of course, that meant that in the moments we weren’t wrapped up in all of that busyness and travel, we could and often would sequester ourselves in our home and doing little to build relationships and initiate contact with people outside our home assignment bubble. It felt very un-missionary like, and disturbingly uncomfortable – to say that we hardly knew anyone outside our church and family circle, that we were too tired to even try and get to know our neighbors…

…that almost everyone with whom we had contact looked and believed much like we do.

It was a total opposite picture of our life overseas… and I always felt a bit uneasy and unsettled about that particular status quo… but in the course of four plus home assignment seasons, I hadn’t done anything, tried anything, to change it

I justified the insulated life we’d lead saying we needed rest because…

  • we were too exhausted after several years of ministry and life overseas – a very true statement.
  • I’d claim that we were, really, too busy with all of our still-linked-to-our-overseas-ministry obligations to jump into something here because we wouldn’t have time to do it justice, and we were… very busy.
  • I’d convince myself that we weren’t around long enough to really make a difference…  another fact as our return date for when we’d be leaving to return to Africa (and home) was clearly in focus and always just months… then weeks… then days… in the future.

All of my rationalizing, however, didn’t convince my heart that the massive dichotomy between our lives in our two homes was right. Rather, it felt hypocritical. And then my kids started to notice… and ask questions.


It was much easier to ignore conviction that came from within than it was to ignore the convicting voice of the young people who live with me.

So, I knew I wanted this home assignment to be different.

I didn’t want to be that missionary who invested in lives and could easily share Jesus while at those “uttermost ends of the earth,” but who was afraid to strike up a simple conversation with the lady on the mat next to mine in a Pilates class… or selfishly resistant to volunteering to help at an organization because it meant committing to that place every week…

Am I the only expat worker who has felt this struggle?

After all, what does it really say about what I believe about the message – if I’m willing to take it over oceans and across deserts… but not across the street? When I’m not ashamed to share with people who expect me to be different, but fearful when it comes to talking about Jesus with people who look just like me?

What does it say I really believe about the Giver of the message?

That target date IS still on the calendar – a clear reminder that home assignment is still a short, sometimes frenetic, yet temporary time – full of transition and change and new when a weary expat only wants to rest and recuperate. But that can’t be my excuse.

By God’s grace, however, this furlough has been different.

Feeding an injured owl at an animal rehabilitation center.

Investing in this local community, for this season and despite the temporariness, has made home assignment actually feel like home. God has given opportunities that I could have never even imagined, much less foreseen or desired – and somehow, in those opportunities, He’s ministered to me. It’s kept me looking outward… and upward. In the obedience, He’s given rest. He’s shown me that He’s not just about the business of changing other people, but also working to change me while working through me… wherever He has me.


How do you get involved in your community while on home assignment?

How does that help refresh you and prepare you to return to your “life overseas” place of service?

“…tell us plainly.”

The Jews make that request of Jesus.

The Jews make this statement at a very specific time and at a very specific place: the Feast of Dedication (while celebrating the remembrance of miraculous provision) at Solomon’s Colonnade (where God had traditionally accomplished great things).

 Can you identify with “the Jews” in this passage?

Have you ever prayed to the Lord and asked Him to show you, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that He is the Messiah? That you are on the right path, doing what He’s asked you to do?

Photo by C Marine
Photo by C Marine

I have… I still do…

Just like the Jews in this passage.

The question they asked, as some versions literally render it, “how long dost thou take away our soul?”

“Tell us plainly… Have you come to take away our souls?”

My husband and I have often discussed conundrum. He rarely doubts God; he rarely questions if He is true, if He has a plan and we are following it, if Jesus is Who He says He is and really did come and do what He said He would. I, on the other hand, struggle more with doubt… a lot more often than I care to admit. I easily identify with the Jews’ question.

I start thinking about God, trying to figure Him out, trying to make Him and what I think I see Him doing make-sense-according-to-me.

My mind gets overwhelmed by the enormity and awesomeness and power of the God I desperately want to believe in.

Then I start coming up with my own ideas to try and make all the puzzle pieces fit:

  • What if we’ve made all of this up?
  • What if the Bible isn’t inspired and is nothing more than a creative, enticing fabrication created by those who wanted for themselves and others a real purpose in life?
  • What if this life is all there is and then there is nothing?
  • What if what I think God wants me to do is me disguising my own wishes and not really His will or plan?

Big problem… because many day, I can’t really, definitively, answer those questions. Then there are those many days I’m confident I can.

There really aren’t any answers other than to confess, once again, my unbelief – to cry out in desperation, “Lord, I believe! Help Thou my unbelief!”

 Then, the very things that entice me to doubt

…rioters burning what still feels like “our church,” the very church where we worshiped, dripped sweat, fellowshipped, laughed, taught and sometimes struggled to stay awake while others taught…

God uses to help my unbelief as I hear about God’s grace and sustaining presence even in the midst of so much loss.

Photo by Danette Childs

 The very things that open the door and invite anxiety

…transitioning to a new place of ministry that is literal light years different and apart from where we’ve been, what we’ve done and what we know. Everything seems so new, so scary, so hard, so unknown…

God uses to wrap me with comfort as I see so many above and beyond provisions in little and unexpected things.

 That’s what faith is all about: a believing synergism between God’s empowering grace to believe… and man’s choice to believe, regardless…

At some moment, I have to leap and trust that God will be there to catch me, even on the days I can’t see Him. And? To be okay with, on those doubting days, knowing that the moment I’ll know for sure will be that moment when I’m caught.

 So what’s the answer to that question the Jews posed?

Jesus did not come to steal and destroy but to deliver life back to our souls.


Do you struggle with doubt? How do you overcome those doubts?

How would you answer the Jews question?

Competing, contrasting or complimentary?

Our last January in West Africa, we took the family camping at a nearby game park.

We camp a lot in the States – sometimes even in some pretty out-of-the-way places, but that was the first time I’d ever camped in Africa, under an African sky, in a really remote location. No city lights. No electricity. No paved roads. No leaving the campsite without a guide in a vehicle or with an armed guard when on foot. Hippos and elephants nearby in the river. Lions hunting on the other side of the rocky ridge that sheltered the campsite.


In some ways, it was surreal, like something I’d only see on a television show on one of those nature or documentary type channels back in the States; I had to keep pinching myself to make sure it was really real. Yet in other ways, it really felt a whole lot like “regular” camping with our gang back in Michigan.

Except for one thing.

Want to know the one thing that was totally, vastly, drastically different?

The sky.

It seems kind of funny to see those words… to hear myself think them…  For, no matter where in the world you or I stand, we can gaze upon the same sun, the same moon, many of the same stars and constellations, the same celestial bodies…

Not since I was a child growing up on the wide open US plains do I remember gazing up at such an sweeping expanse, unbroken by trees or buildings or telephone poles… unbroken by anything. Never before had the stars seemed so numerous or the moon so bright, thanks to nearby electricity -for even if there were no lights in the immediate vicinity, there always were, just over the next hill or distant grove of trees.

Watching… staring… at that sky… was nothing less than remarkable!

During the day, the sun appeared closer – bigger, brighter and more blinding than I’d ever noted before. At night, the moon was full and so bright that even my ever-becoming-more-and-more-night-blind self could see clearly and walk to the bathroom without fear of scorpion or snake while not using a flashlight. The rest of the sky appeared a dappling of stars almost blending into white clouds rather than the sometimes sparse sometimes smattering pinpoints of bright light I was accustomed to viewing. Both sun and moon shared that expansive space although on opposing horizons each morning and night.


Most remarkable was discerning, for the first time ever, the actual path those cosmic bodies traced across the sky. Early evening as the sun set and darkness deepened, juxtaposed, the moon rose and myriads of stars appeared, just peeking over the edge of the eastern horizon. Late into night, “tracking” a group of lions or spotting mongoose and honey badgers, I’d note that the moon and stars had migrated overhead. In the wee hours of the next morning, sipping coffee by the while getting the gumption to coax sleeping toddler littles and teen biggers out of bed, those same heavenly bodies had completely traversed the sky to the western skyline and then quickly submerged out of sight.

Nearing the end of our term and weary after combating several successive seasons of fatigue and burnout, tracing these sky routes was a gift, a reminder from God’s creation just when I needed refreshing.

I’d begun viewing life as only a pattern of day and night, one after the other, monotonous, numbing and purposeless in its repetition. While real and valid, my perspective limited what I was able to see.

Thankfully, perspectives are not written in stone; they can change.

A different, altered outlook can proclaim the very same cyclic monotony “revolutionary:”

  • of openings and closings…
  • of pushing and pulling…
  • of starting, persevering and finishing
  • of arrivings, continuings, migratings, traversings and departings…
  • of beginnings culminating in endings sparking new beginnings…
  • of opportunities mixing with impossibilities…

Perspectives can not only change.

Their contrasts can also compliment.

One can help bring the other more starkly into focus, just as the moon on one side of the sky highlighted the sun’s brilliance in reflecting the same light that emanated from the opposing horizon.


May 2015 be a year of changing old, worn and wrong outlooks.

May it be a year of recognizing and renewing those complimenting perspectives as well.


How about you?

How do you think God might be planning to grow and change you as you minister this next year?

*Originally published as Competing or Contrasting? Choices for 2013...
at Missionary Mom's Companion and
 slightly edited for A Life Overseas.

*Moon photo - Dick Stewart, Captured Memories Lansing

Tempted to Tell All

“Mama, when we were at the library the other day, I was tempted to tell someone about Jesus and how He was born to save us. Is that wrong?”

I couldn’t help but smile.

Funny question for a missionary kid to be asking…

After all, isn’t that what missionaries do? Isn’t that what we teach kids that missionaries do?

Missionaries go, into ALL the world for this reason: telling ALL who have never heard or who have never believed or who just need to be reminded – ALL about Jesus.

The message is first one of confrontation – the horribly bad news that ALL, are sinners and that as sinners, we are unable – in and of ourselves – to DO ANYTHING to remedy our sin problem. Which brings us to the second part of the bad news: the required punishment for our sin is death.

Grasping that part of the message is necessary; thankfully it doesn’t stop there or we would ALL be without hope.

The second half of the missionary message tells of reconciliation and restoration. It’s the hopeful part… the better part.

ALL men need someone to save them. So God sent ONE, His Son.


It is what we celebrate during this holy season.

Jesus came – born as a baby, but also born to die… for ALL men.

He willingly and sacrificially took the punishment for ALL sin so that ALL men could be reconciled to God. The Good News gets even better. Jesus didn’t stay dead. God brought Him out of the tomb, alive and conquering death. Because He lives, ALL men who believe this merciful message of grace and then trust Him have the hope of ALL eternity together with Him.

So I smiled when my little one asked her question. And I told her, “Of course it’s not wrong!”

She grinned and said that next time, she’d be kind by listening to God when He was tempting her to tell…and we went on with our day… and week…

God, however, wasn’t finished with me yet. He had an additional thought with which I need to wrestle so He kept bringing my mind back around to her question.

Particularly the phrase tempted to tell.

The word tempted usually has a negative connotation. The dictionary definition, “to lure; to entice; to attempt to persuade (someone) to do or acquire something that they find attractive but know to be wrong or not beneficial,” clearly puts a negative spin on the word.

Why would anyone feeling that push or pull to share this message of hope describe it as temptation? In the case of my little one, I’m guessing it was the misapplication of a new word recently added to her vocabulary.


I don’t have that same excuse.

Reflecting during this season of Advent, I’ve been convicted.

Far too often those words “tempted to tell” accurately describe my approach to sharing the Gospel message. Telling is so “in your face.” Telling implies that somehow I know best and that the way I’m describing is right. Telling is less likely to skip the first part, the confrontational part, of the message and I naturally more comfortable with that subtle, less confrontational approach. Thus, oft’quoted words usually attributed to Francis d’Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words,” hold great appeal. “Your talk talks and your walk talks but your walk talks louder than your talk talks” is another catchy phrase I’ve commonly heard.

I’m tempted to tell – but is it ALL if I won’t use words?

No! The idea that we can communicate why Christ came without ever speaking a word is a forcefully magnetic illusion.

Its attractiveness compels in a world that often assumes words are, at best, cheap… At worst, words are perceived as worthless and devoid of meaning. But without words, any actions and ALL good deeds I do… they point at me. My righteous life by itself is woefully insufficient. No matter how good, no matter how tempting the illusion might be, my life alone cannot ever adequately tell of the baby born to die for ALL.


A godly life cannot be the good news.

A godly life, when combined with words, can herald and proclaim the good news, just as angels did in a night sky more than 2000 years ago.

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him;
and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life;
and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness;
and the darkness comprehended it not.
…And the Word was made flesh,
and dwelt among us,
and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,
full of grace and truth.
(from John 1)
How are you (in your place of ministry or country of residence)
“tempted to tell all,” particularly at this time of the year?

Living Nativity Photos:

 Dick Stewart


When on those highways and byways…

I used to find it some combination between mildly amusing and slightly annoying when I’d hear people pray for “traveling mercies,” even though at the time we were crisscrossing the state of Michigan (as well as a few adjacent states) almost every weekend seeking the financial support to head to West Africa as missionaries.

Then one wintry Sunday, we literally crept on four wheels, all night through a genuine winter blizzard only to arrive home, in the wee hours of the morning, and find a man we’d never met before sleeping in our bed (a story for another day). We ended up on the rickety pull-out sofa in the basement, struggling to drag ourselves out of bed and get up and around in time for the beginning of our home church’s missions conference just a few hours later. After that fiasco, I’d occasionally catch myself silently asking God for “traveling mercies,” particularly during those unexpectedly long trips.

medium_3005107423There was also that time late one August. We drove nonstop from Lansing, Michigan to Miami, Florida. Well… nonstop except for a few hours in a Georgia Walmart escaping massive summer heat. Our car at that time was minus air conditioning and plus three little ones in car seats! Several hours later, I actually prayed spontaneously, aloud, thanking the Lord for “traveling mercies…” and then woke my husband up. He’d fallen asleep at the final stoplight, just prior to reaching our destination.

We still hadn’t begun the adventure of international travel. Once that started, we experienced

  • long airplane rides,
  • sandstorms while boarding which then delayed our flight,
  • close connections,
  • stacks of luggage that had to be lugged through developing world airports,
  • reroutings,
  • long layovers with children crashed and sleeping sprawled anywhere,
  • difficult fellow passengers,
  • discovering that even though we’d reserved seats together , our reality was far different – my family scattered all over the plane, the two year old sitting by herself, and no one willing to switch seats,
  • hopeless searches for something both edible and affordable to eat.

Oh yeah – I can’t forget one other key detail. I’m terrified of flying – like panic attack terrified! It usually lasts from the moment I climb on the plane and fasten seat belts – at least until we reach cruising altitude. At that point I can almost distract myself from that feeling of imminent doom. This isn’t one of those fears that has gotten better with time or experience. I pray, quite literally starting days weeks months before, that God will grant me His “mercies as I travel” and enough relief from my terror that I can at least function.


I stopped  laughing or considering those prayers for “traveling mercies” to be trivial. 

Then we began traveling in Africa

It took me two years to get brave enough to consider driving in town, on my own. The problem wasn’t the standard transmission – that was pretty much all I’d ever driven. Rather it was driving in a place where traffic laws were merely suggestions, stop lights and stop signs were optional, and four lanes regularly squeezed onto a two lane bridge. Drivers were often inexperienced, erratic, unpredictable and impulsive when driving. Roads were shared with pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, goats, sheep, dogs, donkeys and carts, camels piled high and wide with straw, herds of cattle, food vendors, newspaper sellers, beggars and unsupervised toddlers. Drivers appeared convinced that the axiom “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line” was the rule of the road, regardless of pre-existing traffic patterns. We discovered that walking around your car wasn’t sufficient – you had to be sure to look under it too before beginning to drive – when my husband ran over the leg of a toddler sleeping unsupervised under our car one afternoon. I found out first hand that signaling a right hand turn and then proceeding to make that right turn from the right hand lane where’d I’d been all along wouldn’t inhibit motorists from trying to pass  at that moment… on the right. I’ll never forget the day another vehicle nudged a bicyclist, knocking him over right in front of the tire of my Land Cruiser. I felt the tire slowly roll up and over something. Fortunately, it was the bike wheel and not the bicyclist.

Every. Single. Time we left our house in a car and nothing bad happened became an opportunity to thank God for His “traveling mercies.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vehicular accidents result in more deaths worldwide than malaria. They are the primary cause of death for those falling in the five to 29 years old age bracket. This is particularly true in the developing world. (1)

Now, less I give a wrong impression, not all of our road experiences were bad. I’ve had more flat tires than I’d care to count – I’ve never actually changed one myself. Someone would always volunteer to do it for me… and sometimes even refused a gift of money.

We’ve also seen Africans accomplish both amazing and hilarious things while operating motor vehicles:

  • A mouthy Tabaski sheep wrestled into submission between motorcycle operator and passenger, all during rush hour traffic.
  • Several large cattle sleeping peacefully on the roof of a minibus. The bus was cruising at 80km/hr…
  • A motorcyclist transporting a full-sized mattress balanced on his head… while driving through sand deep enough to stall other vehicles.
  • Young camels loaded inside Peugeot taxis.
  • Guys riding on top of huge trucks packed with fire wood. Their purpose was to lift power, phone and other lines as the trucks traveled through town.


Praying for traveling mercies, pleading with God for His protection as we were out and about, became a preoccupation. But it also served to continually remind me that safety was an illusion, often out of my control… Our complete and absolute dependence was on God and God alone. Driving in the developing world also actively cultivated a spirit of thankfulness. After all, every non-eventful vehicular outing was cause to thank God for His “traveling mercies.”

I thought things might get better after returning to the States. Except now I expect drivers to behave as was typical overseas. My nine year old son was riding with me on one trip when he asked, “Mama, why do you get ready to honk every time we pass by a big truck?” I hadn’t even realized I’d maintained a West African habit of driving with my hand on the horn – just in case! Additionally, it probably hasn’t helped that we’ve now reached that stage of life which includes student drivers… We currently have three new or learning drivers in our house and I’m waiting for one to arrive safely home as I type!


What strange, incredible or amusing things have you seen as you have traveled the roads where you live?

Share about an everyday thing you used to take for granted, but which God now uses to make you more thankful and continually aware of your dependence on Him.


photo 1 credit: oneVillage Initiative via photopin cc

photo 2 credit: photo credit: Timmo via photopin cc

photo 3 credit: photo credit: crankyshooter1 via photopin cc

Who am I really crying for anyway?

One day, I opened up my Facebook feed and right there was this picture:


IF we’d stayed in Niger, our oldest daughter would be graduating from high school with this amazing group of kids representing at least seven different countries… June 2015.

But we didn’t stay. God’s path for our family led a very different direction, including two seemingly never-ending years of transition between our African home and our soon-to-be French Canadian future. I never, in a million years (and yes, that’s hyperbole) pictured this. More truthfully? In the near 15 years we delighted in our West African lives and ministry I could have only just barely imagined this happening, until it actually did.

As I first looked at that picture, my eyes filled with tears.

I thought they were all tears for my daughter. For the friends she’s left behind. For the amazing people she’ll probably never see again. Wondering when would be her next opportunity to praise God in four different languages, all in the same church service. Because she was going back into a world where teens were expected to act like irresponsible, selfish or pampered kids instead of regularly given the opportunity to rise to the occasion while serving and ministering as equals alongside adults. For the amazingness of growing up as part of an expatriate, multicultural community where so many were sacrificing so many to serve Jesus and share His offer of life with others.

And that’s about when I realized that I was actually disguising truth from myself.

A good number of those tears – perhaps even the biggest part of them – were for me, for my dreams of what I had wanted for my girl, for 15 years’ worth of my expectations of how her “childhood” would finish. Yes, our reality is very different. Not bad. Not even worse. Just not what I’d expected during all those years of growing my TCK and a bunch of expectations. I was having a hard time with that reality.


I read, appreciate and learn much from the plethora of books, articles and posts on discipling our TCKs as they go about this business of growing up between worlds. There’s still so much more for me to learn and I know that. Yet, sometimes I get this nagging feeling that if expat parents aren’t careful, they can yoke their children to a burden they don’t need to carry – that of our own expectations of what the TCK life should be, the joys and challenges, and what we’re striving to make it be… for these kids we love.

One late morning, I was walking home from preschool with my then almost five-year-old daughter and her cousin. It was a spectacular autumn morning. Their conversation that day made me laugh; I want to share it with you because I think it makes a fantastic and pertinent point.

Niece (arms flung wide as she skips and twirls in circles): “It’s SO BEAUTFIUL when all the leaves change colors and drop out of the trees.” (She’s a very dramatic child.)

My daughter (also twirling and skipping): “What’s this season called again? I keep forgetting. Is it ‘drop’ because the leaves drop out or is it ‘fall?’ because the leaves fall down?”

Niece: “It’s called fall, silly! And that’s a good thing, too!”

My daughter: “Why?”

Niece: “Calling this season drop instead of fall JUST doesn’t sound right!”

My daughter  (hesitating just a fraction): “Yeah. I guess it does sound a little bit weird.”

I laughed because I totally agreed. Thinking about calling fall “drop” instead is humorous and sounds more than awkward. But isn’t that only because I’ve only ever called it fall?

What if, in a similar way, the same is true for my TCKs?

What if some of what I consider so traumatic and so difficult and so worthy of tears I perceive that way primarily because I have preconceived ideas based off of my own childhood and growing up of how things should be and how I would have reacted had I been gifted this life…


 …and not because my children automatically have to see it that same way.


Please keep in mind that my purpose isn’t to discredit or argue that our TCKs don’t need support or don’t struggle with the peculiarities of this lifestyle. I know they do. I just want to consider that the possibility that maybe what I expect to be their struggles are just normal. And then there is the corollary: Perhaps those circumstances I believe they’ll breeze right through are the ones that will be the greatest challenges…

What do you think?

When a Colleague Fails…

How are we supposed to act when a colleague sins?

It happens, and I’m not talking about the respectable sins with which we all struggle. I’m talking about the big ones – the ones that result in missionaries sent home from the field or pastors asked to leave their churches…


What are we to do? How are we supposed to act?

I know what sorts of behaviors and attitudes surface most naturally in me.

I criticize. Blame. Ostracize. Shame.

I want to gossip – even though I usually manage to restrain myself. I convince myself I could NEVER sin that sin – at least not the same way nor as sordidly as my colleague did… I sigh as I wonder how the ministry will ever weather the repercussions.

I want to disqualify that person from ever being part of “my team,” again. I might thank God for protecting me from such a wretched mistake, possibly praying, “Thank You, God, that I am not like those those who are unrighteous, who steal, those who commit <that really bad sin>… and Lord, especially that I’m not like____________” filling in the blank with the name of my “fallen” colleague.

Jesus had some pretty strong words for such an attitude:

[Jesus] told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (from Luke 18)

It hurts to see my own reflection so clearly in Scripture…

Sin has consequences and must be addressed:  the guilty party accepting correction, seeking restitution, welcoming accountability, perhaps consenting to a disqualification from future ministry in a previous place of service, or never returning to the same genre of ministry in any location. Consequences often demand patience – years of patience – on the part of the sinner: to rebuild trust violated, to repair relationships broken, to rectify a reputation tarnished, to realize that one can never go back or undo what has been done. God forgives and forgets – casting all memory of forgiven sin as far as the east is from the west. Men, however, have a hard time forgiving. Forgetting is probably impossible.

Yet it bothers me that I came up with a list for what “that person” should expect after being caught in their sin and perhaps after having both life and ministry totally derailed as a consequence (all with a good attitude) so easily.

Developing a similar set of principles that I, their colleague and a sinner equally in need of grace, need to embrace proves more difficult.

What is my responsibility in such a situation?

  1. RecognizeI am my brother’s keeper and we all need mutual accountability. Seeking and offering this sort of accountability helps prevent moral failures.
  2. Remember – Jesus didn’t say to never judge. Instead, He exhorted that when we judge, we must judge correctly and with knowledge.  We can expect the same standards we use to be applied to us. Supernatural discernment and grace must be present to judge correctly.
  3. Realize – Sin will be uncovered. I cannot pretend it never happened.
  4. Rupture – Sin ruptures relationships. My heart should ache, even break, for the sinner, for those wounded by their sin, and for the Savior who already paid a terrible penalty for that sin.
  5. Require gentle and kind confrontation, motivated by the best for my brother or colleague. Confrontation should never be manipulative, neither for my convenience nor preference, It certainly should not exhibit hatefulness, arrogance or vengeance.
  6. Resist hanging on to past failures. I need to forgive, completely – and repeatedly.
  7. Release – God is a god of second… third… even seventy times seven chances. I need to be like Him.
  8. RestoreGod’s love, mercy, grace and glory flows liberally through broken and forgiven vessels. Broken sinners being spilled out are amazing tools in the hands of a powerful God. Thankfully, sin does not disqualify from all future service or ministry.
  9.  Rebuild – When past failure necessitates a change in ministry, encourage and support my colleague on that journey, even helping him/her to find new ways and different opportunities to serve.


I appreciate this (paraphrased) testimony of a Christian worker who sinned, grievously.

He was convinced God would never use him again; his previous ministry essentially said the same. In the initial weeks after his sin was uncovered, he found himself reading Jeremiah. The Lord gave him the example of Jeremiah 29 – what God could and would do if he remained patient, humble, teachable, accountable and faithful in the small, daily things, including whatever ministry opportunities – no matter how mundane – God opened to him. The words “I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” sustained him through long seasons of feeling he’d been placed on a shelf. Then this worker shared of those colleagues who persisted, encouraging him and trusting him with new opportunity. His faith deepened and he tried things that he might have never considered before had he remained in that new ministry. He learned he had other giftings. Those colleagues strengthened him with their friendship. He said it took decades, literally, but God did finally open doors (and hearts) returning his original place of service. How he serves now looks quite different from how he used to serve, but he has been welcomed and God has been glorified.

The ministry of reconciliation and restoration whether with those who’ve never known Jesus… or with those who do but who have fallen…  is God’s grace and glory in action. It never ceases to amaze.


Do you agree or disagree that we are our brothers’ keepers in the sense of mutual accountability? Why or why not?

Have you ever had the opportunity to encourage or exhort a colleague who was making wrong choices? What motivated your decision to confront? (Please share, but don’t allow comments to become a place to air dirty laundry. Allow kindness and a desire to protect the dignity of others to be the rule of the day.)

What would you add to the above list of responsibilities we have regarding our colleagues who have sinned?

“Banish the onion!”

If you “google” family menu planning, you end up with over 87 million results in just a fraction of a second. I guess a lot of people really like to plan menus.


Menu planning used to be a pretty big deal for me. Once upon a time, I grocery shopped once every two weeks, with a very specific list developed from a monthly menu plan. I loved the plotting, planning and probing – devoting, sometimes, several hours a week to those activities. It forced me to be intentional about the food my family ate. I enjoyed searching for new recipes to try. One of the best pieces of advice I’d been given as a soon-to-be missionary living on the back side of the desert, responsible for preparing something more or less edible for my family to eat – was to learn to cook from scratch… The veteran missionary who gave me that valuable piece of advice meant like totally from scratch, as in learn how to make your own tomato paste… and yogurt… and buttermilk… and marshmallows… and all sorts of other things that I didn’t even know you could make. I took that missionary’s advice very seriously.

I spent a couple of years perfecting my strategy. By the time we moved to Africa, I had a great reservoir of menu plans with things that I’d been told I’d be able to find locally and I knew how to make them all… from scratch. They were even edible, most of the time.

We landed in Niger that very first time at the beginning of the lean season… the time of year when all the expats who could left town so stores and shops that imported food were only doing so sparingly… also the time of year when all crops were planted but not much was being or had been harvested.

Except for onions.

“Banish the onion!” became the cry of my children. They cried buckets of tears while chopping onions, until they figured out that swim goggles served a great second purpose. I considered writing a cook book entitled “201 Ways to Eat Onions.”


Okay… so that is a bit of hyperbole, but it certainly felt true, then and every other August we spent in Niger. At least once the cooking started and those onions were sauteing, it always smelled like something delicious would be on the table in the immediate future.

Then, there was the week I went looking for butter… the store owner thought the trucks had been held up at the border.

Or the several weeks surrounding the bird flu scare? Niger stopped importing chickens and eggs, and the price of eggs (a staple in our diet) skyrocketed to no-longer-affordable for us.

How do you bake a birthday cake for a birthday party where 20 five to seven year-olds were coming… without eggs?

I quickly discovered that all my hard work learning to prepare meals from scratch was really just the tip of the iceberg. And all of that recipe research? It wasn’t working out as I’d expected.

I’d learned to make a menu, to plan amounts, to cook the food without shortcuts and conveniences – but I didn’t know how to adapt for African snags in that plan: converting measurements I could handle, but I was clueless what to do when several key ingredients in my menu plan just weren’t available that week.

Preparing food became an adventure of sorts.

I had to learn purposes of those missing ingredients. Take eggs, for example. Was the egg functioning as a binder, a leavening agent, or both? If it was a binder, then applesauce, squash puree or mashed banana would often work. So would a mixture of corn starch and water. When it’s purpose was to make a cake light and fluffy, vinegar and baking soda… or water, oil and baking soda tended to be more effective. If the eggs were there to bind and to leaven – well then sometimes I’d have to play around and figure out some combination of the above… or something else altogether.

Most of the time, we managed to finagle a happy ending. Or, perhaps more accurately, an edible ending where bellies were full even if we decided the dogs might be more likely to eat the leftovers than we would. Of course, that also depended on just how hungry we were, too! And I learned: Sometimes you make changes because you have absolutely no other choice

Still, I tried, for a very long time – several years, in fact – to keep up with my menu planning/list making/big shopping trip habits. In fact, when I returned to the States for the birth of our youngest, I 4.5 months worth of menus, shopping lists and recipes for my husband to give my house helper.

Then, suddenly, it was like someone flipped a switch. I just couldn’t do all that any more. Maybe I’d lived long enough in that place, been a mama preparing meals for many for long enough… I suddenly realized I no longer need a script. I could improvise. I could go to the stores and the markets with a general list of staples we always tried to keep on hand, see what was there, buy sufficient food for my family, and bring it home having a rough idea of a wide variety of meals that I could possibly prepare. Then, the day before or even the day of, I’d decide what we’d be eating. Our grocery budget decreased, less food was wasted, and my children were more able to get involved in the food prep and kitchen work – so much so that at least three nights a week, different ones were doing the bulk of the cooking. Not only that, they too have learned to look in the fridge, see what is available, and whip up something edible – even if it isn’t gourmet.

Now, the point of telling you all this isn’t just to give some nuts and bolts about how I functioned as the one responsible to feed my family on the backside of the Sahara Desert. Nor is it to imply that one way of grocery shopping/menu planning is better than another. 

I wanted to share because I learned an important lesson.

Sometimes, I venture off into a new season of life, thinking all the things that have worked in the past for me will continue to work in the new season

Often, that is true.

But what about when it isn’t.

Do I continue stubbornly following the same path when I really need to change directions? Even though I may recognize that current procedures and/or policies aren’t the only way, do I consciously or unconsciously consider my way the best… or holiest way? Even if the need to change comes in an area as mundane as how I go about my shopping, why do I hang on to the old when it isn’t working, when something new really would be better?

Sometimes, I really just need to amend my ways and reform my doings to better thrive as I dwell in the land where God has placed me. Sometimes, I need to make a choice to change.


How about you?

 Please share about a way living overseas has provoked change in you – in a way that is as mundane as how you go about your grocery shopping, or in a way that is much more significant.

first photo credit: D-Stanley via photopin cc

“Why didn’t they send a tractor?”

The idea that much is expected of those who have been given much had been drilled into me as a boy. I saw giving back as my duty – a responsibility I’d accepted from a young age. Feeling the duty to help others after graduating from college, I signed up for the Peace Corps and served two years in a small Peruvian village.

I arrived at my village at age twenty-one filled with nobility, pumped up with the idea of helping humankind. I was proud that I had something to offer these poor folks. But one day, after I’d finally learned enough Spanish to communicate, one of the farmers asked me a question that must have been on everyone’s mind but mine.

“Why did they send you?” he asked. “If they wanted to help us, why didn’t they send a tractor?”

I don’t remember my answer, but I never forgot his question.


Randy Lewis (best known for introducing an inclusive employment model as the Senior Vice President of Logistics at Walgreens – yes, I am a special educator by trade) recounts the above story in No Greatness without Goodness (p. 47), one of my summer reads.

I laughed when I first read it. That was, after all, part of his motivation for “ ‘fessing up” and telling a funny but true story. But he also wanted to make an important point. It was a key part of his experience working with people from a totally different culture. His story perfectly captures how, as expats working around the world, we often arrive with an implicit but never spoken aloud (or maybe even consciously realized) intent of taking over rather than coming alongside.

In my experience, it goes something like this:

My many preconceived and sometimes set in stone ideas of how something should be done… or why it should always continue to be done how I’ve seen it work… immediately and unquestionably trump, in my mind, any local ideas and traditional practices, partly because I just can’t see how they make sense. Then there’s that awkward, chin on the floor moment when the realization hits, then finally sinks in that maybe, just maybe, I. am. not….

God never sent me to be a mini-savior or God’s gift to a fledgling church… a poor community… struggling teachers… students with disabilities… a group of women who want to read…


We are God’s gift to each other… iron sharpening iron… a more resilient and robust three-fold cord… encouraging, exhorting and extending together as we strengthen and challenge each other…

I remember one of my such “coming of age” missionary moments. It happened as I was leading a ladies’ Bible study at the church where we were assisting friends of ours, a local pastor and his wife. After 4 years of working with this group of women, I’d finally convinced them that I appreciated hearing their impressions and understandings of Bible stories as much as they said they wanted to hear and learn what it was that I,  the missionary, hoped to teach. That sticky-hot Saturday afternoon, we were looking at the story of Jonadab.

Found in the early verses of 1 Samuel 13, it is a more obscure part of a well-known and horrifyingly tragic Bible story. After reading and studying the first part of the chapter, seeing the word “crafty” used to describe Jonadab and immediately assuming the negative connotation, followed then by seeing the results of Amnon following Jonadab’s “crafty” advice? Well, I went to Bible study convinced that Jonadab was much worse than a just a sorry excuse for a friend… In my mind, he incontrovertibly qualified for the title of villain. He conceived the plan that allowed his cousin Amnon to assault and rape Tamar.

The women at Bible study didn’t see it that way. Not at all.

After I’d read the account to them and had given them time to ask questions clarifying details (most were not yet literate), they insisted that Jonadab was an astute, prudent and intentional young man. Those ladies found my shock absolutely amusing and it took them a not so small chunk of time to explain why – partly because we were working through an interpreter, but mainly because I found their comprehension of the situation so hard to actually comprehend myself. Their perspective was that Jonadab would have never been able to confront his cousin – a potential heir to the throne of David – directly. In their world, they could not envision that happening. Thus, he gave Amnon a plan which brought King David directly into the picture. David, as both Amnon’s father and the king, was clearly in position to both confront and then redirect the inappropriate and sinfully wrong desires of his son.

Craziest thing is that it wasn’t just one of the ladies who immediately understood the Scripture story to have played out according to that alternative understanding. It was the entire group of four or so – I don’t remember exactly.

With one exception – the only lady who’d already spent much time under direct bible teaching by missionaries. She concurred with my understanding of the story. I had to ask myself, “Why?”

My goal in sharing this story is not to enter a debate regarding hermeneutics or biblical exegesis over this passage. And let me say up front that do I believe there are issues where there is no room for discussion, debate or alternate interpretation because God’s Word is clear regardless of culture. Rather, my hope is to demonstrate that clearly, cultural backgrounds and baggage – as well as prior teaching, DO come into play, greatly influencing anyone’s understanding of Scripture, best practices, motivations, possible directions for the future, etc. That isn’t wrong in and of itself. Rather, it is to be expected.

As expat workers seeking to come alongside those from different worlds, who speak different tongues, who wear different fashions, who perceive different key details even in the very same situations, who identify different needs, who value different priorities – it is vital that we first understand this will happen, recognize it when it does, appreciate the God-allowed beauty in those differences, and then commit to moving forward in a way that honors God – not my  way, not their way, not a particular culture or peculiar tradition.


Can you share a similar type cross-cultural story or experience, where you were sure one thing to be true only to find out that your local friends or colleagues had a totally different understanding?

How did you grow and change from that experience?

Living the Expat Life

It feels normal and strange all at once – but that’s to be expected.

I have been back in my home country for nearly a year… Another year to go before we head back into the expat life and scene. The routines here are finally comfortably familiar, again! I’m still loving all the things I love about living in Michigan (changing seasons is a biggie) while the flirtatious heat of summer nostalgically hints and reminds me of the overwhelming heat of Niger (and so we refuse to run the AC) while the familiar tide of homesickness floods over me. But? I’m more adept at riding that wave now than even just a few short months ago. I remember how to get to, and more importantly get through, the store – actually handling shopping at a super Walmart without feeling too overwhelmed… as long as I go late at night… with a very specific list… and have a specific time I need to be finished by – like teenage daughter waiting at home for help with her Precalc or a sick preschooler waiting for children’s Tylenol (even though I had adult pills I could have cut and crushed like I did while overseas). I’m once again proficient at swiping credit cards and there’s no longer a temptation to try and bargain down prices for clothing or material. I’m desperately missing friends and loved ones, but that is always a part of life, no matter where I’m living.

And since things are feeling relatively comfortable, this introvert finally wrangled up the courage to try something new.

I attended a meeting for a group of women presently living in this locale, but who have also spent time living abroad. Accents and languages, skin and hair colors, clothing and jewelry styles varied… almost every corner of the world was represented. Some had grown children while others were just starting out. Some freely and lavishly consumed European wine, gourmet sandwiches and fancy finger desserts catered for the occasion; others, practicing vegans, consumed only water and sliced fruit. One even wore a scarf covering her head and upper body. Everyone seemed delighted to be there – with so much different, one thing we all had in common was the experience of packing up and moving to a completely foreign place and trying to build and make a life there.

Each woman in that group has a story – although I was only able to hear a few:  foreign spouse to one working for a large business company with an international division; an immigrant family who pursued and caught their “American dream;” the American gal vacationing in Europe one summer and just happened to meet her life partner; or the student who moved to America to pursue her education, decided to stay and thus began to call this land home.

It was a stretching experience – taking myself all by myself someplace to meet a bunch of strangers cold turkey is normally the kind of thing I avoid like the plague… But the women were gracious, welcoming, kind and oh-so-international – there were even French speakers, although there wasn’t anyone else who’d also lived in Africa. I’m pretty sure I’ll pay the membership dues and plan to attend meetings when I can next year.

Something else totally astonished me.

While there, I listened to the most interesting conversation – about maids and nannies and etc. And I hope no one noticed my chin on the floor as I listened. It might be a bit embarrassing to go back for the next meeting if they did…

Every place I have lived and worked overseas – W Africa and SE Asia, it is common – expected, actually – for expats to hire local men or women to cook, clean, garden, keep the gate and/or sometimes care for their children. I mean, EVERYONE had someone, at least part-time. For two of our years and for many reasons, our family decided to forego a house helper: my fellow expats thought I was a bit batty (I think) and our local friends just didn’t believe that it was true or that we could do all the work as a family ourselves. That meant, however, that we did have house help for almost fifteen years during our West African sojourn. We’d justify it. Everything DID take longer – from bargaining for and then bleaching all of the fresh produce – to dusting and sweeping like mad, and often several times a day – to making everything from scratch all the time because the closest we got to “convenience” food was street food and baguettes wrapped in day old newspaper also covered with a fine layer of street dust. Hiring local workers invested in the local economy. It gave us opportunities to meet people we might not otherwise have the occasion to know as well as consistent, regular practice working on the local languages, not to mention someone close by with insight into all those local cultural practices that seemed so odd and foreign at first.

Behind The Scenes - Tea Ladies ... July 1946

I have never dreamed of hiring house help while living in the States. On second thought, maybe I have dreamed… but I have never seriously considered engaging someone other than bribing a child with a bit of spending money to take care of a job that falls outside of their normally scheduled chores and household responsibilities.

Yet this group, these women… at least every single one at my table… all had house help. Most of them had a nanny, too. In the States??!


Even more surprising? They listed the exact same reasons/benefits… justifications… for hiring someone that I’ve heard my friends living in the developing world list, the exact same ones that I’ve used myself. You know. Those ones that I’ve just listed above.

All the while I’m listening to this conversation, I’m thinking, “Seriously?” But once I back out of a judgmental mode – which, if I’m being honest was a challenge because I KNOW living here, at least workload wise, is light-years easier than it was living in W Africa, I started asking myself some questions.

I don’t have answers ~ so I thought I’d bring them to you all…

Do people in your area hire local outside help for regular, around-the-house jobs and chores?

Is your locale considered developed or developing?

What is the reasoning for hiring local help in your region? If you have local help, why?

Would you, like me, have been surprised if you’d been listening to the above conversation?

Do you think local help is more of a genuine necessity or is it, in reality, more of a perk of living the expat lifestyle and being a stranger in a foreign land where you are expected to do things differently? Why?

photo credits (in order):

 Luke,Ma via photopin cc

 srv007 via photopin cc

 A.Davey via photopin cc

of dust and criticism

Living on the back side of the Sahara Desert for 13 years, I became intimately acquainted with dust. Keeping desert dust from simply moving in and taking over the house? Well, I jokingly (sorta) say that THAT was my full time job. Or battle. If I stick with the battle metaphor, it was one I lost on a very regular basis. Dust was everywhere, regardless of how hard I tried, how hard I worked, how much time I spent – covering the kitchen table, on the fruit in the basket, at the bottom of my coffee cup once I’d finished drinking, on the laundry line leaving a line on our clothes even when I remembered to wipe it off….

 Not too many days ago, our Niamey friends posted Facebook pictures of the first dust storm of the season. We always looked forward to that first storm. It meant that the rainy season was finally starting to approach and after nine to ten months of no precipitation, we welcomed the rain.

I used to think the Hollywood versions of dust storms had to be totally overdone and greatly exaggerated. Then I experienced my first storm; an enormous wall of dust rolled in, the sky turned an eerie orange, then continued to darken. The air gets palpably thick… with the really big, really dense storms, it could turn pitch black. Normally these storms would roll through in ten to fifteen minutes, were often followed by welcomed rain and clearer, fresher air. One time I remember the dusty darkness arrived in the afternoon, and was not followed by an immediate rain. We did not see the sun again until the next day – and then, only through a dusty haze. My sometimes slightly strange TCK children revel in dust storms. They love to go outside and run and play, celebrating (while somewhat choking) in the glorious windy-ness of every storm, but particularly the first one of each season.

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Needless to say, my relationship with dust has been one of mostly-hate/very-occasionally-love, on so many levels.


…a group came from the States to lead a conference for the purpose of encouraging the missionaries – and I was introduced to this song for the first time.

 You make beautiful things

 You make beautiful things out of the dust

 You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

All around

Hope is springing up from this old ground

Out of chaos life is being found in You…


 I first heard this song at a time when I was feeling very dust-like… But what does that mean?

I recently did a word study of the “dust” in the Bible. Dust represents different things in different passages of Scripture, including.

In a nutshell, I was feeling 

  • frail;
  • overwhelmed by the immensity of everything – not just “the job” but also the very fact that God wanted to and was willing to use me;
  • incapable;
  • struggling to stand under the weight of consequences of my own making,
  • guilty for worrying;
  • sorrow for all my failures and shortcomings;
  • an abhorrence for the poverty, desolation, hopelessness and disease all around as well as for the frustratingly broken systems through which I was trying to work;
  • silently contemptuous towards those who, in my “humble” opinions, where doing it all wrong.

 In my years in church, I’ve heard many criticisms of Nicodemus: he was a coward for seeking the Lord in the night, he never boldly impacted his fellow Pharisees by publicly identifying as a follower of Jesus. What if he, just like me, felt like dust… Criticize his method – many may, but if he hadn’t goneI might have never had these words: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”

Could it be similar with that fellow cross cultural, international worker who is ministering in what I feel is a wrong way? Why preach in English on a street somewhere where English is not the language and where outward confrontation is cultural anathema? I wonder if he felt like dust, too – compelled to do something uncomfortable and hard but he obeyed… and now I sit in judgment, or at best muster up a patronizing, “Well, he just doesn’t know any better?” If he hadn’t gone, I might have never felt the conviction in my own heart about my critical attitude towards those whose methods discomfort, offend or are just incomprehensible to me. What if, in the amazing intricacies and details of God’s working in human hearts and lives, that man was preaching on the streets for me as I mull over how to be salt and light in my immediate world and family?

What if we learned to reserve judgment and criticism for those times when speaking up is truly in the best interest… God’s interest… of another dust-like one being criticized and otherwise sought to apply these words the rest of the time: “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”


What encourages you when you are feeling dust-like?

How do you, personally, apply that last verse in your daily life as an international worker? In those times where you feel tempted to criticize a brother, sister, or fellow worker for their different ministry methods/focus?


All dust storm photos by Esther Garvi and were used with permission. Check out more photos of that storm and read a blog post about her harrowing experience here.

Song lyrics, Beautiful Things by Gungor