Ice-Cream Theology

Statistics show that the majority of people die.  This is an undisputed fact. Yet fear of death is one of the top phobias of the human race. According to Jerry Seinfeld it ranks right after fear of public speaking. Consult with wikipedia and you will find fear of death a bit farther down on the list after: flying, heights, clowns, and intimacy.

Have you ever been afraid of death? I have.

For the first few years in Bolivia a reoccurring fear gripped me. I was afraid my husband would die. And beyond that I was afraid of what I would do if he did die. No matter how irrational that fear was, it ate away at me as I fixated on it.

Two veteran missionaries came to visit us. They were our teachers in mission school. Now they had come to speak at a conference and see how we were doing. One afternoon we went out for ice-cream. My fingers tapped and I wiggled in my seat waiting for the right moment to ask their advice.

“I am worried about if my husband dies what will happen to us,” I blurted.

Everyone stopped clinking their cute little spoons on the glass ice-cream cups. The background noises of the open air restaurant spun around my ears in increasing volume. The awkward, loud silence made my heart beat faster.

One of the seasoned men had the guts to speak first. I think he asked some clarifying questions. I didn’t cry. Although my worrisome tone made him speak in a calm low voice. The others just sat stunned. I can’t remember any specific advice. I remember faces of confusion and pity.

The sole brave speaker told a story, “My grandpa used to listen to gospel hymns about heaven, and he died an early death.” How disconcerting, and odd. So much for that session of ice-cream theology. As far as I was concerned their advice had the consistency of the puddle of pink goo that had accumulated in my dish. Weak. Milky. Useless.

Fears and anxiety marked a struggle with deathly imaginations that lasted more than five years.

Sure, I prayed. I begged God to take away the terrors. I wanted the answer fast. I wanted him to bleach my soul. This was not His plan. The answer came slow. The trying of faith and the formation of long suffering were His chosen path for me.

ice cream at frozz

Not long ago my husband and I sat across a tiny table and chatted during our weekly tradition of ice-cream on Tuesdays. He scooped up a big mound of Snickers Twisters and I slurped a Choco Frio. That frightful conversation of despair at an ice-cream shoppe years ago flashed through my mind.

An awareness filled my soul. I no longer feared the death of my husband. What I had hoped would happen as suddenly as a brain freeze had come upon me slowly like the creeping up freeze of the winter months after a sticky summer and a cool fall.

My answer came. Thank you God!

No mater how irrational, fears can feel all consuming. Maybe you don’t fear your husband’s death. Maybe you do. Maybe you are struggling with other kinds of fears. First, don’t stop praying. Second, talk with trusted people – even if they don’t have any good advice for you, it is good to shine light on the darkness.

What have you found helpful in your life for confronting fear?

 – Angie Washington, missionary living in Bolivia, South America

blog: angiewashington.com twitter: @atangie  facebook: atangie

The Story Behind the Statistics

As missionaries, we often report statistics as a way of conveying the impact we are having.

Numbers of salvations, people taught, clinics opened, or people rescued from the evils of society.

Behind these numbers are people, stories, and often difficulties.

One the people we’ve been training, recently had an interesting situation which drove this reality home afresh to me. He comes from a gang-invested environment where crime and violence are common.

As a relatively new convert, he came to our discipleship program and followed up as a student in our Bible school. We saw great change occur in his life. He was one of our local success stories. He was a newsletter statistic.

But he has a story and challenges behind the numbers.

He recently attempted to share with some of the gangsters in his area. As he was, they asked him to rob some of the foreign workers whom work with our organization who he shared accommodation with. Rather than do this, he took the little money he had in his own account, attempting to give it to the gangsters.

When he presented it to them, they wanted more, and a fight ensued. Our student was beaten up.

He chose this route to avoid stealing from those training him. His reward for loyalty was violence. His changed life got him physically beaten.

By: DFID - UK Department for International Development
By: DFID – UK Department for International Development

While I rejoice in his loyalty, I mourn with the pain it cost him.

This was such a reminder that the changes our people make often costs them. They can be persecuted, shunned, or in some cases killed.

We toss around phrases as gospel workers such as, “count the cost“, but these events are when reality rears it’s ugly head.

The people we influence are so much more than numbers on a page. There are stories behind these statistics.

It’s exciting to report the joyful stories, but we also have stories of pain, suffering, and persecution to contend with.

These are a sobering reminders of the reality change often brings. Things change positively for eternity, but difficulty might actually increase in the interim.

When tempted to sugar coat the gospel and only speak of love, joy and peace; we remind ourselves the Bible also warns us of challenges and persecution follow those walking in the Truth.

Let’s never allow people to only become statistics, but keep their stories before us to stay in touch with the reality.

A changed life always is cause for celebration, but let us not be so naive to think that life will be smooth sailing from this point on.

This is the dilemma of missions.

– Chris Lautsbaugh, Missionary teacher and author with Youth With A Mission, living in S. Africa.
Blog: NoSuperHeroes   Twitter: @lautsbaugh   Facebook: NoSuperHeroes

Benefits of Raising Kids on the Mission Field

Plenty of emphasis is placed on the dangers of raising children on the mission field. The thought of crime and disease sends shivers down the spine of a parent contemplating “the life overseas.”

Choosing missions for your kids causes them miss out on grandparents and culture in our home countries.

It becomes so easy to contemplate or fear whether our children will one day resent the choice we’ve made for them.

But, let’s be honest.

There are so many benefits to living on the field and having our children grow up in this atmosphere.

Let me share a story with you we recently experienced.

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Some rights reserved by Lyn Lomasi

Our oldest son has reached the age where the initial conversations about the birds and bees need to happen. As parents, my wife and I want to tell him these things before he hears it at school.

So I planned a special night away for “the talk.” As I began to share the big picture, something became quickly apparent.

He was totally clueless! At one point, he even asked if sex was a musical instrument (sax).

My wife and I are thrilled to have had our son make it to 8 1/2 years old and be completely clueless about these things. Growing up in our home country would have rendered this impossible.

Every situation, every culture, and every nation has negatives for children. I could give you a list of the things I do not like about raising my kids on the missions field.

But, I would rather give you a list of some of the benefits.

Other perks include:
International perspective.
Interracial perspective.
Less materialistic emphasis.
Less television.
Less cynical, critical, and sarcastic.

For all these I am grateful, and I believe my children have benefitted from “A Life Overseas.”

So now, it is your turn.

We all can name a negative or two(perhaps many), or list the sacrifices we have made on behalf of our kids.

But, what if we do the opposite?

Share a few of your benefits to raising children on the mission field. 

– Chris Lautsbaugh, Missionary teacher and author with Youth With A Mission, living in S. Africa.
Blog: NoSuperHeroes   Twitter: @lautsbaugh   Facebook: NoSuperHeroes

The F Word

The end of the school year brings loads of changes, some nearly universal and some unique to people with international identities. Julie Martinez, working and writing in Cambodia shares a personal story and the hopes of a family and a son in transition.

Freaked out.  Frustrated.  Fear.  Failure.  These are some of the F words that we have been slinging around the house lately.  We have also been slinging around the F word Frittata, but that is a different story.  We are in the process of transition and it is creating moments of drama and tension.  My son who was born in Honduras and has lived in five different countries is now returning to America to attend university and emotions are running high.

This is a boy who has grown up in airports.  He can navigate any airport anywhere.  From the time that he was 3 months old he has been a flying across the world. I am afraid that when he remembers his childhood he will tell stories of terrible airplane food and rushing through airport gates laden with carry-ons.  Or will he talk about a lifetime of good-byes?  Of constantly downsizing our lives to fit into two suitcases?

This is a boy who has lived an unconventional life.

Tanzania 01-2005 057He knows how to barter in local markets like an Arab trader.  He can hop on a motorcycle fearlessly and navigate unknown roads in third world countries.  He is unique.  He has been chased by elephants; climbed volcanoes; and has stood where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic.  He has seen the world and much of it on the road less traveled and all before he was 18.

 

So, how does he transition to the USA?  How does he navigate the world of fraternities, finals, football, fast food, and other Americanisms?  My son is a third culture kid which means he is not fully American nor has he taken on the culture of his host country.  He has created a third culture—a culture unique to him.  He travels to America as a hidden immigrant.  One who speaks the language – looks the part – but is missing social cues and cultural meanings.

He knows this and he is fearful—fearful of failure and is freaked out.  His F word is Fear.  Fear is paralyzing, sends people into tailspins.  Fear is seemingly depriving him of oxygen and causing him to make questionable decisions.  My F word, on the other hand, is frustration.  I am frustrated because I can’t help him and truthfully, he won’t let me which also frustrates me.  He will be 18 soon and naturally wants to navigate life on his own.  And the reality is I can’t fully help him—he sees the world through a different lens than I do and he is going to have to figure it out. IMG_1799

Living overseas is wonderful, but there are prices to be paid and they are paid by all.  God calls us and He equips us . . . but there are aspects of this cross-cultural life that aren’t easy nor are there easy answers.  I wish I could wrap up this post with a three-fold solution.  There isn’t one.  The only thing that I can offer is that maybe it is time for a different word.  Not an F word, but a G word and that is grace.  That God will cover my son in His grace and that God in His grace and mercy will lead him and that His grace will carry him in the hard places and through the mistakes and the hard-times that are inevitable.

What kinds of G words carry you through your F seasons? In other words, we would love to hear how grace meets you in weakness and uncertainty.

Julie T. Martinez, Development Director N. Cambodia

People For Care & Learning, follow her blog at People for Care

Missions and Money: A Never Ending Tension

The Bible is full of truth.

Sometimes, the challenge lies in which blend of truth to apply. Many of these tensions surround missions and money.

Let me present three areas missionaries deal with.

1. Raising support as a missionary or minister.
2. Being generous to the poor and needy.
3. Saving money for your future, children’s education, and ultimately an inheritance. 

All these areas are supported by a multitude of Scripture. We cannot pick and choose our favorite, but rather find a way to apply an aspect of all these truths.

Some rights reserved by epSos.de
Some rights reserved by epSos.de

Here is a small sampling of the truth Scripture presents in these areas. The Bible talks about money often, we should take notice! (All verses from the English Standard Version)

1. Raising support as a missionary or minister.

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”  (1 Timothy 5:17-18)

“In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14)

“One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.” (Galatians 6:6)


2. Being generous to the poor and needy.

“For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11)

“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs 19:17)

“If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3)


3. Saving money for the future of you and your family.

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.” (Proverbs 13:22)

“Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” (Proverbs 13:11)

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)

I realize these verses are but a sampling of the dilemma we face. It would be easy to dismiss them saying, “Yes but…”

As believers and missionaries, we tell people they can’t pick and choose which truths to apply. Neither can we.

As missionaries we need to have a degree of application stemming from all these truths in our life.

I would go so far to say all missionaries need to wrestle with issues of financial support, being generous to the poor, and saving for our future. Neglecting any of these is neglecting a part of the Word of God.

I have witnessed missionaries who ignore truth in these areas. Some are now older and wondering where they will be since they have lived a life of trusting God to provide.

Trusting God is true. But trusting God is one truth. We cannot take it at the expense of others, including providing for our future.

My goal is not to make absolute statements, rather to provoke “A Life Overseas” discussion.

Would you help us learn from each other by answering one or both of the following questions:

For a moment of honesty….which one of these is most difficult for you? (Just because we are in ministry, does not mean being generous to the poor is always our easiest one. True Confession. It is the hardest for me!)

What is your experience in dealing with blending these truths? How do you reconcile them?

Ready! Set! Discuss!

– Chris Lautsbaugh, Missionary teacher and author with Youth With A Mission, living in S. Africa.
Blog: NoSuperHeroes   Twitter: @lautsbaugh   Facebook: NoSuperHeroes

Do It Afraid

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More than ten years ago I got to watch my oldest son Isaac take his first steps.  He was 11 months old at the time.

Considering we lived in two different countries at that point in time, it was great timing on his part.

I was in Port au Prince visiting him toward the end of his adoption process. I made that particular trip solo, meaning we spent a lot of time hanging out in a hotel room watching TV in French. I was introducing him to Cheez-It crackers and other fine American cuisine when he stood up and showed me that without a ton of effort, he could stand unassisted and balance himself fairly well.

He crawled over to the wall and stood up against it. He sat back down. He did this over and over again. After he stood he would look to me for applause as he wobbled and grinned, staying near the wall. No matter what I did to try to entice him to take a step, he stood in place. He was eleven months old and just as he is now, he was quite cautious. This boy is not into risk-taking.

By the second day in our hotel room, he stood with his back against the wall toying with the idea of stepping away from the wall that balanced him. He would take one step with one hand on the wall; he would laugh nervously at me while I motioned for him to keep coming.  He would put his arms up for balance and stand a couple of inches away from the wall. For hours a day we played that game. Over and over I’d tell him to try it.  Over and over he’d laugh and step back to rest his diapered butt on the wall. After a few days of coaxing and giggling and fear, he took his hand off the wall and took five unbalanced and uncoordinated steps into my arms.

When he got to me he made the most peculiar laughing and crying combination sound.  He was so afraid to let go of the solid wall behind him, that when he found out he had survived the risk, he was simultaneously more afraid and more confident.

He trusted my arms but He didn’t trust the process of getting to me very much. It took Isaac many hours to attempt the five steps from the wall into my arms a second time.

He’d overcome his fear once, but subsequent attempts weren’t any less frightening.

Fear.
The real F word.
Keeps us from trusting.
Keeps us from risking.
Keeps us from healing.
Keeps us trapped. Keeps us from doing.

It tells us lies :
You are not good enough.  It will be too hard for you.  You will fail.  It will be too painful. You cannot do it. You are alone.
Most of us find ways to manage what we’re fearful about, you do it  – and I do it.

Sometimes our heads trick us into thinking that our previous tries and our previous success doesn’t mean anything.

Sometimes we forget that our Heavenly Papa stands nearby ready to help.

We conquer our fear, and then our fear conquers us. 

I am not afraid of failing at my duties as a mom and wife  – until I am.

I am not afraid that my kids will someday have an accident in Haiti that cannot be treated, until I am.

I am not afraid of failure in my studies to become a midwife – until I am.

I am not afraid my husband, Troy, will die someday in a scary hold-up, until I am.

I am not afraid of facing incredible poverty that tears my heart out, frustrates me, and leaves me confused and screaming, “Where are you God?!?!”  – until I am.

So what do I do with all this fear?

Truthfully, it lies quiet, dormant, and well managed most of the time … except when it doesn’t. 

I can talk sense to it. I can say things to it like “Fear is not of God.” and “You’re doing fine. God is with you. You’ve done it before. You’ve got this!” The fear can be pushed back, sometimes prayed away, other times ignored…. But on occasion the human, broken mess that is Tara Livesay cannot keep it all at bay.

Not unlike my son Isaac as he took those first steps, I trust the strength of my Father’s arms but sometimes I don’t trust the process of getting to Him. 

What then?

My good friend Beth shared her favorite quote with me early in our friendship.  “Do it afraid“, she said.

Like Isaac on his second attempt to leave the solid safety of the wall, knowing too much and knowing too little, do it afraid.

I’ve heard it said, “practice makes perfect”.  I’m too much of a realist to believe that to be true in this instance. Practicing doing scary things doesn’t really make me perfect at it. I’m still afraid sometimes. I don’t know how to stop being afraid completely and consistently. I’m not finding ‘perfection’ as I continually practice facing both my rational and irrational fears.

I only know that sometimes – I have to do it afraid. 

We all do.

          ~         ~        ~        ~

Is fear something you struggle with?  What helps you face those fears, what helps you “do it afriad”?  

 

Tara Livesay  works as a midwife apprentice in Port-au-Prince, Haiti with Heartline Ministries.

blog:  livesayhaiti.com  |  twitter (sharing with her better half): @troylivesay

Fighting Fear: Peace Like A River

Last month I wrote about how much I miss the promise and illusion of safety the developed world offers when my baby is sick over here in Laos. I know, however, that the fears that underpin my longings aren’t caused by living in Laos. They are only magnified.

This month I thought I’d take another look at those fears from a different angle, and share a piece that I wrote almost a year ago now, Peace Like A River. In one of life’s painful ironies, this essay was published the day before the accident that broke Dominic’s femur. It is a piece I’ve returned to several times since then, and the triangular relationship between peace, fear and love is one I continue to puzzle over.

 Peace Like A River

Two weeks after Dominic was born, my husband, Mike, announced that he was going out for a bike ride.

“Just a 50km loop,” he said. “I’ll be back within two hours.”

I nodded and told him to have a good ride, but that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to cry. I wanted to clutch him and beg him not to go. I wanted to demand that he tell me how I would survive if a car hit him – which happens to cyclists all the time, you know – while he was being so irresponsible as to be out riding for fun. Fun. What was he thinking to be indulging in something so very dangerous and call it fun?

I had expected my son’s birth to deliver love into my life. What I had not expected was that right alongside love would come something else, something that would assault me more often and more viciously than I had ever imagined.

Fear.

In the weeks following the miraculous trauma of Dominic’s arrival, I found myself battling fear at every turn. I would see myself dropping the baby, or accidentally smothering him while I was feeding him in bed. The thought of unintentionally stepping on his tiny hand while he was lying on the floor made me stop breathing. Whenever I left the house I visualized car accidents. I lay awake at night when I should have been getting desperately needed sleep thinking about the plane ticket that had my name on it – the ticket for the flight that would take all three of us back to Laos.

How, I wondered, am I ever going to be able to take this baby to Laos when I don’t even want to take him to the local grocery store? What if he catches dengue fever? What if he picks up a parasite that ravages his tiny insides? What if he gets meningitis and we can’t get him to a doctor in Bangkok fast enough? What if the worst happens?

What if?

One of my favorite hymns was written by a man who was living through one such horrific “what if”. After learning that all four of his children had drowned when the ship they were traveling on collided with another boat and sank, Spafford left immediately to join his grieving wife on the other side of the Atlantic. As his own ship passed near the waters where his daughters had died, he wrote It Is Well With My Soul.

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul

This hymn is one of my favorites because it puzzles me. I’m awed and confused by Spafford’s ability to write these words in the face of such loss. Because of the story behind it, the song demands my respect.

Plus, I really like that image in the first line of peace like a river.

I think of this line sometimes when I’m out walking around town, for Luang Prabang is nestled between two rivers. The Mekong is a force to be reckoned with – wide, muddy, and determined. Watching the frothy drag on the longboats as they putt between banks gives you some hint of the forces at play underneath the surface. Mike likes the Mekong, but my favorite is the other river, the Khan. The Khan is much smaller, and at this time of year it runs clear and green, skipping over gravelly sand banks and slipping smoothly between the poles of the bamboo bridge that fords it.

I used to think of peace primarily as a stillness – a pause, a silence, a clarity – but that sort of peace is not the peace of rivers. There is a majestic, hushed sort of calm to rivers. But they are not silent and they are certainly not still – even the most placid of rivers is going somewhere. They don’t always run clear, either. But all that silt that muddies the waters of the Mekong? It ends up nourishing vegetables growing on the riverbanks.

Dominic is five months old now and the worst of the post-natal anxiety appears to have subsided. I managed to get myself to board that plane back to Laos and it no longer terrifies me to see Mike head out the door to ride his bike to work (most days, anyway). My fear of what ifs never leaves completely, though – it’s always lurking around waiting to be nurtured by my attention and amplified by my imagination.

I used to feel like a failure that I couldn’t banish that fear altogether – that I never felt “perfectly” peaceful – but I don’t feel that way any more. I’m learning to greet that sort of fear respectfully without bowing before it. I’m learning to use it as a reminder to turn toward gratitude rather than worry. And I’ve stopped expecting peace to look like the pristine silence that follows a midnight snowfall. I’m coming to appreciate a different sort of peace instead – a peace that pushes forward, rich with mud, swelling and splashing and alive with the music of water meeting rock.

Peace like a river.

What does peace mean to you? What does it look like?
If you live overseas, have you learned anything new about peace from your host culture?

Lisa McKayauthor, psychologist, sojourner in Laos

Blog: www.lisamckaywriting.com      Books: Love At The Speed Of Email and My Hands Came Away Red