A Trip to the Store

by Robert Buchanan

We were on a six-month home assignment after having served our first term as missionaries in a South Pacific country. At the time we were living in our friend’s finished basement and using one of their vehicles. One night my wife Heather told me she wanted to do some shopping in town. Like many men, I’m not a big fan of shopping, and I didn’t want to go. Heather persisted, and I finally said, “Why don’t you just take the car and go? We can do something when you get back.”

For several seconds she looked like she was in deep thought and then said, “Oh yeah, I can do that here!” In our country of service, it is unwise for ladies to drive off our mission center by themselves. Heather and I had spent over 40 years of our life in the U.S. before going overseas, but now after only two years abroad, we had changed.

Even simple tasks aren’t that simple when one lives in the developing world. If you live in a suburban location in the United States and want to go into town to shop at a local store, what do you do? Most likely, you make a shopping list, grab your wallet and car keys, and drive into town without much thought.

You probably don’t check with the local authorities about road conditions and zero out your trip odometer so that you’ll know exactly how far away you are from home if you break down. Or take the time to ensure that you have a full tank of fuel, check to see that your license and registration is up to date, and know that the vehicle is in good working order.

You are even less likely to make sure someone else knows your itinerary, that you have emergency contact numbers written down, have redundant communications devices available, ensure that there is a reasonable proportion of adult men to women and children, think about who would be an asset and who would be a liability in a critical incident, have a throw-away wallet in your possession in case of a robbery, or on occasion request an armed escort from a local security provider.

As you drive, the tactically minded among you may be looking for roadblocks and choke points, but for most Americans without a law enforcement, military, or security background, that is an odd and foreign concept often relegated to the paranoid. Of course, humans aren’t the only hazards on the roads, but in the U.S., you are unlikely to have pigs, dogs, and drunk people wandering in the middle of the “highway.” If for some reason that does happen, it doesn’t last very long.

Similarly, you’re unlikely to drive over bridges without railings or that seem ready to collapse. Pedestrians and other drivers may sometimes use bad judgement, but for the most part, Americans follow the rules of the road which are actively enforced by the police.

When you arrive in town, you probably don’t have someone stay with the vehicle to deter theft. You probably don’t consciously ensure that the men in the group take responsibility for looking out for the women and children. You probably aren’t looking for surveillance and likely don’t have a mental contingency plan for a riot, medical emergency, or firefight between the police and local criminals.

If you live in the developing world as a missionary or NGO worker, you likely do all of this and more for every trip into town. Are there some missionaries and NGO workers who become complacent and fail to take all these precautions? Yes, there absolutely are, but even in their complacency they are more alert than most Americans who have never lived overseas.

This is understandable since the United States has good roads, well-trained police, fire, and emergency medical service professionals, trauma centers, available tow trucks and mechanics, solid communications infrastructure, and a stable power grid. So thank God and count your blessings if you live in suburban America, but remember that, to the majority world, the stability you experience in the U.S. is unheard of.

As a career security professional, I have always run scenarios in my head and made plans for a whole host of contingencies, but it wasn’t until the I lived overseas that I began to fully understand the quote from General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who famously said, “Plans are nothing, but planning is everything.”

No matter how good my plan is, it is unlikely to match the exact situation I find myself in, but having gone through the act of planning, I can more easily adapt. Now, as practical as that statement is, my time overseas has also taught me a corollary: “No matter how much I plan or how adaptable I am, I am still totally reliant on the One who knows the end from the beginning.”

God stands outside of time, knows all things, and works all things together for His glory. As a servant of God, I fall short when I only rely on my ability to plan and adapt. My faith must be in Him, who not only gave me the skills and intellect I have, but who knows far more than I ever could.

Proverbs 21:31 says, “The horse is prepared against the day of battle: But safety is of the Lord” (KJV). Notice that the horse is prepared. We are not to shirk our duties or ignore our talents and abilities, but in the end, it is God who gives safety.

As a missionary with 10 years of overseas experience and a security professional with 34 years of experience, I can give this advice: Learn everything you can, plan to the best of your ability, and prepare for foreseeable events, but most of all, rely on the One who holds all people and all history in His hands.

~~~~~~~~

Robert Buchanan is a career security professional who answered God’s call to use his skills in overseas missions. He currently serves as a security advisor for a mission organization in the South Pacific. His wife, Heather, serves as a teacher in the local international school, and together they have found that true joy comes from doing God’s will – even when conditions are challenging.

I have nothing to prove

Sometimes I think I must be a fool.

Of course, I know that much of my cherished wisdom is foolishness to God. And sometimes it’s foolish even in my own eyes. But what makes me feel quite foolish sometimes are the opportunities I’ve let go of.

If you’ve given your life to missions and ministry, maybe you can relate.

After college and graduate school, awards and accolades, degrees and dreams, we went into ministry. At first it didn’t feel like much of a sacrifice; our friends in other fields of work were also just starting out, taking risks, living like paupers. But after a decade or two, the difference between us is stark. They’re rich. They occupy positions of economic and social power. They have long lists of achievements attached to their names. And those are great opportunities to serve God.

What have we done? Survived, even thrived, in a foreign country or among a new people? Learned a new language? Preached and taught falteringly in that new language? Made fruitful friendships? Learned how to live very simply? Rejoiced and wept with people? Opened our home and practiced hospitality? Launched a church? Started a business or organization? Made disciples who make disciples?

What are those things worth? Are they enough?

At first, there’s the “cool” factor of missions: it’s “radical” to live in another country. But after a while the luster wears off, and we’re just people who have given up our own ambitions to serve Someone Else’s. It’s simply not logical in the eyes of the world.

Sometimes a sneaky feeling darts into my heart and makes me want to prove that even though I’ve chosen ministry, it doesn’t mean I couldn’t do those other impressive things. I decide to show that I can succeed with the best of them, and I labor over a project for entirely the wrong reasons: to prove that even by the world’s standards, I’m worth something! If I’m honest, part of me still hungers for that approval.

But ministry does not consistently give us that approval. Even if you started a business for missions that’s thriving, achieving all the goals you set, and becoming a fixture in the community, it’s not the same. It’s not the same glory as building a successful business in the developed world that brings millions of dollars along with social and civil positions.

If we feed our self-worth with accomplishments, missions won’t give us enough. In fact, nothing will.

If I take on the perspective of eternity, I know that being approved by the world is a poor, stingy substitute for God’s pleasure. I know what I must do: set my eyes and my joy on Christ, fulfill my calling with excellence, and be glad in what my brothers and sisters are doing. It is literally true that being faithful to God is genuine success.

And in my imperfect way, I can live this out. My husband and I, we make decisions based on eternity. But in some of my bad moments, fears and insecurities creep in, tempting me back toward that merciless treadmill to prove that I’m enough.

But I don’t have to prove a thing. I know for whom I live: He died a supposed failure, yet He lives again and rules the universe. I will neither die His death nor live His glory. And yet, in a way befitting the creature rather than the Creator, I will. I die to sin and self. I will rise again to an imperishable body and the glory of the adopted children of God.

He has proven all that needs to be proven.

Traveling Missionaries

Being a missionary carries a great cost, but does have some benefits. It is not all doom and gloom, complete with vows of poverty and poor fashion choices for clothing.

In today’s day and age it is easy to benefit from one aspect of the missionary life. Frequent travel. The nature of missions involves being traveling missionaries. We have left home to go somewhere.

There are great opportunities and value given to those who find themselves on the road often. It is easy to believe that obtaining these perks are not something “spiritual” missionaries do. I would like to contend it is the practice of the wise

I’ve written several posts on my blog regarding how to benefit from these perks. Some of the topics I have covered are:
Racking Up Frequent Flyer Miles.
Finding the Best Flight Deals
Avoiding the Middle Seat and more Travel Tips.

Some rights reserved by Moyan_Brenn

These posts have been some of my most successful. I will not repeat what is in them, but would like to offer a few points based on my experience and mention the benefits of following the advice to the Life Overseas community.

1. Always, always collect your miles. You might not be a missionary who’s job involves multiple trips, but simply earning miles for moving to the field or your visits home can earn you a lot of free travel. When you move a family to the field, you can earn miles for EACH member. One trip can net miles in the six figure range.

2. Don’t see benefiting from hotel points or airline miles as un-spiritual. I believe God would say it is wise. Last Christmas our family traveled home to the USA from South Africa. We purchased the international tickets, earning nearly 80,000 miles for this. While in the USA, we did not pay for a single domestic flight to see our families or supporters saving several thousand dollars. In fact, we used 7 free tickets to visit family and supporters. We were even able to use this commodity to bless others. We gave others three tickets. We might not have a lot of cash, but this is a currency we can be generous with.

3. Miles or points can benefit your ministry. I have flown free within Africa on ministry trips, Often it costs less to fly 10,000 miles to the USA than it does 2,000 within Africa. If I pay for the high mileage tickets, it helps me fly free on the lower mileage but higher priced ones. Also, on the hotel side of things. Having a free night in a hotel on a long international layover beats sleeping in an airport anytime!

4. Mileage can serve us in emergencies. This is a savings account of sorts. Recently, our family needed to respond to a family emergency back in the USA. Within 2 hours of hearing of this, I had a mileage ticket booked for my wife to travel internationally. She departed the same day we found out. If I were to buy this ticket, it would have cost me several thousand dollars.

5. Travel currency can benefit you with rest and relaxation. Even missionaries need rest. God commands it after all. We might fight the guilt battle which says we can’t do this (maybe believing we are indispensable), but God tells us to. As you read this, my wife and I are on a much needed break. We have flown to a foreign destination and are spending time in hotels, completely FREE. With the year we have had, we needed it!

Not sure where to start? It’s simple.

The next time you fly or stay in a hotel, make sure you have signed up for that airlines or hotel chain’s loyalty program. Try to pick one which serves your frequent travel destinations and stick with it.

It’s called wisdom and it carries many benefits; financially, emotionally, and “vacation-ally”

How have others in the community benefited from travel perks? What stigmas do we need to expose which tell us missionaries we are not able to do such activities or that they are “un-spiritual”? 

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