29 September 2017

The story of my life and how God has led me; two videos for your viewing pleasure

Speaking in front of a group of people is certainly not my gifting. However, I do believe I have a story to tell!

That's what I did this past May when I spoke at Crossroads Tabernacle Church in the Bronx (New York City), where my daughter, Jessica and her husband attend. I simple told the story of my life and how I unexpectedly ended up in Kenya, East Africa as a missionary. When I look back on my life, I find it all a bit remarkable and marvel at the paths on which God has led me.

[You can find the written version of that sermon on my blog at this link.
It's there in four parts, so when you reach the end of part one,
simply click the link for part two... and so forth.]

Recently my friends, Dave and Rose, asked me speak to the group of seniors at their church in Minnesota. Because of the time difference, Skype wasn't an option. Instead, I recorded this video at my house. It's not so great, but the story is still there. I hope you'll enjoy it.

I also put the photos from my sermon into a video format. I hope you will enjoy them as well.

Each one of us has a story to tell concerning how we've lived our lives or how God has led us. Have you ever put your life story into a written form, or perhaps made a video of it?

If not, I would suggest you give it a try. Put pen to paper and see what you come up with. As I composed my story, I actually gained some incredible insights into my own life.

26 September 2017

The Pineapple Story, by Otto Koning (former missionary to Irian Jaya, Indonesia)

“Tuan (sir), you have become
a Christian!”

Whenever the name of Otto Koning is mentioned, those who have heard him speak break out with laughter. They are not laughing at Otto; they are  laughing at their own human nature which he has an amazing gift to reveal.

Otto and his wife, Carol, went to Irian Jaya (New Guinea) to be missionaries. They worked among a native tribe that had only known their village ways. One of those village ways was stealing from others. When Otto and his wife arrived and moved into a hut, the natives often came by to visit. The Konings would notice that after they left that various household items had disappeared. They saw these items again when they went to preach in the natives' village.

The only fruit Otto could grow on the island was pineapples. Otto loved pineapples and took pride in the ones he grew. However, whenever they began to ripen, the natives stole them. Otto could never keep a ripe pineapple for himself. This was frustrating and he became angry with the natives. All during the seven-year period in which this took place, Otto preached the gospel to these natives but never had a conversion.

The more the natives stole, the angrier Otto became. 

Otto took a furlough to the United States and attended a conference on personal rights. At this conference, he discovered that he was frustrated over this situation because he had taken personal ownership of his pineapple garden. After much soul searching, he gave his garden to God. Soon the natives started having problems among their tribe. The natives saw a correlation between what Otto had done and their own lives being affected by calamities in their village.

When Otto gave his garden to God, he no longer got angry and was free from worry. The natives started bringing him fruit from the garden because they didn't want any more calamities to come into their village.

The light came on one day when a native said to Otto,

"Tuan (sir), you have become a Christian. You don't get angry anymore.
We always wondered if we would ever meet a Christian." 

They had never associated Otto with the kind of person he was preaching about because his message did not line up with his life. Otto was broken in spirit when he realized he had been such a failure.

At the end of seven years, he witnessed his first conversion, and many began coming to Christ once he fully gave his garden to God. The fruit grew so abundantly and his village became the most evangelized in the whole region.

It was only when Otto gave all his possessions to God that he became free from them. God measured back to him manifold once He had complete ownership.Otto realized something each of us must realize:

To gain your life you must lose it, along with your possessions. 
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I hope you'll listen to this powerful message, delivered through his dry humor.

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
~ Matthew 10:39

14 September 2017

Beyond Culture Shock; Culture Pain and Culture Stripping (written by Rachel Pieh Jones)

Rachel Pieh Jones

[I've read a lot about 'culture shock' and 'cross-cultural ministry', but these two new concepts brought up by Jones - 'culture pain and culture stripping' - also resonate with me. The following is an article she wrote at A Life Overseas. You can find the link at the end of the article.]

Expatriates are told to prepare for Culture Shock and expect to experience it within their first year. But what about after 16 years? What about the frustrations and tears, hurt and stress?

After the first year, I thought I was free from culture shock. Now I would delve deep, adapt, feel more local than foreign. So when I continued to struggle with cultural issues and when that struggle increased and peaked around year seven, I thought I was crazy.

I discovered that two things happen, after culture shock, as we root in a land not our own, as we love hard and get involved and take risks.

Culture Pain
Culture pain comes when the difficult, or different, or confusing aspects of a new culture begin to affect you at a deep, personal level. Living overseas is really your life now. This is your past, your present, your future. This is where you laugh and grieve and build a tapestry of memories.

Things like corruption and poor health care, attitudes toward HIV, education of girls, adoption, or poverty, religious rituals, children’s rites of passage, are not theoretical anymore. These issues are now yours to navigate. And sometimes, that hurts.

Culture Stripping
Culture stripping begins the moment you touch the earth in this new place. Culture stripping forever changes who you are.

Culture stripping is the slow peeling back of layers and layers of self. You give up your ideas about politics and faith and family, the books you read evolve and change. Even, potentially, your outlook on spirituality. You have little instinctive protective layers between you and the world.

You are learning, but you will never be local. And so you also are stripped of the idealized image of yourself as a local. This also hurts, but it is a good, purposeful pain.

Glad to see it
This new way of living and seeing the world look different than before you moved overseas. Not perfect, not like anyone else’s, and still sensitive. But different because the shock, the pain, the stripping, have changed you.

And you are glad to see it.
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 -Rachel Pieh Jones, development worker, Djibouti