22 October 2015

Therapeutic stops on my way back to Kenya: Reykjavik, Iceland and Buxton, England

My bags, Union Station, Washington DC

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”
    ~ Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Traveling across eight time zones is not easy and takes a toll on ones body. Jet lag occurs when people travel rapidly from east to west, or west to east on a jet plane. It is a physiological condition which upsets our body's circadian rhythms.

Just getting out of airports is wonderful and getting exposed to the sunshine helps to reset internal body clocks. I made two stops during my trip from the US back to Kenya; it was good for my body and brain.

First stop - Reykjavik, Iceland
I enjoyed a fun 8-hour excursion seeing some sights in this fascinating land. Iceland is full of volcanoes, glaciers, geysers, the rifting of tectonic plates, and occasional earthquakes. I toured on a small bus with a dozen other folks from various parts of the world and our fabulous guide, Asgeir.

The temperature was only in the mid-40's, the wind was gusty at times, and it rained off and on throughout the day. I was quite bundled up with a stocking cap and scarf under the hood, plus mittens! However, these conditions did not interfere with my enjoyment of the tour.

In quite a contradiction to the weather, at this stop our guide showed us bread being baked in the dirt. Icelandic rye bread is baked just under the surface of the ground using geothermal energy, where the magma and lava keep the soil warm enough (up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit). Taking up to 12 hours to bake, I can confirm that it's quite delicious as we got to have a taste.

Gullfoss, Golden Falls

Beautiful scenery everywhere.

We saw many rainbows, including a full one and a double.

The ground percolated and bubbled with activity in this area. 

Second stop - Buxton, England
I was privileged to spend a week with some friends I know from Nairobi, who are now living back in the UK. Besides some good times with their family, I also did a bit of exploring.

Solomon's Temple, also known as Grinlow Tower, is near the spa town of Buxton in the Derbyshire Peak District. It is said to have been built by Solomon Mycock in the 1890s, paid for by public donations to provide work for the locally unemployed with assistance of the seventh Duke of Devonshire. The tower was restored in 1998, also with public donations.

The 20-foot-high, two-story tower on top of a hill, contains nothing other than the staircase to the top. From the open top there are good views over the town and surrounding countryside.

Beautiful countryside, with sheep grazing on the hills.

I enjoyed the nooks and crannies in a quite fascinating used book store.

I drank a lot of tea, the British variety (not Kenyan chai).

I thoroughly enjoyed photographing flowers at Pavilion Garden. 

Slow down and enjoy life. It's not only the scenery you miss by going too fast - you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.
    ~ Eddie Cantor (1892-1964) American comedian, singer, dancer, and songwriter

20 October 2015

Home-assignment; spending time with family

A regular part of life for most missionaries is returning to their passport country for home-assignments. These visits help missionaries stay in touch with the people who enable them to do their mission and they provide a respite from the stresses and strains of everyday ministry in the field. It is still work, just a different kind. It's not a vacation, but a continuation of their work. ~ Dale Hawley, Missionary Care at Missions Resource Network

Celebrating my 60th birthday with a sailboat ride in New York Harbor

Jess, Jason, Zach, Cadence, Creighton, and Maxwell - New York

Rachel, Joyce, Aaliyah, Caleb, and my mom - Nebraska

Balloon launch

Tubing the Shenandoah River

Grandma, Great Grandma, and grandkids 

Daughters and sons-in-law and my mom - Virginia

15 October 2015

Home-assignment; a conference with my missions sending agency - Ripe for Harvest

It was great to see everyone again, this time in Minnesota.

Founder of RFH, Tim Smith and wife / Earl and Clare Reifel, Africa field directors

Some of the 50 attendees, including Shemayne Wilson, who is on staff.

Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, gave a fabulous keynote address. Here are just a few of his quotes -

"Consider these two statements from the parable of talents, 'Well done, good and faithful servant,' along with 'After a long time the Master returned and settled accounts.'"

"Faithfulness is measured in consistency over the long-haul. Even if it takes a very long time, let us be faithful."

"Most people in most of the world in most of history are poor. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, the sick, the alien, the widow. God is concerned for those on the margins of society."

 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward the poor and needy in your land. (Deuteronomy 15:11)

If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor,
he too will cry out and not be answered. (Proverbs 21:13)

Blessed is he who is kind to the needy; he honors God. (Proverbs 14:21, 31)

"One of the core bedrocks of the gospel is mercy that goes beyond judgment. Jesus befriended the poor, the outcasts, the lepers. We are his followers and must do the same."

 Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)

- - - - -

Here's a brief excerpt I liked from Dan Jessen, a missionary with RFH and one of several others who spoke:
"Americans need to learn humility. The US is not the only country in the world that God cares about. He created so much diversity! We who have lived abroad need to be a prophetic voice of truth when Americans show their arrogance about the US." 

- - - - -

Leland Eliason, the Executive Director at Bethel Seminary gave a great talk titled "A Lifetime of Bearing Fruit" from John 15:1-17.

I really appreciated these two comments:

"Be joyful. Pause long enough to rejoice that there's fruit in your labors. Focus on the good stuff. Celebrate with joy. Be glad, smile, and laugh." (vs. 11)

"If the theme of my life is giving and giving some more, I must expand my capacity to receive from God. Otherwise I'll burnout and burn down and become useless to God's Kingdom." (vs. 12, 13)

Leland also recommissioned us as we return to our various missions fields.
  • Do you lay all the challenges and obstacles before the Lord, trusting that he will deal with each of them?
  • Will you ask the Lord to enlarge your vision and capacities to serve within the setting to which you are called?
  • Do you commit to joyfully live the life Jesus offers you to live?
I stated my "I do" and "I will" with much sincerity.

Can you see me? I'm in the middle in the back.

My room-mate, Melissa, and I enjoyed a challenging 7-hour, 11-mile hike at Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge.

12 October 2015

Home-assignment; Jesus said, "Come away by yourself and rest."

Jesus said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while." For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.   ~ Mark 6:31

Rest is an important part of God’s plan for his people. It is essential to maintaining spiritual and physical health. But once that health has been compromised, rest becomes absolutely necessary for restoration.

Baan Sabai is run by Dave and Irene Lewis, who are former missionaries to Thailand. They advocate for preemptive rest, taking time to get away from the pressures and demands of ministry to spend time with God.

Many times, however, missionaries are worn out or near burn-out. The circumstances of their daily life on the field have beat them down, and they become disheartened, disillusioned, or even despondent.

I have personally experienced this in the past. It was not an easy time, but I learned the necessity of practicing better self-care.

These are the times when a place of refuge can be vital, a place where missionaries can unload and unwind in a safe environment.

Baan Sabai, in southeast Indiana, is just such a refuge. At this beautiful spot nestled on the edge of the woods, missionaries will find hosts who care deeply for them and who understand what they are going through.

More than 6,000 missionaries quit every year, primarily for reasons that are preventable.

There is a wide-spread misconception that missionaries are self-sufficient. It simply is not true. The truth is that like any other members of the body of Christ, they need the application of one-another principles found in scripture.

Are you a missionary who is in desperate need of a rest and some time alone with God? Then I would urge you to take advantage of this opportunity.

Do you know a missionary that needs such a respite? If so, please encourage them to consider going to Baan Sabai. In fact - - perhaps you could even consider paying their way!

Dave and Irene (on the left) are fabulous hosts and will make your stay beneficial. They'll give you a warm welcome and you'll become instant friends.

Irene prepares great home-cooked meals and together, they'll take you through some enlightening debriefing exercises.

For more information, please go to their website Paracletos.org/baan-sabai/

Sarita, who penned the above quote, wrote an insightful piece on missionary burnout here.

Don't let burnout happen to you or someone you know!

[Note: I took all the photos at Baan Sabi, or during walks while there.]

07 October 2015

Home-assignment; sharing a nugget of truth

"I can never really know anything until I open my mouth about what I know. My knowledge grows as I impart it to others."
~ Pastor Joe Cortese, Crossroads Tabernacle, the Bronx

We all like to hear success stories, don’t we? We like to itemize our achievements and feel good about our accomplishments.

But we must remember that this world is not our home. We are citizens of God’s Kingdom. We should hold up our lives against God’s standards and not use the world’s principles.

When I’m here in the States, people often ask questions like –
“Do you feel like you’re making a difference in Kenya?”

This is what I know -
God told me to go to Kenya, so I went. He told me to love my neighbor; I am doing that.

Success stories or making a difference should not be my goal. Meeting needs should never become my motive.

Oswald Chambers says, “Never seek after anything other than the approval of God.”

Many years ago, Elisabeth Elliot and her husband were missionaries in Ecuador. After he was speared to death by the people to whom God had sent them, she stayed on and continued to obey God’s assignment. In one of her many books, she addressed this issue –
“Results cannot be the criterion for whether or not what we do is worthwhile. It’s hopeless to try to weigh up the good, the bad, the futile, and the merely harmless, and hope there will be enough of the good to justify all the rest. Jesus told us to do what is true and that needs no justification or defense.”
Jesus said in John 17:4 –
“I glorified you on earth by completing down to the last detail what you assigned me to do.”

Listen again to the wise words of Oswald Chambers –
“The great danger is that God’s call will be replaced by the needs of people, to the point that human sympathy will absolutely overwhelm the meaning of being sent by Him. The needs are so enormous, and the conditions so difficult, but the goal is to be true to Him - to carry out His commands.”
As you love your neighbor - especially the unlovable ones - don’t try to fix them or meet their needs. Don’t try to make a difference or look for success stories.

Just love them. Love them unconditionally.

Stay close to God’s heart and don’t concern yourself with making a list of accomplishments. Simply let the results be what they may.

In so doing, you will bring God great pleasure. And may each one of us hear the Father say – "Well done, good and faithful servant."

- - - - -
I gave this brief talk at Crossroads Tabernacle on Sunday, September 20th. Three days later, there was another Oswald Chambers reading on the same subject:
The goal of the missionary is to do God’s will, not to be useful or to win the lost.
A missionary is useful and he does win the lost, but that is not his goal.
His goal is to do the will of his Lord.

On Sunday, September 27, I shared briefly at Christ Church in Lucketts, Virginia. Along with an introduction about myself and how God called me to Kenya, I also included these thoughts about measuring success.

Hmm... it certainly does seem to be a recurring theme.

- - - - -
[Click here to read a previous blog post on this same subject: 12 years in Kenya; can we measure success in doing God's work?]

01 October 2015

14 years in Kenya, 2001-2015

I wanna live with abandon
Give You all that I am
Every part of my heart Jesus
I place in Your hands
I wanna live with abandon
I want my life to count,
Every breath
I’ll drop everything to follow You
It’s only Your hands I hold onto
I’m not looking back
I’m done with that
I wanna give You all I have
            [song by Newsboys]

"God knew the whole picture when he called me here, but I would have to find it out little by little. He knew the beginning and the ending and everything that fitted in between.

"When I went home and knelt down alone in my room to pray, I was confident that I had indeed heard the call of the Lord, commissioning me to be his ambassador in some far-off place.

"I simply said that the Lord was leading me, and this was both understandable and believable to my family and friends. I was living on faith, which I had been taught was a very honorable position of dependence on the Lord.

"They had become people to me - they were no longer my field. While I had once declared them to be my equals, I now regarded myself as theirs. Instead of saying, 'Oh, you are as good as I, let me help you,' I now said, 'I am as poor as you. God help us all.'"

~ Elisabeth Elliot (1926-2015), missionary to Ecuador; from her book, No Graven Image

"It is no small comfort to me to know that God has called me to my work, putting me where I am and as I am. I have not sought the position and I dare not leave it. He knows why he places me here - whether to do, or learn, or suffer."

~ Hudson Taylor (1882-1905), missionary to China