28 July 2016

"Missions Unmasked; What I never knew about missionary life", by Adam Mosley [part 4]

With me are (c) Melody Mosley (Adam's wife)
and (r) Trena Ivy (a member of the church
Adam pastors in Nakuru, Kenya)

[Note: The following are excerpts from Adam's book.]

The Difficulty of Embracing Culture

The life of a missionary is not unlike living under water. The necessary funding, emotional and spiritual support, and relational lifeline to their homeland all allow the missionary to breathe.

The sights, sounds, and smells of a foreign land flood our brain in such quantities and at such a rate that you simply can't process it all. The most a missionary can hope for is a little down time in their home at the end of the day. There will be no time soon when this adventure is over - no time to debrief or unpack it all. Missionaries must process in real-time. It is truly difficult to embrace a new culture.

Most new missionaries think they can handle this shocking plunge into the unknown. But one doesn't really understand how to live in a place until you're already in over your head.

Culture reveals itself gradually. The longer you stay, the more you observe, and the more you explore. It is only by venturing into the depths of a place that you truly begin to perceive the full spectrum of a culture.

Embracing a culture that is drastically different from our own 
causes a kind of internal tug-o-war in the depths of our being. 

Visiting a place is one thing; living there is another. Some missionaries have lived in the same place for a decade or more yet still struggle with embracing the culture.

No matter how hard you try, you will never be a local. You can speak the language, learn the customs, adapt to the lifestyle, but you will always be an outsider.

Cultural immersion doesn't make you native anymore than getting wet makes you a fish. 

There seems to always be lurking, just around the corner, an event or circumstance that reminds you and those around you that something about you is different.

Fully embracing culture might be a fool's errand. Appreciating it, exploring it, and experiencing it are within the grasp of the missionary, but there will always be a cultural dissonance in their lives.

Those of us who love and support missionaries must not dismiss this struggle. We should be determined to learn about it and understand it.

We must accept that there is more to embracing culture
than eating weird foods and learning new languages. 

26 July 2016

"Missions Unmasked; What I never knew about missionary life", by Adam Mosley [part 3]

[Note: The following are excerpts from Adam's book.]

Everyday Life of a Missionary

It was always hard for me to imagine what missionary life was like. I understood there was hardship - that the adventure piece was probably regularly overtaken by other realities.

Everyday missionary life can actually be quite unremarkable. Most live a life filled with blog updates, email newsletters, and long lines to pay bills. Many missionaries spend more time behind a desk than they do out on the field, and much more time on their feet than on their knees.

Missionary life is tough. Things like angry baboons may not be everyday occurrences but they do happen. One day you're rescuing a child out of a ditch and the next you're negotiating the price of mangos. All of these moments - the fascinating and the familiar, the somber and the sublime - merge together into one life. It requires the ability to balance such extremes.

At the end of the day, many missionaries return home exhausted.
It's not that missionary life is bad, it's just complicated.
It's rewarding and it's depressing. 
It's adventurous and it's boring.

When you ask your missionary friend about their life, what they share will likely only scratch the surface. There's so much more they wish they could tell you, but they're sure yo you don't want to hear about it and couldn't understand it even if they told you.

But if you care for your friend, take the time to dig a little deeper. Suspend judgment of their lives, offer a huge helping of grace, and attempt to understand both their joys and their struggles. Admit when you don't get it, but validate their experience.

What I never knew is how much their life is like yours and mine. Maybe the highs are higher, but the lows might be lower.

In the end, they need friends who will journey together with them. Let's be people committed to being involved in the everyday lives of our missionary friends.

Become a trusted and empathetic ear for your missionary friends 
and you will gain valuable insight into what real life
is like on the mission field. 

20 July 2016

"Missions Unmasked; What I never knew about missionary life", by Adam Mosley [part 2]

I read 90% of the book while enjoying a cup of chai and a toasty fire

[Note: The following are excerpts from Adam's book.]

Definition of Home

It's been said that home is where the heart is. For many missionaries, the significance of that place tends to fade over time. Home becomes two places and not place at all.

The heart of a missionary points at once toward their family home (old friends, relatives, places, and culture) and toward their current missions home (new friends, adopted family, places, and culture.

It's absolutely necessary to engage your mission at the heart level
if you're to have any hope of lasting long-term.

The home you left (however long ago) no longer exists. People change, families move away, and life goes on. Same is what you want. You want familiarity when you return to your former home. You want a life you can settle into like a comfortable old arm chair. But someone has replaced that old chair with a fancy new one. It might not be a bad chair; it might even be better than the old one. But it's not the same.

As one missionary friend put it, "I don't feel at home anywhere. Wherever I am, I long for the other place." 

Most people who have never lived abroad can't begin to imagine that you actually enjoy your life. They understand, at least in party, the concept of missionary calling, but few can comprehend that you might actually prefer living where you do to living 'back home'.

For many missionaries, the idea of moving 'home' is terrifying. In fact, many who have lived abroad for years struggle mightily to adapt upon returning to their native country. 

Missionary life is never as simple as it appears. 
Everything is complex.

Trips home are emotional roller coasters, swirling from elation to despair to anticipation to fear. The same occurs on the return trip, as the familiarity of the host country brings a sense of relief, but the people, places, and life left behind seem to call out from the beyond the aircraft doors.

Like a ship torn from its moorings, missionaries are adrift at sea between their two homes. To fully embrace one is to lose the other - a choice few would choose to make. There are certain parts of missionary life that are permanent. Loss of a home is one. Once you become a missionary, you are never native again.

We don't get it because it isn't our life. Our job - as sending churches, supporters, family, and friends - is not to fix it or even to fully understand it. Our job is to listen, empathize, and lessen the blow. We should be asking, "What can I do to help?"

May we strive to help our missionary friends embrace this reality 
and live well in their odd and exciting multi-home-and-no-home world.

18 July 2016

"Missions Unmasked; What I never knew about missionary life", by Adam Mosley [part 1]

I met Adam when I was in Nakuru recently

Blurb on back cover
Beyond the newsletters and well-crafted blog posts lies a missionary world that few outsiders ever see. Missions Unmasked peels off the fa├žade shrouding the realities of that world. Adam Mosely offers an inside look into the life of a missionary, and an exploration of the challenges and issues facing global missionaries and those who care for them.

It’s time to move beyond the myth, embrace the humanity of the missionary, understand the brokenness of their situation, and tap into the restorative power of authentic relationships. To become better partners, we must begin by removing the mask and seeing clearly, perhaps for the first time, the real life of the missionary.

[Note: The following are excerpts from the book.]

What I Thought I knew
Whether attempting to coddle, to inspire, or to challenge, our misguided attempts to be helpful often leave our missionary friends feeling abandoned, alone, and misunderstood. If we are to support missionaries well, we must seek first to understand, then to understand more. We have to accept the fact that sitting thousands of miles away, our five-minute solutions are useless.

Stepping out in faith seems to be built into them, like breathing or eating. They are the great adventures for God – trailblazing pioneers of the faith. But the majority of missionaries are not super-saints. They are just ordinary people who are trying their best to do what they’ve been created to do. The often feel unprepared spiritually, emotionally, and physically for the task at hand. Many question why God would call them to this task in the first place.

The leaders of the first century church were in much the same boat. They were ordinary people walking out their calling in fallible human ways, but they changed the world forever. Missionaries should take great comfort in knowing that God has, throughout history, shown a willingness to use ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

What is the make-up of a missionary?
Obedience: This is a key driver, aligning us with God’s heart. It somehow changes us from the inside out, and causes God’s desires to become our desires.

Tenacity: Missionaries are some of the most tenacious people I’ve ever met. They won’t stop until they accomplish their goal, even though missionary life is full of frustration, difficulty, and roadblocks.

Enduring Yes: This is the single-most important and all-encompassing word for a missionary. They are someone who says ‘yes’ to God… and keeps saying yes over and over, even in the face of tremendous difficulty. They keep fighting, keep hoping, keep believing in the God who sent them on this mission.

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ Paul, 2 Corinthians 11:30; 12:10
These are the words of a missionary being real with those he’s leading. Paul’s life was hard and he persevered, but in the end, he was a weak man who recognized that only through his weakness could God really shine. Trust in God, hope for the future, and unrivaled determination may keep a missionary in the field through tough times, but like Paul, it is in the moments of weakness that they truly see God work.

The purpose of long-term missions
To fully encompass the call of the missionary, we must first recognize the call of all people – a call to die to ourselves and to live and love the way Jesus did. The mission of love God has sent us all on requires us to invest deeply in people. It requires us to love and keep loving, to serve and keep serving. It involves the spiritual and the physical, and it’s never-ending.

The purpose of missions has almost nothing to do with 
the tasks being performed, the programs being put in place, 
or even the souls won for Christ. 
The purpose of missions is far greater – 
to embody Jesus, in every possible way, for those we encounter.

Missionaries are beacons for those of us trying to follow Jesus. Their job and their life is an intensely-focused beam of the same kind of life we are all called to be. That God can use broken and messed up people to impact every tribe and tongue and nation should be of great encouragement to us. It should inspire us to go and love others the way God loves us.

The purpose of missions is to love like God loves. This love is the inescapable force that draws people from all walks of life and bids them drop their proverbial nets and follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

Until we begin to understand that kind of love, 
we will never fully comprehend missions work, 
nor will we understand the missionaries who have given their lives 
to sharing God’s love with the world.

14 July 2016

Hiking the whole stretch of Ngong Hills; 7 peaks; 7.5 miles; 5.5 hours; 8,070 feet in elevation

A view of Ngong Hills from far shows the four most prominent peaks.

While my friend, Anna, was back in Kenya for a visit, we made plans to hike the full stretch of Ngong Hills. It was her first time to ever be up there and my first time in several years to hike the whole length.

Ah... but the daily rain kept foiling our plans! Because we were so keen to do it, we remained confident that the weather would eventually cooperate. On one of our proposed days, we both fell on a rain-slick, algae-covered brick driveway. Ouch! I got a nasty and painful bruise, with a lot of swelling, on my left shin. On that particular day, the rain never did let up... forcing to postpone yet again.

Finally the day arrived when we were both available and there was no rain! I live at 6,400 feet in Ngong town and we were going up 1,670 feet higher where the peaks were completely socked in with dense fog. Additionally, my shin was still quite sore and tender to the touch. However, it was now or never... and we were determined to accomplish our goal!

We grabbed a couple of motorbike taxis to take us to the gate, cutting 1.5 miles off our otherwise 7.5-mile hike. We paid our entry fee and hired an armed guide to go with us.

Indeed, we had an absolutely fabulous time!

At times the ever-present fog was so thick, we had only 20-30 feet of visibility.
The top of the massive wind generator is completely obliterated by the fog.

Entirely focused on communing with God, this guy wasn't even aware of our presence.

The fog created an unearthly-like atmosphere, adding to our sense of grandeur and awe at God's incredible creation. 

The beauty of life is in each precious moment. Stop and smell the roses.

An orange butterfly lands at my feet, appearing out of the fog

A bit of blue sky, albeit brief

Stunning beauty at 8,070 feet elevation

As the fog began to clear, it simultaneously warmed up a bit and we were able to shed our jackets.
The bottom of the Great Rift Valley also came into view a bit more clearly.

A look behind at where we've already been reveals the fog's continued presence

It's not a true visit to Ngong Hills unless you see many, many Maasai sheep

Such stunning beauty! At this point we've almost reached Kona Baridi, the end of our journey.

By pure coincidence - or God's provision - Moses and his 39-year old 'White Maasai' vehicle happened upon us
at the end of our hike.... just when we were wondering how we would get back to Ngong!

Being the elder of the group, I sat up front with Moses, while Anna and our guide bounced along in the back.

Original philosophical wisdom on the side of Moses' vehicle... a perfect end to our day

6 + 3 = 9, but so does 5 + 4. 
The way you do things is not always the only way to do them. 
Respect other people's way of thinking.

12 July 2016

Geography is part of our spiritual life and formation / Mission: To be where I am

"I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints... I will set out by way of you to Spain; and I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ."
    ~ Paul, writing to the Christians at Rome, of his plan to visit them; Romans 15:22-29

Every moment of this Christian life is lived out on the ground, in some physical place. Geography is as much a part of the spiritual life as theology. Our conditions, our present street address and where we expect to be next week, are the stuff of spiritual formation.
    ~ The Life With God Bible (NRSV) study notes on above Romans 15:22-29

Where you are,
what you do,
and who you are
is how God has anointed you.
    ~ Tatenda Chikwekwe (sermon at Karen Vineyard Church, Kenya)

Mission to be where I am.
Even in that ridiculous, deadly serious role -
I am the place where creation is working itself out.
    ~ Tomas Transtromer (1931-2015), The Outpost; Swedish poet and winner of Nobel Prize in literature

Sometimes life here (in a foreign country as a missionary) can get rather bleak. The poverty and hopelessness, the constant stares wherever we go and the challenges in adapting to a foreign culture threaten to overwhelm us. 

We ask, "What am I accomplishing here?"

Our efforts feel to us so small, so insignificant as to be almost laughable. And then God does something as if to say, "You're right. Your contribution is very small. But it's not your offering that makes the difference - it's what I do with it. Just trust me." 

As long as God keeps us here, we will trust him to take our pathetic little loaves and fishes, bless them, add his glory, and provide something really special for someone he has long known and long-planned to draw to himself.
   ~ Food from Ravens; Stories of God's Provision and Power through Prayer

Jan Garbarek - Mission: To Be Where I Am
(song title taken from poem excerpt above)

06 July 2016

A look at the geography of my trips upcountry; another circuit of visiting my friends

This is the area I have often frequented throughout my years in Kenya. Some of the towns and villages change
now and then, but this is primarily where I go when I'm not in the Nairobi area and am traveling 'upcountry'.

"I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you when I go to Spain. 
For I do hope to see you on my journey... and enjoy your company for a little while."
~ Paul, Romans 15:23-24

Every moment of this Christian life is lived out on the ground, in some physical place. Geography is as much a part of the spiritual life as theology. The more or less offhand mention of Spain brings the immediate conditions of this letter to the fore, this extravagant immersion in the work of God in Christ among us. 

Paul planned to travel to Jerusalem by way of Macedonia and Achaia, booking passage on a ship, and then anticipating a good visit in Rome and going on to Spain. 

Our conditions - our present street address and where we expect to be next week - are the stuff of spiritual formation.    ~ NRSV study notes on Romans 15:23-24, The Life with God Bible

When I gave Nathan a copy of my second book, he became thoroughly engrossed in the stories!

Martin was pleased to see his picture on the back cover, plus two other photos of him inside.

In the same way Paul traveled to the various churches he planted, and in a similar style of the circuit preachers on horseback in the early years of the US, I travel from home to home for friendship and encouragement.

On my recent trip, Nathan, Martin, and I met at Matunda on the highway between Eldoret and Kitale. We typically have chicken and chips at a nice place called Olive Inn. My mud hut, that I had for 8.5 years, was 3 miles to the west of Matunda market. It became my base of operations, so-to-speak, and that's where I got to know these two guys so well.

I also visited with Agnes and her family, at an area called Kocholia near the border with Uganda. We used two of these motorbike taxis to reach her home, a short distance from the highway. That day when I traveled from Eldoret to Kocholia, and finally to Kitale, I used eight different vehicles; four were matatu vans and three were boda bodas (motorbike taxis), and one car taxi.

The boda boda guys are waiting for customers to come along.

Agnes was happy with my visit, as we shared stories and laughter, along with chai and mandazi.

Drying beans in the sun

Sammy and Abby, two friendly neighbor kids, came over to greet me

Duane (now in Class Four) was hot walking home from school, so he put his sweater on his head.
If you'd like to see photos from my visits with Duane, Robai, and Deb, please click here to see my 'Educate a Child' page. Included are few extra shots at Robai's school from a mini-tour she gave me.

God recently led me to a fabulous new guesthouse in Eldoret.
On one of the evenings, I enjoyed a good book, chai, and a warm fire!

While I was in Eldoret, I had a delicious dinner with Margaret and Bishop at a nice Indian restaurant. I also went down the road a ways to visit Robai at her school.

I typically stay a night (or two) at a nice guesthouse in Kitale. It's a great place for me to rest and refresh myself before the next leg of my journey. They let me brew my own chai and take it to my room in a flask.

On my way back to Nairobi, I stopped over for a night in Nakuru. While there, I visited my friend, Trena, and attended church with her. It was so good to catch up with each other and also to meet various friends of hers.

Acacia trees poking out of the early morning fog, near Menegai Crater at Nakuru