My fellow Texans may understand the distaste I have had most of my life for the upside down hat that sits atop of Texas’ head. Oklahoma may just be so conveniently close that it became an easy rival? In the case of college football there are clearly defined rivalries… but I never really followed college football (yeah, I said it). Growing up there were influences around me that taught me that Oklahoma was the bad guy… but I was never too sure why. Now that I have grown older you may think I could simply drop this silliness and admit that Oklahoma is ok, maybe even more than just ok (pun intended). That would probably be the case if I didn’t have to drive through Oklahoma anytime I want to visit Texas. I mean, do they really need to put stop lights on the interstate and use it as the main road for countless little towns with countless little tobacco shops? Seriously it’s effectively increasing the last hour of my drive into the last TWO hours!
Alas, by the end of next week, for the next 7 weeks I will live in Oklahoma. And if you can keep a secret, I would maybe even tell you that part of me is really looking forward to it. The why, it turns out, has everything to do with it. Last semester Stacy took an advanced linguistics course that taught how to identify and analyse patterns in languages, which will greatly aid us as missionaries to West Africa in the future. That portion of the course was primarily all desk and book work. Starting next week, everything theoretical will become practical as she and her classmates will sit down with Cherokee language helpers and begin analyzing a language they have never heard before. It excites me not only because I am very proud of my wife, but because we are convinced this is the next step that God has for us as he continues to draw us into foreign missions. If that is true, then it means God himself wants me in Oklahoma.
So I hope your doing great OK, I look forward to seeing you next week.
We are going to AFRICA!
Since we were married we have known we wanted to be a part of foreign missions. For 5 1/2 years working at the Bible School was the primary way we not only stayed connected to missions, but also how we invested our lives into training future missionaries. We absolutely loved our time serving in Waukesha, but there was always the lingering question: Will it ever be us, will we ever be the ones going?
God’s timing is certainly better than our own, and his leading has been patient and loving.
With all that said, we are thrilled to share with you that we have been approved, and are officially headed to the field of West Africa! We do not yet know the specific country we will end up serving in full time, however we are trusting God’s loving hand to continue guiding us along the way. What we do know is that we will first move to the Country of Senegal (the western most country in Africa) to begin learning language and culture with the aid of a local church.
We will still be in training next semester as we move to Oklahoma for seven weeks.Stacy will be studying Cherokee, putting in to practice all the linguistics principles she worked so hard on understanding this semester. After that it will be back to Missouri to end out the semester studying Greek, which will be more than handy when studying for lessons and Bible translation many years down the road. Our goal, after completing the training is to be in Africa within one year (January 2016).
If we are honest there are some anxieties and unknowns that take our attention at times, however those are certainly in the midst of much joy and celebration of God’s faithfulness, and leading. Even though we are broken, imperfect people, God still desires to use us to take his good news to the ends of the earth!
Yes, after many years of refusing to give our prayer letter a quirky title I finally gave in to peer pressure… Hey everyone else is doing it, right?
You can check out the “exciting” version with images Right Here.
Below is the slightly less exciting plain text version:
Hello again from Missouri! Until part way through last semester, we thought we would be settling back into Wisconsin right now. As it turns out, we get to “miss out” on another Wisconsin winter.
When we started the training program we were always planning on going through the three semester program. Then we started hearing about the Linguistics course (an extra semester and a half where you dig into the nitty gritty of breaking down language so that you can more effectively learn, write and translate in it). It sounded fascinating, but it also sounded like another large chunk of time, and that wasn’t that appealing. Given the health problems that my (Stacy’s) dad was experiencing at the time, we didn’t think it would be wise to take that time out, not knowing how much time we would have together. We went back and forth on whether we should stay for the learning opportunity, and eventually settled on, “Unless God makes it clear that we need to go back to Missouri, we’ll plan not to.” And that was that.
Then, last semester happened. During my dad’s last days on earth we were all together as a family in Wisconsin. It was a blessed, difficult, stretching time for us as a family, and though they were hard, we wouldn’t trade them for anything. It was hard to say goodbye, despite knowing that for us, the separation isn’t for forever. After the memorial service we came back down to MTC and finished up our graduating semester.
We had missed some classes while we were in Wisconsin, that we needed to make up. There were a few different options available, but one of the simplest was for us to come back this semester, allowing me to do Linguistics while Michael made up the classes that we missed. So here we are, preparing for another semester… a semester that we were not planning for (but God was).
Please pray for us as we begin this next little “detour” on our journey:
- Pray for our family as we continue to adjust to the loss of a dearly loved husband/father/grandfather. God is good even in the face of grief, but it can still be hard.
- Pray for Stacy’s mind to stay sharp – Linguistics is known to be a challenging class
- Pray for our kids – that we would model Christ for them, and their hearts would continually be softened to Christ.
- Pray for us as we work on lots of paperwork to be accepted to a field. Hopefully we will be sharing where God is taking us soon!
With last semester now behind us I (Michael) am enjoying something that I have not had in quite some time: My own personal reading schedule. Don’t get me wrong, the reading I have done for classes has been great. There is just something to be said of reading books of your own desire. A few years ago I noticed that I would begin reading three or four books all at the same time and never finish any of them. To remedy this I created my reading queue. I would force myself to only read one book at a time, with books of interest lining up behind it on a shelf. After eyeing up and rearranging my book queue for the past 6 months I may have jumped the gun a little… and am currently reading three books.
The good news however is that I have also completed one. “The Hole in Our Holiness” by Kevin DeYoung. One observation he makes that I thoroughly enjoyed is that “We must always remember that in seeking after holiness we are not so much seeking after a thing as we are seeking after a person.” -Kevin DeYoung (pg. 123)
That person of course is Jesus. 1 Corinthians 1:30 says “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.”(NLT) If we have been united with Christ, if He has made us pure and holy separating us from sin, then why would the idea of personal holiness be a cold and ridged ideal better left to unrelatable theologians?
Seeking holiness is not about who can hold fast to a bunch of boring rules. No, seeking holiness is about growing to know the creator of life. Wouldn’t He be the one who knows how it works best?
Insert the obligatory “Oh, but Christians are boring party poopers.” argument here. Next post, I just may write about it.
Extra Credit: With the idea of seeking holiness in Christ in mind, read John 17
When I was a little girl, I watched my dad, and I had no difficulty in seeing that the most important thing in his life was following Jesus. I also knew that after Jesus, he cared about his family more than anything. He was my hero, living in the jungle, teaching people about Jesus, and when I grew up I wanted to be just like he and my mom.
Although he was very busy with his teaching and lesson preparations for the Loko believers, he always made teaching us a priority. My dad taught me how to live, and not just live, but live a life that is glorifying to God.
He taught me about God the Father’s love, as I saw his love for each of us. He taught me about God’s greatness as we would look up at the stars together, and marvel at the One who made them. He taught me how to step out of my comfort zone as he encouraged me to try new things and not get too hung up on failures. He taught me about priorities by willingly following the Lord when he believed that God was directing him to go overseas.
A few years ago, we found out dad had cancer. He went through an extremely difficult radiation treatment and, to our joy, it seemed as if the cancer was gone. This January he went back in to see the dr, and they discovered that the cancer was back. My mom was with us in Missouri welcoming her 6th grandchild into the world and when we got the news, she and I were fairly devastated.
I’m sure it was hard for my dad to hear as well, but honestly I can’t even really remember him complaining or mourning about his situation. He loved Jesus. He believed that whatever God allowed in his life could be used to grow his faith, and bring him closer to his Lord. Once again, he was my hero. Once again, he was teaching me how to live.
A little over a month ago I got a call from my family. It was a Thursday afternoon. My brother told me that they had been to see the dr. and had been told that there was nothing more medically that they could do for dad. They thought I should get up there as soon as possible. Michael booked a ticket for Brynn and I to fly up on Saturday.
After a long, draining trip (Brynn wasn’t too fussy, just loud), I walked into my dad and mom’s room, and tried not to burst into tears. My dad was on a rented hospital bed. He looked up at me and smiled… and I lost the battle with my tears. Dad’s smile has always made me feel as if everything is going to be alright.
We didn’t know how much longer we would have all together as a family, so Michael and I decided that he and the older kids should come up after a few days. Days together stretched into weeks. Dad was never a quitter.
On the one hand it was amazing to be together and we were so blessed to be up there. I was thankful to be able to help my mom, hug my dad, hold his hand, watch him smile as we laughed at the different funny sitcoms we would watch late into the night while we were keeping up with his pain meds. The smiles that he and Brynn shared will be precious memories for me even though I know she won’t remember. Her face would light up whenever she got near grandpa, and in return, so did his.
But it was hard. Probably the hardest thing I have ever done. Watching my dad grow progressively weaker was more painful than I could have imagined. There were many times that I begged God to let dad go… not because I wanted to say goodbye, but I didn’t want to see him suffering anymore. Sometimes I felt as if I just had to tell my dad, “Just let go. You don’t have to keep fighting!”
And yet, those words never came out of my mouth. They couldn’t, because my dad was once again teaching me a lesson. It was one that didn’t fully hit me until after he passed away. He believed that God had a purpose for him; that he had a “race to run”. During the month that I was up in Wisconsin, I often thought, “I’m watching dad die.” But a couple of days after he passed away I realized that I wasn’t really right. My dad wasn’t dying… he was living. His body might have been dying, but he chose to live up until the moment that the Lord released him from it.
He wouldn’t quit. He wouldn’t just give up and let the inevitable happen. My dad lived until the very moment that he died. And in doing so, he taught me his final lesson. More than teaching me how to die, dad once again taught me how to live. How not to give up, even when suffering is at its worst. How to trust the Lord, and cling to His goodness, even when you don’t fully understand what He’s doing.
I can no longer read 2 Tim. 4:7,8 without thinking of dad… “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
My dad is my hero. Because he has always pointed me towards his hero.
Today, during a prayer emphasis chapel, one of the speakers told a story about his father. His dad was determined to go and teach the hope of Jesus to tribal people who had never heard it before. They had enough money to get there, and that was about it. His father faithfully moved forward in prayer, and trusted God to provide along the way. The rest of the story was how a foreign government used the tribal airstrip for a series of missions. When it came time to leave, instead of taking their food and supplies back they gave it all to his family.
I have heard many radical stories of how God spontaneously supplied peoples needs. I found my eyes looking down, wondering something along the lines of “God, are you ever going to provide for me in some sort of radical and spontaneous way?”
I noticed on my feet were a brand new pair of flip flops. When we moved back to Missouri last month it quickly became apparent that the soles of my flip flops had become comparable to plastic wrap. I felt each and every rock beneath my feet on the unpaved roads here. One day I stopped into the donation room here on campus and saw a brand new pair of flip flops, exactly my size.
As I examined the shoes on my feet it was if God asked me “Who do you think gave you these?”
Flip flops. By using a simple pair of flip flops God reminded me that I do not always need the radical, amazing, and spontaneous. What I need, and what I always have, is a faithful, loving Father.
Just realized that I forgot to post this. It’s only a couple of months old. No biggie. I wanted to post a picture with this, but couldn’t find it. Some of you may be less upset about this fact than I am.
Last week I was able to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Sew up a pig’s foot.
Maybe I’m abnormal… I can live with that.
As much fun as it was, we weren’t doing it just to kill time. Our field health instructor offered us the option of taking a suturing class in case we ever needed to use that skill in an isolated setting.
Most of my attention was on the work in front of me – needle in, pull, needle out, knot, knot, knot, snip, repeat.Yet part of me couldn’t help thinking about how
nerve wracking, terrifying, different this would be if I was stitching up a person’s injury rather than a pig’s foot.
Now that I’ve gotten a bit of practice I can honestly say that I hope I never have to stitch anyone up. Along with the experience I got another tiny reality check – the life I fully believe God is calling us to, is in many ways so far out of my comfort zone that people might laugh.
Thankfully I’m not alone. Whether it’s suturing, language learning, transitioning, homeschooling, or just figuring out how to get my clothes dry in the tropics, God is right there with me, and I’m learning that He is my greatest comfort.
Sometimes the reality of missionary life hits. Hard.
Tonight is one of those nights for me. Summer is winding down, and we’ll soon be saying goodbye to family and friends again. I know it’s only for a semester. I know we can drive back for a visit if we want. I know it’s not the full fledged overseas experience.
But I’ve never liked goodbyes and I don’t think I ever will.
Nights like tonight force me to re-evaluate what we’re giving our lives to – what we’re giving our children’s childhood to. What we’re unintentionally forcing our extended families to give up. Is it worth it?
And God reminds me of those people who are living and dying in some far off jungle. Living in fear of spirits, without even the opportunity to hear about Jesus. Without a choice. Is it worth it?
Yes. It is.
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
“Pick up the green colored pencil and stick it behind your left ear.”
Except it’s in German and you just started learning the language 4 days ago. You’ve had a couple hours each day to work on it with a German language helper. Your practice doesn’t really include memorizing phrases, or even you using the German words. In addition to that, you don’t have much time out of class to spend practicing.
Still sound simple? Or even possible??
A couple weeks ago when I read about learning a language without talking much in the beginning I frowned. I shook my head skeptically. I silently argued that this had to be the most ridiculous language learning process I’d ever heard of.
And yet, it worked. Really well. And… I love it!
Even more exciting, I can actually picture doing this in a cross cultural setting. It’s surprisingly freeing to be able to listen and seek to understand what you’re hearing without worrying about saying it the right way.
During our TPR small group sessions we’ve spent most of our time learning vocabulary words – objects, actions etc. and then being quizzed on them in phrases. For instance, we learn the words for “stapler”, “scissors” and “pencil” in German, and then are quizzed. Our helper says, “Show me the…” and we point to the *hopefully* correct item. Keep adding more objects and additional phrases, and your brain is forced to work harder on comprehending what’s being said.
That’s why I now believe it’s entirely possible to, without having any real prior knowledge of a language, follow complex directions accurately after even just a few sessions.
I now see the benefit to using a comprehension focused language and culture learning plan. Start understanding what’s going on around you and then try to speak.
TPR. If I gush about it the next time I see you please forgive me. It’s just that good.
To the left are some of the actions we were practicing in one of our sessions. We’d take pictures of what we did that day as well as recording our helper saying the words/phrases so we could practice later.