How to Make a Difference, Everywhere You Go

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels... There's always this conversation surrounding missions - the short trips and the long-enduring ones. Whenever you choose one area in which to labor, there are 13 million other areas that will cry out for attention and grumble with contention. 

It's the same with international adoption, I've found.

What about here? What about your own community? Why spend all that time and money and energy when there are so many problems right here? Shouldn't we start at home?

Yes.

world map picture

But the world is not as big as I used to think it was. I can be across the globe in a day or two and you know what? The same problems exist, everywhere. Everywhere I go, there I am with my problems and the world's problems and the real problem is that we go places, or don't go places, and there's no love.

Les Catchpole was famous for his It's a Small World  rendition. Famous in a small town, anyways, for the way he would pull that harmonica out at any and every community event, and how this slowing old gentleman would bring air from the depths of his being and play that tune.

It's a small world after all. It's a small, small world.

It became kind of an anthem for our little valley. We loved it and we loved him for it, even if some of us rolled our eyes with the predictability.

He's gone now and the world gets smaller everyday, like how summers seemed so long when you were a kid but now they pass in a blink. The world's problems are closer than ever.

And yes, we have our own.

And though I have the gift of prophecy...

I've thought about what our plan would be if we were missionaries to a place like here.

We could focus on marriages and families, counseling, drugs and alcohol, youth, apathy and lukewarmness in the church, crime and jail ministry...

We could keep it simple and just stick to teaching the Word of God, reading it and understanding it and applying what you learn.

Simple like that.

We might feel the need to be flashier though, to draw a crowd and hype the audience and boost the audio. We might try to be culturally sensitive that way and hope that the message stuck because the performance was good.

Whatever we did would be worthless without truth and love.

And understand all mysteries and all knowledge...

We can give solutions everywhere we go. We can know more and do more and be more and serve more, and all that can be left sometimes is weariness. Weary of soul. Weary of bone and aching muscle.

Even if the outcome is good, we can become weary of well-doing.

More classes and seminars. More money and time. More programs and prescriptions and you-should-do-things-my-way.

Class time

And though I have all faith...

I can hop on a plane once a year and go somewhere where I'm a celebrity because of my skin color and my nationality, where people listen just because, where my flesh suffers a little and my emotions come out a lot and I feel good about leaving the easy life for awhile.

I can go next door or across the globe on my own two feet and power through myriad good works, gritting my teeth and shining my light right in the eyes of brokenness and sin.

I can give in faith and go in faith and never really depend on the love that fuels my faith.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor...

Throwing money at something never gives it a beating heart.

And though I give my body to be burned...

Suffering for the sake of suffering is foolish. The fool's martyr dies on the cross of his own making and Jesus never called us to a cause - just to Himself and to giving up our own self and to love.

Wherever you are, staying or going, it's of no value if love is missing. 

Our call is always to join in what God is already doing in any given place. He's equipping His church here. He's begun a good work and finishing it with the likes of us - you and me.

You work with the youth and counsel the struggling and equip the families and preach freedom to all who are captive. 

You, His bride, do His work wherever you are.

You and me, His church - we keep finding towels and washing feet and we stumble, but we pull each other along.

Well done. Keep it up.

Owe no one  anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8

 

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India Chronicles, Part III

We all got on this bus together. Hindus, Animists, Muslims, Christians, and maybe even some non-believers if there is such a thing in India - all of us traveling together on the same bus to various destinations.

India passes by out our windows, every one of them down to bring in fresh air.

Father and son on bicycle

We had moaned a little when we learned that we'd be riding a bus with no AC for 13-ish hours.  After more than a week with no power and 100+ degree temperatures, we had kinda looked forward to some cool air. So when we slid our windows open and the bus began to roll, we were so relieved.

Pastor Steward had handed me a bag of chocolate cookies and bananas through the bus window before we pulled away. This wasn't going to be that bad, after all.

Because, you know, God-forbid that we should suffer.

I get a window seat and Tim is next to me, shielding me a little from the bumps and lack of personal space as passengers file on and off. Every single man that walks by gawks at us, and when your eyes meet their eyes there is no turning away. They just continue to stare.

So I face the window and snap pictures of the bicycles and vegetable stands and I watch as the sun sets, burning orange above the never-ending valley.

This place is beautiful and marred and rude and lovely, all at the same-sweaty-time.

The man in front of me rests his seat back and puts his hands above his head, on his head rest. It's so close to my face that I have to turn my head to avoid touching it.

The man behind us wants to talk to Tim. He asks too many questions and then laughs when Tim says he doesn't have a Facebook. Doesn't everyone have Facebook?

I think he's offended and he stops asking questions.

For awhile, there's a baby in front of Tim and she smiles as her mother dances her on her lap. She has shorn hair and sweaty skin and I take a sneaky picture with my phone. Only my flash is on, so it's not so sneaky.

Her mom glances back and then sets the baby down on her lap.

The man in front of me begins a conversation with Tim. Again, I feel like there are too many questions and when he flicks his hand for emphasis, I'm hard pressed for face-space.

He doesn't seem to notice.

He's coughing, and since he is reclined practically in my lap, when he turns his head he literally leans forward into Tim's lap and coughs. No hand over mouth, no attempt to shield anyone from the spray. He actually leans forward and coughs on my husband's legs.

I may have laughed.

But for the rest of his ride he is coughing and spitting out the window and I'm leaning in for cover. Too many wads of mucus have escaped one window, only to enter another, so I'm wary and awake.

I fell asleep sometime after he got off the bus.

I dream about social reform as well as spiritual life, about all the ways to make the air cleaner and the food more nutritious and the living easier for 1.2 billion Indian people. I get all idealistic, and then plummet to irritation and disgust at all the enemy has taken here, all the bondage and all the suffering.

Some things break my heart, and some things just plain irritate me.

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I was thinking yesterday about Jesus, walking in to Jerusalem. I was thinking about money-changer's tables and cages of doves, about coins crashing all around, about pharisees and prostitutes and blind men and adulteresses. Dirty streets and sickly lungs and poor housing and curable diseases.

I was thinking about the crowds who wanted a king, not a Savior on a cross. They wanted some social reform and  political maneuvering, and they got upheaval in their souls instead.

Jesus didn't come to overthrow Rome and He didn't give the answers people wanted.  He didn't lead a march to freedom from foreign oppressors. He didn't come in the way people expected a Savior to come and He didn't stay and fight the way they had hoped their Messiah would.

The streets weren't cleaner and the diseases didn't stop. Evil men still persecuted the poor and oppressed the helpless. When He ascended, Rome was not even at the peak of her tyranny.

Sometimes, when I want everything to be better and nicer and cleaner and healthier, I remember suddenly that this is not supposed to be heaven-on-earth and God is not supposed to work according to my plans.

He has His ways.

And sometimes the evil is overcoming, but I read that I'm supposed to overcome evil with overcoming-good, a descriptive, adjective kind of overcoming. Like overwhelming.

That's how I hear it when I read it, that's what I hope we left behind, and that's how I picture it when I'm back home in my garden, when a plane ride takes me back to comfortable and everything is beautiful because my heart is thankful.

On the other side of the world and in my own home, evil always thinks it's overcoming. But this tidal wave of good, this overcoming and overwhelming and overachieving good, is mounting up. It's rising.

__________________________________

We all got on this bus together.

And everyone was beautiful.

The end.

 

Click to read:

India Chronicles, Part I

India Chronicles, Part II

India Chronicles, Part III

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India Chronicles, Part II

school room in India I've been thinking about language lately.

With all our western education and resources, the majority of people I know personally are fluent in only one language, and we could all lament improper grammar, spelling, and punctuation - my own included.

In a small apartment in New Delhi we met sisters, 5 and 7 years old, who speak five languages.

Five.

I had momentary visions of a mass-order of Rosetta Stone for our homeschool curriculum after we met, of foreign exchange students and intense language boot camps.

It was momentary, because my next vision was of revolt and failure.

There were just so many moments frustrated by language on our trip, moments shortened because there literally were no words. Over and over I met people who extolled the virtues of America and spoke to me in English (albeit a little broken), and all I could think was how english-centric we'd all become.

And how lazy.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful that there are English speakers in all parts of the world. But it's more of a lazy thankfulness, I think. I feel that way sometimes when I'm thankful for a hot shower, a soft bed, running water, or coffee, because life goes on without those things but my life is so much easier with them.

Lazily thankful.

Barriers

I struggled in India with laughter I couldn't join in and conversations I was outside of, and there were so many times when I let language barriers keep me out - me, with fair skin, light hair, shyness and one language.

When there was no interpreter available I sat in a lot of silence.

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On a Monday night I share with a small fellowship group, just like we have at home.  They sit on the bamboo porch of a house on stilts, and to reach the porch you climb a log with crude steps notched into to it - steps that the pigs and goats and cows can't navigate.

They sit cross-legged on the floor and I settle in a plastic chair, because they are gracious enough to know that I'm probably not that flexible. I'm probably not, but I want to be, because again they have elevated me and all that formality gets uncomfortable.

I share with them about thankfulness and how my attitude slips sometimes in piles of laundry and bowls of oatmeal. I tell them how looking at circumstances drags me down, but how thankfulness lifts my countenance and re-frames my attitude.

There's one wobbly fan above us that blows the hot air and  mosquitoes around, and I try to conceal my swollen feet under the chair.

I wonder what they picture in their minds when I talk about laundry.

They nod in agreement when I tell them that the enemy wants to steal our joy but God wants us to redeem all our time. The days are evil and this is universally known.

They murmur and I recognize surprise on their faces, and then smiles. They are laughing and giggling, chattering in one of the umpteen-hundred dialects of this land so near Babel, and I turn to my interpreter for help.

Did I say something wrong?

Did I cross some cultural line I didn't know was there?

Did they see my feet?

It's another moment where I'm on the outside. My interpreter is telling them something and they're nodding and raising their eyebrows and I just wait. All this waiting for grace and fellowship and I think I'm all alone here - one white girl turning red in the heat of this country that must be a million miles closer to the sun than Oregon.

And maybe they're laughing at me?

"They thought all American mothers had an easy life," he tells me, grinning big. They're laughing with surprise at the thought of me cooking dinner for my family and doing laundry.

Something inside me wants to smash all the satellite dishes that adorn most every thatched-roof hut, that portal of white-anglo-saxon America where everyone is always beautiful and leisurely. They stick out like the sore thumbs of the money changers in the the temple, selling imitations of things God has already freely given.

But I realize I do have it easy in many respects.

I laugh with them instead, and with big nods we cross continents. We fellowship in the common language, the mother-tongue of all moms who wash laundry in buckets and Maytags, who cook oatmeal and rice en masse, who argue with kids over schoolwork and pray over kids with attitudes just like our own.

Someone you've got to meet!

Later in the week our women's seminar begins and I have three different translators over the course of two days. In God's wisdom, this program that was supposed to begin a week earlier had been postponed, and during this week I've had several opportunities to get to know the women and their lives better. I come to understand their laughter better, and their tears water my own prayers.

They are grandmas grieving for prodigal children and grandchildren, wives wringing hands over drunken husbands, mothers praying fervently for their children's school exams, and sisters flooding heaven with liquid requests. Such as is common to man. 

Sunday morning Tim teaches from 1 John. He's talking about fellowship, and when he says that in heaven we'll all have one language, I scribble hard on the back of an envelope and fight back these tears that I wasn't expecting. He feels it, too - this longing to communicate unhindered.

All week I've had to lose the beauty of my language, to simplify my words and leave the embellishments to the interpreter. But truly, in every place I find myself, the Holy Spirit is the Great Interpreter and nothing is ever lost in His translation.

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Click to read:

India Chronicles, Part I

India Chronicles, Part II

India Chronicles, Part III

 

 

Linking up with Heather, Emily, SheDoesJusticeGrace Laced Mondays, MercyInkThe Wellspring, and  #TellHisStory