Sunday, July 5, 2015

Kids' 5-Day Club Starting Tomorrow at the Hares

 
by Stacey
 
For our first term we are charged with the task of learning Bakoum, analyzing it, and learning the culture. But then there are always bored children on our front porch looking for something to do or for someone to teach them something. We talk to them in Bakoum some, but are nowhere near the place where we can teach them the Bible in this language (need to get it translated first!). But we have more-or-less decided that would rather not wait to teach these kids the Bible and hopefully some of them can understand it in the French (this would be on top of language and culture study...for all my World Team friends reading this ;).  
 
And so tomorrow we are starting a "5-day club" where we will be teaching them a few basics about the Christian faith. Specifically:
 
1. Who is God?
2. What is sin?
3. Who is Jesus Christ?
4. What did Jesus Christ do?
5. What is the Bible?
 
We are also excited to have found some catechisms / Scripture set to music in French that we will be teaching them and are hoping to hear them sung around the neighborhood (ie In what year was God born? None, he always was...)
 
And so, we would ask our fellow Christians to pray that this would be the generation that would be ready to receive the Word with joy once it is available. Pray that we would hear children singing Scripture around our neighborhood and pray for our children, that they would join us in seeking to engage this village for Christ.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

God Uses "Bad Legs"

by Dave

Can God use you? It is a good question. Some people told Elinor Young that her polio crippled body would prevent her from her dream of becoming a missionary. But she believed that whom the Lord calls, he uses. And that he equips those whom he calls. Watch this amazing woman's journey to becoming a Bible translator that ultimately ended in the Kimyal Bible Translation.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Called Not to be Colonists, but Revolutionaries

by Stacey

Called Not to be Colonists
Like most first-term missionaries, we are thinking through many issues that are suddenly before us (usually “out-loud” on our blog). One such issue is the question of “tolerance” on the mission field. This question is intimately tied to the history of our people group. People in this region had been living in the jungles until the French and German colonists entered the area. It has been said that the Germans violently forced the people to set up new villages along a main road so that they could control them more easily. A few of our friends have told us stories about the French savagely beating nationals who dared to resist their authority. They were made to submit to the whites and unfortunately this dark history is not too far in the past.

And then a generation or two later, we show up. We arrive not with the agenda to conform our friends and neighbors to our ways, but instead we are here hoping to learn theirs. Our prayer is to become their slaves in order to give them the hope of the Gospel in a way that is culturally understandable. Thus, because we want to communicate acceptance of this culture, a mantra in our home is that things here are not “good or bad, but just different.”

But Revolutionaries

But then we have our kids watch DVDs about Amy Carmichael whose ministry rescuing little girls from temple prostitution was integral in making this practice illegal in India. Or of William Carey who openly battled for decades against the practice of burning widows in India. His perseverance eventually led to the government banning this travesty. Their lives changed the laws of foreign  nations. I have to ask myself: What if they had kept their heads down focusing solely on “missionary work”? Would it still be legal in India to drop off one's daughter at the temple to be a sex slave? Or would widows still be burned to death at their husband’s funerals instead of being comforted?

In reflecting upon their open resistance to evil practices in the cultures they worked in, I wonder if perhaps we as missionaries could be responding “It’s not good, not bad just different” just a little too quickly. I wonder if there is a time to say, “God says this is evil and it needs to be stopped.” 

What Does the Bible Say? The Bible calls us first to discernment and then to action.

Discernment

The Bible says that those who are mature are not those who remain unmoved by the evils in their culture, but instead those who are constantly distinguishing between good and evil (Heb 5:14). The mature are those who are able to say, “That is wrong and let me biblically explain why.” These people are also “wise as to what is good” (Rom 16:19). They know what is wholesome and pleasing to the Lord and they know what moves him to anger. The best missionaries and the best Christians are not those who are just “nice” while remaining silent as widows are burned or children are aborted. Instead they are those who study the Scriptures and can patiently and unwaveringly give biblical reasons as to why a particular practice is wrong. And this ability to discern does not remain intellectual but instead moves them to…

Action

William Carey did not just make a biblical case that widow burning was wrong in his diary. No, his goal was to stop the practice. Why? Because his ability to discern sank down into his emotions to the point where he could follow the call of the Bible “O you who love the LORD, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10). His emotions would not let him sit back and say, “Oh well, sinners sin!” Instead his hatred of evil led him to intervene.

Not only does the Bible call us to be able to discern good from evil, to emotionally respond to the good and evil that we see, but also to expose it. Paul says, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Eph 5 11). I heard one sermon where the pastor said that the reaction of a Christian towards evil is to point a big spotlight at it. Is this attitude found in missions methodology books today?

To conclude, I think it is great that we as non-colonizing, non-oppressing Western missionaries come to the field with a ready-to-learn-and-serve attitude, quick to accept aspects of the culture that we find uncomfortable. And yet, I do not believe God wants us to drift towards an overall passivity to the evils around us. We should instead be constantly asking ourselves, “Does this aspect of the culture please God? Why or why not?” And consistently praying, “Lord, help us to love what you love and hate what you hate within myself, my home culture and the culture I am living in currently.” And finally, after discerning good from evil, being moved to love it or hate it, we are to boldly step out in faith to expose the works of darkness that are around us.

And for our friends at home, it seems like the process of discerning good from evil within our own culture is even more difficult. We tend to be blind to what has been the “normal” that we have grown up with. Thus, the above prayers are very applicable to all of us: “Lord, help me to discern what aspects of my culture please you and which aspects do not. Lord, help me to love what you love and hate what you hate about my culture.” Finally, “Lord help me to lovingly and patiently expose the evil that is so readily accepted her.” And of course, “Lord use me to change this nation.”

And I imagine that the Lord will be pleased to answer these prayers. I imagine he will continue to use his children to be salt and light in nations all throughout the world.


And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets-who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Hebrews 11:32-34   

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Can We Come to VBS?

by Dave
We had a request from one of our churches (Grace Church Frisco) to have four short videos for VBS this summer. They are extremely simple and mostly just introduce our kids and our ministry. If you are doing VBS this summer, please feel free to use these videos as a way of introducing missions into your material.

*Disclaimer* I did not have a ton of time to work on these, so they are extremely simple. Hopefully they can still be helpful.

Video #1: Introduction to the Family


Video #2: The Need for Bible Translation


Video #3: The First Steps


Video #4: Prayer Requests


Also, if you would like to download these videos instead of using YouTube, you can download them here: https://copy.com/6mfinFwMCaGV1Fo8.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

"What a Bunch of Savages"

by Stacey

Dave and I have lived for over 30 years in America. For 30 years we lived and breathed American culture. But 2 years ago we were launched out of our comfort zone and into first Europe and now Africa. We have found that in reality, we are somewhere in orbit outside of these cultures, not really belonging to any of them. Within a single week, we hear both the values of those from our home country and the swirling opinions of the people among whom we work. Their differing reactions to the same issues are astonishing:
Concerning Homosexuality:
Western Culture: “How is it even possible that in Cameroon a single homosexual act can get you 5 years in prison!?"
Cameroonian Culture: “Wow, can you believe that homosexuality is LEGAL in the US and that they even have gay pride parades?!”
Concerning Children’s Respect for their Parents:
Western Culture: “Did you know that in Cameroonian culture, disrespectful children are beaten, sometimes publically!?”
Cameroonian Culture: “Can you believe that in the United States children will openly disrespect their parents in public, without any reprocussions?!”
Concerning Immunizations:
Western Culture: “Is it not great that those who live in the remote places in the world do not fill their bodies full of harmful chemicals and immunizations but can just eat organically and live off the land?” 
Cameroonian Culture: “If only I had access to the polio vaccination when my daughter was younger, then she would not have to be bent over with her arms dragging on the ground for the rest of her life.”
Concerning Abortion:
Western Culture: “Can you believe that in Cameroon women do not have the right to an abortion unless it's deemed medically necessary or unless they have been raped?!” 
Cameroonian Culture: “Did you know that it is LEGAL in the United States to kill one’s unborn child for any reason and the government ensures that women can do it easily and comfortably?!”
Concerning Marriage:
Western Culture: “Can you believe that it is legal in Cameroon for one man to marry multiple women?!” 
Cameroonian Culture: “Can you believe that one man can marry another man in the States?!”
The conclusion of both cultures is that the other is crazy at best and savage at worst.

Who is Right? (Or is There Even a Right?)
So, in regards to the above issues, which culture is right? I think the knee-jerk reaction on both sides would be to claim that their perspective is the right one. But can we do that?  For instance,
  • If we say that men should defer or submit to women, what would we say to a society that says that women are to defer to or submit to men?
  • If we are adamant that women should have the right to terminate their pre-birth children, what then would we then say to the culture that allows mothers to beat or even “terminate” their post-birth homosexual sons?
  • If we say that men should have the right to marry another man, what would we say to a society that says that men should have the right to marry as many women as he wants?
  • If we say that women and children should be heard, what would we say to a society who says they should not?
Maybe at the end of the day we are just as affected by the our culture as they are by theirs. Maybe we pity them because they are brainwashed by their society and they look at us and think the same thing. Maybe we look at little girls in some countries and pity them for growing up in a society that has brainwashed them into thinking they are inferior to men. And maybe they look at our society and pity the little boys who have been brainwashed into thinking they are inferior to women.
So Now What?
Admit When Judgmental
If we decide in the end that all of these values are just culturally relative, that is, determined by culture, a call for change would be judgmental and ethnocentric. After all, who are you to say that your culture is better than mine? Can you really tell me not to beat my child when my culture tells me that it is the best way to correct them? In fact, what if my culture tells me I am a bad parent if I do not beat them? Who are you to say you know better then an entire nation of people?

But what if these issues are not relative? What if there is truth that transcends culture?
Embrace the Truth that is Not Contingent
The God of the Bible refers to himself as the beginning and the end. He has always existed and will always exist. Kingdoms, powerful rulers and cultures have risen and fallen, but he will always remain. He is the Creator of the world and what he values remains the same no matter the culture, no matter the era. He does not change and never will. And this God wrote a book that explains his standards which are true for all people of all time in all places.  In the words of Jesus, 
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Mark 13:31
And the words of Jesus confront the sins found in every culture.

Acknowledge the Sins of our Own Culture

It is true that someone raised in a culture accustomed to violence may not immediately see beating one’s child with a machete as a sin. Or someone else may genuinely believe that men are superior to women. What both of these people need is the Bible to show them the error of their ways. According to the Bible, men and women were created by God as equals and it even refers to Christian men and women as co-heirs of God’s Kingdom. In regards to raising children, the Bible says that parents are to discipline their children out of love for them but not in a way that provokes them to anger. Here it is the Bible correcting erroneous thinking, not just me with my own cultural biases.
It is equally true that someone raised in American culture could grow up believing that taking the life of an unborn child is permissible. Or that one has the right to have a sexual relationship with whomever he pleases. This again is where we need the Bible to reveal our blindspots. We need the Bible to show us that God is our Creator and as our Creator he has the right to speak into our lives. He has the right to tell us what we can and cannot do with the bodies he has given us. He has the right to tell us with whom we can have a sexual relationship and with whom we cannot. The Bible also considers the unborn to be God's image bearers, thus protected and not to be "disposed of."
What is amazing is that being a Christian and recognizing that truth resides outside of culture ultimately frees us. When Paul said that he had "become all things to all people" he was communicating this truth. When he came as a missionary, he could leave his culture behind him. For the sake of the Gospel he could wear Corinthian clothes, eat Galatian food, and admire Ephesian architecture. He could look at Jewish culture and call out their sins, while doing the same of Greek culture. Why? Because he was not comparing the two. Instead he was holding them both to God's standard. Thus, missionaries ought to be the most tolerant world travellers, completely unconcerned with how our host culture measures up to home. But instead examining every new culture in its relation to God's Word.


To conclude, it is far too easy to judge other people’s culture using the rule of our own. There is not one culture that is free from sin nor can be used as the standard. It is only the Word of God that helps us to discern clearly what God values as right and wrong and every culture all over the world needs this book to help them see clearly the sins that they have readily accepted all their lives.


I pose this challenge to our readers: Are you willing to open the Bible and let it point out to you the sins of your culture that you may have accepted without question? If you are not, ask yourself the question, “How am I different than those in other cultures that I might consider to be savage? By what rule can I say that I am in the right and they are in the wrong?” And in the words of the Apostle Paul:
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Thigh, Breast or Door? The Joys of Learning a Tonal Language

by Stacey

Hey, can you go close the thigh? Oh, I mean the…breast? Nope…the door...that’s it…the door!
How could we get these words so mixed up? Let us just tell you that they have the exact same consonants and vowels. And if they have the exact same consonants and vowels then they are the same word that has several different meanings…right?

Wrong.
We have now officially entered into the realm of tonal languages where meaning is differentiated not just by different vowels and consonants but also by the pitch of one’s voice. So (we think) “door” is said with a higher pitch where “breast” starts low and then goes to a high pitch on the second syllable. “Thigh” starts low and then the pitch drops off. And these changes in one’s voice determine what the word means.

Here, give it a shot and see if you can tell the difference:


Often our language partner will say (it seems) the exact same words twice and then tell us that they mean different things. We find ourselves doing a lot of smiling and nodding as well as praying that the Lord would help us hear the differences that seem so plain to them.
So we write this post both because we find it interesting (don’t you?) and also to ask our Christian friends to pray for us. Pray that we would HEAR the different tones. Pray that we would WRITE them accurately. Pray that when we SPEAK we would be understood.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

When People Say Stupid Things: An Alternative Response

by Dave

Do you ever get asked stupid questions? Try this one on for size: on a market trip the other day the meat vendor saw Stacey, Elias and myself and asked, “Hey, where is your black woman?” Polygamy is not rare here and he assumed I had another wife, or at least another woman on the side. This type of question is the norm as we walk around here, not the exception. Adoption outside of the extended family is rare in Cameroon, multiple women/wives is common, and seeing us with black kids leads them to certain cultural assumptions. But that does not keep it from being offensive. No matter how often it comes up, I will never like it when people assume that I sleep with someone other than my wife.

I have come to realize that we are not alone and families with adopted kids (or even just more than the average amount of kids) get asked stupid questions all the time. But from what I have observed, I think that we are fostering the wrong reaction to these questions. What reaction? Wit. We are brainstorming witty phrases and comebacks, the goal of which seems to be to make the other person as uncomfortable as we are.

I offer here an alternative, that I think will result in better conversations: try to build up the stupid-question-asker.

How to Build Up Stupid-Question-Askers
I think that there is almost always a way to build up a person that asks this type of question. Here are some ideas:

1. Ask them about themselves.
"Wow, are ALL those kids yours?" 
"Yep!" 
"You know how that happens, right?" 
"Absolutely. Do you come from a big family?"
Often you can redirect the conversation toward the asker. Talk about their brothers and sisters, their kids, or some of the challenges of child rearing. Bringing the conversation around like this treats them like a person, and not just like a troll. Some of these people do have malicious intentions, many of them are just curious, and all of them are created in the image of God. Show them the curtesy and interest that you wish they would have shown you.

2. Just Explain.
"Are they really your kids?" 
"They are really my kids: we adopted them and they became a part of our family. This is Kaden, Makyra, Elias and Zoey. They have come all the way from Ethiopia! Oh, and by the way, families like ours consider our kids to be really our own, not someone else’s. So, when you talk to adoptive parents you might want to avoid asking if they are “really” our kids."
Like I said before, most people are just curious. The question may be posed poorly, but they are not trying to offend. They want to know more about your family. So, tell them. In my experience the next response is, “That is so cool.” You can explain that their question was rude too. That might do a better job of stopping them from asking some other unsuspecting couple in the future.

 3. Share the Gospel.
"Are there not enough needy kids in America, that you had to steal some from another country?" (Real question, BTW) 
"We are really fortunate to attend a church where people are adopting from our State, our country, AND overseas. We did not feel like we had to choose, because together we are trying to reach all needy children. Did you know that when God decided to adopt people into his family he chose people from every tribe, tongue, and nation?"
There are some really good transitions into the Gospel with stupid questions. Family and adoption are two of the ways that God illustrated his saving grace and so any questions about our kids can lead to the Good News. Transitioning into a Gospel conversation can be so awkward, why not jump on something that naturally flows there? I think if we resort to sarcastic comebacks we are missing out on a great opportunity.

Why Build Up Stupid-Question-Askers?
Just in case you are still thinking up those witty comebacks, I thought I would give you a few reasons to take a different approach.
  • These askers are made in the image of God. They may have just offended you, and not treated you like you would have wanted to be treated, but they were made by God and for his worship. We are called to treat humans with a respect they deserve not because they are kind, but because their Creator is.
  • We are called to always build others up with our words. I have never walked away feeling closer to Jesus when someone intentionally made me feel stupid. I have walked away more like Jesus when someone gently confronted my stupidity. Galatians 6 calls those who are spiritual to restore someone caught in a transgression with gentleness. If we are called to be gentle with those that have actually sinned against us, how much more should we be gentle with those that are accidentally stupid.
  • You say stupid stuff too. James tells us, “if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” Truth is, we all say stupid things, sometimes intentionally. And sometimes we say something that seems innocent enough without knowing the history and we hurt others. I know I have. And the biggest blessing for me was not sarcastic rebuke, but gentle grace. 


Truth be told, I write this as a reminder for myself. Ever since Jr High comebacks have come to my mind very naturally and I find myself wanting other people to feel stupid when they say something stupid. But I have come to the conclusion that this comes from my flesh and not the Spirit. We can turn offensive situations into an opportunity to build up, especially when we realize that the Gospel is that we have offended God and he chose to reconcile. I have seen blogs dedicated to brainstorming witty comebacks for these situations. I would love to hear how you all have turned stupid questions for the asker's good. Let me know in the comments!


Sunday, May 3, 2015

There is so Little Grace Here

by Stacey
 
Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone;
for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man. - Psalm 12:1 

Streets Filled with Violence

I was studying one day when I  heard a young woman screaming in the street, “No mama, no mama.” I went outside to see what was going on and Dave told me that our neighbor was violently whipping her daughter with an electrical cable, even in the face, while her older brother was pinning her down. Dave told the mother that she needed to stop and with much frustration, she eventually relented. She left her daughter on the ground screaming and writhing in pain. The whole neighborhood came out and stood there and watched without saying a word. Eventually everyone went about their businesses, hauling water and going to their fields, indifferent to this 12 year old girl. I went up to her and held her hand and took her to our porch until she calmed down. I prayed with her and encouraged her to confess what she had done wrong to her mother and seek to be reconciled with her. She sobbed as she told me that she was no longer welcome to live in her home. Later on, the mom told me that this girl had disrespected her older brother and that was the reason for the “correction.” She was also not happy with me for intervening and my kindness towards her daughter has led to tension in our relationship. Was I really supposed to coldly walk by a young woman who had just been publically beaten?
 
Punishments that Do not Fit the Crime
A former worker in our town said that he saw a body that had been burnt on the side of the road. He walked up to it to see if there was anything he could do when someone in the neighborhood told him that they burnt this man to death because he was caught stealing. Does this seem too harsh to anyone else?

Motivating through Fear
On a much lesser level, Kaden came home the other day and told me that kids in his class were getting beat because they could not write their numbers well. When I asked if the children were refusing to try, he insisted that they were trying but just had not yet mastered their numbers. Does scaring children really aid in learning?
Where is Grace?
It is the culmination of all these experiences (and more) that lead me to cry out: Where is grace? Where is love? Where is forgiveness? Where is reconciliation? Where are sober fathers? Where are the grandmothers who hug their grandchildren? Where are praying mothers? Where are encouraging teachers? Where are quiet neighborhoods? Where are servant leaders? Where are those who use their authority for the benefit of those under their care and not for their own benefit?
Not Surprised, but Sad Nonetheless.
Is this what we expected? Yes.  

Are we surprised? No.
But all the logic in the world does not make it less sad. All the biblical assertions of man’s depravity do not make one deaf to the drunk man screaming at his wife and kids outside of your window. Understanding that sinners sin and that without Christ we “would all be the same way” does not lessen in any way the tragedy of lives lived without hope.

So Now What?
Keep Weeping. Keep Hating Evil.
As missionaries we are taught to be students of the culture, slow to judge and quick to listen. This is wise and something we strive for daily. But there are things here that are not just "different." And I pray that we never stop hating and weeping over these cultural sins (and over the sins of our own culture, and our own personal sins). The goal is not to live an indifferent life free from sorrow, but instead the goal is to feel what God feels. Did not Jesus weep over the crowds? Did God not grieve that he even created man when saw all the sin in the days of Noah? Deep sorrow is an appropriate response.
Keep Working. Keep Praying.
Stepping up and confronting public sin is necessary, especially when the safety of weaker people is at stake. But we know that real change comes only when people become new creatures. And though it does not feel like things will change when I am on my knees pleading with the Lord in my room, it is through prayer that God acts. And though it does not feel like change will come because I am practicing the word "avocado" in Bakoum, I must speak this language to translate his Word. And there is power in his Word. So we pray, and we work, knowing that God will change those whom he elects through our prayers and through his Word.
 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Village Joys

By Stacey

Oh there are so many things that I love about our lives here in Cameroon. One such thing is never knowing quite what to expect when we walk out of our front door each day. As far as our daily routine, each day, Dave and I study the language with a language partner and then in the afternoons we try to go out into the neighborhood and practice what we learned. And we usually learn a lot more then just Bakoum in the process. For instance, the other day, we learned how to pull of the legs and wings of a grasshopper in order to fry them up and eat them with plantains:
 
video
 
 
The next day I was explaining to one of my friends how we sometimes eat tuna-salad in our house. She looked at me in horrible disgust..."Tuna...in a CAN...and with...PICKLES?!" Noting her reaction, I pointed out that the day before I saw a woman pulling the legs off a grasshopper to eat them for dinner. She responded in saying, "Oh yeah, of course, that's normal...but YOU, look what you eat!" Guess it is all relative, huh?

Greatest joy: Getting to work side-by-side with Dave
Also being out in the village we get to meet the many babies that were recently born and also seem to have a cloud of little kids following us around (not including our own) helping us with our pronunciation. I personally have been really thankful. The months of sitting with ladies in what seemed like painful, awkward silence has become less painful and I dare may say that I may even have made a friend.
 
From here on out, we would love prayer that those in our village would continue to be willing to sit and listen to us butcher their language. And that they would really open themselves up to us freely as we also ask a lot of questions in order to learn about their culture.
 
And just for fun, we thought we would share a little video that we took at a local church we visited a couple weeks ago. They had the little kids all dance up front and when they came out in the audience to invite our kids up, all of our kids ran and hid, except for Elias who went up and cried. Our kids just do not know how to dance like this...


 
 
video

Sunday, April 12, 2015

I Could NEVER Do That!

by Dave

So far since we have been in Cameroon I have: killed three poisonous snakes around our house, spent an entire day carrying water from a well, stopped a man from severely beating his daughter, stopped another man from severely beating his dog, had two guys try to jump in my car for unknown malicious purposes, and watched a baby die. Though all of these things are fairly common place here in Africa, they are also experiences I almost certainly would not have had if I stayed in America. And to be honest, while I do not feel like I have a hard life, I am amazed by how many Christians tell me “I could NEVER do that.” I say that I am amazed, but I spoke those same words thirteen years ago when I first met my missions-driven-now-wife. I was pursuing a career in film and there was no way that I would ever go live in the jungle. 

Wrong Assumptions
I have had many years to reflect both on my own heart at that time and on those Christians that say this to me and I think I have recently had a breakthrough. I am reading a book called Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas that sparked the thought. After discussing some of the troubles common in Christian marriages he says:
“Life is so easy for us today that we risk falling asleep, convinced that it should be easy and that it will always be easy. Then, at the smallest difficulty, we are greatly tempted to turn back to our habitual comfort and we risk therefore circumventing great spiritual opportunities.” (I am actually reading the book in French under the title Vous Avez Dit “Oui” à Quoi? and this is a rough back translation).
Thomas’s point is directed toward marriage: if we start by thinking that marriage should be easy we will try to escape the difficulties that can make it sanctifying. But as I was reading it, I kept thinking about these conversations that I have had with Americans regarding missions. I think maybe we are coming to life with the wrong assumption. As Americans we live in a world where clean water comes out of our tap on demand and an hour power outage during a storm is enraging. It is a world of 24-hour emergency rooms and penicillin and air conditioning. We can even have our groceries delivered to our front door! And I think we get blinded by our Google Glass culture into thinking that life is supposed to be convenient, comfortable, and easy. Even when we think of Africa, we think how horrible it is that people do not have our medicine and conveniences and we try to figure out ways to help because we think that they deserve easy lives. 

To his disciples Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). First thing that I notice here is that Jesus wants us to have peace. But the peace that he is calling us to is peace in the midst of tribulation. The tribulation is a given. This life is actually not supposed to be easy. The New Testament is full of encouragements and exhortations to those who are suffering because that is what is considered the normative Christian experience. 

The Example of Christ
What’s more, we are called as Christians to follow the example of Christ. And what is the example of Christ? Paul tells us that Jesus,
“Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-7).
There is a reason that Jesus is called the “suffering servant.” He came to the earth to both suffer and to serve. That is the example that we are called to follow. We are called to suffer and to serve.  

Now I am the first to say that not everyone should be a missionary. In fact, if everyone was a missionary, I could not be one! We need those of you who support us. Nor do I think that the only way to follow Christ’s example is to become a missionary. BUT I do write this as a challenge to those who would say “I could NEVER be a missionary.” Who are you thinking about when you say that? Yourself? Because if you are thinking about yourself, you are right. We are weak creatures that often cannot help but be distracted when we should be worshipping. But I wonder if we might change the way we are thinking if we shifted our focus to Christ. Both Paul and Peter call us to have the same mind as Christ. Here is what Peter says,
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions, but for the will of God” (I Peter 4:1-2).
If we do arm ourselves with Christ’s thinking I believe we will start with the assumption not that life will be easy, but that we will suffer. I like the wording that Peter uses because we do not arm ourselves for a night on the couch with the wifey. No! We arm ourselves for battle. When we view life as Christ did, we see ourselves going out into a battle of suffering and servitude. And then when we see others suffering we will not think “I could NEVER do that”, but instead:

Make me a servant, 
Humble and meek.
Lord let me lift up,
Those who are weak.
And may the prayer of my life always be,
Make me a servant,
Make me a servant,
Make me a servant, today.