Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tuesday Topic: 2013!


Happy New Year! I haven't been too regular with the Tuesday Topics lately. Sorry. Send me suggestions of what you want to talk about.

I do have one for today: What is your favorite memory from 2013?

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Light In The Dark


Something deep in our souls longs for a light in the dark. At Christmas it spills out on Christmas trees, and Advent wreaths, and twinkling lights on houses. We desperately want to believe the words that angels proclaim in the night.

This Christmas season I have felt like the night is long and dark. All throughout December and leading up to Christmas Eve I felt like I was carrying heavy burdens. My heart aches for the girl who has no home, and it breaks for the man on the street who has fallen again into the addiction he hates. My stomach turns at the poverty and desperation all around me, contrasted with the Christmas lights and holiday music. Maybe the tears fall from your eyes too as you ache for the ones you serve.

The whole world groans under the weight of darkness.

Is this the groan that God heard from heaven on high?  The cries of humanity thrown out into the night?

Is this why He could not stand by? Divinity stepped down, down into the groaning darkness and was born as a mortal child. This is the wonder of Christmas.

God born like us. Born to change our story, and to stop our cries.

When we hear the groans around us, we have a way to answer. There is a peace to be preached, and an unlikely joy to be found and celebrated.

We love the Christmas lights because they defy the darkness. They whisper "hope" into the deepest night. They show us that we can overcome every day of the year.

And so we light the Advent candles, and we sing the angel's song.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all you lovely ladies, in all corners of the world. I pray that you will have a lovely time celebrating Christ's birth with your families.

Jesus said:
I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.

Enjoy His light and pass it on to others, especially during this season!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Advent and the Unexpected

We of course don’t truly know all of the things that Mary was feeling as she awaited the birth of her Perfect Son, but as we’ve been in our own season of Advent, of waiting, I’ve been imagining what Mary might have been feeling as she herself anticipated the birth of Jesus.

Surely she felt the feelings of awe, joy, anticipation, excitement, and wonder. She was about to give birth to God’s own Son! We to seek to focus our hearts on those same feelings as we remember just exactly what Jesus’ birth means to us as believers. It means everything! 

But I’ve also been wondering what sort of natural motherly feelings and concerns Mary might have been having. Here is the most significant event of her life and most significant event in eternity, and she finds herself headed on an arduous journey far from her home to an unknown place that she can’t even fully envision considering they didn’t know where they would stay while there. She, like every mother, had likely spent much time nesting and dreaming about the arrival of her baby boy. Then the decree calling for the census goes out and all of those dreams abruptly change their setting.  Mary had likely prepared her home and had been picturing in her mind what Jesus arrival might look like there, surrounded by those close to her, in her lovingly prepared home.  I can imagine the concern and perhaps grief that she may have felt as she realized that it was likely that she would be living far from home, who knows where (though probably better that she didn’t know she'd be in a stable at that point!) when her baby boy and Lord entered the world. Nothing went as she had planned and expected! Far from it!

But, that was God’s perfect plan! He intended to come in a way, time, and place that nobody, not even Jesus’ own mother, could have expected. 

During the Advent season and as the actual day of Christmas approaches I know that each of us have had hopes, plans, and expectations for what this season will be like. But so often, for one reason or another, this season and the actual day look so very different than we had hoped and planned that it would. Despite these unexpected turns though, Jesus, Immanuel, is coming! He is with us!

(This is what our Advent season has looked like)

For my family, this year’s Advent season has meant weeks of ongoing illness. Stomach flu, flu, and now one with bronchitis and two more kids with high fevers…  MY plans involved friends, and special celebrations, and eating yummy treats, and happy times singing songs to Jesus, but instead we’ve had countless days of kids in bed, no appetites, feverish and sleepless nights, and weeks separated from friends… It is tempting to fall into self pity, but thinking of the unexpected yet sovereignly ordained circumstances that Mary found herself in for Jesus arrival, and how God made those circumstance perfect for His coming (though certainly not easy), has helped me to see this change of plans differently and to try to look for the things that God has prepared for us this Christmas season that we may not have planned to focus on otherwise. We’ve focused a lot on the Lord’s comfort and care, His love, and His power to heal. We've thought about how He is enough and though celebrations and traditions are meaningful and fun, they are not the reason that we celebrate.  I’m thankful for these special things to focus on as we remember that Jesus truly is Immanuel, God with us, no matter our circumstance!  

Has this season of Advent and soon approaching Christmas day gone as you had expected, or have you also found yourself in unexpected circumstances as you wait to celebrate Jesus’ coming? How have you experienced Jesus as your Immanuel, your God-with-you, during the events of your life this season? Merry Christmas, dear friends! I pray that you experience the closeness of our Lord coming near in ways like never before!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Traditions

One of the traditions that have developed over the last 10 years in our little family is our Christmas card.   Somehow, that first year we were married, we had a silly one.



And then things went downhill...like this one



Or this one






And now, I give you this years:



So what traditions do you all have?  Silly, serious?  What has worked in both your home culture and your host culture?

Friday, December 13, 2013

When You Feel Far From Home

  

Here is a taste from my home that touched my heart. 

Do you feel far from home this holiday season?  For many cross-cultural servants, Christmas can be a bittersweet time. You may feel twinges of loneliness as you long for friends and family from home, wherever that is.  Many of us are not even sure anymore where home is!  You might feel special joy over celebrating together with the “family” God has given you where you are.

For me, Christmas overseas is a mixed blessing.  I miss the joyful holiday atmosphere in America. On the other hand, I am thankful for the opportunity to focus on the spiritual meaning of Christmas, far away from commercialism and shopping frenzy. I’ve had many sweet, quiet Christmases in this country where almost no one else is celebrating.  I long to be with our family back home, and I wish my children could spend Christmas with them. However, I’m honored that my kids get to spend Christmas among brothers and sister who pay a high cost to follow Christ.  It is a privilege to be part of their community.

How are you holding up?

If you feel lonely, I pray that fellowship with Christ would be sweet to your soul.

If you feel weary, I pray that His strength would be made perfect in your weakness.

If you feel far away from home and loved ones, I pray that you could make yourself at home in Christ’s love.  He is always there for you, always waiting for your arrival, always ready to sit down and be with you.  May Christ make himself at home in your heart. He is sufficient for all of your needs.

If you feel joyful, I pray that Christ would make your joy abound still more.

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” Ephesians 3:16, 17


This is a re-print from 2011.  I've been busy with holiday preparations and activities because Christmas is a GREAT time to share with our mslm friends.

When I thought of all you, my cross-cultural working mom friends, this came to mind.  Blessings to you all!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tuesday Topic: Shopping


I was talking to someone planning to move here with a large family (more children than Richelle!). She was asking where to buy in bulk and such, and that got me thinking: How do you shop? In bulk? Daily at the corner store? Outdoor market? One a month orders brought in by plane? What are the options where you live, and how to you make them work for your family?

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Monday, December 9, 2013

I'll be home for Christmas...

... home, in Costa Rica. 

We'll be here, just the four of us, for Christmas this year. I've been feeling nostalgic and homesick for the States the past couple of days. When I'm missing our family there, my mind can wander to a scene of what it would be like if we were there with them.  I see candles glowing, stockings hanging, fire burning, family laughing, snow falling, grandparents and my little ones snuggling. A mist of tears drowns this scene, and as I wipe them away, my eyes and ears are opened to the scene surrounding me here.

I see a sweet newborn babe's newly discovered smile, a big open-mouthed grin, as she gazes up at me...

I hear our tea kettle whistling, even though it's sunny and 75 degrees outside...

I see the glistening reflection in our tile floor of the twinkling lights of our cyprus Christmas tree...

I hear a precious, clear, 2 year old voice singing "Away in the Manger" as he plays with his little paper and plastic nativity scene...

My heart is lifted, a smile comes, and my spirit rejoices.

I'm home.

I'll be home for Christmas. In Costa Rica.


Then, my now thankful eyes fall on yet another scene, the simple nativity in the center of our table. I think of Jesus. My King. My God who left His home, the glory of heaven, to redeem me, to give me an eternal home. With Him.

And, my heart is truly home. In Jesus.

I'll be home for Christmas.


O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sins and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great, glad tidings tell,
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!

This is a 2010 post copied from my personal blog.  Now, three years later, Costa Rica is home to us, but we plan to be in the States for Christmas and I am anticipating missing Christmas in Costa Rica - the smell of the cyprus tree, Spanish Christmas carols, tamales on Christmas Eve, worship with our church family...  I'm praying for myself, and all of you, that we will find our joy, hope, and home in Jesus this Christmas! 

Where will you be this Christmas?  How is God encouraging you as you may feel far from home, loved ones, and special traditions?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Praying for our countries

This might be a little different from the usual here, but it's what is on my mind these days.


Has Ukraine been in the international news lately? Have you heard anything of what is going on here? The president of Ukraine unexpectedly pulled back from the path toward the European Union, and people are protesting that. The protests have become a cry for freedom and an end to corruption, too.

For me, it has been a wake up call to remember to pray for Ukraine: for the people, for the leadership of this country, and for other countries of the world. I've had this beautiful song ringing through my head almost non-stop:


(The chorus: "God, I pray for Ukraine. God, I pray for the people....")
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

So, may I ask for you to pray with me? Let's remember the leaders of the countries we live in and pray for peace! How can we pray specifically today for the country you live in? 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tuesday Topic: Advent!


I'm back! We had a wonderful visit, and then a lovely, busy whole week of Thanksgiving. I hope you all have been doing well, too.

It is my very favorite time of year already. Last year we shared an Advent devotional here. This year we don't have anything new like that (but of course you can go back in the archive and find last year's again). And even though Advent is already here, I still want to ask.... Do you observe Advent? How? What does it look like in your home this year? And even if you don't "do Advent," how are you preparing for the holidays?

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Monday, December 2, 2013

"I will spend the rest of my life as a missionary from the Kiowas to the white people..." ~ Do you know who said that?

Last time I wrote, I asked y'all about some of your heroes. Today, I'd like to share about one of mine - albeit a bit obscure, mostly unheard of single missionary woman. Her career did not end illustriously - but rather under discipline from her mission board because she could not obey their directives and consider herself acting with integrity... 

But I'll let her story, as I was first introduced to it, speak for itself ~
Six young Kiowa braves sat on their horses, calmly watching her. All were naked to the waist. Their heavy black hair hung in thick braids, interwoven with rawhide and strips of ermine. All wore bone chestplates and copper bracelets.

Isabel pulled her team to a halt. Moving slowly to hide her racing heart, she raised her right hand, palm forward in greeting.

One by one, the Indians guided their horses down the slope toward her and formed a semicircle, blocking her path.

"You come here all alone and you no scared? Maybe we scalp you." The leader's face was solemn.

The banks of the dry wash screened Isabel and the six Indian men from the outside world. She was truly at their mercy.

"I think maybe we scalp you now." the leader signed. He prodded his horse forward. A knife appeared in his left hand. He snatched the Winchester from his lap and placed the end of the barrel against Isabel's head. She heard the click of the hammer as it was cocked.

Isabel went completely numb. Every thought went out of her brain. The roaring in her ears grew into a crescendo as she awaited the fatal bullet. Cold chills shot up her spine. She closed her eyes and prepared to die...
A few years ago, my daughter handed me a book. The cover of Light on the Mountain, by Leonard Sanders, shows the picture of a beautiful young woman and several Native Americans in the background behind her. Those words above formed the teaser paragraph on the front pages, designed to hook prospective readers. My oldest girl emphatically proclaimed this to be her favorite book ever when she placed it in my hands. At that point, I figured it was nothing more one of those formula-pioneer-western-romance-sort of novels. But? I'd promised my girl I'd read it, had the gift of some unexpected time available, and so I opened the pages to "do my duty."

Picture from the cover of
Isabel Crawford's autiobiography -
KIOWA: A Woman Missionary
in Indian Territory 
Boy, was I wrong!

The book tells the story of Isabel Crawford. She moved onto the Kiowa Indian reservation on Oklahoma Territory, against the recommendation of her colleagues. Mostly deaf, she communicated through sign language, reading lips and worked through a Kiowa man who agreed to serve as her interpreter. She encouraged the Kiowas to "walk the Jesus-road" while never forgetting that God had created them Kiowa, and that that fact was "very good." By God's grace and with His strength, her life, her words, her service and her consistent, persistent, gracious yet meticulous application of Scripture to daily life  penetrated Kiowa society with the light of the Gospel message. Through her, God did what no "Jesus-man" had been able to accomplish.

At the beginning of the book, she defines her approach to one of her colleagues: "I'm confident that if you approach a savage in a womanly way, he will respond with respect." Thus, it was never her goal to "preach the Gospel" or "shepherd a church," but rather to help the Kiowa learn to live and walk a new path and point him to Scripture to determine what that meant in his world and his culture and his day. She wanted to live in community with the Kiowa as a godly woman, and to disciple them through Bible study so that her community would also desire to walk the Jesus-road with her. After several unbelievably hard years (she experienced first hand the white man's cruelty and ignorance towards Native Americans as well as the frequent lack of integrity by the United States government), the impact of this approach that God had impressed on her heart was unmistakable; several of the Kiowas had organized into a church and were determined to find (or disciple) their own Indian pastor.

I was in tears as I read the final chapter of this book. Isabel held fast to the authority of Scripture, regardless of the accepted traditions of the church. She valued immensely the cultural fingerprint with which God had created and marked the Kiowas, clearly recognizing many aspects of their way of life where God had already revealed Himself to them. She discovered that she had much more to learn from them than she had to teach, once she had introduced them to the Jesus-road. She guided them to a salvation by faith, given by grace. For example, the greater church at that time flat out stated that an Indian who had more than one wife could not become a Christian. Several Kiowa men said that they would not become Christians because they could not abandon the women who were their wives. Isabel helped them see that even though the church might never recognize them as "Christian," they could still choose to walk the Jesus-road, believe that Jesus died for them, trust Him as Savior and Lord, and ask Him to live within them and guide them.

Because of church politics, after nearly 11 years, she was asked by her sending agency to leave the reservation. She felt obliged to resign her position because their stand was contrary to the authority of the Bible: a man-created mission organization was trying to dictate and interfere with the autonomy of a local church seeking to obey Scripture. Her final words to this godly congregation of Kiowa believers?
"For ten years, eight months, and three days I have been a white missionary to the Indians. I have thought hard and I have prayed hard and now I know what I must do. This I promise you. From this moment on, I will spend the rest of my life as a missionary from the Kiowas to the white people. I will write books and magazine articles. I will make speeches. I will do anything and everything I can to tell the world about the most wonderful people I have ever known - the Kiowa Indians.... If I said good-bye to each and every one of you, there would be nothing left of me to put aboard that train this afternoon. I know that. So I want to ask of you one last favor. [A friend] has agreed to take me to the railroad in his new surrey. My trunk and bags are already in it. He is waiting at the door of the church. I want you now to bow your heads in silent prayer. I want you to keep on praying until I am out that door and gone. It is the way I want to remember you -- praying in the church that we built together." For one heart-stopping moment, Isabel feared they would not comply. But they were only taking one last lingering look at her. The heads went down...
I cried as I read those words...

I don't often do that...

Since that point in time, I've researched some to find out more about this incredible woman. I'd encourage you to do the same. I know that I've been challenged once again to consider what it means to minister to others and share what it means to walk the Jesus-road in a foreign-to-me cultural context.

******************************************************************
What do you think of Isabel's stand?

Has God ever placed you in a similar situation, where He's asked you to act contrary to established protocols?

If you were to be a missionary from your local group of believers to those living in the United States, what would you share?

Edited from the archives

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Saving Time vs. Conserving Energy

I’m going to write something that may be controversial. Your life as a missionary is in many ways probably a lot harder than it would have been had you never left your home country. I say that this might be controversial because I join with many of you in believing that we as missionary women need to be so very careful not to get caught up in “the grass is always greener” fantasies about life back "home." I think these fantasies, which many of them really are just fantasies and not reality at all, can damage our contentedness while on the field. Many things are in fact harder in the States! The grass is not green anywhere other than in heaven! It’s dying everywhere on this fallen earth.

BUT, I do want to write in hopes of helping to free some of us from feelings of defeat that are common to us as missionary moms when we sometimes look at our day/week/month/year… and wonder, how on earth is this that ALL that we’ve managed to do?!  One thing that I do think is generally true is that we get to enjoy more conveniences in the US and therefore can often do more in less time there. Now we're on the overseas mission field, with a huge passion to see much supernatural eternity-changing transformation, yet at times it is all that we can do to keep up with the basics. Sometimes we can’t even do that without help!

(One daily reality of my life in Russia is that for much of the year, I spend a lot of time dressing kids in countless layers of clothing, shoveling snow, struggling to park at home/school/preschool/the grocery store... it takes a lot of time!)

I remember a revelation during our first year overseas. In my previous life in the States, I was all about time management and efficiency. I also loved to multi-task. I tried to carry these values over to life here in Russia and within a couple of months I was DEAD TIRED. I had been thinking things like “Oh, my daughter needs a walk and we need groceries. We’ll walk to the grocery store and play a bit on the way home and, bingo, I’ve lumped both needs into one trip. Time saved!”  But this simplification left me laying on the living-room floor feeling like I was going to die by 7:30pm at night. What was wrong with me?!

Well, I had failed to factor things in like the stress of a language, the stress not knowing what things were in the grocery store, the work of trying to figure out what to cook with such unfamiliar foods, the challenge of trying to figure out how to quickly bag my own groceries, the added physical work of having to carry the stroller/child/groceries up and down multiple flights of stairs, the stress of trying to keep my newly walking little one away from the broken glass strewn all about on the playground, the stress of being scolded by strangers for my child being inappropriately dressed for the weather (despite my best attempts to do what was culturally right)…. All of these little things add up into a huge amount of energy spent that I just didn’t think to factor into my “walk+groceries=time saved” equation. 

It was just too much stress at once. I eventually realized that I needed to change my value from “time saved” to “energy saved.” I had to accept that to save energy, I likely was going to need to spend time, multi-task less, and drastically adjust my expectations on how much could get done in a day.

 (This walk with two of my kids occurred after learning that walking with the kids and errands often needed to be separate events. We're all peaceful here rather than feeling like we're all about to be reduced to a puddle of tears. Taking the kids out for walks went from my most dreaded experience to a most joyful one, and one where I was also available to spend time interacting with neighbors rather than just speeding through my checklist. )

Of course now that we’re in our 8th year overseas, these stresses have significantly lessened, but in all honesty, life does just take more energy than if I were to do the same things in my home culture. Sometimes I still forget that as I calculate my capacity for a given day. The language is still not my own, I’m still not a cultural insider, appliances and things around the house are still poorer quality and break all of the time, we go through longer seasons without common conveniences (hot-water, a vehicle, a dryer…), we don’t have the support of extended family, etc.  I forget about these things all of the time because I truly love my life here and would not trade it, BUT, it does affect how much I can do in a day’s time.

(Doing dishes in the bathtub... The water in our kitchen had a habit of going out frequently for a season, so dish-doing at that time was quite a time-consuming task.)

Sometimes when I look at my friends’ lives back home via facebook, or when I read blogs, or see things that people have posted from Pintrest, I feel defeated and wonder, “Why can’t I do things like that?” God kindly has been reminding me lately that one of the sacrifices that He has asked me to make in order to serve Him here and to receive the many blessing of this life on the overseas mission field is that of efficiency. I have often fought feelings of frustration about my reduced capacity here, yet when I think of it rightly, I remember that God called me here and He is the one who gave me the capacity that I have and allows for life to be as time and energy consuming as it is. My all, no matter how small I may feel that it is, is enough for my Almighty God who is more than able to make it count greatly for eternity.

Have you noticed a shift in your prioritization of time/energy since moving overseas? How have your average daily tasks changed as compared to your life back in the States?

(Also, check out this great post by Laura Parker. It has some very interesting things to say about the average stress levels of missionaries.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuesday Topic?


I'm sorry. I don't have anything for this spot. We have guests for two weeks (yay!), so there might not be anything next week either. Although, if you send a question, I will find a moment to get it scheduled. So, if you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks! And Tuesday Topics will be back soon.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hope When Your Faith is Faltering

I smile as I think of you, my sisters serving in different ministries on different parts of the globe.  You are caring for children, cooking, cleaning, teaching, discipling, leading Bible studies, and supporting your husbands. You are amazing. 

I know Paul was describing you when he said, “We always thank God for all of you…We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith,  your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess. 1:3) Our service is motivated by faith, hope, and love, but I have to tell you sisters, my faith is flagging before the new challenge I’m facing. 

Three years ago my husband and I started the biggest faith adventure of our lives.  As if working 8 years in the Middle East wasn’t challenging enough, the Lord asked us to leave the comfortable fellowship we were a part of and start a new church with one other couple.

We had great faith expectations, but none of us had the slightest idea what we were getting ourselves into! 

The first year almost no locals came to our meetings. We spent most Sundays looking at that one couple sitting across from us in our living room.  By God’s grace, we kept going, and now three years later, we have a close knit team of 4 families, two local families, and a growing community of contacts that visit our fellowship. 

We are standing on the brink of another challenge. We need to rent a public meeting place for our church. The obstacles include fundraising and getting legal permission from the government. Although I’ve seen God do many great things in the past, once again I find my faith faltering.

Do you ever feel your faith crumbling when you face challenges like these?

  • Cross-cultural adaptation
  • Language learning
  • People who are closed to the gospel
  • Husbands on the verge of burn-out
  • Struggling Children
  • Financial issues
  • Sickness
  • Depression

Any time we face challenges, doubt comes creeping in.   “You won’t be able to raise the money.” “Your kids are not thriving here.” “That friend you’re praying for will never place her faith in Christ.” I need God to renew my faith each day, so I’m going to take two baby steps: 

1. Ask God to increase my faith. 

I love the prayer in Mark 9: “I believe! Help my unbelief!” I can so relate. Lately I’ve been asking God to increase my faith, and He’s answering me! It’s a no-brainer, but I don’t always think to pray for more faith.

2. Keep Reading God’s Word. 

Romans says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Nothing renews my mind like God’s Word, so I’m sticking with it. I’m going to read it, memorize it, and proclaim it. I’m going to stand on it and pray it.


Whatever faith challenge you are facing, dear sister, will you joing me in continuing to walk forward? If you like, share your challenge in the comment box, so we can pray for each other.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tuesday Topic: "Hats"


This is from Olive:
We missionary moms come in all different shapes, sizes, and flavors. Our husbands wear different hats: pilots, doctors, Bible translators, church planters, disciplers, seminary professors, teachers and businessmen! Obviously many of us wear the "Mom and Housekeeper" hat most of the time. Some of us are doing language study.

I have a hard time remembering what everyone is doing, so I thought it would be fun if we share a bit about the ministry that has us serving overseas.

1. What is the role that you and/or your husband carry out on the field?

2. What is the biggest ministry challenge you face?

3. What is the biggest joy of your ministry?

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Who's your hero?

One of the things I love about home assignment years is watching my kids try some things that are totally new to them... and then seeing how they grow through those new experiences.

Choir/Drama Tour, both a learning and a ministry opportunity for students attending the Baptist academy they attend while living in the States, is one of them. Tonight, the tour opened with the first performance, at our home...or sending... or commissioning church. Tour consists of the school's choir and drama class collaborating for a performance - and traveling around the State over the course of three days to perform eight or nine times in different Christian schools.


My girls, although part of the drama class, do not have parts or stage roles in the drama. They do sing in the choir, though, and so they will be gone the first half of this week, on tour!

The play that is being performed this year is based off of the lives of John and Betty Stamm. The Stamms were a young missionary couple who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving in China with China Inland Mission.

Are you familiar with their story?

I wasn't - until some years ago one of my son's math teachers at the international school for expats and missionary kids where my children attend while we are overseas, with the last name of Stamm, mentioned that he was a part of THAT Stamm family.


The Stamms' story is tragic; yet it also inspires. And until just few years ago, it was unknown to me. Their story did motivate many to missions service and continues (if the response at church tonight was any indication) to encourage others to selfless service.

Looking at the past, remembering historical examples of ministry, service, passion for the Lord, bravery, devotion and sacrifice? Sometimes I find this a good way to re-stoke the wholehearted commitment to the call God placed in my heart years ago. It encourages me to persevere and to refocus my attention and intentions. But then again, so can looking all around me, at the amazing people God has placed right beside me and with whom I'm working and ministering. Or I consider the ministries of amazing people scattered all over the globe, right now.

What about you? Who is your missionary hero... or heroes?

**********************************
Can you please share about someone... historical or present day... that inspires you? A flesh and blood someone whose story as a Jesus-follower motivates you to hold fast to hope and to continue pursuit of that purpose for which you are serving?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Younger older woman?

After five years in a rather out-of-the-way location, in a church that was overwhelming made up of middle-aged and elderly women, I find myself in a new location with a very different community. Also, my children are getting older. Now I'm surrounded by women my age and younger, and some of them even seem to be looking up at me as a "veteran missionary." Odd. Really, very strange.

But then, I am 33 years old, and we've been in this part of the world for more than 12 years now! That's not long, compared to some real veterans, but, yes, we didn't arrive yesterday. It really was odd when I was very young, very new on the field, and found myself kind of mentoring much older women, just because I was the only one who had grown up in a Christian family. However, I should be getting used to it now and stepping into that role more.

But how? I'm not quite out of the demanding early years of mothering yet, but I'm already fully immersed in homeschooling. This year it feels like I dive in on Monday morning and don't come up for air until Friday afternoon. Recently, I desperately wanted to reach out to someone because I thought she could probably use some practical help, but by the time I got around to asking, her situation was better and she didn't need anything.

The actual verse that I've been thinking about says we should be admonishing
"the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands" (Titus 2:4-5).
Even when I still have so much to learn myself, I pray that I can help others around me with some of those things. I do know that when we had to leave Russia, what people told us over and over was that they had learned from watching our family. And maybe a lot of what is there in Titus 2 really is caught, not taught? So, I need to be making time to spend with these other women. Then we can learn from each other.

And, I'm encouraged to see that it's working out! I may be busy at home all week, but so far, in our new location our weekends are usually filled with hospitality and fellowship. Also, God has me leading someone through a Bible study distance, by phone; that's an opportunity that I certainly didn't go looking for. It's not only about chronological age: who are the older women and who are the younger. We all need to be open to sharing and learning to and from the sisters God has put around us. Exciting, eh?

Are you more in an "older woman" time or "younger woman" role now? How is God providing ways for you to mentor others?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tuesday Topic: Adapting


Send me some questions, please! I'm not doing to well with coming up with my own. This is inspired by Ashley's comment earlier.

How have you adapted to the culture you live in? How have you not adapted? What parts of you blend in, and what parts don't?

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

When The Brook Is Dry

We have so many expectations when we set out to serve God on the mission field. We can’t wait to find His blessings along the way, and we expect great growth and service for Him. But what happens when we are met with pain along the way? A cancer diagnosis? A miscarriage? A falling out with a teammate? Or the death of a family member or key person in our ministry? What happens when instead of blessing, we encounter tragedy?
We go into a tailspin and the questions begin to fire off in our minds…God, why? How? What are you doing? Don’t you know how hard it is here…do you even care? How could you allow this? Where are you?
We stop in our tracks and we are devastated. We expected trouble learning the language, and that maybe our kids would struggle. We knew that bearing fruit in our ministry could take years, and we expected culture shock and homesickness…but this? God, this is just too much.
There was a great man of God that we can read about in I Kings 17 that probably had many of the same questions. That man was Elijah and he was called into a ridiculously hard ministry. He was a prophet of God sent to bring bad news to King Ahab and his “charming” wife Jezebel. He had to share the news that God would stop sending rain to Israel. Famine and thirst would fill the land. He was literally run out of town and forced to rely only on God in a true survival experience. He moved far from friends, family, and anything familiar into a little ravine. There he stayed and drank up the blessings of God in the form of meat delivered by ravens, and a little brook that ran through his ravine.
Then, tragedy struck. I Kings 17:7 tells us, “the brook dried up.” All support and blessing seemed to come to a grinding halt. The severe dry spell had finally reached Elijah’s little place of safety and he was left with a raging thirst and questions for God.
The truth is that God could have provided water for Elijah. God is God, couldn’t He have prevented this from happening? It seems almost cruel. Elijah gave up everything for God, and risked his life in ministry, and God allowed this to happen? Why does God do this? Why does He allow the pain and suffering into our lives and ministry when we have risked so much for Him? It seems so hard, and it hurts so much.
I first came across this passage during a time of great personal struggle on the mission field. I was battling health issues, grieving a loss, and my kids were really having a hard time in their school. It seemed unjust to me, it seemed cruel that God was allowing me to walk through so much pain. I felt a connection to Elijah, because I felt like my brook had dried up.
But Elijah moved on from that place. He had to…the brook was dry. He was in the desert and the brook was dry. What could he do but follow the next steps that God had for him? Ultimately Elijah had the opportunity to change the life of a starving widow and her son. God used Elijah to intervene. God did miraculous things, and God did not abandon Elijah. God provided for Elijah, and God provided for others through Elijah.
If the brook wasn’t dry, Elijah would have stayed in his comfort zone, hiding out while the world suffered around him. But God had bigger plans that included using Elijah’s suffering to move him forward to serve the world. I don’t understand why God lets our brooks run dry…but maybe He’s preparing us, calling us, or moving us on to other things…things that will change us and change the countries where we serve.  
Our lives as missionaries are dedicated to following God and helping others to follow Him too. The truth is that dedicating our lives to Him doesn’t mean that we will always have smooth sailing on free-flowing rivers. There is great blessing, but there is also great pain. I still struggle to understand why God allows the hard things, the painful things, and the deep suffering to come into our lives. But God is teaching me that trusting Him means trusting that He is still God, and that He is still good…even when the brook is dry. I hope that when you are in a dry place, you can know that too.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Ministry of Motherly Service

Here's a guest post from Rosilind. Read down to the end for more about her.


I stood at the living room window of our small 2-bedroom apartment, gazing at the park below. Deep sorrow seized my heart. I felt like a first-class failure!

I was so much more productive before I had kids. And now? I simply couldn’t attend every meeting, be out past 8pm several nights a week, or involve myself in every ministry that appealed to me.

I was home all of the time, it seemed - caring for colds and flus, changing diapers, nursing and putting my grumpy children to bed at 8:00 P.M.


I cried out to the Lord that day from the depths of my heart. Guilt washed over me that the support I received seemed unfair, compared to the minimal amount of service I rendered. But that was nothing compared to the utter sense of worthlessness I felt.

Never in all my years of ministry did I feel so utterly worthless for the kingdom.


And in that moment the Lord opened my eyes to a very important aspect of ministry I had failed to recognize.


Ministry isn’t about spiritual activities vs. secular ones.

When I make my husband coffee, I am serving.
When I change diapers, kiss boo-boos and exclaim over a pretty picture my son draws, I am serving
When sit and chat with a lonely mom in the park, I am serving.
Each morning when I wake up and spend precious time with the Lord, I am serving.

Every moment of the day I am serving if I what I do comes from an abiding heart of a servant of God! Beautiful, worshipful service.

The ministry of motherly service!

In that moment my perspective began to change about what ministry truly is! My priorities shifted as I began view wifehood as my primary ministry. Motherhood is an immediate second. Putting these priorities in place allowed the Lord opened my eyes to see outreach opportunities that were sitting right in front of me - opportunities I had never even considered before because they didn’t require me to walk out my front door. I could joyfully serve my family as the Lord designed that I should, and still reach out to those in need.

I began leading an online Bible study for the women in my country. Before long women from neighboring countries – who speak the same language – joined in and my one small group multiplied to a handful of Facebook groups as I began mentoring local women to lead their own groups! I was reaching out, right from my own home!


Missionary moms play a unique and complex role. The Lord can use us in amazing and powerful ways when we simply allow the endless creativity of our God to open our eyes to the unexplored avenues of service that await us!


Bio: Rosilind is an American girl married to a Bosnian guy who lives in a small village just outside of Zagreb. They have two crazy boys 3 and under who are as opposite as boys can be. When Rosilind isn't writing, she is dreaming up recipes and searching for ways to organize her home better. You can find her at A Little R & R where she writes about missions, marriage and family, toddler activities, and her recipes. You will also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tuesday Topic: How have you changed?


I don't have anything from you all, so I thought I'd ask:
How have you changed since you moved overseas? (Or if you work in your passport country, how has being in full-time ministry shaped who you are?) It might be hard to step back and take a look at yourself like that, or even to remember what was before, but it's an interesting question to think about. Share some of your thoughts about this with us!

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Labels

Please excuse our construction dust around here. The whole purpose of this post is to set up a new (simpler!) group of labels for our posts. I'm backdating this, but it will still go out by email. Please just ignore it.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Hint of the Bigger Picture

There are days when the thought of my kids being TCKs is hard.  There is a part of me that cries a little when my almost 5 year old asks me while watching The Snowman, "Mom, what are they doing with the snow?"  Being from The North, snow is in our DNA and here my kid doesn't understand the concept of making a snowball.  Sigh.

But then there are moments like this last weekend, when I realize they are getting such an amazing perspective on the world.  They will grow up knowing how to make a snowball, but also how to do things like speak Spanish, and Surf.  What?  Yeah, that ain't something you can do in the North.  Ok, well, technically, you can surf in Lake Michigan in November (No.Thank.You.) Anyway.


Surfing from nlkamper on Vimeo.


It was good for me to change my perspecitive a bit, again.  To see once more the gift that this life gives to my kids.  To see for a brief moment how God is placing my boys into a bigger world, preparing them for Something, for His plan, and it made me excited again to see what He is going to do with them.


What about you?  What moments have you been able to glimpses the bigger picture with your kids?  And what is your favorite opposite moments (you know, like the fact my boys can make snowballs and surf!)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tuesday Topic: Sundays


This is from Olive:

“I hate Sundays!”

I remember being shocked when a young missionary in El Salvador said this. She was frustrated by trying to entertain and chase her two toddlers around during long church services with no child care. On the way home her toddlers would fall asleep in the car, only to wake up the minute her husband pulled into their driveway. Then the kids would be cranky and awake all afternoon, although she desperately needed a nap herself.

I could totally relate. When my kids were small, Sunday was anything but a Sabbath.

Come to think of it, now that I’m doing church planting in the Middle East, Sundays are anything but restful. I cook food, set out plates, rearrange the living room, make tea, answer the door, serve tea, talk to people, make sure they have everything they need, and sometimes lead worship. Fortunately my husband helps a lot, especially with clean-up afterwards.

Since Sunday is not a day of rest, I have to get creative. Monday, traditionally off for pastors, is not an option for me since I home school. I do attempt to have a quieter day by purposely making no plans on Monday besides school.

What do your Sundays look like? Stressful? Enjoyable? Busy? Relaxing? If Sunday is a work day for you, when do you take a day off?

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Can We Talk About Burnout?

Photo credit: Joan C. Webb
Am I the only one who ever feels like she’s about to lose her mind on this crazy rollercoaster life of being a cross-cultural servant mother? Sometimes if feels like I’m too wearing too many hats: wife, mother, cook, house cleaner, friend, church planter, discipler, seed sower, and team leader’s wife.

In the Middle East daily life and ministry stress can be compounded by discouragement over hard soil and slow fruit.  In our country over half of the foreign workers leave after only three years. I’m sure that you face different challenges, but being a missionary mom is demanding no matter where you are on the globe.  

After a few intense years working on a new church plant while home schooling, I think more than ever about how to avoid burnout. In fact, more than just avoiding burnout, I want grow in effectiveness and continue thriving.

Here is my brainstorm list for thriving long-term on the field:
(Please add your ideas in the comment box because I’d love to hear your thoughts.)

1.  Quiet Time.
Spending half an hour daily reading the Bible and listening for God’s voice gives me a fresh perspective on life every morning.

2.  Invest in your Spiritual Growth.
Read Christian books, listen to podcasts, seek out a mentor or attend conferences when possible. One of my favorite on-line resources is the daily devotional, Word for Today.

3.  Make sure your goals are realistic.
My husband and I struggled over the slow progress of our new outreach effort until we realized that part of our discouragement stemmed from unrealistic expectations.  We’ve also seen fellow workers with unrealistic goals for language learning: too much too fast.

4.  Invest in your marriage.
My husband and I have a weekly date time to counteract the stress of cross-cultural living. We started this after watching the Alpha MarriageCourse DVD’s six years ago.

5.  Make time for fun with your family.
We have movie nights and play games while listening to vintage rock.  (Only my family knows that I can belt out “Like a Rolling Stone” along with Bob Dylan!)

6.  Make sure your kids know the language and have local friends. 
We home school, but our kids participate in at least one community extra-curricular activity each year. Other friends put their kids in local schools for a year or two. Bottom line: Kids struggle more to be happy if they don’t know the language.

7.  Cultivate true friendships where you can be yourself and share your struggles, both with nationals and other foreigners.

8.  Continue learning new things.
In recent years I joined a Turkish folk dancing class for several months, learned some elementary Latin with my kids, and learned how to can tomatoes.  All fun! 

9.  Enjoy a hobby. 
A friend of mine takes time every Wednesday afternoon for scrapbooking.

10. Reach out to others when you are lonely.

11.  Keep in contact with family and friends back home.

12.  Read for pleasure. 

13.  Get involved in your community.

14.  Make time for regular exercise.

What about you? Do you ever feel burned out? Do you have any suggestions for staying spiritually fresh?


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tuesday topic: Welcoming newcomers


What was the nicest thing someone did for you when you first arrived on the mission field? How would you like to welcome new missionaries and help them adjust?

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Monday, October 7, 2013

"Learned? Schmearned!"


Education is important. 

It is valuable and something to be attained.

And it comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors... formally and informally... and frankly, can be attained in a probably infinite number of ways.

I truly believe seeking an education is a worthy pursuit - after all I'm an educator! A special educator, nonetheless - striving to help people who find learning to be a challenge learn and develop necessary life and school skills. Much of my ministry includes literacy work, teacher training and leading Bible studies.

Yet this "idea" that unless an individual can write out some letters behind their name, that s/he is somehow under qualified... or less able... even less worthy or less integral... than another who has said diploma framed on the wall and who gets to spell out those letters when they sign their name?

But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and [began to] teach. The Jews then were astonished, saying, "How has this man become learned, having never been educated?" (John 7.14-15)
Apparently this same mindset afflicted people back in the time of Jesus as well....

Jesus' ability to teach and explain totally befuddled the Jews and, in their mind, discounted or invalidated what he was saying. We ran into this "problem" many times while working in West Africa - churches not allowing individuals into positions of leadership until they had schooling... and individuals using their lack of training and formal education as an excuse not to help with the Sunday School program or disciple a new believer in the church.

I would sometimes get so frustrated preparing to teach Bible study - because what I wanted more than anything else was for the women to share what they saw and understood from a passage of Scripture... not just to parrot back what I was seeing and understanding. It took over 5 years of working with the same group of six women before a couple of them started to really grasp the idea that their contributions were valuable, even when they were different from mine. In fact, their applications and cultural understandings sometimes were far deeper than my own - and some of those women had NEVER been to school, much less Bible school. Half of them couldn't even read.

It seems like we often have a problem trusting the Holy Spirit to teach as well as our schooled Bible educators, pastors, church leaders...??? Or that mere men and women could never learn as well from God, at least not as they can from mere men and women. Anyone see the irony in that not so subtle mindset?

And,this sort of mindset isn't something the rest of us are "above...," simply because we don't consider ourselves professional teachers. We can be quite "Pharisaical" and actually consider it a good thing.

I started thinking and the Lord brought to mind the followings questions to ask myself ~ 

What about the single gal who gave me a suggestion about how to help my child through a difficulty? Could she possibly have any wisdom to offer since she has never walked shod in the shoes of parenthood?

Or what about the mama of three who explains to me how to better keep up with my laundry? What in the world would this lady know about juggling a schedule of eight while being on the road a good part of the time?

Or that old unmarried "uncle" who gently encouraged me to serve my husband with a happy heart rather than complaining to other female women? How in the world could he understand what it meant to be a woman? a wife? or to keep up with what the world has deemed a wife's responsibilities?

Or my child reminding me that I just uttered a word she knows she's not permitted to use? Do I get defensive? Or do I accept that lesson and apologize? 

 

Sometimes, in human arrogance, I assume I know best - and act practically as though I even know better than the Lord. I come up with a list of qualifications and only certain ones who have met those standards can be my teachers (or the teachers of others). I establish all sorts of hoops to jump through before becoming qualified. And I can rapidly and emphatically disqualify some from any sort of possible future contribution because of past sins and failures -

- forgetting to remember that those who've gained victory and learned to depend on the Lord through those hard lessons have so much to contribute. Those who've had to fight for every bit of formal Bible education they have (even when it is nothing more than learning to read at the age of 70 so she can decode the words in a children's primer Bible) have the opportunity to show me things I could never see, as my education has been handed me on a silver platter.

**********************************************
Can you think of someone you disregard or not who's possible contribution you do not value right now, because of their lack of status or lack of education?

How can we encourage ourselves and other to recognize the beautiful gifts and diversity of "education" and amazing back stories of others as something to be valued and treasured and shared with the rest of His Church?