Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Making Sense of it All

It’s lunch time. Normally, I would be in the cafeteria during this time. Instead I’m eating mac n cheese in my quad. I had to come here today because I needed to take some time to process what I’ve been hearing for the last day and a half. You see, our speaker has been sharing with us about the persecuted church. The man who is teaching us has spent hundreds of hours interviewing nearly 600 believers who have lived through significant persecution because of their faith. We’ve heard some of their stories and I’ve been overwhelmed by their testimonies. That’s heavy stuff.

We’ve also been learning about ways to be effective in cultures where the church is persecuted- some dos and do nots. He has led us in learning about the characteristics of those who walk victoriously through persecution. It’s good information to have.

I’ve come to a realization that I had somehow missed during my long tenure in the American church and I’m not sure that I like it. You see, if you examine the church planting movements in Acts, you realize that persecution is normal. Imprisonment, stoning, angry mobs, these were the norm. I’m not sure where the American church came up with the idea that persecution is abnormal, but that’s what we believe. I guess the question I’ve been asking myself the last couple of days is, why aren’t we being persecuted here in America? The only thing that I can come up with is that we aren’t moving and telling and ministering to those who don’t know in such a way that persecution is even necessary. Satan is using the tools and of embarrassment and fear so effectively, that he’s not having to resort to imprisonment or death. Wow.

God has used this time to really challenge my thinking and to recognize that so much of what I believe is so upside down. One thing that has really affected me is the speaker’s own story. This man and his wife buried one of their own children in Africa. This child died of an asthma attack. Do you hear me? An ASTHMA attack, for crying out loud! They were in Africa... because that’s where God called them and that’s where God called their son. I don’t know if American medical care would have made a difference at all, but I wonder if their minds have ever gone there. I wonder if they’ve wrestled with that?

Now remember, I’m the momma of 2 asthmatic children. Two asthmatic children who have peanut allergies. And, God has called my family to one of the top peanut producing countries in the world. Needless to say, I’ve spent the past 24 hours in a sort of come to Jesus meeting. Because all along, after praying and fasting and feeling confident that God has called us to go where we’re going, I have fought off the temptation to worry about these 2 children by telling myself that if God calls us there, he’ll protect out children. He loves our children more than I do and I can trust him with them. And the bottom line is, that last night, when everything settled down and it was just me and God, I had to ask myself a difficult question. What if God, in his infinite wisdom, chose to let one of my children perish in Africa, regardless of my obedience to him. Heaven forbid, but what if?

And then I began to ask myself these questions...Do I believe that God’s word is true. Do I believe that Matthew 28 is really a command? Do I believe that Jesus really was telling the truth when he said that he is the only way to the Father. Do I really long to see a multitude from every language, people, tribe, and nation knowing and worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ? Do I believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain, just as the Apostle Paul said? And, when I asked myself these questions, I had to answer a resounding yes to every one of them. So, that leads me to only one appropriate response and that, my friends, is obedience.

Then the next set of questions came. What if, it really happened? Would I be able to walk through another day? What if I had to make a phone call back to the states and tell my parents, my church, the families of my children’s friends that the inconceivable had happened. Would I ever be able to get through the condemnation? Would the guilt, the anger, the sorrow be more powerful than my call to lostness? Overwhelming questions for a frail little human like me.

Here is where I have settled. I don’t know. I can’t know. Hopefully I’ll never HAVE to know what that sort of loss would do in my life. But, I do know this. God’s grace is sufficient. Just as He has given me the grace, strength, courage, and wisdom to shoulder everything he’s called me to as of today, he will give me the grace, strength, courage, and wisdom that I need for all of my tomorrows. He’ll give it to me, only when I need it, not a moment before then.

Please understand, I have no intention of endangering my children. I have no desire to be a martyr or a widow. But, I do desire to be obedient and in that obedience I have to face the reality that God isn’t conventional. He doesn’t always work in the way that the my privileged, western, democracy oriented mind thinks that he should. It’s a lot to think about, but it’s a reality I needed to think through and wrestle with.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Poem- Written During a Moment When I Could not Absorb One More Word from the Speaker

Ode to Two Bathrooms

When I had you, I didn’t see

The ease of life that you brought me.

Brushing teeth, grooming hair,

Bathing kids, taking care.

Now you’re gone and I know,

that I really love you so.

How I miss time alone,

Sitting there upon your throne.

Now lines form, down the hall.

Children fuss and they call,

“It’s my turn, now!”

“No, it’s mine!”

“I’m going to tinkle anytime!”

“Hurry, hurry, we must go.”

“Sister, you are going too slow!”

I shake my head and roll my eyes,

Lifting them up to the skies.

“Lord I know you’re stretching me,

but must it involve pee?”

I know someday, I’ll have you back,

and now I truly know,

that even when you’re dirty and black,

respect to you I’ll show.

Catching up, again!

At this point, I’m posting old news. But, I want to get these things recorded on the blog for my own selfish purposes! I haven’t had time to scrapbook in a long time and what gets put on here is it for me. So, here goes my rundown of our last week before training time.

We had our special day with Lily, just as we had with the boys. We took her out to lunch at the Mellow Mushroom, where we got to sit under the big mushroom. Normally, our big family can’t fit at the tables under there, so that was fun.

Then, we headed to the Factory where we painted pottery. Lily made a piggy bank and some magnets. In true Lily fashion, she took her time and was very meticulous in making it just right. She wasn’t so happy when one of her polka dots started to drip, but we decided it could just look like her piggy had been rolling in the mud. Ryan made a platter for our new kitchen counter, which turned out very cute. He painted a big top in the center, with polka dots around the edge and then wrote “Campbell Circus” around the edge. It’s very fun, and I wish I’d gotten a picture of the finished product, but I guess I’ll just have to wait and show it once it’s perched on our new counter. We finished up our “Lily Day” with a stop at Sweet Spoons, our local frozen yogurt place. All in all, it was a great day together.

For Elizabeth’s special day, we headed to dinner at her very favorite spot, The Olive Garden. That girl loves her breadsticks! We followed up dinner with a trip to the Raleigh Little Theater where we got to see the play, Gooney Bird Greene. Lizzy has a dream of being on stage one day and she absolutely loves the theater. We finished up with a drive through Cook Out for a milkshake.

Abby’s special day was spent in Durham. We started off the morning by driving thru Chick-Fil-A for her favorite fast food breakfast- Chicken Minis. Then, we went to Rare Earth Beads to take a beading class. We learned the basics of beading, including the clasping, which was pretty simple. The toughest part was definitely choosing the beads. Ryan ran errands while we beaded and then picked us up for lunch. Abby is our adventurous eater, who loves to try new places, so we decided to try Foster’s Market in Durham. We all enjoyed trying something different, but my personal favorite was the chocolate macaroon we picked up at the German bakery that was next to the bead shop. Yummo!

I wish I had pictures of Abby’s day, but we have lost a memory card, Thankfully, it didn’t have much else on it, except a few sets of goodbye shots. I’m still hopeful that it will turn up, but I’m not so sure.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pruning is Painful

We’re in week four week of our training, which is really hard to believe. The time is absolutely flying by and the information is coming at us so quickly, that sometimes it’s hard to digest it all. I feel challenged in so many areas of my life and I am trying to process how to apply all that I am learning.

Last week, I hit a bit of a low, just feeling discouraged about all that was expected of me and whether or not I am the right person for the task that’s been entrusted to me. Processing it all, I just began to feel that maybe my gifts and skills don’t necessarily line up to the expectations of my organization. I am so out of my element here and many of the skills that I’ve spent the last decade strengthening are useless to me here. My abilities to organize, administer, and run a household and ministry are not really beneficial during this season. Someone else is educating my children, cooking my meals, determining my schedule, and even telling me what to read.

As I’ve listened to speakers, strategies, and expectations, I have just felt incredibly inept and weak. I have not doubted my call, but I have certainly doubted whether or not I’m going to be able to be effective in my call. So, mid-week last week, I was really wondering if I should just pack up my toys and head home. I went to bed one night really discouraged and defeated.

But, just like so many times in this process, God met me at my point of need. The tone of my sessions the next two days allowed me to shift my thinking away from all of the ways that I was ill-equipped to instead look at all of the ways that I can depend on God.

One of the sessions that really resonated with me was focused on John, chapter 15, where Jesus talks about the vine and the branches. I have often heard sermons and read things on the importance of abiding with God, based on this passage. Always, it resonates with me in some way. Last week, the thing that stood out with me is the pruning aspect of the passage. I realized that this time that I’m in is a time of pruning. The vinedresser is stripping away some of the branches that bear “some” fruit so that He can strengthen them, refocus them, and allow them to bear “much” fruit.

I realized that while pruning is painful, it’s not the same thing as discipline. While discipline is about sin, pruning is about self. The purpose of pruning is to deal with, and liberate us from the things we love and pursue. So, while I’m acutely aware of how painful this pruning process is, I’m also very grateful that God is doing something new and exciting in my heart and mind.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Around the "Farm"

I thought I'd take a minute and give you a peek into our world here at orientation. Things happen so fast that I haven't caught much of it with the camera, but here is a little glimpse.

This is what family movie night looks like. We don't have TVs or our own living room, so we watched our flick on the laptop and used the two twin beds that Ryan and I have pushed together as our couch. We even baked cookies using the roll dough, but then realized that our kitchenette wasn't equipped with a spatula to remove them from the stone. Don't worry, we figured out how to get them off, the no desert policy in the cafeteria will motivate you in that area!
One of our assignments for our part of the world is that everyone has to cook from scratch 2 times while we're here. I chose to fry chicken as our entree, but I had to borrow pans from several neighbors in order to have enough to share. Fortunately, my in-laws were traveling through and my mother-in-law arrived just in time to help me with it. It was yummy!
This is our "kitchen" table. We don't actually eat here very often, but it offers our only non-bed seating, so it gets lots of use.

This is a picture of the girl's dressers. These are photo worthy because it had been almost 6 months since some of them had had a dresser. They were excited to each have their own again.

These are the kids from our "church" playing around after we ended this week. Notice there are our children and the children of one other family. The kiddos aren't loving our "small group" worship format, but it's good preparation for the field. They do love the folks in our group, but they miss Sunday School and the worship team.

Here is Isaac sporting the Armor of God that he and Ryan made for one of his class assignments. It's amazing what a boy can do with a leftover box and a roll of duct tape!

Lizzy and Isaac are facing off, each with their own set of armor.

These are the other married gals from our Sub-Saharan group. We were at one of our supervisor's homes getting ready to eat a West African style meal, from a common dish. The required dress was a wrapper and a head wrap.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Keeping it Real

I’ve always known and readily admitted that I have control issues. I am not proud of them, I am taking baby steps to make them less crippling, but they still exist. If you want to be acutely aware of your issues, come to where I am- they’ll squeeze them out of you. This week has been a bit of a pressing for me. Okay, that’s an understatement, I feel like I’ve been laid out on one of those ancient torture devices where they stretch your limbs in all different directions until you snap.

Yesterday, I snapped. It was ugly and it was embarrassing and what made it worse was that my kids got to witness my mega meltdown in full color. Oh, it was awful. Thank you Jesus it’s over and hopefully, we’ve talked enough with the kids about it that they won’t be scarred for life.

It started out with an attempt to take my two oldest girls to the “Busy Hands” sewing building. I didn’t want to go, I had other things on my agenda, but they desperately wanted to go and I decided that I would take them. So, I dug down deep to find my happy heart, put a smile on my face, and marched off to do my motherly duty. Now, I knew that the posted sign had said that there needed to be one parent per child. I also knew that I had 4 children who wanted to get there at least once and a limited amount of Saturday mornings that we could squeeze them into. So, against my better judgement, I marched off with the two oldest, certain that we could make it work.

It seemed like a great idea UNTIL I was greeted by the friendly lady at the door who informed me that there was no way that they could both participate. I explained our circumstances and in her nice, but very firm way, she basically said that my situation did not matter to her, this was the policy. Then, she began to show my girls what their project options would be- when it was their turn to sew. I knew I was in trouble as soon as the tears started welling up in my eyes. I stepped outside thinking that surely I could get myself together and go back in with a plan for choosing who might get to sew. I had almost regained my composure when the girls came looking for me. They took one look at me and the oldest burst into tears herself. Before I knew it, all three of us were crying- and I mean body shaking crying right there in front of the Busy Hands building.

We managed to make it back to our quad without too many face to face encounters. As soon as Ryan saw us, he knew something was wrong. So, we all sat down at the table and explained, through our sobs, what had happened. It was ridiculous and I readily admitted to him that I knew my non-stop tears had very little to do with the sewing lady. I felt like I was living in that story about the little boy in Holland who used his finger to plug the leaking dike and save his village. It was as if someone just pulled the plug on all of the emotions that had been just lingering on the edge.

We’ve struggled since we got here with the realities of our family size. Everything from after school pick-up to the dining hall to the one bathroom to the amount of homework we’re trying to process with the kids each evening has been complicated by the fact that our family is bigger. Living as a family of 7 is tough in our society. Living as a family of 7 in a communal living environment is borderline brutal. Things like finding childcare for evening meetings is daunting for us. We’re overwhelmed.

But, here’s what we keep telling the kids (and ourselves.) God has a plan for our family. All of these ways that we’re being stretched are purposeful. Learning to submit to authorities about things that we think are petty is good for our character. Coming to grips with the fact that our family is different than others in our community is a reality that will only become more real in the months ahead.

Yesterday, after 90 minutes of tears, I finally got control enough to go to the mall and make a return at the Apple Store. As we were walking into the mall, with my eyes still swollen, my oldest daughter looked at me and said, “Mom, if we get in here and you start crying, just tell anyone who asks that you are in the process of moving your family overseas and it is a very emotional process. That ought to make them be quiet.” Great advice Abby, great advice!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Getting Settled

Well, we’re a week into our training and so far there are at least a dozen words I can use to describe it: exciting, challenging, confirming, overwhelming, filling, draining, welcome, stretching, humbling, eye-opening, equipping, and fun (sometimes). I could go on, but I think you get the point. It truly is a roller coaster ride of emotions and underlying all of it is just a humility and a gratitude that God has brought us to this place and time.

The kids are off to a great start. Their classes seem to be really well developed. Most of their teachers have experience raising children overseas and some of them were also raised as children overseas, so they bring a wealth of knowledge with them. They are teaching the children vital skills necessary to transition from what they’ve known to being “TCKs.”

If you’re like me and you aren’t sure what a TCK is, let me explain. A TCK is a third culture kid. This simply means that our children will most likely identify themselves with 3 cultures-our home country, our host country, and the transitional culture of other families who are our colleagues. They’re learning lots of skills needed for the opportunities and challenges that will come with each of those cultures. So far, their biggest challenge has been trying foods they’d rather not eat. Let me just say, I can totally relate!

Here's Abe with one of our quad mates who he affectionately calls, "Ewijah."

Here are the 4 oldest getting ready to enter class on their first day of school.

Our grown-up class time has covered a variety of topics. We’ve talked about everything from computer security to prayer to traveler’s diarrhea. A steady flow of assignments fills our evening hours and all of the reading, memorization, and other expectations keep us busy.

All in all, we’re getting a rhythm. We love having our own “house” again. We have a unit which includes 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchenette, and a washer and dryer. We share a common living room with three other families. We’re enjoying getting to know the other families in our “quad.”

The kids have enjoyed the experience of eating in a cafeteria all the time. Though we sometimes miss the home cooked meals and we definitely miss dessert, none of us miss the dirty dishes that come with it! I can’t imagine how we could get it all done if we had to cook as well.

For all of my Southern Baptist friends who are reading this, let me just say that your Cooperative Program dollars are being used in some amazing ways here at the learning center. We are so thankful for this time to be equipped and it’s obvious that much thought is being put into the use of our time and your resources. We are routinely challenged to be good stewards of your gifts. I can say that I am more confident than ever that Lottie Moon is a great way to invest the resources that God has given us.

We covet your prayers as we journey through these next 7 weeks. We know that the task ahead of us will only be possible through God’s power. One thing that we’ve heard over and over is how vital it is that we enlist the prayers of many. So, if you remember us, please pray for balance, longevity, and energy for the tasks ahead.