What do you do when your husband buys a dozen too many apples that were on a great deal at Sam’s Club a week or two ago?
That’s right: “when life hands you apples, make applesauce.”
What do you do when your husband buys a dozen too many apples that were on a great deal at Sam’s Club a week or two ago?
That’s right: “when life hands you apples, make applesauce.”
Today, I came across a secular article regarding four questions to ask of those who seek to “volunteer in Africa.” What I read there struck me as some pretty good advice from a secular perspective that overlaps with advice that seems applicable in a spiritual perspective regarding missions. You can read the short article here.
I hope you’ll take an extra couple minutes and read the article (entitled: “Dear volunteers in Africa: please don’t come help until you’ve asked yourself these four questions”).
If you don’t have time or interest, here are the four questions without the explanations and thoughts of the author (which are quite good):
To add some thoughts to what you have just read, I think this also applies to missionaries, and especially perhaps for short-term missionaries (i.e. days, weeks, to months). These four questions might provide us with a simple litmus-test (other requirements notwithstanding; just some “rules of thumb”) for missions ministry.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with taking pics to document your work, but one’s personal motivation is certainly worth a critical self-evaluation. It’s always important to get down to why one wants to serve, minister, and go. One pitfall is to approve of anyone who “wants to go” with little if any introspection or evaluation over the “why?” (i.e. motivation for going).
Of course, that’s hard to absorb and to accept as it hits at our pride. No doubt, at times, we all struggle with wanting to serve Christ while also not wanting to go unrecognized for doing so. But Keith was right on (in the vernacular of his day) because this is exactly what Jesus taught:
In all these things and in many other teachings of our Lord, Jesus is knocking our pride. It’s our pride that is naturally at the center of our stage, and our pride must be knocked out of the spotlight. Doing so necessarily knocks us out of the spotlight too. As John the Baptist famously said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
I could also tie this issue of pride into the other 3 questions.
For example, we might not even care if the agency’s intentions and values are the same as ours as long as in going our ego is stroked by our hidden or perhaps simply unrecognized prideful agenda (Q2). We might not notice or even care if our “ministry” does more harm than good because our pride is satisfied by what we’re going to do and why we’re going to do it, or at least even by just what we think we’re going to do and why we think we’re going to do it (Q3). We might not ever do the same ministry at home because either we’re not really qualified to do it (and overseas the needs are so great we could simply “get away with doing it”) or because we find it easier to go somewhere distant and reach people with the “love of Christ” while we find it difficult at home because we find that our neighbors are simply “harder to love” (Q4).
All of this is not to discourage us from wanting to serve overseas or anywhere else, but we should always be quick to distrust our motives and to self-evaluate through Spirit-filled introspection. It’s not for me to do that for you or you for me. We need to “examine ourselves” and to be sure that our motives are worthy of our calling. I think this is a reminder that is timely for us…all the time.
Humility is the key to all ministry in the name of Jesus Christ, and I believe these four questions are helpful in identifying whether our ministry-motive is based in humility or in pride. Let’s remember to examine ourselves and answer them honestly.
We have had a guest with us the past two days. He is a student from MBI from Cameron’s floor in the dorm. Brennan has been traveling over the two-week spring break, and on his way back to Chicago from Costa Rica, he flew into Mexico for a couple of days to check it out. Unfortunately, he picked up a bad case of food poisoning as he was leaving Costa Rica. We adjusted our plans for his two days with us as he was too ill to do all that he’d hoped.
Nonetheless, he was feeling a bit better on Thursday, so I drove him to Querétaro in the afternoon to get a look around town as we talked. (BTW, Cameron has been in NW Indiana with relatives these past two weeks resting, studying, putting in summer job applications and interviewing with a few prospective businesses. So he missed out on the fun.)
Brennan is a photographer and with such a picturesque colonial city to explore, he happily snapped pics for a few hours. I brought my camera along and looked for something different to capture because I’ve been there so many times that I’ve taken pictures of most everything already. Even so, there’s always something new or some new perspective to gain.
Here are some pics I came up with on our short trip this go ’round:
At this point, both of you still reading this thread are probably gullible enough to get your hopes up for such a conclusion, so I figure I don’t have much to lose in describing it this way, other than your future trust in my posts. Hey, there’s always a chance you’ll forget the letdown though!
So, the getaway finally did gotaway, and we headed back to Puebla on Friday in order to be able to attend the closing Saturday morning chapel at the PCS SEC 2017 and to pick up somebody. Oh yeah. Our son…D…Da…Duh?…no…Day…oh that’s right, Dayton and his buddy Ben. (Ha…after a few days without him…almost forgot his name! Not really, but our memory isn’t what it never was before that’s for sure.)
It’s a fun thing to arrive at the camp on Saturday morning. The kids are still fairly energetic despite nearly four days of camp, and that last night is usually a little on the late side (Ben calculated he got about 4 hours of sleep. Dayton apparently got more than that, but I never heard his final calculation.) Other parents are arriving, and it’s neat to watch some of the kids give their dad and/or mom a hug and express joy at seeing each other. Dayton isn’t a hugger. He’s never been a hugger. Ever. Nonetheless, both of us somehow sort of got a hug from him that morning. Makes it all the more worthwhile, I guess, although I’m good with just 4 days of the boy away at camp even without a hug!
I asked the two boys if they’d like to come back for next year’s camp, and Ben pensively replied, “I think I might like to.” Dayton simply said, “Yeah.”
So, we had the closing chapel. Dayton’s team was announced as the winner of the points race for the week. Not bad for a first time at camp (though 180 kids divided into 4 teams presumably means he had 44 other teammates!). We, or rather the students, sang a few songs from the week (the video at the bottom of this post will give you a taste of their “seed of faith to move mountains” song and a snippet of the camp speaker’s summary message based on Philippians 1:21, the “to live is Christ and to die is gain” passage; I love that verse too).
BTW, the speaker in the video clip is Jonathan Smith, a.k.a. “UJ” which is short for Uncle Jonathan. He has been the youth speaker for the past several years at our MK Camp as well. In fact, he is coming next week to speak to our youth here too, and he may also speak in our house church just after the end of our MK Camp. We’re looking forward to all of it.
The conclusion, I have to say, is all pretty basic and simple:
So truly, to live is Christ, for Christ is our life, and there is no life outside of or apart from Christ. And to die is gain because our gain through death is the actual, living presence of Christ, and there is nothing more valuable and lasting than this.
That is the ultimate, eternal getaway, when the Savior will cherish his Bride, and the Bride will cherish her Savior, and the mutual, glorious delight will never end, never disappoint, never lose its luster, and not one who is chosen will ever be left out, not even for a few days of camp.
Yes, we finally got our getaway. For the first time since we’ve had kids (and Cameron is pushing 19 years in less than 3 months), we were sans kids for four days. Our biggest concern? Not really the transmission. Would we remember how to talk to each other when kids and work weren’t part of our environment? What would we talk about? (pretty much the same things that we always talk about: plans, work/ministry, kids/family, etc.)
I guess we managed. I don’t recall any life-shattering conversations, but we conversed fine. We rested. We walked. We ate out. I drank too many “lecheros” (the Veracruz name for “café con leche”…I guess that’s like a latté). Just kidding. You can’t drink too many of those. I ate a whole red snapper. I took a few pictures. It was really only two days at our destination, but those two days “hit the spot.”
Unfortunately, the city was mostly nondescript. The center of Veracruz is both a tourist spot and an industrial/shipping center. It is an odd mix. It really doesn’t quite work.
A few miles from there by our fancy Fiesta Americana Hotel, the beach is littered with broken glass and garbage, even old tires (it appeared that in one nearby section of beach, a former dumping ground in the dunes had been dislodged by the tide and was just an ugly disaster for a beach meant for tourists). We didn’t swim in the surf out of concern for what was in the water and under our feet. On the sand we walked while wearing sandals to avoid the garbage, glass, and the arrival of sea urchins menacing our passing feet. Our nice room had a great view of the swimming pool, the beach, and a continual flotilla of huge cargo ships out in the bay. Almost lovely. No wonder Hernán Cortés burned his ships at Veracruz. They spoiled the natural view.
One thing I think we realized is that there are some things that we can’t get away from on a getaway. Maybe we’re not supposed to ever totally get away from everything. Obviously, we’re believers in Jesus, and we never take a getaway from that…from him. Of course not! We all know that. But when your vocation is full-time ministry, do you get away from ministry? From people? Should you? Can you? My head says yes, my heart says no. I don’t know. I do know that I handed out more gospel tracts during our getaway than I probably do during my normal routine. Why not?
We ate at a nice Italian restaurant on our last getaway afternoon. The food portions were huge. What do you think about when you’re on vacation in a strange place with no refrigerator where you’re staying, and you’re not sure you’ll be able to finish your massive meal? All we could think about was where might we come across someone who is hungry (here in this touristy area) who wouldn’t be offended by an offer of leftovers and who would genuinely want to eat it. Beth left our meal table and walked over to a window to see if the guy selling “flowers” made out of beer cans was still out on the street (no where in sight, bummer).
Finally, we left with our leftovers and began driving toward an area a couple miles away where we thought we might come across someone who looked hungry. We finally ended up passing by some kids begging at a traffic light, but we were on the opposite side of a divided highway, and I couldn’t get us turned around in the congested traffic.
We drove on further to a supermarket to see if they had anything unusual we might like to take home (we found some “tacos al pastor” seasoning that we haven’t seen in years…cha-ching!). Heading back out to the van with our meat seasoning, I decided we could go back to the hotel the opposite way, back where those kids were (about a mile down the highway), and turn onto a seaside road to get back to the hotel from there.
This was not a sleepy road. It was 3 lanes wide in one direction and at the intersection where the kids had been, two of the lanes went left and the other lane went right (the Gulf of Mexico was straight ahead). We saw the kids. Their presumed mother was also there in the concrete median. She was a very young woman…a girl really…in her Guatemalan indigenous dress. I remember catching a glimpse through the traffic of two young jet black-haired kids. I think there was a third kid. Maybe a baby too. I swerved off to the far right near some cars that were parked along the the curb. Our van was still partially blocking the far right lane. Most of the traffic was turning left at the light, but keep in mind that lanes and traffic patterns follow the Mexican “rules” that lanes and “rules” are subjective, e.g. two lanes can quickly become four lanes just because, red is just a color and a red traffic light doesn’t always mean “stop” and sometimes apparently means “speed up.”
As soon as I pulled over, Bethie jumped out with the bag of Italian leftovers, some pasta but more cheesy-garlicky bread than anything, and a couple bottles of water, a plastic fork, and an “ABC de La Vida” tract that I had hastily shoved in the bag. No telling if the girl could read it. The light had turned red, so Bethie dashed through the lanes of cars and dodged a couple of buses flying by the far right side of them and barely missing the back of our van.
To be honest I was a little nervous about letting my wife risk her wife in that traffic to give away some leftovers. What if she got hit by one of those buses flying by? What would I tell people back home? Sorry to report…I sent my wife into a life-ending real-life game of Frogger while on our 2nd honeymoon. What was I thinking? I should have jumped out. I’m the one with the bad ticker anyway.
Well, the good news is she didn’t get hit and die; my beloved frog made it across and back to her prince (hmmm…that sounds backwards for some reason).
The better news (not really) is those kids were truly hungry (and by “kids” I mean the momma too). We had just feasted on an unnecessarily huge meal and just a short drive away were some precious people who Jesus also died for, and they were practically starving…and the best we did for them was to give them some cold leftovers of a type of food that they probably have never before tasted, might have gagged on the strange flavor and textures, a couple of small bottles of warm drinking water, and a gospel tract that any illiterate couldn’t read.
To be honest, out of our whole getaway adventure, apart from having the precious solitary time with my bride which was immeasurably valuable, this small act of kindness and of good intention was pretty much the only other thing that seemed of any lasting value.
How does one really getaway when we live in a world that we don’t getaway from and in every turn and in every place there are people who are in desperate situations, and above all, they desperately need Jesus?
I took some pictures of Veracruz. I will post a few below. There aren’t too many. But the sparse number of pictures betray another internal struggle. How do I share pictures with our friends on Facebook of our nice resort, our meals, and our experiences, when I know that we minister to people whom we love deeply and none of them can afford any of this, all of them are married, all of them work 6 days a week (sometimes 7), and what “getaways” do they ever get? Some of them struggle to put gas in their vehicle just to get to church. At times, some of them struggle to even put food on the table or buy needed medicine. I know this is true because at times I’ve bought them some bags of food and some needed medicines that otherwise couldn’t be purchased.
I don’t mean to say that I felt guilty about any of this. I wouldn’t say it was guilt or a sort of fake hyper-compassion. It’s just maybe I don’t know how to do a getaway. Or maybe I don’t know whether I should do a getaway. Or maybe this is just a normal thought process for any believer who desperately wants to love Jesus like Jesus loves people and is unsure if Jesus would ever take a “getaway” from ministry or work or thinking about a cross to bear. I don’t think he ever took (or takes) a getaway from loving people. I don’t think we should either. And maybe that’s all I was trying to avoid.
In a way, I’m glad I couldn’t just pray and BAM! feed thousands of people. If you want to guarantee that you could never even consider getting a getaway: feed thousands of hungry people who are miles from home and don’t have a car or access to public transportation. They’d follow you like a herd of cats whose only source of a bowl of milk is you. The only way you could get away from people you’ve fed like that, in a seaside place like Veracruz would be to somehow walk on water. Oh. Right. Well, maybe Jesus did understand the way and the need to a getaway.
Does this make sense to you? I’m not sure if I’m talking a foreign language or if this is how you feel when you take a vacation or get a getaway. Maybe it’s just because our getaway was in a place where the culture of rich and poor collide in a way that doesn’t in most places in the USA. That probably has something to do with it. I didn’t notice any experience quite like this while we traveled in the USA last summer. We met some people who seemed to be hurting, but nobody that I recall seeing who seemed hungry. I know there are hungry people in the USA, but in Gatlinburg, TN? At Pensacola Beach, FL? I didn’t see them. Maybe I wasn’t looking.
Soooo…before the getaway blog post has gotaway, here are a few pics of our getaway in Veracruz:
Above is the “zócalo” (the main plaza downtown) which was not terribly impressive. The bell tower belongs to the local Cathedral. At least it all looks neat and clean though dated.
This is a national naval building. The statue and the name to the left on the building go together. Carranza was a military hero of the past. “Faro” means lighthouse.
From the back, it looked like Carranza has a man-bun.
Our market seafood restaurant and waiter. He looked happier after I had eaten, paid, and oh yes, left him a nice tip. There are lots of seafood restaurants in Veracruz and down by our hotel there are plenty that would have charged me triple the price for that I paid here. It was clean (enough), smelled ok, and turned out, I didn’t get sick and die (always a plus).
This is red snapper (“huachinango”). I don’t know what a whole red snapper would cost in the USA. Here I paid $250 pesos which included a salad (the waiter was very clear on that point before I ordered). I didn’t touch the salad and ate just a bite of rice. I imagine that avoiding the “salad” possibly saved my life. The purified ice in my glass of Coca-cola didn’t have the tell-tale hole in it to prove it’s purified. I may die yet. I’ve got about 35 days before we know for sure.
The fish was nearly too much food as it was. It was amazingly tasty. Well salted (don’t tell my cardiologist), and even Bethie (who doesn’t like fish) said it was good because it didn’t taste like fish. Fresh red snapper is the chicken of the sea really.
BTW, $250 pesos is somewhere around $13 USD. They had other much cheaper fish, but I really don’t know what they are, so I stuck with the best of the best that they had to offer and the only fish they had that I knew by name in Spanish. For that price, for a 2nd honeymoon getaway meal, I couldn’t pass it up no matter what the other fish were.
At a stop light, I spotted this pathetic-looking bird (I guess it’s a pigeon) on the top of this Chrysler Voyager. After the light turned green and the van sped up, the bird didn’t fly off. Why fly when you can take the van for free?
My bride doing two of her favorite things at the same time…soaking in a pool and reading.
Our late evening view on our last getaway evening…like two…no three…no…at least, like six ships that pass in the night. Romantic, no?
But what does it all mean? Stay tuned for part 3…unbelievably and rather unmercifully…the Second Honeymoon saga continues. (I believe there may be a reward in heaven for those who read these through…yeah, I know, I know…there’d better be!)
This past week brought us to a whole set of circumstances that are difficult to put into a homogeneous theme, and yet perhaps there is one to be found.
A couple months ago we made a decision concerning an annual opportunity that we have not considered in 10 years. Puebla Christian School takes a week for their spring break and turns it into a school-wide “spiritual emphasis camp” or SEC (one for grades 1-6 and then followed by another camp for grades 7-12). Graciously, the school opens up attendance and participation to other Christian schools in Mexico as well as to homeschooling MKs.
Cameron attended this camp when he was in grades 1 and 2, but due to some safety issues that we weren’t comfortable with at the time, we never considered having him return there for any future camps. A few years after that, our ministry team here decided to create an MK camp for our kids which has sufficed well for our kids and less than an hour versus over 3 hours to get there is a no-brainer.
However, the two camps are quite a bit different (in size and experiences), so we decided that perhaps Dayton would enjoy the different experience that the PCS camp offers. He only really knows just a few kids in our area as friends (none of them in our city, and none of them are his age.) The PCS camp would offer him an opportunity to enjoy kids his age as well as being able to spend a few days with his friends who live further away and with whom he rarely gets to spend time.
So, we reserved a spot for him at the PCS SEC 2017. Shortly thereafter, another of our teammates’ teenage sons (and good friend of Dayton) decided to join Dayton in attending the camp near Puebla as well. So, this past Monday we got in the van with the two boys and headed over to Puebla.
Another thread to this story is that as we considered the logistics of the 3 hour drive to Puebla and the subsequent four days of camp the boys would be enjoying. What would the two of us do with our time that week without kids (and Beth’s mom would be in the USA part of that time)? Should we drive all the way back home or should we take some time for a getaway with just the two of us?
As we thought about this, we tried to remember the last time we had a getaway with just the two of us that didn’t include ministry as the main reason for the getaway. We honestly couldn’t remember. We finally decided that the last time was when we lived in Honduras (between 1997-1999) and had gone down to the Pacific coast for a weekend…(was that with baby Cameron?). OK. So, it may not have been without kids, but that’s close enough, I guess.
Given we celebrated our 25th anniversary last summer while wrapping up our summer travel (with Dayton along), we decided we should take a few days and head down to the coast to Veracruz and experience a “2nd honeymoon.” Beth hadn’t been to Veracruz since she was a teenager, and I’d never been, so it would be a new adventure (and “adventure” seems to sum up our 25+ years of marriage fairly well).
I haven’t yet mentioned that when the four of us got into the van on Monday and I started the engine, there was a high-pitched sound we’ve never heard before. It didn’t sound good whatever it was. Should we take it to a mechanic? Probably. I only know one good mechanic, and he’s 45 minutes in the opposite direction from where we were heading. We could be all day (or longer) having this looked at. Maybe the van wouldn’t even make the 45 minute trip to the mechanic’s shop. What to do? I prayed and then began driving slowly…in the direction of the wrong direction.
In the next few blocks of slow driving, the sound lessened. The engine was running well and the transmission was shifting fine. I decided to turn around, and just head for Puebla. We got on the main 6-lane highway when Bethie remembered a mechanic from the other Bible church here in town who had done some good work on her mother’s car recently.
Since we were still in San Juan, I quickly decided to get off at the next exit and go look for this mechanic. He works out of a house he rents from one of the church leaders. 15 minutes later, we pulled up to that house and saw a sign there for a mechanic, and the gate was open. He was home. He took the van (loaded with Beth and the two boys and all our stuff) for a quick drive while I waited on the sidewalk. Upon his return, we heard those dreaded words, “It’s the transmission.”
Oh. No. That’s like the automotive kiss of death down here. I haven’t met anyone in Mexico with transmission problems who has gotten their transmission repaired correctly. So, can we drive it or not? He thought it’d be ok as long as I purchased and added a particular transmission conditioner by a company called Lucas. I knew that brand from other products. It seems like a good brand.
So, we got over to the nearby AutoZone, and after a few minutes of searching, comparing products, and not seeing anything by Lucas on the shelves, I finally discovered one partially-hidden bottle left of the exact one I was looking for. To be honest, I am nervous about putting anything into the transmission (I had the transmission properly, i.e. expensively, serviced in Dallas at a trusted Toyota service department last summer), but Monday, I finally decided I didn’t have much choice. The sales clerk, upon hearing my reservations about whether to use it or not, advised me to put in about a third of the bottle (in part since it wasn’t leaking and in part just to be safe). As I added it, I couldn’t tell how much was going in. I ended up putting in about half the bottle. That sounds like a commitment.
By this point, the high-pitched sound had already lessened and eventually all but disappeared. In the mornings throughout the week, the sound was typically back (not quite as bad as the initial instance), but once warmed up and running for awhile seemed to not be a problem. Of course, there is a problem. It seemed the shifting was a bit labored in the mountains coming back from Puebla yesterday, more so than on the long incline on Friday going from sea level to almost 9,000 feet up the mountains. So, it looks like I still have a visit to our mechanic in Querétaro ahead of me this week (and Tuesday we have a student from Moody Bible Institute arriving for a couple of days of exploring the area…I was planning on driving him around…so this may complicate things a bit).
EDIT: Our co-worker who knows the mechanic in Querétaro just told me that this mechanic doesn’t do transmission work. In fact, when asked recently about a transmission shop in the area he could recommend, his answer was, “I don’t know of any transmission shop that I can recommend.” That’s not because he doesn’t know any but rather because he knows a number of them. Oh. That’s not good. It looks like my best option is to take it to the Querétaro Toyota dealership. That’s not going to be pleasant, but that’s really the only palatable choice with any hope of getting it serviced or repaired successfully.
Throughout this past week as I contemplated the unexpected transmission problems, I thought about this summer. We’re supposed to drive up to the USA and visit with up to 9 of our supporting churches. So far, I’ve confirmed Sundays with 2 of those churches and need to continue setting up more summer Sundays.
We’re talking another 8k to 10k mile trip. Not a time to be having uncertainties about a transmission. It’s a rigorous drive through mountains and deserts and some areas that aren’t particularly safe for breaking down. Will the transmission be adequately repaired? Will we end up stranded on either side of the border with a complicated and expensive repair job and no where to get it fixed? Only God knows. It’s not for me to worry about. So, I’m not worrying about it. Can we say, “I’m concerned about it”? OK, I am concerned about it. Of course, transmissions are no match for our great God. So, what’s to be concerned about? God’s not worried. If He’s not worried, then what right do I have to take on such a lofty approach to the “concerns”? We all know the answer to that, don’t we?
“Second Honeymoon”…so what does all this post have to do with the title?
I obviously haven’t gotten to that yet…stay tuned for Part 2!
About 10 years ago, we hosted a construction work team of about 5 guys who drove down here from Texas to work on the community center project. One of these men who I got to know for the first time on that trip later finished his master’s degree at DTS and joined TEAM as a missionary to Taiwan.
In a recent post on his personal/ministry blog, Joseph Swanson shared some thoughts about things he misses from America in his life as a missionary. He clarifies that it’s not really things missed from the USA per se (as in food or culture) but rather from his life experience in the USA. I found that I relate pretty well to pretty much everything he wrote.
So, in this post of mine, I just want to direct you to Joseph’s post. I think many missionaries (perhaps especially men?) can relate to these thoughts as I do. If you aren’t a missionary yourself and have no thought of becoming one, perhaps you’ll find it helpful to read as a way to better understand a missionary you may know. Hopefully, I am one of them!
Pleas read it at the following link:
Two Complicated Things I Miss From America (this will open in a new browser tab)