Category Archives: Missions

MK Essay – Votes Needed!

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We missionaries fiercely band together to root each others’ kids onward to success and victory.

I’m writing this post and sharing the essay below for that precise reason: to help  a missionary kid in Europe win a scholarship.

I voted for him and ask you to do the same. The link to vote is below his essay.

But treat yourself while you’re at it…by reading the essay! Not only is he a good writer, you’ll get a glimpse of M.K. life from his perspective, both the challenges and the triumphs.

And when you’re done reading and voting, pause and pray for him and for missionary kids around the world.

Because they are awesome!

 

My name is Stephen Gracza and I am a American missionary kid living in Budapest, Hungary where I was born. I have been integrated into the Hungarian cultural and educational systems since Kindergarten. At home I speak English with my family, but everywhere else I communicate in Hungarian.

Growing up overseas has enriched my life in many ways. Being bilingual since childhood has enabled me to live in two cultures at the same time, American and Hungarian. Europe is made up of many different cultures and traditions. Most European countries share a border with at least three or four other countries, which impacts their individual countries and communities. Due to the number of languages spoken in Europe, students are required to learn two foreign languages during their high school years. This has given me the opportunity to become conversational in German and Spanish.

I have visited Finland, Germany and Spain with my Hungarian high school through participation in student exchange programs. These experiences have greatly improved my foreign language skills. My parents work has allowed me to see all of Europe. I have met people from varied ethnicities and religious backgrounds. It has given me a broader view on life and the people who live around me, enabling me to be sensitive of their needs and traditions.

In general, European opinion of Americans is that they have been granted more possibilities in life and have an easier road. I have had to forge my own way and be determined since I was little to work against this negative stereotypical thinking. In Kindergarten my teacher did not want me to take part in our class play, because she believed I had an accent. In Junior high school I was given fewer opportunities and then told; “You are American and Hungarians have fewer opportunities in life”.

I have had to be dedicated and determined to be granted the same possibilities. I have grown firm but not aggressive. I am currently my class’ Vice President, my high school’s student body representative and team captain for both my school’s men’s Field Hockey team, and Track and Field team.

I feel that struggling against the preconceived understandings about Americans has enabled me to cultivate a lifestyle of tolerance and determination.

 

Click HERE to vote!

Voting ends June 30, 2014, so please don’t put it off ’til mañana.

Thanks!

IlonaSignature

 

If I Should Quit

The poem below was written by the late Charles E. Greenaway, missionary to Africa and Europe in the mid to late 1900’s. I had the privilege of being in a service and listening to one of his powerfully compelling messages shortly after I was married.

I could tell he was a man of insight and wisdom. After the service, he told my husband, “You have a good wife there, take good care of her.”

May his poem’s message encourage you today….

©I.K.Hadinger
©I.K.Hadinger

If I Should Quit

If I should quit, what would the gain be?
Would the battle be lost? Would I really be free?
No, the door would not close, nor the battle cease,
because God would have another to stand in the breach if I quit.
If I should quit, what would I do?
Seek shelter from the heat, forget the cry of the lost?
Would I be happy for a time, then find I was through—
And spend my time praying for something to do,
saying, “God, why did I quit?”

If I should quit, I would find that God had not;
the battle would still rage, the church would march on.
The wind would keep blowing, the Spirit infilling,
only I would be farther and farther behind,
unwilling, wondering, “God, why did I quit?”

If I should quit, what could I say to God who called me;
and the people who sent me,
and the pagan who trusted me to show him the way?
And the Spirit’s urging day after day? God, I can’t quit!

If I should quit, let it be when I am dead.
Not while I’m alive, nor when I’m dissatisfied,
nor when I’m criticized, or minimized, or ostracized,
but please, God, let quitting time for me be-
When I am dead!

Making the Most of Your Mission Trip – Tips to making your cross-cultural experience a success.

(I originally wrote this article for Christianity Today’s Gifted for Leadership.) ??????

You’re investing thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours, and numerous headaches in planning a missions trip. You hope to save the world (at least the corner you’ll be in) and return with photos, stories, and unforgettable memories of souls you’ve touched.

Nothing surges global vision in your church like team members returning from a cross-cultural experience with changed lives. Nothing snuffs the passion for global outreach in your church like a team returning with complaining, irritated members.

What makes the difference? Having been on both sides of the experience, first as youth pastors leading teams and for the past sixteen years as missionaries receiving teams, there are specific keys we’ve learned that lead to success.

The first key is to get lost.

Not physically, of course, which parenthetically could lead to quite the adventure, but rather in humility, from yourself. Think Jesus. He allowed himself to be emptied of power, glory, and royalty before crossing cultures from heaven to earth. Initially He came to love and be loved; He came to learn and be taught.

Losing our will, desires, and ego to God before our passports are stamped is the foundation for the following tips:

Be Flexible

Tolerance for ambiguity allows us to persevere when criticizing or running away is what we would prefer.” Duane Elmer

Limber up your attitude and practice smiling (a lot) because I guarantee this: you will be stretched! Everything which makes you comfortable will be different. Your modus operandi will do the splits. Schedules can change; plans may modify. Things out of your control will happen.

We were two days away from receiving a church construction team when we received notice that the legal paperwork for the property fell through. Quite the shock, since we repeatedly had asked the local leaders if all legal documents were in order and repeatedly were given a resounding “yes”.

Furthermore, we were mortified when told the trip would have to be cancelled. Rather than facing the loss of thousands of dollars invested in plane tickets and construction materials, not to mention the confidence the team had placed in us, we scrambled to reroute them to another project in a city five hours away. Everything that had previously and painstakingly been set in place (hotel, food, transportation, and schedule) was changed.

The outcome? We had a fantastic week of ministry, work, and relationship building. The key was that both we and the team chose to be flexible in the midst of upheaval.

Have a Servant Mentality

Mission…must take the form of servanthood. Only in this way can it escape the charge of arrogance.” G. Thompson Brown

See yourself with a towel draped over your arm, regardless of who you are or what you do.

A missionary wrote about a team of doctors on a missions trip who complained that too many patients were showing up, that they were working too many hours without having enough leisure time, and they made faces at the food they were served. They also called the local pastor’s wife a liar and pouted when they didn’t get exactly what they wanted.

Do you smell the arrogance and see the irony? The ones supposed to heal the sick and bind the wounded instead spread disease and inflicted injury with their self serving attitudes.

To have served humbly would have quenched their incessant demands. In the end, the pain experienced by the nationals remains greater than any good that occurred.

Bathe The Trip in Prayer

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Don’t forget to pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to preach…”  Colossians 4:2,3 NLT

More than a suggestion, prayer is a necessity on so many levels: spiritual anointing, physical protection, emotional endurance, mental strength, and team unity.

The most fruitful teams we’ve led and received have been teams dedicated to prayer and fasting, both before and during the trip. Also having a support group interceding back home while the team is on their mission is vital to the work.

The God in whose name you travel gives numerous examples in His Word of what occurs when we meet before his throne. From Moses’ intercession in Exodus 17 to James’ reminder of the effectiveness of the righteous man’s prayer, we can be assured God hears and moves in response.

Learn to Adapt

No matter how adept an exegete a theologian is,…it is all for naught if he does not understand his contemporary audience.” Dallas Willard

Jesus had thirty-plus years to grow in his surroundings; you’ll have one, maybe two weeks. How are you supposed to adapt in that short time? You won’t, really, but something that can help, in addition to the previous tips, is trusting your host and/or the nationals with whom you’ll be working. Take cues from them and it will go well with you.

Investigating the culture and specific people group before you go will also be a great asset. You won’t learn everything, but you will have opened the door to understanding, an important aspect of communication.

Taking a missions trip can and should be a positive experience. Following these tips will aid you towards that goal. Your investment of time, money, and planning can reap lasting rewards for yourself, for your team members, for your church, and for eternity.

You are my servant; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 40:9,10 NIV

Praying for Prodigal MKs

June 2 is the Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.

loving-a-prodigal_learning-to-rest-224x300When I saw author, missionary, and fellow member of the Redbud Writers GuildJudy Douglass, post a link on Facebook concerning this day of prayer she launched, I felt prompted to get involved.

Though I don’t have a prodigal, I feel a burden to join in praying on Sunday specifically for prodigal MKs (missionary kids). Because I am a missionary, other missionaries are like family.

Because I am a missionary, I understand the unique challenges of transitioning to and living in a cross-cultural context. And as hard as it can be for us as adults who sense the call and go obediently, some of our kids don’t deal well with it and upon leaving the nest may also abandon the faith, make bad (usually harmful) choices, live wildly, or simply fall apart as they struggle with various issues and search for identity and purpose in life.

Many parents pray, wait, hope, and watch for their prodigal to return; to hear their voice, to run to embrace them, to weep on their neck. Yet when thousands of miles separate parent from prodigal, often with little to no communication, that pain is multiplied.

Those missionaries fighting spiritual battles on the front lines often fight the hardest battle within. Broken hearts, deflated spirits, guilty feelings, empty arms.

Let’s pray!

Dear missionary mom or dad of a prodigal, we want to pray for your prodigal!

I invite you to please leave a comment with the name of your son or daughter, and any other information you feel safe to share. You can remain anonymous, if you so choose, though we would like to know in what corner of the world you serve and/or with what mission.

Dear reader, if you are not a missionary parent of a prodigal, I ask that you join us in prayer. Please leave a comment letting us know that you will pray.

Let’s lift these loved ones to the Lord!

The prayer of the righteous has great power as it is working!

James 5:16

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Read Judy’s blog posts on Loving a Prodigal.

Download her free Loving a Prodigal e-books.

Why Laundry, Like Ministry, Needs to be Culturally Relevant

A missionary to Europe told of her first months living in an apartment in her new city and wondering why the neighbors seemed to avoid her. Finally, someone was bold enough to tell her that everyone thought she was a dirty pig. Why? It had something to do with her laundry, as you’ll see below.

Doing laundry is defined by culture. So is the way we do ministry. And sometimes the two overlap. It doesn’t matter how well you can do either of those in your own setting, you’ll need to learn again how to do it appropriately in your new cultural context.

I’ve done both (laundry and ministry) in various cultural settings and have learned this: though essentials remain, the methods must be adjusted. Otherwise, frustration and possibly failure, could be the outcome.

For instance, when doing laundry, the unchanging essentials are soap, water, and air, but there are varying methods and possibly social rules in each local context. For ministry, the unchanging essentials are the Gospel (Good News) of Christ and a love for God, but here too unique methods and possibly social rules must be applied in its local context.

In a sordid mess of confusion and cultural adaptation, those methods and rules are learned only by doing…and that, usually, via ignorant mistakes (note the plural of that last word).

Laundry – Do it Right, or Else…

So why was the missionary to Europe considered a dirty pig? She didn’t hang her sheets outside the window to dry like everyone else did, so it was assumed she never washed them. She was considered filthy; probably thought to have bed-bugs and carry disease.

The Gospel message wasn’t initially heard because the messenger didn’t do her laundry correctly.

The missionary changed her method. Instead of washing and drying her sheets inside as had been her habit, she began to hang them out to dry for the world to see. And only then did the world begin to hear the news she was sent to tell them.

in Mexico, I've always hung our laundry out to dry...
In Mexico, I’ve always hung our laundry out to dry. This photo from Oaxaca on a typically warm and sunny day.
...here I use my "adjustable height" dryer!
…here I use my “adjustable height dryer” –sticks propping the line higher– so (1) nothing would hang on the ground and (2) our dogs would stop running through them.

When we lived in Northern Mexico among the Old Colony Germans (much like the Amish), I learned by way of snide gossip that not only did I do laundry on the wrong days of the week, made obvious by everyone seeing my laundry hanging out to dry on the wrong days, I also hung certain clothes the wrong way. (That was only one of about a hundred things I did wrong in that community, for which there was little grace and much vilifying of my person).

When I finally realized my mistake, I did my best to mend it, wanting to remove each stumbling block, one by one, for people to accept me, but especially and ultimately, the message of Christ we carried.

Change Will Cost Us (Don’t expect Easy St.)

As we have moved from place to place, I’ve adjusted my laundry methods. The photos below show us (namely my daughter while I took a break to snap the pics) doing laundry in yet another way: by hand, on the roof. This was in Huatulco, where we temporarily rented a small apartment while ministering in the Pacific coastal region.

laundryHuatulco2
My daughter learning how to wash clothes by hand. The red bucket on top is the water and soap “soak” bucket, while the blue bucket at the bottom is the clean water “rinse”.
laundryHuatulco3
Miss Perfectionist working hard to remove a spot. The circular metal stairs are seen to her left, next to the neighbor’s roof. And if you look carefully at the top of the photo, you’ll see a glimpse of the neighbor’s  laundry on the roof of a house on the next street over.
after rinsing them in a bucket and twisting out excess water by hand, we hang out clothes, underwear and all, flying like flags for the neighborhood to see! (but since everyone does it, nobody cares)
After rinsing them in the bucket and twisting out excess water by hand, we hang out clothes– underwear and all flying like flags– for the neighborhood to see! (but since everyone does it, nobody cares)

Changes, though necessary, aren’t always welcome or easy. I didn’t like doing laundry by hand, but it was the only way to get it done right, in that location. Sometimes we’re forced to do things differently than we’ve ever done before. And remember, different isn’t necessarily bad; it’s just…different. The important thing is remembering the essentials. Whether I did my laundry on a roof or in a basement, on a mountaintop or in a valley, used machines or used my hands, I always maintained the essentials: soap, water, and air.

Similarly, in ministry we have had to learn to adjust our method, to do things differently, depending on our cultural context. Those changes have not always been easy and have usually come on the heels of blunders. Most often we don’t realize we’ve done something wrong or strange until we see certain looks, hear the gossip, are avoided, or outright confronted. Our purpose is moot and our message unheeded until we change our method…

…Without changing the essentials: the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a fervent love for God.

Like the apostle Paul, it is possible, yes even necessary, to maintain those essentials as we adjust our method.

“So…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God…even as I try to please everybody in every way, I am not seeking my own good, but the good of many, so that they may be saved. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

I Corinthians 10:31-33, I Corinthians 9:22,23

Culturally Re-Defined

As it is, many missionaries end up adapting so well to certain changes, we can’t leave them behind when we return to the USA. We’ve spent years and tears trying to please others for the sake of the Gospel and now find ourselves ministering, interacting, or behaving awkwardly to and with our own patriots. Some things simply become automatic…

Like hugging and kissing everyone we meet in church…

Like calling everyone hermano or hermana

Like shouting salud! in public when someone sneezes…

…or, if you’re like me, hanging our laundry in the basement when a dryer sits idly by.

laundry1
Method or madness? We found our clothes last longer and fit better (!) when kept out of the dryer. It’s more work, but keeps the family happy.

Open Letter to the Church – Caring for the (poor, messed up, problem laden) New Christian

©I.K.Hadinger

Dear Church,

I’m sending you my friend. She just met Jesus.

She overflows with joy about His love for her; her conversation peppered with swear words between drags on her cigarettes.

Her eyes water as she talks about her past as a lost lamb, and how God has found her. She was rejected by her own mother at age 12 and floundered in the US foster care system for years. She left and lived off the grid in Mexico and gave birth to a daughter here.

No paperwork, no legal existence, and no justice.

Taking her by the hand, we fight together in a labyrinth of offices. We need this document to get that one, and this is the fee, and your time has elapsed, so pay the fee again. Notarize and mail, and fee and fee. Will we ever find justice from the unrighteous judge before our resources are exhausted?

In the mire of offices, her daughter, who is deaf, lives in the pleasant moment with me, and a puzzle, as we wait. The little girl knows only the Mexican village where she can run free. But now is forced to wait in a tiny office. Untrained in restraint, she begins to howl, seeking mischief until the disapproving, judgmental looks force me to take her away so business can get done. (Oh, how guilty, I am Church, of these same withering looks, God, forgive me.)

Between the paperwork of two countries, we are tempted to shout in anger at the officials who sit and count their beans and check their boxes. But we stuff it inside and quietly pray for God to make their hearts like water in His hand.

When my friend gets to you, dear Church, you should know a few things. She is guilty of the worst crime of all: she is unfashionable. I know how very much you like fashion, Church. You will glance at her odd clothing after having lived in the remote pueblo for so long.

Stringy, long hair with no highlights or trendy cut. Flip flops in the winter. Teeth yellowed and too-early lines on her face, from smoking and stress. Will you take care of her for me Church? Or will you point and say, “Bad choices!” Never mothered herself, will your jaw drop as she absently allows her daughter to prance by traffic? Or will you inspire mothering like Jesus, the gentle shepherd?

You see, she just met Him. She thinks you are His children.

Please, Church, be kind to my friend. Be ever so gentle. Seek justice on her behalf. Don’t abandon her and cut the ties before she has even learned the baby steps of faith.

I’m sending her to you, Church.

Take care of her.

Missionary in Mexico

(The above Open Letter to the Church was written by a friend and missionary colleague.)

You can read more of the rescue, written by one of my mentorees, the one who began the initial rescue, at A Life Redeemed. Excerpt:

Redemption and restoration are not only spiritual realities, but when Jesus calls someone His own, He calls them out and gives them a new life, providing, restoring and establishing their feet on solid ground.

Memories: Instant in Any Season

Memories, as Barbara Streisand sang years ago, light the corners of my mind. Yet they do so much more being embedded in my heart and soul.

 

We have returned temporarily to the United States where most assume we are now contentedly relieved in this “comfortable home country” of ours. True to a degree, but truer still is the pungently bittersweet fact of the transition.

I love being with our three young adult sons again, other family and friends, the house God provided for us, and the anticipation of many things, but I miss the people, the relationships, the village, and our ministry in Oaxaca. As I sit here with carpeting under my feet instead of cold tile floors, towering oaks instead of lofty cypresses, and a flat view of sky outside my window instead of a full mountain range, the memories come; some with a smile, others with a sigh, and a few with sorrow.

From our ministry blog, a recent and fond memory:

May 7, 2012

Hosting a missions team recently, we committed to minister among remote indigenous communities in Oaxaca’s coastal region. The plan was to offer a VBS during Semana Santa (Easter break) to two distinct communities. Palm Sunday was to be the kickoff service, with the entire church participating, then Monday through Wednesday would be kids only.

We arrived in good time on that hot and sunny Palm Sunday morning. While our team, together with the nationals, reviewed plans and resources, I sensed the Holy Spirit whisper, “Prepare a message.”

I confess I don’t like public speaking or preaching to a crowd. Not a few times have I quipped, “My husband preaches from the pulpit, I preach with a pen.” I prefer less painful events like women’s Bible studies, visiting homes, natural child-birth, writing articles, or having a root canal.

I groaned inwardly.

As a veteran missionary, I should have known better, should have expected all along that the pastor would ask someone –in this case, me, since hubby was off working construction with another portion of the team– to preach to the adults. After all, it is Sunday morning, and though the churches “in the city” may kick off VBS with everyone together in the sanctuary, this traditional pastor would see to it that his adults received a sermon.

Within ten minutes I had a brief outline scrawled in the small notebook I always carry, and torn paper to use as bookmarks for the passages that I (or rather, the Holy Spirit) had picked.

Within fifteen minutes the pastor arrived, walked over to me and said, “Hermana, would you bring God’s Word this morning to the adults?”

I did. Outside under a mango tree that randomly dropped its fruit, I preached to the standing gathering of a dozen or so adults. We had four languages represented: English, Spanish, Zapotec, and Mixteco. I included salvation testimonies –which were powerful– from two of the team members.

Later that day, after we drove an hour to the second church plant of the same pastor, he again invited me (unplanned, but not unexpected this time), from the pulpit, to please come up and share God’s Word.

I did. Inside under a single lightbulb that hung three feet over my head and was swarming with wasps, I preached to the seated audience of another dozen or so adults. I used the same message and the same two testimonies.

Glory be to God! That day four adults prayed for forgiveness and committed to follow Christ, neither a mango fell nor did wasps sting, and this impromptu preacher experienced again the mercy and mysterious power of her Lord.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13

I Became a Foreigner

Today, guest blogger and missionary author Maggie Register shares her re-entry experience into the USA as a young missionary years ago. I am no longer considered a young missionary, nor will this be my first re-entry into the country where I was born and raised, yet in some sense my family and I will feel somewhat foreign.

Years ago, no one told us much about what it was like to become a missionary. We left the States in 1968 to live in Chile, South America, and we did not return for four years.

I had no idea that upon reentry into the United States, I would experience culture shock. There was a sense of alienation. I felt “foreign.” I was shocked that I did not fit in with my family or with my church family. I was no longer only North American. Neither was I Chilean. I was shocked to realize that for the remainder of my life I would have a “third” culture, a blend. I was indeed a “foreign” missionary.

I was appalled at the materialism, at the super-abundance of “stuff.” I saw the abundance in stores jammed with products, in homes jammed with non-essentials. The mindset of everyone seemed to be to “acquire more stuff.” There seemed to be little desire to give—only to consume. Women’s conversations seemed centered on hair, jewelry, designer shoes, and bags.

I grieved at the superficiality, the shallow mindset. Friendships seemed shallow. Christians’ devotion to God seemed shallow. Christians’ prayers seemed shallow. Christians’ faith seemed self-focused.

The American church seemed almost a pseudo-church. There seemed to be little desire to reach out beyond the church walls. Where were the people whose lives were being transformed? Where was a congregation who received the Word and put the principles into action in their daily lives?

My heart broke to see the cultural decline—television content seemed more debauched, vocabulary on television more crude. People, in general, seemed more rude.

I wept at the provincialism—people seemed to think, “What world?” And their attitude seemed to be, “Who cares?” People were not interested in our experiences—the joys or the sorrows—unless we were “on stage” where people often seemed to listen out of religious obligation.

As missionaries, our lives and ministry had been integrated; our days motivated by compassion. Now I felt I had nothing meaningful to do—certainly no one wanted church services every night. I couldn’t have Saturday Bible clubs because we needed to itinerate. Even if there had been women’s onces, teas, what did we have in common to talk about? I had no women’s or girls’ booklets to write, no girls’ retreats to plan. I missed the sense of feeling needed.

I was desperately homesick for friends in Chile. I missed our missionary colleagues. I missed our Chilean friends. I missed the lingering meals where we could sit and talk and laugh, where sharing conversation was just as vital as eating the food.

And when itinerary began, I felt I couldn’t make real friends because we were in a different church every night—no one could know “me” but only my stage self. No one saw me cry or be angry; no one knew how human I really was.

I felt false because “on stage” my holy-self was demonstrated with wonderful stories from Viña. Missionaries never talked about the painful times. I dared not mention the pain of Temuco.

I felt like a plastic saint.

–adapted from Margaret Register’s memoir “No Place for Plastic Saints”

photo http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Welcome+to+the+USA&view=large&FORM=VBCIRL#x0y361

Feet Pies? (Reverse Cultural Shock and Language Faux Pas’)

In view of the fact we are soon returning to the USA for our year of furlough, these next several posts will deal with the changes we are/will be experiencing. Here’s something I wrote last year. I re-post this as I wonder, “what muttonheaded thing will I do/say this time around?”

Ever experience reverse cross-culture confusion? I did.

Back in the U.S. for our son’s college graduation, Mike and I went to a local discount store to pick up a few things needed. As we waited our turn in the checkout aisle, my eyes skimmed the magazines, from People to The National Enquirer to Women’s World. Since none of that (gossip) interested me, my eyes went to the top shelf where the small booklets are found, usually of recipes or medical helps or puzzles.

Then suddenly my brain crossed wires and my head cocked to one side. What? I thought to myself as my eyes stopped on one particular booklet. In large letters I read “FEET”, but the picture was that of a deliciously mouth-watering french silk chocolate pie stacked with whipped cream and graced with chocolate curls.

I stared at that for about fifteen-seconds trying to make the connection when suddenly both the truth of the matter and the “DUH!” self-remark hit me: I had read the English caption in Spanish: “PIES“.

I’m better now, thanks.

One of the Persecuted…

Is she happy?  Not always.  Truthfully, she struggles for self acceptance.  The pain and rejection are still too real for her to put in the past.  Where, when, and how, I sometimes wonder, is the blessing for the persecuted like her?

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She was just a teen when she heard of the special meetings taking place in her legalistic and religious community.  She had heard some strange and wonderful gossip about those meetings.

Her curiosity, like the spiritual void within her, was growing.  She had to attend!  Except she was forbidden to do so.  Forbidden by her parents and forbidden by the local religious leader. A typical teenager exhibiting some form of rebellion, she decided to go.

She loved it. There was something there, she didn’t know exactly what, that made her decide to return the following evening.  Perhaps it was the music, or the way the message was spoken or maybe even the strange way they prayed at the end that drew her.  Whatever it was, her mind was set:  she’d be back.

She went home and was beaten that night.  “How dare you!” roared her father.

Broken and bruised, yet hungry for God, she dared again the following night, even after being told that if she attended again, she would be disowned and kicked out of the house.

Yet hope streamed into her heart for the first time that second night. Made new by the miracle of Christ within her, she was born again.

She returned home to find a locked house with no one willing to open the door for her.

The joy of a newborn spirit within was challenged by the pain of rejection.  Ironically, she was adopted into the family of God the same evening she was rejected by her own family.  Knocking and calling did her no good.   Shivering in the dark as tears flowed down her face, she curled up on the ground outside her front door trying to stay warm.

That’s how she spent that night. And the following night, and the next…

meno yard cropped

All I could do was hug her when she told me that story years later- hug her and do my best to empathize.  She knows well what it means to be persecuted.  But did she feel blessed? Was she the epitome of a joyful overcomer? Not exactly.

As I talked with her awhile, I realized this:  the blessing happens in those moments when she turns to run into the supernatural arms of a loving Savior. The blessing happens the moments that remind her she is still alive and has the promise of God’s strength to lead her through another day.

The blessings are the calm in the midst of the storm she would call her life.

“From victory to victory” is not a cliche in her life.  It is her life.  Victory, struggle, then victory again.  Mountain top, valley, then mountain top again.   That’s what it really means.

Don’t let those Armani clad, oily haired, fake-tanned televangelists convince you they know what victory really is, no matter how nice their white fixed smile or how much they cheerlead you into believing it with their shouting or their sweaty, shaking jowls.  (Sorry, got off track and nauseous all at the same time with that one!)

Back to where I was: the final blessing will come the day she steps into eternity, for great will be her reward. (Matt. 5:12).  On that day, I believe the tender eyes of the radiant Son will look at her with admiration and complete love as His arms envelope her.  His voice will speak acceptance and an invitation to enter into the joy promised her.

Then she will be happy, forever and always.

.

(This is a true story from the time we served among the Old Colony Germans in northern Mexico. It was originally posted on this blog January 2008.)

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