Categories
Choices Comfort Correction Covid19 Feeding Missions Perspective What Did You Do

I Want In

I’m not an extrovert by any stretch of the imagination. By nature, I know those who know me may find this hard to believe, I prefer to sneak in and out unseen and unheard. It’s more comfortable, I’m happy to let others take the lead and simply follow. I’m happy to fade into the background…unless I see something that I have the power to help change. I hate to see people suffer, especially those who are helpless, and not do anything to help change their circumstances.

I have sometimes wished that this part of me would fade a bit into the background as it has, on occasion, brought me into the limelight, sometimes in very uncomfortable ways. Yet, no matter what I do, if I see someone hurting and I can do something to help, I want in. There have been times that this part of me has driven me to exhaustion. It has also driven me to great and seemingly impossible lengths to raise funds to bring meaningful change to this part of the world that we live in. It has driven me to sleepless nights as I work out in my mind what can be done when no one is doing anything. I want in, I want in.

I’ve also learned that while I am driven to help, it is Jesus who lives in me that is the One who brings help through His people. I’m unable to find solutions for everyone, but I am able to help someone. I should never use the excuse of a problem being too big for me to recline from what I should do for the one or the two that I can help.

The heaviness in my heart, and in the hearts of those working in this way, is simply a reflection of our Father’s heart for this world. It is through us, His servants, that He works and moves. It may be that the heaviness that those of us working for Him feel is also a reflection of how He feels when His people aren’t on the front lines bringing help to the helpless. It may be that part of the heaviness we feel is His own sorrow over our lack of involvement. He has given us everything, why have we at times closed our eyes or turned our backs thinking, “They should know better by now, they should do better by now, they should be better by now, I have my own needs to think of.”

Thank God someone reached out to me when I should have known better. Thank God someone reached out to me when I should have done better. Thank God someone reached out to me when I should have been better.

And still, through us, Jesus is saying, “I want in, I want in.”

As overwhelming as the needs are around us in this upside down world, we serve a God who desperately wants in so He can bring His power into the equation. So much depends on our “wanting in” to the will and plan of God. I’m all in, I want in.

Matthew 25:40 NKJ “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”

Categories
Courage Covid19 Doubt End Times Endurance Finishing Hope Missions Perspective Uncategorized

If Ever

If ever a year threw a curve ball, it would be 2020.

My list of goals for the year is now in file 13 (the trash) while I wonder what tomorrow’s news will bring.

Here where we live, in the nation of Burundi, we have thus far avoided a full-scale lockdown. While Covid19 is in the country and the airport and borders are closed, life has proceeded almost as if there were no pandemic. There are handwashing stations at every business and church and just last week the local authorities began to encourage social distancing in meetings. While walking in town, you may see the odd face mask but by and large, people are going about their daily lives because they have to. Most of Africa lives from day to day, meal to meal, and many reckon that the consequential hunger of lockdown would kill far more than Covid19 ever would. As it is, we already deal with typhus, typhoid, malaria, dysentery and Ebola; the sarcastic side of me says, “Covid19? Make my day!”

As the pandemic unfolded, the rains in this region of Africa were so severe that floods decimated the homes of thousands living in Burundi and in its neighboring countries of DRC, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. We were able, through donations of partners and friends, to bring a little bit of relief to 200 families who had fled their homes during the floods. One of our church campuses housed 37 flood refugees for weeks; some have been able to return home in the past two weeks to rebuild their lives. As our city, Bujumbura, is set on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, many who lost their homes will not be able to return as the lake’s levels have risen due to the rains far beyond what most can remember leaving thousands effectively homeless.

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Makeshift tented camps for flood refugees in Bujumbura, Burundi.

On May 20th, presidential elections were held in Burundi and after a few days the winner was announced without incident. A few days later, the outgoing president suddenly passed away from ‘cardiac arrest.’ His wife, who had flown by emergency transport to Kenya for treatment for Covid19, was not with him when he died. She just returned a few days ago in time for his burial which we assume will be this week. We keep praying for peace as the newly elected president has yet to be sworn in. For those of you who don’t know why this would be such a tense moment in our history, Burundi has suffered through generations of war and unrest. We are praying that this would be the generation that would bring lasting peace.

If ever there was a time that people needed the Gospel, it would be now. I’m not talking about the status quo, “feel good” gospel or the “us against them” gospel or any other kind of gospel. What the world needs is the Gospel news is that there is hope for today and for ages yet to come (see Eph. 2:7). This short, tumultuous moment we call life is but a blip on the radar of eternity. If we can wrap our hearts around the truth of what’s to come, we can manage to make it through the upheaval of our present moment.

Romans 8:21-23 NKJ  because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”

We know that this “groaning” is but for a moment, but it is painful in the moment. May we have the presence of heart and spirit to wait eagerly for what we have already experienced in our hearts and not give in to the temptation to grow weary and fall into step with this world.

If ever we needed to make the difference in this world, to be salt and light, it would be now.

Categories
Courage Covid19 Endurance Faith Fear Feeding Missions Perspective

Just a Starfish

The past weeks here in Bujumbura, Burundi have had me (and all of us living here) spinning in circles. We have faced flooding, an ambiguous covid19 situation and now elections are set to take place on May 20th. Each of these issues have presented their own set of pressures that have proved to be demanding, even in the most optomistic of lights.

Our city borders Lake Tanganyika, one of the longest and deepest lakes in the world. It is more like a sea than it is a lake in that it has tides, rough and smooth water and it is slightly salty due to it only having one river outlet. The rains this year have been extremely heavy in this region so all of the water from the countries surrounding the lake, and there are many, dumps into Tanganyika. Water levels have risen exponentially causing the lake, and rivers that feed into the lake, to rise and break their banks. The beaches have disappeared under water, homes and villages nearby the lake have been inundated without much relief in sight. Thankfully, in the past week, the rains have finally started to taper off and the waiting game for the waters to recede has begun.

The tens of thousands who have been flooded out of their homes now live in absolute squallor, in makeshift camps under conditions that no human being should have to live in, waiting for someone, anyone to bring relief. Children run around in the dirt and mud, women try to cook with whatever cooking fuel they have and the men work to build shelters out of grass, plastic and any other materials they can find. There is no potable water, no toilet facilities and no food – their situation is dire. We were able to raise some money to bring care packages to 200 families last week but this little amount proved to be far from what is needed. As we were distributing the relief, it was painfully apparent that in less than a week the food would be gone and they would once again need assistance.

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While we were handing out the packages, even though covid19 has infected Burundi, there was no observing of social distancing or washing hands. How can people be expected to distance when their children are hungry and they fear being left out? How can people wash their hands when there’s no clean water? I didn’t realize that we ourselves had put ourselves at higher risk of infection until arriving on site – I simply said a prayer and carried on.

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Next week, on the 20th, as Burundi goes to the polls, there is an underlying fear of outbreaks of violence that this country/region is known for. Fear is a powerful emotion that can cause people to react violently even when there is no cause. Tempers can flare easily when a large number of people are afraid, people can react violently when they feel they are in danger. Our recourse? Dropping to our knees in prayer for these people, this nation and region that has long been the target of painful uprising and death.

This afternoon, as we do every Thursday afternoon, we have an outreach to the area surrounding our church in Bujumbura. Most of the time it is easy to step out and participate as we talk to people of the hope that is in us, that brings us to serve this nation. However, the past few weeks have been a faith-walk for me, rather than the usual exciting time of outreach. I find myself pushing hard to keep up and move forward while so much is whirling around me.

At times like this, when life presses so hard that you feel the water has gone over your head, it’s tempting to wonder (like I have) if your usefulness in your work is done or even give up. What is the use of working in the face of an ocean of need when all I have is an eyedropper to address it?

While I can’t do everything, I can do something and the small something that I can do means a lot to the one or two I have been able to reach. Many of you likely have read the story where a young child was on a seashore that was covered in starfish that had washed ashore. The child was busy throwing starfish back into the water, one at a time. A man walked up to the child and asked if the child thought he could clear the beach of all the starfish? Did it really matter? To which the child replied, it matters to this one, the one he was holding in his hand.

The needs of this world are so vast, so complex that there’s no way I’ll ever be able to meet even a fraction of them. But to the one or two I work for, it will matter. Lives matter, all lives big or small, young or old, black or white – and what I’m responsible for is doing what I can. It may just be one starfish – but to that one it might just make an eternity’s difference.

Psalm 66:12 “You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.”

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You may wonder, since covid19 is all around the world, why we are able to distribute aid and carry on working. In Burundi we have not been in lockdown during this pandemic. Our borders are closed as is our airport. Handwashing is encouraged and somehow people are trying when they can to socially distance themselves. Ours is a unique place in the world, please pray for us!

Categories
Family Minimalist Misfit Missionary Parenting Patience Perspective Thankful The little things

The Pen

One of the hardest things to do when you’re told what to do, is to do it.

My youngest daughter, Andreya, is 12 years old. She has been doing internet school with Northstar Christian Academy for three years now; she’s an excellent student and a quick learner. There are times when I watch her work that I wonder, what was I doing at her age? I think we had the four-color Bic© pens (red, blue, green and black) that were marks of being uber-cool back in the day. When those went out of style, I remember distinctly a folder called the Trapper Keeper© that only the coolest of the cool kids had in their lockers.

Needless to say I was not one of those cool kids.

Coming from an Finnish immigrant family background, we thrived on frugal living and rarely wasted precious resources on multi-color pens and fancy folders. At the time, being a first-generation Finn, I appreciated both sides of the coin. I knew Mom and Dad hated waste and thus, I managed to hide my brown-bag lunches of Finnish Rye bread with cucumbers and ham (a delicacy for me today) from the cool kids metal lunchboxes with their thermoses filled with Spaghetti-Os©. How I envied those those Spaghetti-Os©!

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Since lunch was the shortest period of the day, I usually managed to hide my lunch and remain generally unscathed from the mocking of any of my peers. It was my simple #2 pencil, blue pen and plain paper folder that got me into trouble. Why couldn’t I fit in and carry the newest and shiniest?

One evening, after a meal of thoroughly Finnish fare, I gathered the courage to ask for the coveted Bic© pen and Trapper Keeper© folder. Prepared for the worst, I steeled my nerves for the expected lecture of why we can’t buy such things. Instead, I was met with gentle explanations of why, in the middle of the school year, we just couldn’t afford to purchase new school suplies. Everything that was listed in the supply list had already been purchased, we couldn’t do anything this year…but…maybe next year.

While I was disappointed, I left the table without as much as a word knowing any pleading would then be met with sternness as my parents were “old school.” Once they said their mind, that was it and I knew it.

On the bus as I made my way to school the next day, with my plain supplies in tow, I envied all of the other kids with their brightly-colored backpacks, lunch boxes and multi-colored pens. I felt the heat rise to my cheeks when my friend Barbara once again asked why my things were so “old fashioned.” I changed the subject.

The weeks rocked on and by the second half of the year, due to the many problems these pens and folders were causing among the students, the school came out with a new set of guidelines requiring students to return to plain pens, pencils and folders. Suddenly, I was in the “in crowd” without even trying. The day this was announced in school, a collective, and painful, sigh was heard throughout the campus.

Later on that evening, at another fully-Finnish dinner complete with short, Scandinavian glasses filled with milk, I explained what had happened to my parents. I clearly didn’t think things through for upon hearing this news, they proceeded to carry on about the importance of keeping things simple for what felt like (to my 10 year old ears) an eternity. My ears only perked up when they praised me for not resisting their decision months earlier to not purchase the envied supplies.

Looking at my daughter now studying for her Science test on Ecosystems, I value the simplicity our life here in Africa gives us. She sometimes bucks the system and wishes for McDonald’s© fries and going to Claire’s© to buy tween jewelry, but she generally goes with the flow.

Thanks, Äiti and Isä (Mom and Dad) for keeping it simple. In today’s life of quarantines and closed airports, it has meant more to me than I could have ever known.

I didn’t need the pens or folders anyway.

P.S. – Andreya got a 100% on her Science test.

Categories
Choices Comfort Courage Destiny God's call Journey Missions Obedience Perspective Why

Processing The Why

My need to know sometimes gets me into trouble. I want to know why things (both good and bad) happen so I can either repeat them if they are good or avoid them if they are bad. If a situation is unexplainable, I find that to be untenable and, if I’m not careful, will spend far too much energy trying to figure out and stew over the “whys” of life.

There are some things that are beyond my knowledge. For me, that threshold is limited compared to others who have more experience, training, education and understanding. However, even those who understand more will still come to the limits of their abilities at one point or another in their lifetimes.

How can we successfully process the why?

We’ve recently returned from a trip stateside to take part in our son’s wedding. The wedding was beautiful, a perfect reflection of the happy couple. Tears were shed, we danced, ate cake, wore our best clothes and then got on a plane and said goodbye.

The trip back home from Florida, USA, to Bujumbura, Burundi was a long one. As with most missionaries, the major consideration we face when purchasing plane tickets home is price. Usually these lower priced tickets will bring you “over the river and through the woods.” There may/may not be layovers and of course we are always in economy. I do hope someday to graduate to flying at least in economy plus or more but for now we are settled into flying economy.

Flying economy for a trip a long as the one we just took requires serious patience to pass the 18 or so hours of flying time to get back home. Overnight layovers in airports and delays on our most recent trip began to take their toll and the “whys” flooded my mind once again as I stared at the small TV screen mounted on the seat in front of me. Hot tears flowed down my cheeks as I felt the sting of leaving our three older kids and their families on the other side of the world.

Why am I not allowed to see my family grow?

Why have I been required to miss so many important milestones in their lives?

Why am I not like other grandmothers who can help care for their grandchildren?

Why have I been called to spend a lifetime away?

Why, why why? Why am I slotted to be the strong one when I didn’t feel very strong?

Then, in those seemingly innumerable hours on the plane, my heart scolded me as I knew the answer to all the whys: I am impossibly tied to the will of God and for me, that has called me to live overseas in Africa. There’s nothing else that satisfies my heart and soul like living the dream God has given to us in Africa. Why it is this way is something that is “too wonderful” for me to understand.

Psalm 139:6 “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”

The only time this call pains me is when I question it; it is in my surrender that I find peace and blessing. Blessing to attend weddings, blessing to talk via FaceTime (back 35 years ago there weren’t even phones where we first landed), blessing to have the love and support of our families. In those weak moments when I don’t know why I’ve been chosen for such a sacrifice, I simply surrender. I now understand that there are some things beyond my understanding – and that is OK.

There have been times over the years when we have had opportunity to be Stateside for extended periods and each time we were away from the land of our call, the pain we felt while away was greater than the pain of the “why.” God’s call, His will, His intent for our lives is what gives joy and fulfillment that satisfies the why if we allow it to – especially when we don’t understand why.

John 13:7 “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

Categories
Offense Offering Perspective Uncategorized

Why Trouble Her?

 

Mark 14:6 “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”

I read this morning the above verse in the account of the woman anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume. If you read the entire account, Mark 14:1-9, it seems that the atmosphere at the time of her offering was charged with negativity and judgment. You know the kind that takes place obviously, but supposed to be secret? Whispering, murmuring around the room under their breath, the disciples whispering, supposing no one else is taking notice but their discontent at the situation taking place before them provoked them to overt offense, it seems almost immediately.

“Why not sell it?” The disciples queried.

“Why not give the proceeds to the poor?” A noble gesture, they reasoned must be more acceptable to God instead of this waste of expensive perfume.

No matter that the perfume was the giver’s possession to use as she felt – why did the disciples feel justified to tell her how to offer her gift? Was it not hers to give how she felt led to give it? Obviously she got something right as to this day, even today as I write about her, her offering stands tall in scripture.

She must have had something right in her heart when she offered to anoint His feet with this perfume.

I heard a preacher once say that, “God will offend your mind to reveal what is in your heart.” I’ve found that to be true in my own life on many occasions. In the case of offering, why does it bother me, who has given me the right to dictate how or what someone should give their gifts to the Lord? I might not give in the same manner as others do, however, they don’t give as I do. Ought not we celebrate the diversity we have in the family of God rather than tearing it down at every chance we get?

While the outward reasonings of the disciples might have appeared to be noble, if you go on to read the account that takes place directly after this anointing, you’ll find Judas speaking with religious leaders – getting his money in exchange for the life of the Son of God.

It seems to me Jesus had already caught Judas on other occasions taking money inappropriately from their money (Judas was their treasurer see John 12:16). It might have been this last act was too much for Judas to bear. Perhaps he felt “ripped off” when he realized Jesus wasn’t going to bestow great riches and honor on the disciples; it might be that he felt he needed an “out” in order to get what he could while “the getting was good.”

Whatever Judas’ reasoning was, it was false, and it led to his demise (Judas hung himself see Matt. 27:1-10).

Judas’ fear of missing out on what he thought was his “due,” cost him his life. Imagine what his life could have been had his desire for money not overtaken him? He could have been part of a church that “turned the world upside down” (see Acts 17:6). Instead, his drive for his “due,” to get what was owed him for his service, drove him away from an amazing possibility.

Money can always be replaced, but it’s impossible to replace our lives that are intended to be lived for the Kingdom.

So, why trouble her? The offering is hers to give.

Categories
Doubt Faith Missionary Perspective Thankful Travel Why

I Had To See Over The Trees

Earlier this year, in July to be more precise, I learned that some jewelry I had left in the USA with my son had been stolen (we live in Burundi, Africa). Together with the help of the local detective, my son located the items at a local pawn shop. After speaking with the owner and proving that the items were indeed mine and stolen, a hold was placed on them pending resolution of the case. In the meanwhile, I wrote a personal statement and sent it in to the investigating detective and waited to travel Stateside for our usual bi-yearly itineration. We were set to arrive in September and would work on collecting the jewelry at that time.

When we finally arrived in town and managed to talk to the detective face-to-face, we learned that retrieving our property would be a bit more complicated than we had originally imagined. The owner of the shop had offered to “give” us our property if we paid him $500.00. We felt such a sum was unfair and followed the detective’s advice to file papers at the courthouse to get the property returned to us. The shop owner was resolute and would not return the stolen property; we were given a date to appear before a judge just last week (October 24).

I found myself standing last Thursday morning at a podium next to the pawn shop owner before a judge. The whole process for me was nerve wracking. My husband (Jamie), who had pushed for us to get the items returned in the first place, has the emotional strength of an army. His mantra throughout the process was, “It’s not their jewelry! We are going to get it back!” I followed his lead, all the while feeling wobbly and anxious about what the actual outcome would be.

I am an Enneagram 2w1 personality for those who might be interested, it may shed light on my reaction!

Yes, the necklace and bracelet were mine, yes they were stolen and yes I wanted them back. However, I also knew that things don’t always turn out as we hope or plan and my negativity took over “helping” me to prepare for disappointment. I went so far as saying, “Let them keep it!” when the shop owner refused to return in voluntarily. Jamie would not hear of it and off we went to see the judge last Thursday.

Since the jewelry was mine, I was the one called to stand at the podium. I knew Jamie would most likely have done a better job than me in explaining the whole situation but I did my best when my account of events was called for. I kept things truthful, simple and to-the-point. There was no need for anything more or less, I reckoned, as a little part of me hoped that the right thing would happen.

When it was time for the shop owner to speak, his words were loud, coarse and shaded. The judge, while she had pity on him that he had paid $1,100.00 for the items and had lost money, had no pity on him when it came to her reminding him of the law. He had to return the jewelry to me without pay – they were mine and it was wrong, against the law, for him to keep them.

An order was written on the spot and handed to both parties ordering the shop to return the items to me free of any charge. About an hour later, I found myself wearing the necklace and bracelet, a bit embarrassed at my pessimism throughout the process.

Why did I doubt You, Lord?

Luke 19:3 NASB “Zacchaeus was trying to see who Jesus was…”

I was trying hard to see Jesus but I was just too short to see above the tree line. I thought my problem was not of any consequence; a necklace and bracelet have no value in light of the lives of the children we feed in Burundi and Malawi or the schools that we are opening. It seemed so trivial, but I hoped that somehow those unnecessary items would silently make their way home without any fuss. So, like Zacchaeus, I had to climb up just a bit higher to see Him and recognize what He was doing and just like He did for Zacchaeus, Jesus came home on Thursday to eat with me at our table – and He brought the necklace and bracelet home to me.

 

Categories
Change Courage Faithfulness Journey Missions Perspective

Things

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Things October 2019

Categories
Faithfulness Journey Missions Perspective Provision Purpose surrender

Out of the Know

I’ve been flying (literally) under the radar these past few weeks. We are traveling; giving reports and connecting with churches, friends and partners of the work in Africa. While it may sound glamorous, all of the traveling, it’s actually quite arduous. We travel in economy everywhere we go (we have been bumped up to business class twice that I can remember in our 33 years of traveling overseas) and do our best to keep costs down. This translates into lots of “making do” and cheaper meals on the go which will often give me lots of fodder for blogging.

There’s always something good that comes out of our inconvenience.

Our current route has already taken us through Belgium, the UK, Florida and now Texas. It’s a real honor to see people who we’ve connected with over the years; some have been supporting us since the year we began this amazing journey in 1987. How have we gotten this far? It’s got to be a God thing because alone we wouldn’t have made it past our first 6 months in Africa.

I’m certainly not the best, or even mediocre, theologian, expository speaker or writer that can give a more precise explanation for the wonders we have experienced. Perhaps if I had the right charisma or gifting that would naturally draw people, that could possibly explain some of what we have seen over the years – but I am hopelessly ordinary. There’s nothing about my personality that would make me stand out in a crowd, that would merit the attention of more than one or two people, those two being my husband and (maybe) one of my children.

I would describe myself as an introvert. Yes, an introvert. For those reading who know me now, you might find yourself chuckling because I can, under the right circumstances, wax loquacious. My verbose tendencies are mostly learned; perhaps I’ve learned the lesson too well. Nevertheless, even with my not-so-newfound long-winded tendencies, I am far and away from those who have become rich and famous through their communication skills.

Indeed, the past 33 years of seeing what we’ve seen can only be explained by the Unexplainable One Himself – it’s been a God thing, and He has been so good in caring for us every single day. As I see it, we’ve been given a task and as long as we have stayed committed, God has graced us to take part in the adventure of a lifetime.

My understanding of how God has brought us this far might run cross-grain to those who have to have an explanation for everything. Together with my learned speaking skills, I have learned to be comfortable with being out of the know, for there are some things that are just too wonderful,” He’s just too good for me to understand.

Job 42:3 NIV “You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not undersand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

While I might overcommunicate from time to time or keep my husband and children waiting for me as I talk with friends, I’ve learned there are just some things I need to keep my mouth shut about because they are just too wonderful. They go above my pay grade – and I’m OK with that.

So we’ll just keep doing what we are doing: planting churches, opening schools and feeding programs, working in local prisons and starting leadership academies and whatever else we’re graced to do knowing that God understands how He will get the job done. We simply have to keep ourselves on point and our eyes fixed to the task at hand because the intricacies of how to get it done are just too wonderful, and He will keep on being good.

Categories
Excuses Journey Minimalist Missionary Perspective Value

Just Wear The Necklace

I’m a minimalist. I don’t care for excess “fluff” in my house. Give me the basics; I need clean lines and easy-to-maintain surroundings. Looking around my home and through my very-much-in-need-of-an-update wardrobe, the theme “less is more” definitely stands out. What I didn’t know until recently was that minimalistic living is a “thing” these days and I am, as a minimalist, fashionable.

This news took me by surprise; never has it ever occurred to me that I would be on the fashion bandwagon. For a brief moment, very brief, I wondered what levels of fame my unintended minimalism could catapault me to. I quickly realized that I’m too minimalist to bother with the hussle and bustle required to expound on the benefits of living with just what is needed, thus my dream of minimalist fame ended.

How much do I need? Not very much at all.

Our work as missionaries in Africa has moved me to several countries, and even continents, over the years and this has forced me to live only with what I need. In our early years of missions work, I would pack as many supplies as I could to make sure we didn’t run out of things like socks, dental floss, deodorant, and Ziploc® bags. As the years have passed, I’ve needed less with each move that we have made. To date, all we need to settle into a new country is: two or three changes of clothes each, two pairs of shoes, toothbrushes, deodorant, and a set of plates and cutlery for four. Finances of course have played a major role in our need to live as simply as we have, but we’ve never lacked anything that we have needed.

This is why when, around 20 years ago, my husband purchased a beautiful gold necklace and matching bracelet for me, I struggled to wear it in public. We were in the States for the holidays (we have only made it back to be with family for the holidays a handful of times in over 30 years of missions work) and while we were out shopping, trying to buy Christmas presents for our family, he noticed me admiring a necklace and bracelet. The thought of him noticing still brings a smile to my face all these years later. Christmas morning I was stunned when first of all, he gave me a gift as we usually don’t exchange gifts. Then when I opened the beautiful box I saw the very necklace and bracelet I had admired; my heart just melted and he is still garnering points for that Christmas gift all these years later.

Yet I struggled with “what will people think” if I wore the necklace and bracelet? Any time someone complimented how beautiful they were when I wore them, I found a way to explain the blessing away. Thus the necklace and bracelet were tucked away, only to be used for special occasions such as weddings and graduation services.

In our travels, the necklace and bracelet still in the original box, remained in the States while we were in Africa. I reckoned at some point I would bring it with me as my home is here; but I still found it difficult to reckon with the idea of wearing such a beautiful piece of jewelry that I obviously didn’t need – but loved.

Two weeks ago, my son Stephen messaged me and his first words were, “Don’t worry Mom, I’m alright.” That sentence flagged me immediately; there was something unusual going on. Steve went on to explain that there had been a theft at the house and among the items lost were the necklace and bracelet. I was stunned and hot tears formed at the backs of my eyes. Thankful first of all that Steve was alright, I took pains to make sure that he wouldn’t feel guilty for the loss of the items. The last thing I wanted was for him to feel guilty for the theft, the only person who ought to feel guilty was the one who did the stealing!

The police were called, we pressed charges and after a few days we found out the person who stole from us (who has been apprehended) had also stolen from others and is likely to spend quite some time in prison. Through a series of events and help from the local detectives, my bracelet and necklace were found. Steve messaged and sent a picture of the items which I immediately identfied (I recognized the clasp that I had bent). Unfortunately, there’s a chance we will have to pay about $500.00 to retrieve them – but that they were found is a miracle in and of itself. I’m praying that another miracle will be found in God’s handbag that will save us from having to pay the $500.00.

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My necklace in the background and bracelet found by my son and the police.

Living as a minimalist has its definite pros that have helped me move from place to place with less stress, but I had allowed my thinking of living with less to translate into feeling ashamed. I was ashamed, felt as if I didn’t deserve or as if people wouldn’t understand why I, a missionary, could have something as beautiful as the necklace and bracelet.

When they were stolen, I mourned their loss and thought, “Why did I have them anyway?” And just like that, I let them go internally, knowing they would never be recovered. All the while as I was talking myself out of ever seeing them again, a small voice scolded me saying, “Why didn’t you enjoy them while you had them? Why can’t God bring them back to you?”

You see God isn’t a thief (John 10:10), He didn’t give me those two pieces of jewelry for them to sit in a drawer and then be stolen. He gave them to me to enjoy them, for them to serve as a reminder of how much my husband cares for and values me. How had I come to devalue myself as I had?

I will keep living with just what I need; I don’t need very much and don’t want to be bothered with so much stuff that I spend more time caring for what I have than for the people in my life. God is interested in people, they are what He values (John 3:16) but sometimes He will bless us with something we don’t need just to remind us that He’s Dad and loves to surprise us like that.

We will travel Stateside for a time of travel, itinerating, and reporting on the work here and while we are there we will work on retrieving that beautiful necklace and bracelet. There’s one thing that is for sure, when we finally do retrieve them –

I’ll wear the necklace.

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My necklace when it was recovered. I think I’ll wear it!