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Choices Church planting Destiny Dreams God's call Missions Obedience The Call of God

No Fine Print

The notion of living and working overseas can be thrilling – and it is thrilling. There’s nothing like living in a foreign land and seeing God start something from nothing. I’ve seen churches planted, leaders trained, schools established, children fed, many miracles too numerous to recount, and as the years have gone by, I’ve watched my own family grow and change.

When I first stepped off the plane in 1987, I imagined my life would turn out one way: that we would see miracles and our work would take off like the Space Shuttle from Cape Canaveral. While dreaming for an amazing takeoff was what we had hoped for, it wasn’t what we experienced.

No one told me that it would take years to learn languages and culture.

No one told me that it would take years to see 14 churches planted.

No one told me that this call would require me to surrender everything I had.

Little of what I experienced was part of the actual plan I had formulated in my head.

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It seems that this life that we have chosen, that many have chosen before us, never comes with any “fine print” to read. There is no full disclosure, no rigid job description, nor is there any guarantee of what this world would consider to be success. The only promise we have is that God will be with us.

I’ve been reading of the exodus of Israel from Egypt the past few days during my morning devotions and I’ve noticed there’s a common thread woven among those who accept “God assignments.” Moses was originally sent on a mission to deliver God’s people from Egypt, his original assignment was to deliver God’s people from Pharoah’s rule (Acts 7:35). There was nothing in the fine print of the original call that said he would, subsequent to delivering God’s people, have to not only lead them beyond the exodus but into a relationship with God as He gave instructions for the tabernacle and all associated sacrifices and procedures. Moses simply began with what he knew and then the doors of God’s will kept opening before him – and he walked through them one by one.

While he was far from perfect, the one thing that qualified Moses is the same thing that qualifies anyone who dares to say “yes” when God calls: fierce obedience. This kind of obedience moved Moses to leaving life as he knew it behind and into a walk of the unknown. He saw God work miracles, part waters, and speak with Him face-to-face as a friend (Exodus 33:11). He also experienced many trials: leading an unruly people, separation from his wife and children, jealousy, strife, and even attempted takeovers. The only expectation Moses had from God was that God’s presence accompany them – he knew that if God was with him and the people, they would make it to whatever destination God had in mind.

Exodus 33:14,15 NKJV My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. Then he said to Him, ‘If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.'”

All of us long to see the extreme blessings we read about or hear of, we want to see the dead raised and miraculous provision, but dare we live in the way required to see the seas part? Are we really that radical?

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Bible reading Choices Church planting Devotion Goals God's Word Kingdom Missions Perspective Serving The Call of God

Hello

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Immersion. That’s a word you don’t hear often.

In the context of missions, it is the best way to learn language, culture, and the discipline required to acquire both. While becoming fluent evades some, the simple effort to communicate in the local language is appreciated by those we live with. I don’t remember ever being berated in Africa for saying something incorrectly; I’ve always been met with smiles and appreciation for the little effort made to learn to say “hello.”

I had never, in all of my days, thought that I would speak more than 2 languages: English and Finnish (my parents are from Finland and I grew up speaking Finnish at home). I also didn’t know how speaking 2 languages from the get-go would help me learn 5 more languages. My mind was already accustomed to working between 2 languages; adding another 1 or even 5 wouldn’t be impossible.  Yes, you read that correctly: 5 more languages. I studied all of them but became fluent in 3 of the 5. Since our return to Burundi last month, I’ve been working on my Kirundi that I studied in 1991 when we first moved here to plant a church. In 2000 we moved away and as a result, I lost the bit of Kirundi I had learned. However, now that we are back, I’m finding myself speaking more in Kirundi than ever before – I’ve been immersed! Just give me another year to practice and I’ll not only be slightly conversational, I will speak fluently.

Learning the culture of any people group comes from learning language, for culture is deeply intertwined in language. Just think of how differently English is spoken in different places around the world! Years ago in Zambia, my husband was preaching in our church on a Sunday morning. He attempted to tell a joke, which often backfires here as what we may think is funny, often falls flat.  What is funny to us from the USA is often incomprehensible here in Africa. The same holds true for African humor versus Western humor. We often don’t see what’s funny to the other! However, on this particular Sunday, Jamie (my husband) was rewarded with not only a laugh from the crowd but an addendum to the joke. The joke went like this as he said:

“It has been said that the British invented English, but it’s the Americans who perfected it.”

From the crowd, we heard the following:

“And the Zambians ruined it!”

Roars of unexpected laughter filled the place – I’ll never forget it. Why was it so funny? Well, you’d have to hear Zambians speak English to appreciate how funny it was.

Culture and language, they go hand in hand and if we can’t learn to pick up on their cues we risk being effective wherever in the world we find ourselves.

Becoming fluent in language and culture came (and is still coming after nearly 31 years of learning) through being immersed, there is no shortcut, no second option. It’s the only way to leap over the barrier that separates me from those I’m serving and it’s a barrier that must be overcome. Living among the people we serve and being forced, as it were, to communicate with them and learn the ebbs and flows of the culture is enabling me to communicate through a filter they will understand. It’s an extremely frustrating season for anyone serving in a culture foreign to their own – but it’s what we came here for. We didn’t come to bring American language and culture to Africa. We came to Africa to bring Kingdom culture to those we touch. The onus to change how we communicate is on us, not on those around us (see Acts 17:16-21 when Paul was ministering at Athens).

The same principle holds true in Kingdom culture and language. The more we immerse ourselves in the culture and language of the Kingdom of God, the more fluent and comfortable we will become. His cultural cues become increasingly engrained in us as we spend time studying His language, His Word. The more effort we put into learning His ways and language, the more we will get out of our relationship with Him. As time passes we find ourselves needing less interpretation of what He is trying to tell us – because we’re familiar with His voice, His language, His culture.

I arrived early this morning for another bit of Kingdom culture immersion as I sat down to read my Bible, pray, and spend time with God, my Father, who is also the King of the Kingdom I serve. I began as I do every morning when I sit down with Him:

“Hello, Dad.”

He was quick to respond:

“Hello daughter, I’ve been waiting for you.”

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God's Word Words

What Did You Say?

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“What did you say?”

If I heard my mother utter those words when I was a child, I knew that the rest of my day, or longer, was in imminent danger. I knew that I’d better find a very good answer to deflect the lecture my mother had already prepared in her mind ( I think she had files and files of them). She had this way of unleashing a verbal thrashing for speaking out of turn that I have never been able to duplicate in my life as a parent.

The worst thing I could say in such a situation was to actually repeat my usually sarcastic remark. Sometimes, if I had indeed dared to repeat myself, mom would ask again, “What did you say?” As if she was giving me another moment to reconsider my decision. I would come to myself and correct my words, fumbling around using some poor excuse such as, “What I meant was…”

No, you never wanted to cross my mother with your words. It didn’t matter that we lived in the USA, a nation that prides itself with everyone having the right to “freedom of speech.” Yes, I was foolish enough once to say to her that “freedom of speech” was my right as an American.

Those encounters with my mother taught me that freedom isn’t meant to be used thoughtlessly. Words are powerful: they can build up, tear down, create curiosity, defeat hope, and express either love or hate. How we use the power of words is our choice.

News comes and goes; from day to day we will hear the good, the bad, and the ugly. Unfortunately, with the proliferation of technology, we have access to bad news more than we do good news since bad news has a way of spreading like wildfire. Whenever I look at the news online or scan a social media feed, there is so much negativity being spread around – I wonder where are all the believers with the Good News? I know there are good things happening around the world – I see them here in Malawi daily. How have we gotten so wrapped up in the negativity of the day when we carry within us the Hope of the world? When we aren’t careful with what we say, we unleash the power of our words negatively.

Mark 11:23 NKJ For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.”

If all we speak is negativity, sarcasm, and cynicism the result will be negative, sarcastic, and cynical. I submit that we hear enough of all of that already – why not come into agreement with what God says instead? There’s power in agreeing with Him and His Word.

Matthew 18:19 NKJ “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.”

Popular opinion sways us very easily; God’s opinion, we acknowledge, is good but the situation on the ground “needs our voice.” I submit that our mountains, the troubles of our lives, this world, need to hear our voice as well. Our mountains need to know that their future is to be “swimming with the fishes” because we don’t have time to scale them, better they be removed than waste our time and energy climbing them.

Malachi 3:16 NKJ “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name.”

We all know this world is in deep trouble. Every day brings a new crisis, an new rumour, a new scandal. Those troubles need to be talked about by us but in the right way – in a way that causes God to take notice of our words and actually record them. I doubt many of the words we speak about our world lately have been worthy of notation by God!

When we receive Christ, we are really free from the rules of speech that govern this world. In Christ we are free to bless and give Heaven’s viewpoint. In so doing, God takes notice. Hebrews 3:13 says that we should spend our time “exhorting one another.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines exhort as “to urge, advise, or warn earnestly.” Exhortation takes on a different form in light of this. True freedom of speech comes when we allow ourselves to speak Heaven’s viewpoint. God takes note of these words and soon, we’ll find mountains flattened and valleys brought high as He makes His way plain for all the world to see.

Isaiah 40:4,5 NKJ “Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

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