The Profile of a Missionary

I have always struggled with wanting life to be perfectly scheduled, tasks lined up in neat little rows, each with its checkmark to the left. I turn my canned goods so that the labels face the same way; my clothes are divided by type, then subdivided by color. I like order, neatness, predictability. Everything needs to be just right. My husband marvels that I ended up a missionary to a third-world country; I definitely don’t fit the profile.

In college, my goal was to have a perfect 4.0 GPA. I spent long hours studying and managed to scrape by with all A’s each semester, with a few close calls in some of my tougher classes. I stayed up late and got up early, took copious notes, and labored over endless projects. And it was paying off…I had a perfect 4.0. I wanted to earn an award for academic excellence at graduation; to stand on the stage with the 5 or 6 graduates each year that managed to earn all A’s. I just knew I could do it…

Enter “Strings 101.” My junior year, I decided to take a “fun class” for one of my electives; I wanted to learn to play the violin. I was thrilled at the possibility of learning a new instrument and eagerly anticipated the class each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It would be a break from Shakespeare, Advanced Grammar and Composition, and Introduction to Spanish Literature. The only grades given in the class were for “playing exams.” We would play a piece for the instructor four separate times during the semester and she would grade our performance.

Well, the end of the semester arrived, grades were distributed, and I discovered to my horror that I had earned my first and only B in Strings 101. I talked with the instructor to be sure there was no mistake—she assured me that she had checked my average several times to be sure, because I had fallen short of the coveted A by 1/10 of a point. I could not believe it. I had aced World Drama, Latin American Literature, and Creative Writing only to earn a B for playing “Hot Cross Buns.” I was sick.

Looking back, I know the Lord was teaching me a hard lesson about humility and the futile pursuit of perfection. He knew what was coming down the road: a perfectionist living in a world of constant power outages, dirt roads, parasites, cow stomach soup, and muddy tap water. Something had to give.

I thank the Lord that He gave me peace about my grade, and I learned to enjoy my college experience for what it was. I focused on the joy of learning instead of my GPA, and was much happier for it.

Just a few months ago (almost 8 years after my infamous violin class), I got an unexpected letter in the mail.

You may remember me, perhaps by my maiden name _______. You were in my strings class. You were taking the violin, I remember. You came to meet with me after the semester to ask about your grade. Christine, you don’t realize how many times since then I have regretted not bumping up your grade...I spoke with one of the other teachers after our meeting and she shared that in a class like that, those taking it for personal enjoyment and benefit don’t need to be graded as hard as those who are taking it for their music major or minor….I know there is nothing I can do about it at this point. But I was so thankful to get your address so I could write you to explain and apologize and seek your forgiveness….

There was nothing to forgive…the Lord had used that instructor to teach me a valuable lesson about life. No, I don’t fit the “missionary profile.” I don’t have a small army of kids, I don’t always feel ready for adventure, and I still cringe a little if I have to bathe from a bucket or find a tarantula in my living room. But thank goodness the Lord doesn’t “profile.” He simply uses those of us who step up and volunteer.

Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. --I Thessalonians 5:24

Angie's Story

I met Angie in March of 2005, just a couple of months after our arrival to Honduras. I thought she was a little boy at first glance. Her skinny brown legs dangled from a pair of oversized boy's soccer shorts. She was peeling a mango with a huge kitchen knife, adding yet another stain to her once white tank top.



She trusted Christ as her Savior at Bible Club a few weeks later, and her two older brothers soon followed. As I got to know Angie and her family, I found out why she dressed like a boy and ran wild. Her mother had abandoned her, along with her brothers, when Angie was only 6 months old. Her mother lives on the other side of Progreso with her "new family" and sees her neglected children maybe once a year. Angie lived with her dad at the time; although he works hard to support his family, he doesn't spend much time with his kids.



Angie's dad married later that year, and everyone was excited that Angie would have a "new mother." But after a few months, it became apparent that Angie's stepmom wanted little to do with her. "She's not MY daughter!" she insisted, preferring to shower her attention on her own two little ones. Angie and her two brothers were sent to live with their grandmother.



Angie comes to stay with us now and then, usually for a short time. Once she stayed for a couple of weeks. I tried to help her with personal hygiene and manners, since she tends to be a little rough around the edges. One of my favorite memories with Angie was the time I spent three hours delousing her hair, then took her for her first real haircut at the salon. I had them give her a cute little bob (vainly hoping to prevent the lice from coming back) and blow it dry. She had never had her hair blown dry before; she giggled and squirmed all the way through it, claiming it tickled. But she loved the attention and paraded around like a little princess in her new hairstyle and feminine clothes.



One day I noticed that when Angie is at our house, she cannot stand to not know where Robbie is. If he's studying a sermon in his office, I constantly have to distract her and make sure she doesn't sneak in there to visit him. She wants him to come climb trees with her in the backyard; she wants to show him the mango she picked; she wants to give him a picture she colored. He loves spending time with her, but it hurts both of our hearts to see her crying out for a father's attention. She so desperately needs to be loved and appreciated. There is something about the relationship with a little girl and her daddy. Robbie and I pray often that Angie will not go down the road that so many neglected little girls have gone before her; it terrifies me to think one day she might call and tell me she's run off with a boy or that she's pregnant. It takes a special miracle for a young lady like Angie to stay pure; that need for a father's attention runs so deep.



Every one of us is born with a deep longing for a Father's love. There is a special void in our hearts that only He can fill. We may become distracted at times, neglecting our relationship with Him. But that longing is never fully satisfied by anything or anyone else. We ache for His love until we return to His arms, with a sigh of relief and satisfaction.



What a joy to know that the many we see aching and struggling around us can know that same peace and fulfillment in our Father's arms! And what a privilege it is that we can tell them the way.

Me and my girls at a Mother/Daughter Banquet in May. Angie is wearing pink and white stripes.

A Bridge Called Democracy

Life on the mission field is always a little crazy; there really is no "normal day" here, it seems. This summer has been especially eventful, with a giant earthquake and an ousted president. I especially enjoyed an article written by our partner Matt, linking the two events.


A Bridge Called “Democracy”
By Matt Goins, missionary in Honduras



The dividing line between the departments of Cort├ęs and Yoro in Honduras is the Ulua River, one of the largest rivers in the country. In order to pass from one department to the other, one must cross the Ulua River over El Puente La Democracia, the Democracy Bridge. The eastbound lane of the Democracy Bridge was destroyed by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and reconstructed with the help of Japan. The Democracy Bridge is vital to the infrastructure of Honduras, providing access to the entire north coast.

On May 28, 2009, an earthquake that registered 7.1 on the Richter scale shook the country of Honduras. The other half of the old bridge traversing the Ulua collapsed; but the Democracy Bridge, though damaged, stands firm, keeping the lifeline to the northern coast of Honduras open. Though the swirling currents of the murky Ulua push against it below, the Democracy Bridge still offers free passage to all points north.

The Democracy Bridge offers us a portrait of the state of Honduran Democracy today. This Democracy has been damaged by the events of Sunday, June 28; but contrary to popular opinion, Democracy still stands, fighting against the current of world opinion that swirls around it. As Rep. Connie Mack of Florida stated, "There is little doubt that Zelaya, in his blatant power grab, has moved Honduras down a dangerous path toward less freedom, less security, and less prosperity. ... The United States and our allies in the region must now stand with the Honduran people to ensure the respect of freedom, the rule of law and democracy.” If left unsupported and unrepaired, the Democracy will fall, leaving behind a disaster area that will isolate an entire region, a blow from which this needy nation may never recover. Just ask Cuba.


Widowmaker

One of the big adjustments I knew I would have to make in moving to Honduras was not having hot water. Very few houses here have hot water heaters, and even if we wanted to add one, the plumbing was not set up for it; only one pipe ran to each sink and shower.
Washing dishes in cold water did seem strange at first, but we use a different kind of dishwashing soap; it’s an abrasive paste instead of a liquid, and it is quite a bit stronger. Then after washing and rinsing the dishes, I soak them in a bleach solution to disinfect them, especially since our running water is not pure enough to drink and can contain parasites.

In our bathroom, we have installed a strange-looking contraption in the shower. A big plastic box with wires connects to a shower head and a long tube. This device is called a widow-maker. It causes the water to be heated through an electrical current. The first models were not very safe (hence the intimidating name), but they have been improved over the years. The higher the pressure, the less it heats the water; but if we open the tap only a little, the water can get quite warm. We’ve actually discovered an advantage to this system as well: we never run out of hot water (unless the electricity is out).

Of course, there are many days that the heat is so intense, we simply shut off the widow-maker and opt for a cold shower. I always grin when people exclaim, “You don’t have hot water!?!” Believe me, in a tropical climate, I’ve discovered that you don’t miss it much at all.

I think that’s the way it is for us children of God so many times. We think it’s going to be so very difficult to follow the Lord wholeheartedly. We keep ourselves back from doing His will, thinking of what we will miss, of what we will have to give up. And so many times, if we will just take that step of faith, we will later realize that making the sacrifice was not nearly as difficult as we imagined. We never miss those silly little things we were so worried about losing!

Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path. --Psalm 27:11

Keeping it real

Over the past few days, Robbie and I have been glued to the TV, watching reports of protests and demonstrations from other cities in Honduras, listening to speeches made in the UN, hearing remarks by the US State Department. We’ve each written several reporters, analysts, and newspaper editors, describing what’s going on here and hoping to see more accuracy reflected in the media. If we aren’t in front of the TV, we are at the computer. We have researched to find articles that correctly describe the events in Honduras; we have forwarded those reports to our family, friends, and supporters, sometimes adding our own comments as well. We’ve also been on the phone quite a bit, trying to make tough decisions about whether to stay or leave. Do we all go? Do we all stay? Should Robbie stay to guard the house and send me and Claire back? We’ve called our parents, our pastor, the US embassy, veteran missionaries, and Hondurans that work for the government. On Monday night, after a long, stressful day, we decided that we would do something besides watch current events. “Let’s turn the TV off for awhile and try to relax.” It didn’t happen. I don’t know if we qualify for addicts or zombies at this point.

Right in the middle of all this madness, my two-year-old daughter came twirling through the living room. She had put on her Cinderella dress-up gown and was singing at the top of her lungs, “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” She pulled Robbie to his feet, exclaiming, “I want to dance with my prince!” The Prince, of course, couldn’t resist, so together they spun around the living room. Oh, to be two years old again and live in a dream world, I thought.

But then again, whose point of view was “realistic”? Why was I stressed and worried? Who is in control? Am I not a princess, too? A daughter of the King? Am I not in the center of God’s will, the safest place to be? I decided I needed a “dose of reality” myself. So together we danced around the living room, laughing and singing. Perfect peace. Right in the middle of the storm.

Whatsoever things are true,…think on these things. –Philippians 4:8

Did we sign up for this?

Whoever said following God's will was boring sure never tried it! This past week in Honduras has been especially eventful. Our leftist president Manuel Zelaya was awoken early Sunday morning and arrested while still in his pajamas. Rather than face trial for charges of violating the Constitution, embezzlement of government funds, and drug-trafficking, he opted for exile and was immediately flown out of the country.

What happened in Honduras on Sunday was NOT a coup. President Mel Zelaya had illegally taken action to discard Honduras's Constitution so that a new one could be written, a move that would allow him to join the ranks of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and Evo Morales, Latin-American leaders who are no longer limited by terms.Honduran Congress followed a strictly legal process to arrest the President (who opted to be flown out of the country in exhile rather than face trial), cast votes for his removal from power, and swear in the leader of the National Congress, who is constitutionally next in line.

The following article lists in detail Zelaya's illegal actions and their aftermath:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124623220955866301.html

Now our former lefist president has the backing of the international community. While the vast majority of Hondurans rejoice in the grand exit of a possible dictator, the outside world clamors for his return. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Hugo Chavez, and Fidel Castro all call for Zelaya's reinstitution. Honduras alone has bravely resisted while many other Latin American countries have succumbed to socialist regimes. The furtherance of the gospel and the freedom of foreign missionaries is at stake in Honduras.


On a more personal level, we've been largely house-bound since Sunday afternoon. We hurried back from church because of a curfew that began at noon to limit violent protests and keep the streets safe. There were some violent protests in our city (by the estimated 20% of the population that still support Mel) that escalated Monday and Tuesday, resulting in the demonstrators taking control of the bridge and blocking all traffic. This move cut us off completely from the airport--now we couldn't leave if we wanted to! Police gained back control of the bridge later that evening; the curfew has been from 6PM-9AM for this week. For that reason, we had to cancel Wednesday night church services, but encouraged our members to meet for family devotions and prayer for Honduras.

It feels like we are in the eye of the storm...there are protests going on, but we can avoid the downtown areas where they occur. The real problem will be if Zelaya does as he says and returns to Honduras on Saturday, we could have a real problem on our hands. The new President Micheletti has promised to meet him with arrest warrants in hand; Hugo Chavez has declared that he will send troops if needed to overthrow the new goverment. We are praying for peace and for the triumph of democracy. God is in control!

Deciding to blog

I was asked several months ago about starting a blog, but I wasn't all that interested for several reasons. One, I thought I didn't have time. Two, I didn't know who else would have time or interest to actually read it.

But as I have reflected on it over the past few months, I decided that it might be a good idea after all. Being a missionary wife/mom in Honduras, I thought that maybe I could make the mission field "real" for someone. Missions can be romanticized so easily; real life missions can be very different from what one might imagine. So by recording daily events and life here in Honduras, maybe I can share a little of this great adventure called God's will that has led us to this small, poor Central American country.

I pray that it will be a blessing and will bring glory only to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
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