The Balance

A missionary, or any expatriate for that matter, will always have the task of living and working where they’ve created their home and maintaining the friendships and family who live elsewhere.  It’s a balance, but one to which we all adapt.

The tension of that balance always changes, just a bit, whenever a furlough is coming up or ending or when one is leaving the field.  One has to be careful to not allow preparations for the trip/change to cause one to disconnect earlier than they should.

I’ll confess, we were so busy at the end of our furlough – packing trunks, the kids finishing their semester at school, Josiah wrestling for school, a trip to Portugal, celebrating birthdays, a final visit with our church in Wood River, celebrating Christmas early and multiple other things that I even commented to my mom that our busy-ness was covering over the emotion of saying good-bye.

But now we’re back in Nampula.  We’ve been home for 3 weeks and 3 days.  The trunks we carried over with us are unpacked, gifts have been given, the kids are back in school and Dan is teaching.  It’s all rather normal.

And yet . . . because we are transitioning to Portugal it’s not normal.

I just unpacked and yet now I’m entering the sorting and packing stage again.

  • I’m putting some books on the shelves and putting others in boxes to send to Portugal.
  • We’re pulling out toys obtained on furlough and deciding what old toys we will not take with us.
  • We purchased a new washing machine (since ours broke) but are pricing the furniture we’re going to sell.

Our kids have embraced their pets but we’ve discovered the two we’d hoped to take with us can’t go afterall and therefore have discussed who could be their new owners when we have to give them up.  Our doberman who we didn’t plan to take has already gone to his new home.

We’re preparing the paperwork we need to apply for our residence visas in Portugal but also have to renew our residence visas for Mozambique.

It’s a balance.   To fully engage with our lives and friends and relationships here while preparing for the transition.  To not let the work or anticipation of that transition distract us from living and working here.

Trusting for the grace to maintain the balance!

Good News

I have had classes the last three days.  All of them went very well, however the classes I had with Albino and Narcissio, who work in Chalaua, brought very good news.
First, Narcissio planted two churches while we were in the States.  Very exciting!
Second, together both men went to a area where there was no Christian presence; in fact it was a highly Islamic area.  They set out, with some concern for their safety, but trusted (in God) that no matter what took place they would be brave and not give up.  They joyfully told of how several people came to know the Lord and thus a small church is there now.  I was very excited to here this.
The third thing we talked about was the training they had been doing with others.   They continued to hold their Saturday class with ministers and church leaders providing training and discipleship.  I, again was very pleased to hear this news.
Finally, they talked about how the existing church gotten together and came up with a plan to help widows.  Twice a year everyone would give some offering of food, what every they could spare, and that would be distributed to those in need.  Again, what a joy it was to hear about this.
Why was I pleased?  Why was there such joy in hearing this good news?   It’s more than simply that it is good news but rather because they are doing exactly what we have talked about for years.   They are living as Christ lived.  We have studied together for over six years.  They are showing maturity and coming up with answers to problems facing the church. They are leading and developing others.  They are not perfect, but they are willing.  God is using them in a mighty way.
As I reflected on what they had told me I again reflected on what has been going on in Netia (see the blog entitled brick “oven”) I came to feel a deep peace about leaving these guys in a few months.  The time is right.

Our kids’ furlough through pictures – pt 5

Don’t ask how we managed to go an entire furlough and not have a solid picture of Karunia with any of her grandparents but somehow that happened.  Still a solid part of her furlough was time spent with them; whether playing games or eating out or going to the Nutcracker or a cupcakery or getting a manicure she enjoyed their company and conversation.

Another highlight of this furlough for Karunia was the expanded social circle.  She carried a phone, babysat for non-family members, not only went to church camp, but also headed to FL with the Owensboro high school group and flew to Oklahoma (with Josiah) for a Third Culture Kid camp.   She attended youth group weekly, sat with the adults on several occasions (though not all) and started her first year of high school.

We realize, if we keep the same furlough schedule, then by the time we take our next furlough she may or may not be with us (depending on whether she chooses to do university in the States or in Portugal).   It’s a sobering thought.  But let’s not fast forward time and instead enjoy the pictures of the present.

Our kids’ furlough through pictures – pt 4

As I type through this series of posts, “Our kids’ furlough through pictures” I realize we don’t take enough pictures.  While I’ve managed to pull enough of each of the kids so far, it was really difficult to find the highlight pictures of Asher’s furlough.  I’ve missed all pictures of his two weeks at church camp in which he was a camper.  I’ve missed pictures of his week of soccer camp, his swim lessons, his participation in flag football for school, his Sunday “God Spot” class at Owensboro Christian, and acknowledgment that he was Student of the Month at school (I can’t remember if that was October or November).

He had a good furlough.  School started a touch rough for him but he had great teachers and things turned around after a bit.  In all honesty the turning point was the school’s fall fundraiser.  Asher came home so excited to sell trash bags and boy did he sell!

He enjoyed playing with several friends in my parents’ neighborhood and overall  made some good memories!

Enjoy the pictures of Asher.  And if you missed the other posts in this series feel free to check them out:   pt 1pt 2pt 3.


A Brick “Oven”

I, Dan, spent Friday in a mud brick church with a thin tin roof and 519 other people.  The mud bricks and tin roof provided a perfect environment for the heat of the day to get trapped inside and make me boil.  But what ended up catching my attention was not the heat or the number of people.

What I ended up understanding was how we are all part of a movement of God.
Let me go back a few weeks.
You see, each year, Netia has each church in the district send in their annual reports.  After that, they hold an annual conference where representatives from each church can further share what happened in the previous year.   As churches started to send in these reports the leadership found some “inflated” attendance numbers.   To clarify things they began visiting each church to discover how many actual baptized, active believers were in attendance.  Yesterday was the conference and these real numbers were discussed.
Yesterday, as they talked about the actual baptized, active members in their district they found that there are 4,717 people who are baptized and actively involved within the churches.  As one of the leaders said, “In 2005 there were 8 Churches of Christ.  Today there are 83 Churches.”  WOW!!!
I then got up to preach (I was the second preacher of the day).

So I encouraged them:

  • To look at/reflect on what has taken place over the years.
  • To see a movement of the Holy Spirit.
  • To see that all this work was done without receiving money from America to pay preachers, without receiving money from America to build church buildings (there was one gift to help with one church).
  • To see that I was not the cause of the growth, nor were the leaders there, but this was done through and by the power of God.
I encouraged them not to stop, but to think beyond their own district and to move into areas where the language may be the same but the dialect is different.  I encouraged them to move into areas where there may be some different cultural habits.  I encouraged them to look at new ways of evangelizing these different dialect/culture groups.
I am so thankful that God has let me be part of what He did and is doing with these churches in Netia.

Our kids’ furlough through pictures – pt 3

I’ll be honest, if any of our children were going to struggle with their time in the States it’d have been Esperansa.  She’s our one shy child and also our most sensitive.  She cried several times before we headed to the States because although she did want to see grandparents she didn’t want to leave her friends here.

I’m pleased to say she had a great furlough.  The summer was lots of fun with many wonderful experiences (getting to know her cousins, camp and VBS, her own overnight camp, soccer camp and just good family fun).  Then school started and things only got better.  She loved school and quickly made several friends.  She participated in the Runner’s Club, learned a ton, and enjoyed the extras like library and music.  She also appreciated Sunday school class and making friends at the churches in Wood River, Owensboro and Jasper, all of whom we saw fairly regularly.

The end of furlough was rather traumatic for Esperansa.  Just as there were tears over going to the States, there were tears over leaving the States to return to Mozambique.  Enjoy the pictures and perhaps also say a prayer for her.  She’s really enjoying the reconnection with a few friends here but she’s still missing her friends there and the tears still come fairly easily.

Dan’s Thoughts and Reflections

It was so good to touch down on African soil again!  The excitement of returning to Mozambique was a strong emotion.

I do not see things through rose colored glasses and knew that with our return would come the stresses of living in an impoverished area where survival is the daily driving force in people’s lives.  Surviving hunger, illness, spiritual oppression, the daily grind….the list can go on.  However, for me, there is joy in returning here.  Joy because I know the last 9 years of work have not been in vain.  Even with the various setbacks that happened over the years, coming back after an 8 month furlough has had me reconnecting with students and friends who truly want to serve Jesus.  People whose lives have been changed by the power of Christ.  Imperfect people who struggle to survive hunger, illness, spiritual oppression and the daily grind….but are still trying to be agents of transformation where they live, work, and survive.  Friends who we will soon say goodbye to as we move to a new ministry in Portugal.

So, I find myself reflecting a lot these days:

  • Reflecting how to best empower my students to continue to grow once we are gone.
  • Reflecting on how much I will not miss the bad roads and the illness.
  • Reflecting on how much God has done.
  • Reflecting on how important working with the “poor” has been in my walk with Jesus.

Working with the “poor” has made my relationship with Jesus and understanding of Him so much fuller.  It has transformed the way I see the world.

I must say my biggest concern in leaving Mozambique is losing a connection with the “poor.”  I am compelled to make sure our ministry in Portugal not only includes the middle to upper middle class, our target group, but also those who are economically poor.

I still have so much more to learn from those in “poverty.”  They are rich in so many other ways….