Resting and Trusting . . . His timing not Ours

This post referenced the inter-connectedness between our search for a house and getting the kids’ schooling registrations finalized.  Within a week an half we had two houses to choose between.  Both could work but house #1, though in the necessary neighborhood for school choice #1 was a touch small (no real space for kids to play, particularly if adults are also being entertained) and in the smaller complex.  House #2 seemed a better fit for our family needs and had space for friends to gather but wasn’t in the necessary neighborhood.

We felt so strongly about the school choice for Karunia we were willing to squeeze into house #1 and make it work IF she could be in that school.  We didn’t want to squeeze in there if the kids weren’t able to get into that school.  We only needed to hear one way or the other from the school.

And that was our prayer . . . to hear something  . . .

Yet no answer came . . over and over the school told us to wait a bit longer.  On the 30th the school finally told us we’d have to wait all the way until September for a firm answer.

We knew we couldn’t wait that long for a housing decision so we stepped forward and made an offer (rental) on house #2 – the one we felt a better fit for our family and ministry but wasn’t in the school district .  Part of the negotiation was we’d offered to pay 1 year up front in exchange for a significantly lower per month rental price.  Our offer was accepted the afternoon of the 30th.  We were very excited.

Though contracts were to be signed on Saturday, August 2nd, we went ahead and wired the money to our landlord’s account, a full year paid, the next day, the morning of the 31st.

So guess what happened that afternoon . . . . . at 4pm we receive a call from the school . . . they have room for both Karunia and Josiah.

We wrestled with this timing.  Had we made the wrong decision – had we chosen the wrong house?  We wondered if we should somehow backpedal and try to get out of the deal – afterall we hadn’t yet technically signed contracts.  But we had sent money – an entire year’s worth!

And then I simply had to rest in the decision.  I felt a peace – trusting that the Lord must have held back notice from the school until this time.  I must trust that He either wanted us in this house and this complex or He wanted the boys in the other school (or both).  Afterall, had we heard from the school on the 30th  – that they school had space – then we’d have chosen the other house.  For that matter, if we’d heard from the school on the morning of the 31st, before sending the money and paying the year then we could have pulled out of our agreement.  But we didn’t hear until “too late.”

His timing – not ours. We trust and rest in the peace that He guided our decision and held back an answer from the school until after our decision was made for a reason.  We pray the resulting decision brings Him glory.

——————

PS – Josiah (and Asher) will attend a different school.  For this year (which was the most important reason for wanting this school) Karunia can still take the opening they offered her with our colleague, who lives in the correct neighborhood, serving as her educational representative/overseer.

Generous Generosity!

Living in Mozambique we are well aware of how wealthy we are compared to our neighbors.  We have a roof over our heads and clothes to wear.  Our kids do not miss meals.  They own the books they need for school and toys to entertain them.  We purchase the medicines needed when ill without having to borrow from every neighbor or do without because we can’t afford it.

God calls us to be generous.  We’re called to care for the poor and watch out for those in need.  We’re told that in caring (or not caring) for the “least of these” we’re caring (or not caring) for Christ Himself (Matt 25:35-45).

Perhaps living here, among poverty, should make that easier.  There certainly is plenty of opportunity to look out for the poor.  There are daily opportunities to be generous.

God has allowed us to give to beggars.  We’ve been able to offer some help for the needs around us.  With the amazing generosity of our supporting churches and IDES we could help organize famine relief projects.  God has been glorified.

Yet now, this area is one in which I’m really feeling challenged.

Am I generous?

God has called us to be generous because He is the most generous.  He gave His son – for me.  I want to be generous as He has shown.  I want to show/extend that generosity to others . . . to love them as myself.  I’m not stingy or ungenerous necessarily, but am feeling the challenge that I need to be more generous than I am.  And I’m sorting through what that looks in a more concrete form.

Which leads me to explain the title of this post.

I’m not sure if it’s grammatically correct to use an adjective to describe it’s related noun, but there is no other way to describe our brothers and sisters within the Netia church.

If you read this earlier post then you know we said good-bye to those in Netia last Monday, the 16th.  Though the churches as a whole gave Dan a gift of appreciation, it was then opened up that others might offer individual gifts if they wanted.

We live among a poor people and yet the outpouring of love, demonstrated by their giving, was amazing.  For those who have so little to be sacrificially generous – giving out of their little to bless and love on us was overwhelming.

It was an overwhelmingly generous generosity!  I’ll share pictures of some of the tangible gifts we received but that wasn’t their only means of generosity.  They gave generously of their time, many walking for hours to be there to say “good-bye” and then walking hours to get home.  They gave up time in their fields or doing other necessary life tasks.  Both types of gifts and the pictures we have will provide a nice reminder for me to think and reflect on as I talk with Jesus about being a more generous person.

 

Finally Finished . . . Now to Start Again

Long, long ago I considered myself a book worm.  For the past several years, to my dismay I can’t make that claim.  It seems life’s tasks and children, combined with just not making the time have kept me from doing much reading.  Another part of that however is most books I pick up these days are books I want to think through and process and I don’t want to read them if I don’t have the time to process them appropriately.

On that note, way back in 2008 during our furlough a friend recommended Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love.  We quickly purchased it but I started the first chapter and realized in the midst of furlough travels I wouldn’t have time to process it as I wanted.  We returned to Mozambique and I started it again but discovered I couldn’t watch some of the recommended videos.  By the time I’d decided to read it anyway several other things cropped up and again it got put on the shelf.

So now, 6+ years later I finally picked the book up again, motivated by it being the study book for a Ladies’ Bible study I’m in.  It’s a great book and very challenging.  I’ve finished the book now . . . but I yesterday I started reading it again.  There’s a lot in there and the Lord’s challenging me quite a bit.

Here’s some of thoughts and points I’m reflecting on:

  • Our love for God always comes out of His love for us.  He loves us (me) individually, personally and intimately.  Do I love Him, who is everything, as my everything?  Do I crave Him?
  • No leftovers for God!  Give Him the 1st and the best!
  • “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength?”  Loving Him with EVERYTHING!  Does my life reflect that?  Specifically how?
  • “Love your neighbor as yourself”  –  Specifically here . . . . how does this play out in my life?  Do I sacrifice for my neighbor – my time?  my finances?  What else.  Do I recognize my “enemies” as neighbors and equally love and sacrifice for them?  Am I willing to love my enemy?
  • Do I / Can I trust God with complete abandon?  What am I doing right now that requires faith?
  • Chapter 4 touches on profiles of the lukewarm and chapter 6 identifies characteristics of those truly in love . . . where am I in all this?

Don’t think I’ll have trouble working through this book the 2nd time, despite the processing I need to do.  I look forward to seeing what and how the Lord is going challenge and change me.

A Need, An Open Door, & A New Hat

Our kids attend the Portuguese school in town.  Overall it’s been a real blessing but it’s not without some hic-cups at times.

Last week Asher came home from school with the announcement that his math teacher had quit.   There were behavioral problems with multiple kids in the class and the teacher decided he’d had enough.  Unfortunately there is no substitute system within the school so if a teacher is absent or if there isn’t a teacher then that class simply isn’t held and the kids run free in the playground.

Apart from saying the Lord placed an idea in my head (which can be the only explanation) I began to ponder whether I should volunteer for the job.  It’s not my most logical thought, while I most certainly understand the math, I’m not trained as a math teacher and I know this is one discipline in which there’s a great difference between being capable of doing and capable of teaching others to do it.  Also I knew the Portuguese language necessary to explain and teach the math concepts to others will be quite a challenge.  It’s well beyond my comfort zone and yet . .

We talked with the school on Monday.  They were trying to work things out with the previous math teacher and told me to check back.  I was at the school on Wednesday and spoke with the secretary.  The teacher that morning had turned in his books and they were promptly handed to me.

It’s not necessarily long term.  It may be for one week or until the end of the trimester or until the end of the year.  Because I don’t have a math specialty they will try to find a more permanent teacher, but finding a teacher for 1 grade and one class may not be the easiest thing (the previous math teacher didn’t quit the school completely, only 5th grade).

I’ve already started teaching.  Class began 30 minutes after I was given the books.  2 days of teaching are down and I’ll go in tomorrow as well (Wed, Thursday and Fridays for 1.5 hrs each day).   I know many of the students from a couple years ago when I taught English and in these 2 days I haven’t had to deal with the behavioral problems.

As I wear my new and very unexpected hat of 5th grade math teacher I’d appreciate your prayers.

Thanks, Robin

Learning New Ways

We are making plans.  As we look to closing things out here in Mozambique we are looking ahead to Portugal.

We’ve lived there before, for 9 months between 2004/2005, to learn language.  But our objective during that time was to learn language, as quickly as possible.  We were not there to learn or study Portuguese culture, apart from the little bit which is naturally learned as one studies a language, as our goal was to get on to Mozambique.  The culture we would need to study was that of the Macua with whom we planned to work.

This time we are going to live and minister in Portugal.  We plan to spend a bit of time in language study again; though we speak Portuguese we need to remove the “Mozambicanisms” we have learned and instead learn to speak Portuguese as the Portuguese speak.  But beyond that, I (Dan) was struck by the thought that we need to make sure we spend time learning about Portuguese culture.  Beyond our surface understanding, what values do people have?  What do they consider important?  What is their worldview? What are the customs/behaviors deemed important?

Along these lines we have started to read books and articles about the Portuguese people, culture, the current economic crisis and its effects on the society.  We will need to go deeper than the books we have, but one thing that has stood out:

God is taking us to a place where we are going to have to learn to do things differently.  Differently than we have been doing them in Mozambique and differently than we did years ago in Asia.  In fact, there seem to be several aspects which are different to who we are (and how we default to things).  We are embarking on another learning curve.

Two recurring themes in the reading we have been doing regard formality and dress.  One article puts it as follows:

“Formality

. Portuguese are traditional and conservative.
. They are a people who retain a sense of formality when dealing with each other, which is displayed in the form of extreme politeness.

Appearances Matter

. In Portuguese society appearance is very important, especially in the cities.
. People are fashion conscious and believe that clothes indicate social standing and success.
. They take great pride in wearing good fabrics and clothes of the best standard they can afford.”

Robin and I are anything but formal.  Though I hope we’d be considered polite, we tend to be very laid back when interacting with people, regardless of if we know them well or not.  We like people to treat us casually as well.

As far as dressing nicely goes . . .   of course we can dress nicely.  Date nights, special occasions and mission presentations to a church or group demand such, but those aren’t everyday events.  Neither of us feel the need to “dress” to go run errands.  Robin, in particular, is extremely casual.  Prior to this last furlough she owned 2 pairs of sandals (flip flop style actually; one black and one brown) and a pair of running shoes.  Three pair of shoes were more than enough she felt.  She doesn’t wear make-up, rarely wears jewelry apart from her wedding rings, and is perfectly happy wearing the shorts and shirts she slept in for the better part of the day if not heading out of the house (well actually she even wore that to take kids to school in the States).

Something else, though we have only come across it in once source so we’re trying to verify whether it’s the case or not, has to do with humor.  Sarcasm and loud laughing in public does not seem to be acceptable.   Culture Shock Portugal words it this way, “The Portuguese are not a people who easily laugh about themselves or anyone else for that matter.  They consider it inappropriate to make fun of one another . . . . laughing in public seems to be the prerogative of children and adolescents and seems less acceptable than hugging or kissing.”  Any of you who know me know I am very sarcastic!  I also am known for having a huge out loud laugh (others have heard me in a recorded sermon & other people have even joked about who can make me laugh first).  If this turns out to be true, that sarcasm and loud laughter in public is not acceptable in Portuguese culture, then I am really going to have to learn new ways!!

So it seems that once again we are going to have to adapt and learn and adjust our ways.  These examples may not seem like big issues but they are completely opposite of our natural tendencies.

No matter what, God is showing us, once again, that 1 Corinthian 9:19-23 is very important for us to understand, apply and live out.

vs 19, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people 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.”

Paul wrote this about himself but we must learn to live this way again…..

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!

Stresses and Provisions – God’s leading

We recently returned to Mozambique from an 8 month furlough.  During our travels back I was amazed at how many stresses popped up (some anticipated and others not).  But I was also amazed (and grateful) at God’s provision in those stresses.  I’ve been reflecting on those in the past few days and thought I’d share those with you.

  • airport check-in in Louisville:  on the way to the airport Shannon (our missions contact at SECC)  asked if I felt better at this stage.  My reply was that I would after we’d gotten checked-in.  You see, we had our bags carefully weighed and were within our allowance on British Air (the Chicago to South Africa flight)  but didn’t have a solid guarantee that American Airlines (the Louisville to Chicago flight) would honor that same allowance.  This was an anticipated stress which in hindsight didn’t need to be.  It was the smoothest check-in we’ve ever experienced and all our bags were accepted without any fees.
  • A delayed departure in Louisville meant potentially missing our Chicago flight.  The provision was that our flight out of Chicago was also delayed (though not by as much).  Still, that delay combined with a run through O’Hare meant we made our connection!
  • 10.5 hr layover in London was relieved by a children’s playground, some dominos which were a Christmas present, and the kids’ playing or reading on their Kindles.
  • Not a single piece of  luggage arrived with us in South Africa.   The provision however was it meant we all could simply hop in a taxi and head to the guest house rather than Dan going in a taxi with a couple pieces of luggage and the kids and I waiting at the airport for an hr or so for him to come back with our truck and trailer to load the rest.
  • A few restaurants were open in Johannesburg despite it being Christmas Day.  We’d been told absolutely everything would be closed so we’d packed food in our luggage – which didn’t arrive.  With the restaurants being open we were able to eat lunch and dinner.
  • Some of our bags were delivered to the guest house the next day, including the 2 bags we’d packed for immediate use in SA and for the drive home.  This meant we had our necessary summer clothes, shoes and toiletries.
  • Dan was able to get in to see a doctor on the 27th before we left Johannesburg when a skin infection suddenly reappeared.
  • Our remaining luggage, since it didn’t arrive before we left Johannesburg, was sent straight up to Nampula where friends were able to retrieve it for us.  That created extra space in our trailer for some purchases in South Africa which we otherwise wouldn’t have had room for.
  • For fun we’d gone to a water park.  When we were ready to leave I returned to where Dan was stationed to discover Asher wasn’t with him as I’d thought.  For a good 20 minutes we couldn’t find him (major stress) but a frantic search finally allowed us to find him!
  • December 29th – we were leaving the guesthouse to head to Nelspruit, South Africa for a couple days.  However when we hooked the trailer back up to the car the lights suddenly weren’t working which meant we couldn’t leave.  God’s provision here was huge.  The guest house had a gentleman who was extremely knowledgable with car electronics.   He spent his entire day off (10am – 5pm) working on our car/trailer and got it to a place where it was functioning enough to head on.  The other blessings here were that no one was set to be in the cabin where we’d stayed so the establishment allowed us to remain in the room (out of the rain) so the kids could watch TV and play games in comfort.  Also since our luggage for use in SA had arrived I had those food items we’d packed for Christmas day and was able to make lunch for us (since the guest house restaurant wasn’t open for lunch).
  • Our credit card was blocked by the company for potential fraud (which was not fraud but us).  Thankfully I was online that morning and saw the notice before we headed to the store so I was able to clear the alert before we found ourselves in a store trying to make a purchase.
  • The 3 day drive of final travel home to Nampula was the smoothest we’ve ever had!  A simple, fast crossing at the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe with no hassle and fees being waived.  A simple and quick crossing at the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique with no hassle from customs or immigration over our stuff!

There were other issues, though at the moment I can’t think of them.  What does stand out, is God’s provision.  And not just his provision but the quickness of that provision in many of those instances.  Never were multiple stresses sitting in front of us, but rather each issue was resolved before another presented itself.  Life isn’t always like that, I know.  Sometimes we have to deal with multiple issues at the same time, but in this case it was a great reminder that God was walking each step with us.

Step by step He leads.  Step by step He provides.  Step by step we must follow.