Thursday, November 6, 2014

10 Ways To Encourage MKs On Furlough

I recently read a great article full of practical advice on The Gospel Coalition's website, entitled 20 Ways To Refresh The Hearts of Missionary Saints On Furlough. Included in the article are some very practical, doable, and meaningful tips. When I was growing up my family experienced some of these -- such as people loaning us a car, storing some of our earthly possessions, and even a dentist who was an old friend of my folks who gave us free dental care. Not only were we blessed, but we felt very supported and valued by these things.

Today we work with a lot of MKs (children of missionaries) who go on furlough (itineration, home ministry assignment, however you've heard it) with their parents, and others who have returned to the States without the intention of returning to the field. We actually have a a few MKs on furlough now- shout out to Emma, Meghan, and Katie! Before we moved to Costa Rica, we had a number of questions on how churches can support their missionaries and MKs. I thought I would complement Jason Carters' post with some practical ways of caring for MKs on Furlough.

1. Ask them about their 'home'. For most MKs, "Coming home to furlough" has no meaning--it's an oxymoron. Many of them spend the majority of their lives outside of the US (or passport country) and they left home when their parents came home. Asking "do you miss home yet?" is a breath of fresh air to an MK in the midst of all the well-meaning "welcome home!"s.

2. Ask them questions in order to hear their stories... and really listen. Be prepared to listen for a long time. We MKs generally know and acknowledge the importance of what it is our parent's are doing in ministry. We're used to people wanting to hear about the latest trip to the indigenous community, and we're used to sitting silently and listening to the same stories for the 39th time. When around peers who can't relate to our experiences, we find there is often no interest in listening to our stories. Often, MKs feel bottled up because there's no one who cares to relate to us.

3. Take them to do something fun. In his article Carter suggests friends watching the children of missionaries to enable them to have a date. This is a huge double win, because small acts of kindness towards MKs makes them feel really valued. When I was 11, a student at Northwestern University in Illinois took me--not my family, not my sisters and I, just me-- to one of the university's small rec centers. He bought me a slice of pizza and we played pool (for my first time) and then I went home. Total hang-out time: maybe an hour, hour and a half. Recall time: 15 years and counting. It made a huge impression on me, that someone cared enough to do this with me. I was a person, not just the student of missionaries his church supported.

3. Take extra measures to make them feel like they belong in your community. Call them up and invite them personally to a youth event, tell them you've missed in their absence, have things for them to do when they arrive to help them fit in and belong from the beginning. If lead a bible study, invite them to the study; if you coach a sports team, invite them to practice; if you have a hobby, ask them to join you. This often takes consistency and preparation, but it can have some big payoffs.

4. If you have kids around the age of the MKs, invite them to do things with your family. Sports activities, picnics, concerts, etc.

5. Keep in mind that a fair number of MKs don't know the rules to many sports. Without making them feel dumb about the fact they don't know them, offer to teach them the rules to a sport you enjoy. Help them learn what a batting average is and what it means, or invite them to your fantasy football league and offer to guide them through it.

6. Work on a project together. This could be a ministry you're already involved in (Steven, would you like to help me run sound for worship practice on Saturday?), changing the oil in your car, starting a scrapbook, work in the garden, etc.

7. Once you get to know the MK, ask them to teach you something. It could be a hands on instruction (cook something, make a craft), or a hypothetical instruction (if I were to get on public transportation in your country, how would I avoid getting robbed?) It doesn't have to be specific to a foreign culture or ministry, just to their story.

8. Find out something they miss from their home (the field) and visit an international supermarket or hunt it down to surprise them! You'd be surprised what you can find if you look hard enough--especially if you live near an international community.

9. Send them a note or a care package as they travel. Or hand something off to their parents to give to them at a later time to avoid postage and timing. Extra hint: American candy is often coveted! (skittles, m&ms, snickers, milky way bars, nerds, twizzlers, etc.)

10. Don't let the brevity of time deter you. Trust me, MKs are used to making friends on short notice. It's a second nature survival skill that comes with the territory. If an MK is only at your church for the weekend, see how much time you can devote to spending with them and do it! But don't be discouraged if they've had their fill of saying goodbyes and aren't interested. It's not you they're rejecting, it's the pain of saying goodbye to friends over and over again that they're having to work through.

Next up: 10 ways to encourage MKs who have returned from the field (for good).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Today we celebrated our first year in Costa Rica. While we're getting use to things taking longer than expected (the biggest adaptation thus far), there are some things that still baffle us. For example...

I went to pick up a package today at the post office. Home delivery rarely happens and is challenging when your address literally translates to this: "San Francisco de Dos Rios, From the pharmacy La Pacifica, 400m east, 10m south. The garage is grey". That's great except the pharmacy is now a bread store and has been for 8 months. Somehow telling a taxi driver this always gets me home.

Anyways, this is the process for getting our package once at the post office:

  • sign with passport at the guard shack with written proof of receiving a package
  • receive a lanyard badge
  • go to the back of the post office
  • go to counter 1
    • give letter telling you have a package
    • show passport
    • receive a stamp on letter with your signature and passport number
  • go to counter 2
    • show stamped letter
    • acknowledge what is in the package
    • again, stamp, passport number, and signature
    • (the person has retrieved your package, but you cannot touch it)
  • go to counter 3
    • give stamped letter
    • pay a handling fee and/or customs (it was about $3)
    • receive a receipt that is stamped
  • go to counter 4
    • show receipt
    • wait to retrieve your package (it got moved from counter 2 to 4)
    • show receipt again to receive package
  • check in again at guard shack to confirm that it is your package
  • return badge
Some days you really question your effectiveness with how little you can accomplish each day. Then you realize it's just life here. Pura Vida!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Different Beliefs, One Bible

One Bible question I often get is, how can so many Christians who have the Spirit living inside of them read the Bible and come up with differing doctrines? If you ask this question, maybe this will help:

"Some would challenge the call to humility in reading the Scripture by arguing that the Spirit shows us what the text means. He is our teacher. But when two "Spirit-instructed interpreters" argue for mutually exclusive positions, a problem arises. Who brings the correct message taught by the Spirit and how do we decide? We would argue that this question emphasizes the Spirit's teaching work at the wrong place, by stressing understanding of content. John 14-16 describes the work of the [Spirit] as a ministry of convicting the world and instructing the saints through encouragement. In other words, the Spirit works in our hearts to convict us of the truth of what we read in Scripture and to encourage us with regard to how we apply what is said. There is a difference between understanding what the Gospel says, and accepting it. Those who crucified Jesus understood His claims, but they rejected Him as not being from God. Our contention would be that the Spirit is primarily concerned with our responsiveness." 
Craig A Blaising and Darrel L Bock.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Patrick's Morning Adventure

Today to kick off our family morning, Patrick practiced his climbing skills in the back yard! He did great climbing our mango tree, and went up 3 times! It was pretty exposed, so it gave me a good excuse to break out our rope and harnesses!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Disspelling the "Missional" Myth

In the last 5 years, a new buzzword came into play in the evangelical church in the USA: "Missional"

It was an adjective to describe being "On Mission". This new phraseology carries a strong, yet vague sense of purpose. We are "on mission"--we have have a job to do! We all have a mission--are you on your mission? But since this mission is the same across the church, we just did away with the article (on a mission, on the mission) and new power language was born: On Mission! When I saw this trending, I was concerned with the vague concept with which it so strongly thrust forth for three reasons:

1. I've said it twice, I'll say it again--it's vague... What does it mean?  Well, I think the best way to articulate it is the following: Be always ever focused on making disciples via the strategy of multiplication no matter where you are... I think... The strength of this vague concept is that church members were challenged to be 'on mission' in their schools and jobs all the time, not just at church or church outreaches. I strongly agree with the spirit of the saying (be a Christian everywhere), but think we could have maybe not made up our own word so that nobody really knows what we're talking about unless you've sat through a bunch of sermons and read a book or a couple hip Christian blogs.

2. 'On mission' blurs the line even further between traditional "missions" and everyday living out the love of Christ. Perhaps it came from the etymology of the word missionary: "Sent on a mission (1640)". But the origin of mission is: "a sending abroad" originally used by Jesuits. Having grown up in traditional 'missions' I've always been opposed to the blurring of this line because I think it hurts more than helps the advancement of the Gospel. The song "Be a missionary every day" which I so loudly belted out at age 7 in Sunday school with a bunch of strangers in every supporting church, did/does the same thing: blurs the line by suggesting everyone is a missionary, or missions consists of witnessing in the school you attend every day, or in your neighborhood or city. Certainly, these things are all essential and we should be doing them. But traditional missions* requires much training and sacrifice, and depends on the church for it's existence. One would not want me representing them in court as a lawyer, nor performing a check up as a doctor, nor operating a large crane (or any size crane) without proper training. Missions is the same way. To blur these lines is a) just false, b) setting potential missionaries up for failure and burnout because there is this mantra that everyone already is a missionary so 1. it must be easy and 2. who needs any training!? and c) weakening the entire base for on which missions exists in the first place--on the conviction of the church that men and women must be sent abroad for the spread of the gospel where those church members are not. It breeds the idea that the church can take part in "mission" in their own town and that be a sufficient reason not to send people abroad. (short term missions can also have this terrible effect).

3. The previous two points could be written off as opinions, and I would not be offended. But perhaps the primary reason for writing against the "missional" phraseology, is that being ON MISSION should NOT be our primary goal or purpose. Before you scream 'heretic' and cite the great commission, remember Ecclesiastes. The author experimented with every kind of hedonistic pleasure, and found it all meaningless. At the end of his conclusion of meaninglessness, he writes: 

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

(Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV)

And it is this that is the whole duty of mankind, not 'be missional'. I fear that we have, ever so softly, rolled away from the biblical mandate in order to focus on mobilizing churchgoers. And we must beware lest those new to the church who cannot see the evolution (of which I agree with the heart behind) miss this altogether. Jesus said the first two commandments are to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as your self. Certainly disciple-making is included. But beware not to change your purpose from that prescribed by God himself, and teachers who are judged more strictly (James 3) should take heed.

*Traditional missions crosses 2 of 3 barriers: language, culture, country borders.