Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tuesday Topic: Adapting

Send me some questions, please! I'm not doing to well with coming up with my own. This is inspired by Ashley's comment earlier.

How have you adapted to the culture you live in? How have you not adapted? What parts of you blend in, and what parts don't?

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

When The Brook Is Dry

We have so many expectations when we set out to serve God on the mission field. We can’t wait to find His blessings along the way, and we expect great growth and service for Him. But what happens when we are met with pain along the way? A cancer diagnosis? A miscarriage? A falling out with a teammate? Or the death of a family member or key person in our ministry? What happens when instead of blessing, we encounter tragedy?
We go into a tailspin and the questions begin to fire off in our minds…God, why? How? What are you doing? Don’t you know how hard it is here…do you even care? How could you allow this? Where are you?
We stop in our tracks and we are devastated. We expected trouble learning the language, and that maybe our kids would struggle. We knew that bearing fruit in our ministry could take years, and we expected culture shock and homesickness…but this? God, this is just too much.
There was a great man of God that we can read about in I Kings 17 that probably had many of the same questions. That man was Elijah and he was called into a ridiculously hard ministry. He was a prophet of God sent to bring bad news to King Ahab and his “charming” wife Jezebel. He had to share the news that God would stop sending rain to Israel. Famine and thirst would fill the land. He was literally run out of town and forced to rely only on God in a true survival experience. He moved far from friends, family, and anything familiar into a little ravine. There he stayed and drank up the blessings of God in the form of meat delivered by ravens, and a little brook that ran through his ravine.
Then, tragedy struck. I Kings 17:7 tells us, “the brook dried up.” All support and blessing seemed to come to a grinding halt. The severe dry spell had finally reached Elijah’s little place of safety and he was left with a raging thirst and questions for God.
The truth is that God could have provided water for Elijah. God is God, couldn’t He have prevented this from happening? It seems almost cruel. Elijah gave up everything for God, and risked his life in ministry, and God allowed this to happen? Why does God do this? Why does He allow the pain and suffering into our lives and ministry when we have risked so much for Him? It seems so hard, and it hurts so much.
I first came across this passage during a time of great personal struggle on the mission field. I was battling health issues, grieving a loss, and my kids were really having a hard time in their school. It seemed unjust to me, it seemed cruel that God was allowing me to walk through so much pain. I felt a connection to Elijah, because I felt like my brook had dried up.
But Elijah moved on from that place. He had to…the brook was dry. He was in the desert and the brook was dry. What could he do but follow the next steps that God had for him? Ultimately Elijah had the opportunity to change the life of a starving widow and her son. God used Elijah to intervene. God did miraculous things, and God did not abandon Elijah. God provided for Elijah, and God provided for others through Elijah.
If the brook wasn’t dry, Elijah would have stayed in his comfort zone, hiding out while the world suffered around him. But God had bigger plans that included using Elijah’s suffering to move him forward to serve the world. I don’t understand why God lets our brooks run dry…but maybe He’s preparing us, calling us, or moving us on to other things…things that will change us and change the countries where we serve.  
Our lives as missionaries are dedicated to following God and helping others to follow Him too. The truth is that dedicating our lives to Him doesn’t mean that we will always have smooth sailing on free-flowing rivers. There is great blessing, but there is also great pain. I still struggle to understand why God allows the hard things, the painful things, and the deep suffering to come into our lives. But God is teaching me that trusting Him means trusting that He is still God, and that He is still good…even when the brook is dry. I hope that when you are in a dry place, you can know that too.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Ministry of Motherly Service

Here's a guest post from Rosilind. Read down to the end for more about her.

I stood at the living room window of our small 2-bedroom apartment, gazing at the park below. Deep sorrow seized my heart. I felt like a first-class failure!

I was so much more productive before I had kids. And now? I simply couldn’t attend every meeting, be out past 8pm several nights a week, or involve myself in every ministry that appealed to me.

I was home all of the time, it seemed - caring for colds and flus, changing diapers, nursing and putting my grumpy children to bed at 8:00 P.M.

I cried out to the Lord that day from the depths of my heart. Guilt washed over me that the support I received seemed unfair, compared to the minimal amount of service I rendered. But that was nothing compared to the utter sense of worthlessness I felt.

Never in all my years of ministry did I feel so utterly worthless for the kingdom.

And in that moment the Lord opened my eyes to a very important aspect of ministry I had failed to recognize.

Ministry isn’t about spiritual activities vs. secular ones.

When I make my husband coffee, I am serving.
When I change diapers, kiss boo-boos and exclaim over a pretty picture my son draws, I am serving
When sit and chat with a lonely mom in the park, I am serving.
Each morning when I wake up and spend precious time with the Lord, I am serving.

Every moment of the day I am serving if I what I do comes from an abiding heart of a servant of God! Beautiful, worshipful service.

The ministry of motherly service!

In that moment my perspective began to change about what ministry truly is! My priorities shifted as I began view wifehood as my primary ministry. Motherhood is an immediate second. Putting these priorities in place allowed the Lord opened my eyes to see outreach opportunities that were sitting right in front of me - opportunities I had never even considered before because they didn’t require me to walk out my front door. I could joyfully serve my family as the Lord designed that I should, and still reach out to those in need.

I began leading an online Bible study for the women in my country. Before long women from neighboring countries – who speak the same language – joined in and my one small group multiplied to a handful of Facebook groups as I began mentoring local women to lead their own groups! I was reaching out, right from my own home!

Missionary moms play a unique and complex role. The Lord can use us in amazing and powerful ways when we simply allow the endless creativity of our God to open our eyes to the unexplored avenues of service that await us!

Bio: Rosilind is an American girl married to a Bosnian guy who lives in a small village just outside of Zagreb. They have two crazy boys 3 and under who are as opposite as boys can be. When Rosilind isn't writing, she is dreaming up recipes and searching for ways to organize her home better. You can find her at A Little R & R where she writes about missions, marriage and family, toddler activities, and her recipes. You will also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tuesday Topic: How have you changed?

I don't have anything from you all, so I thought I'd ask:
How have you changed since you moved overseas? (Or if you work in your passport country, how has being in full-time ministry shaped who you are?) It might be hard to step back and take a look at yourself like that, or even to remember what was before, but it's an interesting question to think about. Share some of your thoughts about this with us!

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Monday, October 21, 2013


Please excuse our construction dust around here. The whole purpose of this post is to set up a new (simpler!) group of labels for our posts. I'm backdating this, but it will still go out by email. Please just ignore it.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Hint of the Bigger Picture

There are days when the thought of my kids being TCKs is hard.  There is a part of me that cries a little when my almost 5 year old asks me while watching The Snowman, "Mom, what are they doing with the snow?"  Being from The North, snow is in our DNA and here my kid doesn't understand the concept of making a snowball.  Sigh.

But then there are moments like this last weekend, when I realize they are getting such an amazing perspective on the world.  They will grow up knowing how to make a snowball, but also how to do things like speak Spanish, and Surf.  What?  Yeah, that ain't something you can do in the North.  Ok, well, technically, you can surf in Lake Michigan in November (No.Thank.You.) Anyway.

Surfing from nlkamper on Vimeo.

It was good for me to change my perspecitive a bit, again.  To see once more the gift that this life gives to my kids.  To see for a brief moment how God is placing my boys into a bigger world, preparing them for Something, for His plan, and it made me excited again to see what He is going to do with them.

What about you?  What moments have you been able to glimpses the bigger picture with your kids?  And what is your favorite opposite moments (you know, like the fact my boys can make snowballs and surf!)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tuesday Topic: Sundays

This is from Olive:

“I hate Sundays!”

I remember being shocked when a young missionary in El Salvador said this. She was frustrated by trying to entertain and chase her two toddlers around during long church services with no child care. On the way home her toddlers would fall asleep in the car, only to wake up the minute her husband pulled into their driveway. Then the kids would be cranky and awake all afternoon, although she desperately needed a nap herself.

I could totally relate. When my kids were small, Sunday was anything but a Sabbath.

Come to think of it, now that I’m doing church planting in the Middle East, Sundays are anything but restful. I cook food, set out plates, rearrange the living room, make tea, answer the door, serve tea, talk to people, make sure they have everything they need, and sometimes lead worship. Fortunately my husband helps a lot, especially with clean-up afterwards.

Since Sunday is not a day of rest, I have to get creative. Monday, traditionally off for pastors, is not an option for me since I home school. I do attempt to have a quieter day by purposely making no plans on Monday besides school.

What do your Sundays look like? Stressful? Enjoyable? Busy? Relaxing? If Sunday is a work day for you, when do you take a day off?

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Can We Talk About Burnout?

Photo credit: Joan C. Webb
Am I the only one who ever feels like she’s about to lose her mind on this crazy rollercoaster life of being a cross-cultural servant mother? Sometimes if feels like I’m too wearing too many hats: wife, mother, cook, house cleaner, friend, church planter, discipler, seed sower, and team leader’s wife.

In the Middle East daily life and ministry stress can be compounded by discouragement over hard soil and slow fruit.  In our country over half of the foreign workers leave after only three years. I’m sure that you face different challenges, but being a missionary mom is demanding no matter where you are on the globe.  

After a few intense years working on a new church plant while home schooling, I think more than ever about how to avoid burnout. In fact, more than just avoiding burnout, I want grow in effectiveness and continue thriving.

Here is my brainstorm list for thriving long-term on the field:
(Please add your ideas in the comment box because I’d love to hear your thoughts.)

1.  Quiet Time.
Spending half an hour daily reading the Bible and listening for God’s voice gives me a fresh perspective on life every morning.

2.  Invest in your Spiritual Growth.
Read Christian books, listen to podcasts, seek out a mentor or attend conferences when possible. One of my favorite on-line resources is the daily devotional, Word for Today.

3.  Make sure your goals are realistic.
My husband and I struggled over the slow progress of our new outreach effort until we realized that part of our discouragement stemmed from unrealistic expectations.  We’ve also seen fellow workers with unrealistic goals for language learning: too much too fast.

4.  Invest in your marriage.
My husband and I have a weekly date time to counteract the stress of cross-cultural living. We started this after watching the Alpha MarriageCourse DVD’s six years ago.

5.  Make time for fun with your family.
We have movie nights and play games while listening to vintage rock.  (Only my family knows that I can belt out “Like a Rolling Stone” along with Bob Dylan!)

6.  Make sure your kids know the language and have local friends. 
We home school, but our kids participate in at least one community extra-curricular activity each year. Other friends put their kids in local schools for a year or two. Bottom line: Kids struggle more to be happy if they don’t know the language.

7.  Cultivate true friendships where you can be yourself and share your struggles, both with nationals and other foreigners.

8.  Continue learning new things.
In recent years I joined a Turkish folk dancing class for several months, learned some elementary Latin with my kids, and learned how to can tomatoes.  All fun! 

9.  Enjoy a hobby. 
A friend of mine takes time every Wednesday afternoon for scrapbooking.

10. Reach out to others when you are lonely.

11.  Keep in contact with family and friends back home.

12.  Read for pleasure. 

13.  Get involved in your community.

14.  Make time for regular exercise.

What about you? Do you ever feel burned out? Do you have any suggestions for staying spiritually fresh?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tuesday topic: Welcoming newcomers

What was the nicest thing someone did for you when you first arrived on the mission field? How would you like to welcome new missionaries and help them adjust?

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Monday, October 7, 2013

"Learned? Schmearned!"

Education is important. 

It is valuable and something to be attained.

And it comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors... formally and informally... and frankly, can be attained in a probably infinite number of ways.

I truly believe seeking an education is a worthy pursuit - after all I'm an educator! A special educator, nonetheless - striving to help people who find learning to be a challenge learn and develop necessary life and school skills. Much of my ministry includes literacy work, teacher training and leading Bible studies.

Yet this "idea" that unless an individual can write out some letters behind their name, that s/he is somehow under qualified... or less able... even less worthy or less integral... than another who has said diploma framed on the wall and who gets to spell out those letters when they sign their name?

But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and [began to] teach. The Jews then were astonished, saying, "How has this man become learned, having never been educated?" (John 7.14-15)
Apparently this same mindset afflicted people back in the time of Jesus as well....

Jesus' ability to teach and explain totally befuddled the Jews and, in their mind, discounted or invalidated what he was saying. We ran into this "problem" many times while working in West Africa - churches not allowing individuals into positions of leadership until they had schooling... and individuals using their lack of training and formal education as an excuse not to help with the Sunday School program or disciple a new believer in the church.

I would sometimes get so frustrated preparing to teach Bible study - because what I wanted more than anything else was for the women to share what they saw and understood from a passage of Scripture... not just to parrot back what I was seeing and understanding. It took over 5 years of working with the same group of six women before a couple of them started to really grasp the idea that their contributions were valuable, even when they were different from mine. In fact, their applications and cultural understandings sometimes were far deeper than my own - and some of those women had NEVER been to school, much less Bible school. Half of them couldn't even read.

It seems like we often have a problem trusting the Holy Spirit to teach as well as our schooled Bible educators, pastors, church leaders...??? Or that mere men and women could never learn as well from God, at least not as they can from mere men and women. Anyone see the irony in that not so subtle mindset?

And,this sort of mindset isn't something the rest of us are "above...," simply because we don't consider ourselves professional teachers. We can be quite "Pharisaical" and actually consider it a good thing.

I started thinking and the Lord brought to mind the followings questions to ask myself ~ 

What about the single gal who gave me a suggestion about how to help my child through a difficulty? Could she possibly have any wisdom to offer since she has never walked shod in the shoes of parenthood?

Or what about the mama of three who explains to me how to better keep up with my laundry? What in the world would this lady know about juggling a schedule of eight while being on the road a good part of the time?

Or that old unmarried "uncle" who gently encouraged me to serve my husband with a happy heart rather than complaining to other female women? How in the world could he understand what it meant to be a woman? a wife? or to keep up with what the world has deemed a wife's responsibilities?

Or my child reminding me that I just uttered a word she knows she's not permitted to use? Do I get defensive? Or do I accept that lesson and apologize? 


Sometimes, in human arrogance, I assume I know best - and act practically as though I even know better than the Lord. I come up with a list of qualifications and only certain ones who have met those standards can be my teachers (or the teachers of others). I establish all sorts of hoops to jump through before becoming qualified. And I can rapidly and emphatically disqualify some from any sort of possible future contribution because of past sins and failures -

- forgetting to remember that those who've gained victory and learned to depend on the Lord through those hard lessons have so much to contribute. Those who've had to fight for every bit of formal Bible education they have (even when it is nothing more than learning to read at the age of 70 so she can decode the words in a children's primer Bible) have the opportunity to show me things I could never see, as my education has been handed me on a silver platter.

Can you think of someone you disregard or not who's possible contribution you do not value right now, because of their lack of status or lack of education?

How can we encourage ourselves and other to recognize the beautiful gifts and diversity of "education" and amazing back stories of others as something to be valued and treasured and shared with the rest of His Church?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

"Eternally Content"

Hello! We're right at the beginning of another quarter, and we're still ironing out plans for what will be coming up. It looks like it will be a slightly quieter time, but there will still be plenty to read through and interact over here each week.

We recently moved to our first house. After 12 years of living in apartments, it's a dream come true! Really, I didn't even know that it would be this nice. I'm still walking around grinning most days, just thinking about how nice it is. It's actually half a house, though. We have very close neighbors living in the other side of the house, and I'm glad of that, too. I was afraid living in a house with a fenced off yard would be lonely for me. (Hah!) But... how do I put this gently? Our neighbor is a little hard to please.

Other neighbors describe her as "вечно недовольна," which is literally "eternally unhappy." When I heard that I started thinking about what they might say about me. Do people think of me as generally happy or unhappy? How can I avoid complaining, and avoid it so much that I could earn the opposite label: I'd love to be known as "happy with everything" or "eternally happy"!

Then, the next thing that hit me was that word "eternal." Obviously, they didn't mean it literally, but it just might be. That's when the compassion started to flow in me. It's hard to be irritated with her when I'm thinking about loving her and remembering the "eternal" part of the equation.

So, I can be happy because my eternity is settled, and I can love someone who seems a little difficult, because I'm remembering her eternal soul. At least, that's what I'm striving for. It's been good for me to actually think this out and repeat it to myself often over the past few weeks.

What about you? Surely I'm not the only missionary who has to be reminded quite often about why we're really here! And how can we pray for your relationships with your neighbors? (Please pray for grace and wisdom for me.)

Friday, October 4, 2013

(Non)Tuesday Topic: What to write about?

This week my internet was out, and I hadn't scheduled a Tuesday Topic before I lost my connection. It didn't come back until now. So, please accept my apologies for my lateness!

This week, as we're planning blog posts for the quarter ahead, my questions are: What would you like to read about here? Do you have favorite “genres” from what you've seen here so far? Or something new to suggest?

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Easing the Transitions

This is another guest post from Alyssa of Momentary Missions. If anyone else is interested in contributing a guest post, please contact me at fylliska@gmail.com. Thanks!

Our family is new to the field, and there was one thing that we did while leaving that made all the difference. We took a 3 day mini vacation just before catching our overseas flight.

I read this suggestion online from Laura Parker, a seasoned missionary mom. Laura was sharing the idea in the context of “things we wish we had done,” and the idea immediately resonated with me. When we left the US to come to Bulgaria, we were leaving the only home my kids had ever known. It was my husband’s first overseas move. It was my first time overseas in more than a decade. It was a LOT to process.

The long weekend away was just what we needed.

Here’s how it worked. Two weeks before our departure, we took a week off and went to visit family. We spent 3 days with each side of the family. Planning this months in advance allowed most of the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to plan time to come and visit. We were able to see everyone, make lots of fun memories, and say goodbye in person.

One week before our departure, we headed home for a week of wrapping up things at work, our final service at our sending church, and packing. This was our time to process and calm down from the emotion of saying goodbye to family. We ended the week with a much-anticipated cookout with many of our dearest friends.

Three days before our flight, we drove in a rental van to the city of our departure, where we stayed in a hotel, visited museums, swam in the hotel pool, ate at a few favorite restaurants, and cried more than a few tears. We de-stressed (again), and made it through the initial tidal wave of emotions. We gathered ourselves, reconnected with each other, and watched a few favorite TV shows for the last time.

The result of this time away was that we boarded the plane three days later with smiles, instead of tears. We were calm and well prepared, not stressed and anxious. Our children were anticipating the flight, not looking over their shoulders to wave goodbye to loved ones. We arrived ready to jump into the process of getting settled, feeling connected as a family, and with our kids “love tanks” full.

Next time we make a move like this, we will absolutely do the same thing again. It was worth every penny!

What strategies have you used for coping with goodbyes? Please share your wisdom or ask questions in the comments below. I’m always interested in advice from other moms who have been through the same experiences.