Our Family

Our Family
A man's heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. Ps. 16:9

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Why Paraguay? (Part 1)

 “Why is no one living here?” I asked.

“Because it’s hard work on the mission, and nobody wants to do it.” My mom answered.

“Then I’m going to be a missionary here,” I replied with the absolute certainty of a 13-year old girl.
    (The house in Paraguay where my mom grew up. The structure on the left has bedrooms and a living room, and on the right is the kitchen, pantry, and eating area)

Back in 1986, ten months after my precious daddy passed away from cancer, my mom took my three brothers and I to Paraguay to visit her parents who were missionaries among a tribal people group called the Enxet. It’s where she grew up and these were her people, and by extension, mine. At least that’s how I felt walking through the village with her.
          (My brothers and I with Emilio, the first convert in the village, and his wife)

I was raised in the Great White North, that wonderful country Canada, so flying down to tropical Paraguay was a shock to my system. To a degree anyway. I had grown up hearing stories about my grandparent’s mission work. For a young girl, it was a mix of fantasy and awe. From around the age of five, when I trusted in Christ as my Saviour, I “knew” I would be a missionary. It was during that visit that I spoke those words to her, as she gave us a tour of the house next to the village where she grew up.

During my teen years I went on a couple of short term mission trips, first to Mexico and then Hong Kong. During my trip to Hong Kong, we took many little side trips into China (Hong Kong still belonged to the UK at that time). During one of those side trips to Guangzhou, I was certain God was “calling” me to Asia as a missionary. I was excited, because it seemed to me that God was indeed affirming me as a future missionary.

After high school I went to Florida to attend a missionary training Bible College. During my years there, I had the opportunity to go on more short term mission trips all around the world, including Venezuela, Israel, and Mongolia. I also met my future husband, and together we were going to serve the Lord together. By that time, I “felt” my call had changed to serve in Africa with Bill. During our years with the organization we met under, we indeed tried to go to Africa a few times, but were always denied for various reasons. Maybe it just wasn’t our time.

We left that organization, and entered into a 15-year period of having babies, raising our family, Bill working at Chick-fil-A, homeschooling and serving in our local church in various capacities. We were even able to visit my brother and his family who were serving with New Tribes Mission in Guinea, West Africa. Not only were we serving the missionaries for a week during their field conference, we were also checking out the field as a possible place to serve. We loved our time there.

       (Bill and I with the MKs (Missionary kids) we worked with in Guinea, Africa)

We eventually got ourselves out of debt and moved our family to Canada to begin our training with New Tribes Mission, and in my mind, we were headed to West Africa.

So it kind of threw me when a couple of months into our training, Bill says we should pray and think about going to Paraguay. I’m sorry, what? I was pretty sure we had been on the same page of going to West Africa. I did NOT want to think about going anywhere else. I resented Bill even bringing up another country. But being the wise man that he is, he just asked me to pray about it. And I did.

My prayer was not necessarily that I would know beyond a shadow of doubt where He wanted us to go. My prayer was that I wanted to know God more, and I wanted to be faithful and submissive to Bill, even if I didn’t like it. I wanted God to change my heart, and to accept joyfully His will for me.

It took some time, but eventually my heart did change and I became excited about going to Paraguay. During my time of praying about it,  I told my mom about what was going on and she told me what I said to her back in 1986. While I remember going to the mission house, I have absolutely no recollection of that conversation. Needless to say, I was floored.

Isn’t it like our God to remind me of what HE put in my heart all those years ago? And even though we took a circuitous route to Paraguay, we are on our way to serving there, in whatever capacity He wants us to serve. He continues to call us, me to HIM. Not a place, but a Person. Jesus Christ. Whom we want to make known in Paraguay.

*Many people have asked us why we're going to Paraguay, and how we came to that decision. This series will highlight some of that process.

Friday, June 30, 2017

I Am He, And He Is Me

This year I have endeavored to read through the Bible chronologically, and so far so good! This week I’ve been in 1 Kings, and today I came to the story of the great prophet Elijah. Chapter 17 opens with Elijah predicting three years of no rain, and the Lord telling Elijah to go out and hide himself from King Ahab. From there we read incredible accounts of God’s provision and faithfulness not only to Elijah (being fed by ravens) but also to others such as the widow who had enough oil and flour to make one last cake before she and her son were going to die (God continued to provide oil and flour for them until the drought ended).
The climax comes in chapter 18, when Elijah challenges King Ahab to see whose God the people will follow, YHVH, or Baal. Preparations are made to build stone alters, with firewood laid on top, and then a bull on top of that. The Baal prophets go first, and work themselves in a frenzy to see if Baal will bring down fire to burn their offering. Nothing. Silence. Elijah mocks them, telling them they should cry louder as maybe Baal is going to the bathroom or is asleep and can’t hear them.  So they cry even louder and “cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them.” (18:28) And still nothing.
Then it’s Elijah’s turn. Not only does he prepare his alter with the same stones, wood, and bull, he also digs a trench around it and douses the whole thing with water.  And not just one with time with water, but three times! 1 Kings 18:36-38 records what happens next.
‘And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.  Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.’
Not only was everything consumed, Elijah then takes the prophets of Baal down to a brook and slaughters them all that day. Immediately after that, God sends rain, after having withheld it for the past three years.
Victory! Elation! Fear! What? After seeing the incredible display of God’s power, King Ahab’s wife Jezebel threatens to do to him what he just did to their false prophets. Elijah flees to the wilderness, and basically tells God he’s done. He wants to die. But even there in the wilderness God continues to provide food and water for him.
God then asks him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah goes into this spiel about how he has been very jealous for God. The people of Israel have forsaken God’s covenant, killed God’s prophets, and thrown down His alters, and he Elijah, is the only one left, and now his life is being sought to be killed.
God then sends a strong wind storm, and then an earthquake, and then a fire. But the Lord was not in any of those things. Next came a whisper, in which God tells him that there are still 7000 men who have not bowed the knee to Baal, and that he is to go back to Damascus, and take care of some business, which Elijah does.
I can relate to Elijah. Yes, this incredible prophet of the Holy God of Israel, the one who was with JESUS on the Mount of Transfiguration, is just like me. Or, I’m like him. Either way, we’re the same.
I’ve not been happy to wait to go to the mission field. In my heart, I’ve even said to God, “Don’t you see what we’ve given up? We’ve given up owning a home, having nice cars, and a steady income!” I have basically said to God much like Elijah did, “you owe me!”
But now, just like then, God doesn’t answer my pride with force (ie. fire, wind, earthquake). No, he answers us in the stillness. He says to Elijah, to me, and to you, “Obey Me.” Whatever dreams and aspirations we may have for our future, He continually reminds us to obey Him in that moment. Not to worry about what the future may bring.
Jesus gives the same message to the Apostle Peter in John 22:21. After having had an intimate conversation with Jesus in verses 15-19, Peter notices the Apostle John following them. Peter immediately asks, ‘”Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”‘
OUCH! If friends are buying houses to put down roots here, I’m to follow Him still. If fellow missionaries raise 100% of their support within six months, I’m to wait and follow Him. If friends and family can afford nice vacations but we can’t, I need to be content with His provisions for us, and follow Him.
So, I will set my heart to obey Him, and leave the timing of things to Him. I know, so much easier said than done. But I can guarantee we will never regret obeying Him. No matter what comes next.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Waiting = Worship?

Most Christians that I know are well aware that waiting on the Lord is a large component of being a believer. Yet when it happens to us, when we’re forced to wait, we’re somehow taken aback by this unexpected intrusion of not getting to do what we wanted to (for the Lord of course!), or go where we think He wants us to go.

Many of us know well, stories in the Bible of characters who had to not only wait, but some never even saw promises fulfilled that God had made to them. Moses waiting for 40 years in the desert to go into the promised land, and then not being allowed to go in; Joseph waiting as a servant and then as a prisoner before God elevated him to great status in Egypt, yet not making it back alive to his homeland; David waiting many years between being anointed as king and actually reigning as king; and the list goes on.

If great saints in the Bible had to wait, what makes us think we won’t have to?
One reason we have found it so difficult to wait is simply that we live in a culture where we don’t have to wait for hardly anything. And then if we do come across something where we are forced to wait, we simply make a fuss and then we get what we want. We have drive through restaurants, dry-cleaners, banks, pharmacie; we rarely truly wait for anything. No wonder we Western believers are so bad at waiting. Our culture completely caters to our lack of being able to wait.

But yet here my family waits. It would not be a stretch to say these past three years of waiting to go to Paraguay have not been easy. We may have comfort in terms of housing, food, clothes, etc…but our hearts are quite restless as we long to go to Paraguay. This waiting has not been of our own making. At least not that we can see.

Right after finishing our training, one of Bill’s retina detached, forcing a 9-month medical delay. Our support-raising has been slow but when we reached the 75% of needed support, we had the green light that we could leave, only to find out that I need to get my citizenship, forcing another 6+ month delay. There is no need to ask why the delays. We know God is sovereign in orchestrating these delays, and what He is asking us to do in the delay is trust Him deeper. But honestly I’m not liking it. I find I’m floundering from time to time. I’ll have weeks where I’m on task, enjoying my time in His Word, content with where He has us at this time, seeing my need to depend on Him for clarity. And then at other times, well, I’m the opposite of what I just said.

Right now I’m in the season of the latter. Not liking where we are, discontent in our circumstance, cloudy in vision.

I looked on the internet for a good, Biblically accurate acronym for WAIT, and found my options wanting. So, I decided to make up my own. If there is one out there exactly like mine, it’s purely coincidental, although if anyone is a student of Scripture, it’s not a stretch to think two people could come up with the same acronym. I hope this is an encouragement to anyone else who is in a place of waiting on the Lord.

W – Worship in the Waiting

According to Romans 12:1-2, our whole lives are to be offered up as an act of worship. This is not nullified during a period of waiting. In fact, I would say striving for this would seem even more urgent during a time of intense waiting. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

A – Acknowledge and Acceptance

My mind goes immediately to Jesus praying in the garden, before His death. Three of the Gospels record His prayer. First, Jesus acknowledges to His disciples that His soul is very sorrowful. Then He prays. It’s a simple prayer, really. Mark 14:36 “And He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” It’s OK to admit that the waiting is hard for us. But if acknowledging it is all we do, we’ll end up only complaining. When acknowledging it leads to acceptance, that’s when we are free to…

I – Imitate and Intimacy

Again, Christ is our supreme example here. Many times in Scripture we find Him retreating alone to commune with His Father, whether it was to prepare Himself for the temptations Satan would throw at Him, or just to get away from the pressing crowds who wanted anything and everything from Him. Luke 5:16 says, “But He would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” We gain everything from imitating Christ by pursuing intimacy with God.

T – Trust in Truth

Even though we may wrestle with doubts, those of us who have trusted in Christ’s finished work on the cross can trust that what He says in His Word is true. That not only will He complete the work He has started in us, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…” 2 Peter 1:3

Whether you are experiencing waiting, testing, or possibly even persecution, take heart from these words, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).

“Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

So, we will continue to worship in our waiting, acknowledging that it’s hard yet accepting it, striving to imitate Christ by pursuing intimacy with our Abba Father, while trusting that He is working all things for our good.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Still Waiting...

Last October,  we received the green light to go to Paraguay, due to our reaching 75% of needed support. We had written our supporters that we would be leaving for Paraguay this March.  Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, that date has now been pushed back.
Shortly after reaching that 75%, we had a series of meetings with some NTM Paraguay leadership (who is in the US on home assignment), our pastor, and a language consultant, also from Paraguay.  Among the items that were discussed was my (Debby's) status as a green card holder.  The reason for this discussion is that my legal status in the US has quite a bit of bearing on moving overseas.  Because of holding a green card, I have to apply for a visa to leave the US for an extended period of time (which we knew). What we didn't know was that it would restrict our comings and goings.  I would only be allowed to leave for up to two years, then return to the US and have to stay in the US again for at least six months.  Then I'd have to do that process all over again, to go back to Paraguay.  Not to mention that that visa is $680, which I would have to pay each time.
Our leadership strongly encouraged me to go for my American citizenship.  After talking it through with leadership, our pastor, and trusted counsel, we decided that I should do that.  So in November, we met with an immigration lawyer to see what was required, and in December I filled out and submitted the paperwork.  About three weeks ago I was fingerprinted for my FBI background check, and the process is rolling along, but this is the latest delay for us.
We did ask for my application to be expedited, but have yet to hear whether they will do that or not. In the meantime, I'm studying for my civics test coming up at the interview, and gathering even more paperwork together to prove yet again that my marriage is legit, and that we have lived and shared a life together since we got married.
Once again, we have had to lay down our timetable before the Lord, and wait on His timing for us to get to Paraguay.  We did not anticipate all these delays, but they don't come as a surprise to God.  Bill and I have discussed these delays numerous times, and have asked each other if this is still what we're supposed to do.  We both have not be given freedom to pursue something else, nor has leadership in Paraguay suggested we go in a different direction.  On the contrary, they are very much awaiting our arrival and are just as eager as we are to get there.
We have a few items we'd love you to remember in prayer.
- That Homeland Security would expedite my application
- That I would commit to studying the civics questions for the test
- That we would reach 100% support before we leave, as well as raise the needed set-up funds
We are so grateful for all of you who pray and give.  This process to get to Paraguay has certainly stretched and challenged us in ways we were not anticipating.  Thank you for coming alongside.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Looking To Christ

One question we're getting these days is "where are we in the process of getting to Paraguay?"  It can seem to many like this step of raising support is taking quite a while. We are excited to report that God has really been moving on people's hearts to want to be a part of our team, and we are at about 65% of our needed budget.  We have also started some paperwork that the country of Paraguay requires us to have, including fingerprints and background checks from the governing authorities.

As we have shared with people where we are in the process, one question we often get about our future ministry in Paraguay is, "What exactly will you be DOING when you get there?"  At times I cringe when I hear the question, because the answer truthfully is, we won't really be DOING anything.  We'll BE.  Well what does that mean?
As with every Christian, God is shaping and molding us into the image of His son Jesus. Sanctification, or the working of God in our lives, is for every believer.  So how does Christ's life and example on earth shape us as missionaries?  Jesus himself WAS the first missionary.  He left his home in Heaven, and came to earth, a foreign place.  He had to learn how to walk, talk, work and look like any other Jewish man would have in that day and age. And yet there was something "other" about Him.  Of course we know that He was sinless and perfectly walked on this earth, fully man and fully God.
Our "job", or what we will DO in Paraguay will be almost like that.  We will leave our home in North America and go to Paraguay, a foreign place.  We will need to learn how to talk, work, and look like a Paraguayan.  Although there will be something "other" about us too.  We are not sinless like Jesus was, but we are saved unto eternal life, to forever live with Jesus in Heaven, having our sins forgiven by the one who knew no sin.  We won't walk perfectly on this earth, but we will walk forgiven
So, looking to Jesus as our example, our first two years at least, are spent in full time language study, attending a local church, and building relationships with people.  This is a process that NTM calls Culture and Language Acquisition, or CLA.  Jesus spent 30 years doing CLA before he started his earthly ministry.  It would be quite foolish and arrogant of us to think that we could just jump into full-time ministry without knowing the language and culture first. With humility, we desire to learn as much as we can from the Paraguayans, so that in time we can clearly and effectively communicate the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. We want to BE like Christ, not just simply DO. And BEING is a job worth DOING well. 
                           What CLA in Paraguay could look like.  

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Bronia's Food Diary (Bronia's Life in England part 2)

One of the things I have enjoyed is tasting new foods. Here is just a small sample of what I've tried.

A favourite for me is enjoying a typical English tea.

This is a typical English breakfast, which is similar to an American one, but they include baked beans with their eggs, sausage, bacon, tomato, and roasted potatoes.

And of course I had to try Fish 'n Chips.

This Steak Pie was delicious. I have fallen in love with the meat pies and tea.

This is another typical English meal.  Yorkshire Pudding, roast beef, roasted potatoes and vegetables.

And it wouldn't be complete if I didn't try a few desserts.
                                           Raspberry pie with custard
                                               Lemon pie with custard

This is the store where I do most of my shopping, Tesco.  These escalators are magnetized, so you can take your cart to the different levels without rolling down.

After years of cooking for my family, I am learning to shop for just one person, so I have to be careful that I don't buy too much. I do love to shop for food though, choosing my own menu plan and then making the food. I don't eat out often, and I make my own dinners in the communal kitchen I share with other volunteers. Often it's simple and reminds me of home, like this Greek Salad.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Bronia's Life in England (Part 1)

Bronia has been serving in England for over three months.  Half her time there is already up. I asked her to write a description of what her days entail. I thought some of you might be interested to see what her life looks like in England.

From Monday to Friday I get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, do my face and hair, listen to music and read my Bible. 
(This is a picture of my room. My bed is immediately to the right, where you can see a pillow in the corner)

I go to the nursery at 8 so we (all the nursery workers) can have devotions together. Then my work day starts by filling up the water pitcher and baby bottles. The kids arrive around 8:25. My job at the nursery is to always make sure the doors are locked when the parents leave. When Miriam (the head nursery volunteer) is teaching, I try to make sure the kids are paying attention, and at snack time make sure the children have drinks. 
                                                   (The toddler room)

From now on, every Thursday and Friday I lead an activity and the Bible story time.  

We go outside for about an hour and if the weather is really nice we can go outside for longer. But if it's not nice we just stay inside. The kids' parents come around 12:20, and my morning is done. 

At around 1:00 I have lunch in the dining room with the students.  North Cotes College includes a one-year Bible School, a one-year cross-cultural training course (what my parents did in Canada), and a one-year Applied Linguistics course, so there are many students for me to get to know.

In the afternoon I work in the Guesthouse. My job there varies a little, depending on whether people are coming or going. Sometimes I make sure the bedrooms are ready for guest, or that the bathrooms are clean. I vacuum the hallways and do the laundry. My favourite job there is to do the rooms. I start working in the guest house at 2:15 and end around 5:15.

In the evenings my time is my own.  Sometimes I watch a movie with some of the people here or maybe play a game. Every Monday at 7:30 all the volunteers go to miss Mandy's house for some fellowship time together. She is the volunteer coordinator, and the one who takes care of me here :) 

And then sometimes I will just take time for myself and go on a walk. The campus is beautiful and right now it's spring so there are beautiful blossoms everywhere. 

The ocean is right by the campus, and the weather here is interesting. One day it will be perfectly sunny with a light wind. The next few days will be rainy and cold. In the evening and morning sometimes you can see your breath. It is flat like Florida and the grass is thick and green.

Everybody here is great. They are friendly and like to include you in things so I'm slowly making friends.