Thursday, July 24, 2014

Prepared

I must admit…

I am a little nervous. I am definitely excited. I am somewhat overwhelmed.

We are finally starting a new church plant. The projected “grand opening” date is getting closer. We have so much to do! Preparing the building, training the Sunday school assistant, designing signs and tracts and invitations…

My head starts spinning when I think of it all.

The new building for Berea Baptist Church
(Want to take a pre-remodel tour of the building? Click HERE.)

Monday, July 21, 2014

What I Learned from My Homeschool Room: People Are More Important

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As I've been excitedly sharing on my blog, we have been converting our garage into two rooms--a larger homeschool room and a smaller storeroom. Recently we took a midyear break from school, and we hoped to finish the room so that we could move in when school began. We worked feverishly nights and some days to paint, lay tile, and install desks and bookshelves. Even the kids helped. We were so excited.
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We turned their clothes inside-out and let them paint with us one day.
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Although christened the "Schoolroom," our secondary purpose for that room would be to house visitors. We get lots of visitors, sometimes of the overnight kind, and we were having to get pretty creative about where to put them.

Little did I know that what I thought would be the room's secondary purpose would actually be its first! Woman may plan...

But God knew.

When Seth worked on his day off to lay tile...
and stayed up the next night until 3:00 AM grouting
and still frantically painted and drilled desks into the wall on the 4th of July before our teammates came over for a "holiday"
and when I stayed up late organizing books on shelves,
God knew that we needed to get that room done.

For the first day after we could potentially call it "done" (though we still have lots of things to do for it), we had a guest!--of a sort of long-term nature.

A girl we knew remotely is in a crisis pregnancy situation, and we took her in until she has her baby. After that, we are not 100% sure what's going to happen, but this situation should last until about mid-August.
She is turning out to be a very easy guest!
Our new family member joins us for family devotions. She is turning out to be a very easy guest!
Over and over I have begun a post for Missionary Monday on how missionaries must be flexible, how flexibility is a requirement for this job; but I've never finished the post. My plans for the post got interrupted. :) (I wanted to write something along this line: Ready for Anything.) Maybe this post about my changed plans is the best example of that thought.

It is anti-climactic. We were so excited, and I was going to try to make a pretty, efficient space for our instruction. I was anticipating the move away from the kitchen table, where the children distracted one another sitting elbow to elbow listening to me teaching one phonics while the other worked on math, and where the littles generally created loud chaos. I know that a schoolroom wouldn't have fixed all of those That's-Life Problems, but I was excited nonetheless.

And then, crash. In the space of an hour, my hopes, in part for a haven from outside interruptions, were exchanged for one of the biggest invasions of privacy you can get--a long-term house guest--from a different culture.

One of the difficulties of living in the village is that it saps your energy over time--the constant borrowing and asking for things or help, the incessant knocking and visiting and interrupting--basically, feeling like you lack privacy--an American essential that is almost assumed in an independent American's lifestyle. So it's a sacrifice to open up your home--your only hope for an escape from the fishbowl-live-in-a-glass-house type of a life.

BUT--it must be done. People are more important. Their souls are more important. If in this way, we can help a young couple to strive to be pure from sin, to have a child instead of an abortion, to mature spiritually and emotionally into adulthood, and to prepare for a God-honoring marriage, what is the loss of a little privacy to all of those eternal values?

Give. No rights. Take up your cross--daily--and follow Me.



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Nailed It!

Have you ever had one of those days where you just really needed to hear from God? Nothing crisis level, but more than just the usual day to day needing to hear from God?

Today was one of those days...


Monday, July 14, 2014

Lifting Christ Up--Down Under

I thought it would be so interesting for us to have some in-real-life missionaries answer those "Good Questions to Ask Missionaries" that I posted here a while ago. That way, you can compare fields a little bit and understand what missions ministry looks like all over the world. What difficulties are specific to a certain continent or culture? Perhaps you can apply this information to pray for other missionaries in a similar field to the lady being interviewed.


Today, meet Jennifer Bauer, the mastermind here at the BMW blog. She blogs about life in Australia at her personal blog Be Thou Exalted. If you haven't gotten enough of our awesome critter stories around here, you would be really interested in the kinds of critters a missionary to Australia has to deal with: The Critters and Creatures in My House.


  1. How many children do you have? What ages?
Autumn (11) and Cody (6) 
  1. Do you homeschool? Name your favorite curriculum that you use (whether just one subject, or an all-in-one):
We do homeschool.  Currently we use ACE. (Here is why I chose ACE for this school year.) But we have used Abeka, Apologia, Rod and Staff, and a mixture of others. 

  1. Country of service:  Australia
  1. How long have you been there?  2 years, 8 months
  1. What do you do there?
Currently my husband is interim pastor for a small church, but we were called here to work with the Indigenous People.  So when the new pastor arrives in two weeks, we will be going full-on with our new ministry with the Indigenous (Aboriginals). 

  1. Are you learning a language? How is it going? Are you discouraged?
We are planning to learn Kriol, which is the Indigenous language spoken in our area.  Most of the Indigenous speak English, but we feel it’s important and respectful to learn their language.

  1. Success: Have you had any encouragement in ministry recently? Can you tell me two or three things that have encouraged you?
We have had many open doors to go and have church services in the communities.  One cannot just walk onto a community, you must be invited.  My husband has had many invitations the past few weeks, and we can see the Lord making the way for us.  We’re so excited!  I also have my youngest brother visiting for 3 months.  This has been a huge encouragement for me.

  1. Challenges: What is your greatest challenge in ministry? What other difficulties wear you down?
Although we are quite remote, we still have a stocked grocery store, wifi, and even a small Target, so in regards to location we are blessed not to have too many challenges.  I think our greatest challenge in ministry will be reaching the Indigenous men.  Alcohol (grog as they call it here) is a major detriment and a common past time for the men. 

  1. How is your life similar to life in America?
There are many similarities to America.  Although we don’t have some of our favourites (Lucky Charms, Captain Crunch, Cracker Barrel, etc.) we do have the modern conveniences (indoor plumbing, wifi, McDonalds, Subway, grocery store 2 minutes away, etc.)

  1. What are some special benefits you or your family experience from where you’re ministering? (or from being missionaries)
To be able to share the Gospel with someone who has never heard of Christ is just an amazing privilege.

  1. What are some positives and negatives of your culture (that you’re ministering to)?
I’m speaking more of the Australian culture rather than Aboriginal culture here.  The positives is the freedom of religion, a very relaxed, laid back attitude among the people (no one is ever on time!), and the welcoming of Americans (for the most part, there are a few Aussies who prefer the Yanks stay home J ).  Negative – hmmm…it’s hard to think of any, but if I had to say one thing, I guess it would be the amount of alcohol that is consumed here by the Indigenous and the white fellow.

  1. What sins might a missionary be especially tempted with that another Christian in the U.S. might not?
Not sure how to answer this one.  The only thing I can think of is that nudity can be shown on tv here after a certain time.  As well as any kind of language.

  1. What books have you been reading? Do you have any book recommendations?
I am currently reading Growing Up Duggar.  I definitely recommend!  My favourite missionary books are Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Diebler Rose and Jungle Pilot by Russell Hitt.

  1. How can we pray for your people or culture in a general way?
Please pray for us as we begin this new phase in our ministry in working with the Indigenous People.  Please pray that we are sensitive to the Lord’s leading and to the people we are called to witness to. 

  1. How can we pray for your family specifically?
That we will continue to grow closer to the Lord, for His safety and protection while travelling to communities, and as a selfish request, that we will be able to take a short furlough home for 6 weeks to be with our family during Thanksgiving and Christmas.



Thursday, July 10, 2014

Skip to the Loo, My Darling

Some of you love a "fly on the wall" glimpse into the lives of missionaries. This glimpse gets pretty personal. It's real. It's... well... Weird! But nevertheless, it is our lives. So sit back and get ready to chuckle. Get ready to be shocked. Don't worry... just go with the flow. And get ready to pray more fervently for us. Some of these lessons we have had to learn on our own the hard way!

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It wasn’t taught in Missions class in Bible College.

It wasn’t taught in candidate school at the mission board.

One of the most elementary needs of any human being has been totally neglected in the training of new missionaries for the foreign field. (How can this be overlooked year after year?!)

But don’t worry. With the help of a few missionary friends, I am about to help teach this vital class. We will flush this problem away in one post. So grab a cup of coffee and a bottle of hand sanitizer...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Not Much to Show for All That

10

Last week was the 10th anniversary of the day Seth began his work in South Africa.

10 years! That seems like a respectable amount of time to dedicate to a people not your own. I think we can officially be counted out of the "newbie" crowd now. :) We have completed a full decade of missionary service. (Well, actually, if you deduct furloughs, all of those 10 years haven't been here. It's actually more like 9 years.)

Now the pressure is on.

10a "10 years! And that's all you've got to show for it?" If we were better missionaries, wouldn't we have planted two churches by now? Or at least one? I mean--that's our job, right?

10 years...

You know, the first two terms people can excuse you mentally for your failure to produce a self-supporting church. It's your first term! Everyone knows that the first term is kind of a wash in the end. Hopefully in your first term, you accomplished that huge job summarized in an inadequate phrase called "learning the language and culture." Ha. After ten years, you know that although you can get a good start on those things in your first term, you never stop learning in those areas. So if you've got nothing really tangible after your first term to show for the furlough pictures except for a few converts and the pronouncement that you've "learned the language and culture," then that's pretty much all that can be expected from the first term.

And even your second term failure to produce an independent church can be excused because you're still just getting going. Your church is just beginning. Your work is still in the baby stages.

10b But after 10 years, no more excuses. We should start hearing pretty soon that you've got a church standing on its own two feet, and you're already starting your next one or two church plants. At least that's how I feel. No one from the States really makes me feel that way. I make me feel that way.

Missionary work can be the most humbling job on earth. Every day, you receive new little reminders of how you're not that great; or even if you think you really are, how no one else seems to see it. :) (Why?! haha) Every day you make language or cultural bloopers; people in your host culture don't know about or appreciate the gifts you had that were appreciated in America. They're not only not grateful that you've given your life to them, but also seem everlastingly stymied at your purpose for being there. (And we haven't even begun to explain homeschooling yet.)

And your churches in America have changed so much. People who cheered when their church took you on for support have moved or grown up or fallen away or died, and you've been forgotten by some. People who stroked your ego in the past about how gifted you were and how you would change the world are now quiet, outside of a soft question--"How's it going? How's the church?"

1oeHow to answer? It's really the same...or a little better...maybe worse right now. Please don't think we don't like to be asked about our church. We do. We know you care if you ask! But we're thinking, and wondering if our old supporter and friend is thinking, "After 10 years...how's the church? When will it be done? Accomplished?" That's what we'd all like to know, right?

Seth and I joke that we're the Discount Missionaries. We are able to live in this area for 50-60% of the usual costs of missionaries in other areas. But sometimes we wonder if our churches feel the other way--like we're the Discount Missionaries in output. You get what you pay for, you know!

When we first came here, we had a 5-year, 10-year, and 20-year plan. Oh, the wonderful things we were going to do according to that plan. (Did anyone else have a Dr. Suess deja vu moment there? "Oh, the wonderful things Mr. Brown can do!")

Sometimes your disappointments can cause you to be disappointed in God Himself.
"God, I gave up my life for You. Now YOU'RE supposed to make me successful! I don't have the power to save, to convict, to draw men to myself!" What can we do when His hand does not save? And how we long to see true change, revival in people's hearts--the kind we've read about: the drunkard who sobered instantly and became a provider for his household; the seekers walking five miles to hear the Word. So when we aren't seeing those things, whose fault is it? Ours, God's, or the cultures? Or all of the above?
10d
All this can be summarized in the question: Why is it so slow? Why is missionary work so slow?

I've got a few thoughts on why that is so.

First, why would we think that it would be quick? We come from a culture that increased its wealth and power over centuries because of a Biblical worldview. Why would we think that anything of value would come quickly without hard work? Our culture has become hasty with all of its technology and time-saving devices. We expect quick, well-done work.

But even in the States, you don't see too many churches experiencing explosive growth and revival. Most churches struggle to stay at about the same membership rate, fighting against attrition rates and love of this present world, trying to keep the youth, trying to encourage members to have a heart for evangelism--to get beyond needing marriage counseling and be able to have an outward focus.

Most church plants in the States take several years before they are self-supporting, even with all of the helps they receive through other Christian Americans who join their church to help start their membership or who help with advertising or come over to fill the pews or do music for a big-impressive kickoff Sunday service. Why would we expect things to move quicker in a place where there were no Christians whatsoever to hop over from a former church, where there is no Biblical worldview at all, and where literacy and education is lacking or under-valued?

If in the States, we're bemoaning the lack of passion for Christ and godliness in our youth groups, why would we think a church built on youth in Africa, youth who have no Christian parents and none of the advantages of those youth in American churches, would be doing better, just for one example?

Secondly, think of the nature of growth. Trees and men take twenty years to grow strong. The Bible describes our Christian life with pictures of growth: babies desire milk, so you should desire the Word; but when you grow strong, you are able to eat meat. A church will be similar, because a church is made up of all those people busy growing in the way the Bible describes. It takes time to grow.

In the States there are many godly men who serve the church as laymen without feeling called to the ministry. But on the mission field, it seems like you should grab the first male church member you get and throw him into the pastorate. "Lay hands suddenly on no man." On the mission field, in our eagerness to declare a church successfully planted, we put people into the ministry who would probably not have been considered worthy in the States. That doesn't necessarily mean they are unworthy. But even seminary training in the States takes 3-6 years, with the already-laid foundation of church background or at least a more Biblical worldview in the culture.

Think about how many youth recently left your church to go study at seminary in order to enter the ministry? If the percentage of people desiring the office of a pastor is small in the strongest Christian nation in the world, shouldn't we expect it to be MUCH harder to find a man fitting the qualifications of a pastor in a heathen culture? And that it would take MUCH more time to train him to be fit to lead a church in a very dark culture?

10cWhen I read of Paul's missionary journeys, I admit that I am baffled. He planted a church in three weeks (Thessalonica, Acts 17:1-2)?! How? But when I think about what the typical missionary in a pagan culture is up against, really, we should be amazed and encouraged at the evidence of the Holy Spirit's work. There have been true conversions, and it is those conversions that give us special strength and encouragement.

Brethren, pray for us. Satan's forces are strong, and the warriors for our side are few. In the next few weeks, I will share with you some of the verses that have been the most encouraging to us to persevere in the ministry--for 10 years! Praise Him.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Willing

Photo by: Sura Nualpradid

Surrender. It means completely giving up. It means to stop resisting. It is submission, yielding, conceding, giving way, deferring. It’s relinquishing, forfeiting, and sacrificing. It means the laying down of arms. Submission has a finality to it.

I remember when I gave in to God. It all started with a challenge. (I could never resist a dare.) I heard a simple missions message that ended with something like this: “Have you ever asked God to send you? Will you pray Isaiah’s prayer?” The speaker was referring to Isaiah 6:8, Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. The speaker suggested that we volunteer.

I knew if I prayed that prayer God might just send me. And, I was afraid of where He might send me. I thought God sent people places they would hate, places that would be hard and ugly and would stretch them past their endurance. I thought those who surrendered became martyrs.

So, like the “good” Christian girl I was, I resisted the challenge. I would not pray that prayer. Why offer . . . that? Why surrender all?

You see, I understood. I knew that, when one prays to be sent, God will send. The place might be home or it could be foreign, but God will send. I also understood that God does the choosing. So, that meant that I had to be willing to go anywhere . . . anywhere in the whole world.

And I wasn’t.

There were several places I wasn’t willing to go—for ridiculous reasons. (Some of you actually live on those fields, so don’t ask.) Suffice it to say that Lou Ann, at seventeen years of age, thought she knew better than God. Such arrogance!

I literally fought with God for around two and a half weeks. It was awful. I knew I had to surrender, but I didn’t trust. I didn’t trust God to order my life. I didn’t think I’d like the outcome. I was scared to pray that prayer.

Today, I look back on that time as one of the dumbest times of my life. Yes, dumb, because I didn’t understand the character of God. I didn’t really know that He has the best plan for each individual’s life. I didn’t see how He fits each person for the task, and that surrender is a daily thing. I had no idea where praying that prayer would take me.

I had no idea how wonderful the ride would be.

After my miserable back and forth with God, I finally prayed, “Here am I; send me.”

I was willing.
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In the Bible, we read of many people who offered themselves to do God’s wishes. Let’s look at just a few of them:


  • Abraham—Almost to sacrifice his son of promise, Isaac, And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I (Genesis 22:11). Abraham didn’t even hold back his only possibility of fulfilling the promise of descendants that number like the stars. He was willing to kill his own son, if God permitted. But God didn’t, as we know, and Isaac is the type of the Lord Jesus Christ, the willing Lamb of God. Abraham is the type of God the loving Father.
  • Moses—When God called him out of the burning bush, his response was, Here am I (Exodus 3:4). He offered himself to God in service. This was the beginning of the most challenging forty years of his life. He got to see the miracles of the parted Sea and the dry land crossing. He got to experience God talking to him face to face. He even got to hide in the rock and watch God pass by! He touched the tablets of the Ten Commandments, written by God’s finger. He led at least a million people forty years, and he ate manna.
  • Samuel—When God called, he answered three times with the answer, Here am I. He thought Eli had called him, but it was the Lord. What a submissive attitude!
  • Mary, the mother of Jesus—When Gabriel told her she would be the mother of the Messiah and would have a baby by the Holy Spirit, her immediate response was, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word (Luke 1:38a).
  • Jesus—The ultimate submission to God was when Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done (Luke 22:42).
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When we pray that prayer, Here am I; send me, we are actually putting another two verses into action. They are Proverbs 3:5-6,

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart;
and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him,
and he shall direct thy paths.

My big problem was trusting God. It was dumb. It was ignorant. I didn’t understand that God had custom-designed a life plan for me.

Let me share what God did:


  • I studied French literally all my life, from early grade school and through college. Where did God put me? Right next to France, learning a language with similar grammar. We have gotten to see most of France on one occasion or another. My dream was to go to Paris once in my life. I’ve been three times.
  • I was an art major. Where did God put me? In Europe, smack dab in the middle of amazing art. Everywhere we visit, there is priceless art in quantities I never dreamed of! The Gugghenheim Museum is just over an hour away. The architecture, the castles, the cathedrals . . . . We’ve happened upon monasteries and out-of-the-way places where works are just sitting around, gathering dust. Even in our tiny town, its church is filled with masterpieces from the 1700s.
  • I’m a curious person, open, and sometimes louder than I need to be. If you’ve ever been to Spain, you will understand that my personality fits perfectly here.
  • I love nature! The Basque region is gorgeous—even when it rains.

The things I feared so much aren’t even factors.

God enjoys surpassing our dreams. He cares about us personally. He wants us to follow Him and to serve Him. And, while we’re serving Him—even in a difficult mission field—he gives us gracious satisfactions. He daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation (Psalm 68:19).

I praise His Name for being patient with me in my struggles, for understanding that I am dust, and for graciously leading my husband and me to Spain. I am thankful for His benefits, the blessings along the way, and most of all, for the privilege of serving Him.

Surrender means no regrets.

(If you have a teen or preteen son or daughter, I would be honored for you to share my story with him/her.)