Tagged: missions

First World Manna in the 21st Century: A Wife’s Perspective on the Support Raising Journey

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Raise your support in 100 days!

We came out of the training ready, expectant.  The promise (ok, my heart twisted it into a promise) made me excited.  “We’ll go through half of our savings and still feel like we’re “trusting God” while maintaining a position of control.  Yes, Lord, I want my faith to grow!  No, Lord, I don’t want to go “too far” with this test.  Don’t lead me to the point of true surrender, the point where I don’t know where the next day’s manna is going to come from.”  Maybe I wasn’t saying (or thinking) these words exactly, but it is where my heart was.  It was exposed on day 1.

Right after David retired from the fire department, we got his “cash out” check and it was half of what we expected.  He called and after hearing the department’s reasoning, he answered everything calmly with “Well, this is very disappointing…very disappointing…”   Meanwhile, I was on the opposite couch and gauging from the conversation and his body language, I knew.  I didn’t know whether to scream or cry.  When he got off the phone, I was angry with him, that he wasn’t more mad on the phone (Christian wife A+).  They needed to know how much this hurt us.  They needed to know that our well-being, our very manna, was at stake.  Or so I perceived.  David responded calmly, “God knew this would happen, this is not a surprise to him.”  Back to the drawing board – we would have to do this in shorter time than we thought.

Again, on day 100, I got angry and…scared.  First, the anger.  What started as a gentle nudge, “David, how many people have you called today? Who is your accountability partner?” turned into endless questions dominating my mind’s space.  I couldn’t sleep.  And for those of you that know me, I sleep.  A lot.  I was consumed.  His answers, however incomplete, gave me some sense of control.  “If he contacts 10 people every day, and 50% of those return his call, and 50% of those support us, we’ll be done in 2.5 months!”  I couldn’t stop my heart’s own madness.  I had never struggled with anxiety more than a fleeting thought, and here I was – drowning in it.

Then, the promise in the midst of the testing.

For you, O God, have tested us;

you have tried us as silver is tried.

11  You brought us into the net;

you laid a crushing burden on our backs;

12  you let men ride over our heads;

we went through fire and through water;

yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

The day I read this, my heart changed.  I had something to cling to.  I had been praying for a promise and this one leapt off the page.
First, the psalmist recognizes God, God that is gracious and merciful, abounding in steadfast love to his people, as the one actively testing.  He is not passively sitting and watching.  He has not been defeated.  His voice is tender: “I know this hurts, but good will come.  Hold on.”  Listen to the psalmist:  “YOU brought us into the net; YOU laid a crushing burden on our backs; YOU let men ride over our heads.”  My God, my Father, the lover of my soul is in control.  His purposes have to prevail.
Second, God brought through the testing to a place of abundance (also translated ‘relief’)!  And although His abundance may not equate to my financial prosperity, His abundance is good and worth enduring for.
And then, another:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Seek first the kingdom of God, don’t be primarily concerned with manna!  Every time I was faced with a tempting thought to withhold generosity: to cancel our monthly charitable giving, to make the woman we were ministering to day and night pay for her own meals, to stay at our free apartment even though we didn’t have time to do the ministry that came with it…again, “Seek first…” echoed in my mind and heart.  Give it up, give it all up for His kingdom.  He will take care of you.

So here we sit, in His abundance.  He has increased my trust in ways that a quick 100 Day stint wouldn’t have.  Financially, He has sustained us, and even prospered us in ways that words cannot adequately capture.  He has involved His children in His heart to restore the nations of the world to Himself.  He has helped me recognize my weakness without His intervention.
He has fed us manna.
Now, with great joy I can declare, alongside the psalmist: “He has laid a crushing burden on our backs…yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance!”

Love Letters

The written word has always held a special place in my heart.  I have always kept cards that people have written me and revisit them from time to time.  Like pictures, they have staying power.  Instead of straining to remember words that have been said, the written word boasts of permanence.  Its meaning is not threatened, nor its power diminished by the hard of hearing.  Its speech is stamped in time, on the ink of pages.  Unlike the spoken word tainted by the weakness of our memories, the written word stands unblemished.

My grandparents have always loved to write notes to me.   More than anything, the words are filled with different variations on the same theme: you are loved.  They wrote it again and again.  They made sure I knew that my faults and mistakes did not change their love for me.  The message was always the same, yet the words were varied.  Since my grandmother passed away, these notes have taken on a more special meaning.  Moments that I forget things that she said, I can revisit her words and know.  She loved me.  This is probably the first note I received from my grandfather after my grandmother passed away.  She is included in the note, a fitting reminder that her legacy of love lives on through the words.

In the same way, the God that promised not to leave us as orphans has left us with His Holy Spirit and His Word.  He descended and saw it fit to leave His message with us in the written word, in human language.  His testimony lives on, speaking into the present world through the ink on pages.  He comes to us, and continues pleading with the ones that have turned their back on Him through His Word.  When we have lost heart, we have His Word, a tangible expression of His nearness.

As a student, I have committed countless hours to the written word; and while I bask in the privilege, one in three women in Asia are bound by illiteracy, left to linger at the feet of a pastor, yearning for a more consistent access to the Father.  In India and Bangladesh, the number is a staggering one in two.  Their Creator and Father is speaking to them, yet they cannot fully hear.

But there is hope.  Through the Gospel for Asia literacy classes, women learn to read and write using the Word of God as a primary source.  Literacy opens doors of new opportunity, opportunities many women in Asia are denied.

For more information on how you can be involved in the fight against illiteracy in Asia, visit Gospel for Asia here.

Nations-Sized Repentance

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5

Jeremiah’s call was clear: a prophet to the nations.  In our context, we would probably associate this with God calling one of the great missionaries of old, i.e. William Carey, Jim Eliot or even Abraham; they were to physically go as God’s ambassadors to the nations.  If we knew nothing further about Jeremiah’s life or ministry, we would assume that the people of nations were to be his sole concern.  He would leave the Jewish people to preach the Gospel to the ethne of the world.  Instead, in the first part of his ministry, God clearly tells him to, “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD…”

The following verses make up a stern rebuke for idolatry found within God’s people.  They were not walking in the freedom that God provided for them in the Exodus: “For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds.”  The most well-known rebuke is found in verse 13: “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”  In short, Israel was failing live out its identity as children of the Living God.

After offering mercy for their sins and giving opportunities for repentance, the Lord says, “If you return, O Israel…to me you should return.  If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver, and if you swear, ‘As the LORD lives,’ in truth, in justice and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.”  See the pattern?  If YOU repent, then…NATIONS will bless themselves and they shall glory in Him?  How so?

This was one of the first ways that we see Jeremiah fulfilling his calling as a prophet to the nations…by preaching repentance to Israel.  God, in His redemptive purposes, was trying to re-align Israel with His purpose for them, found in His promise to Abraham in Genesis 12: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  The blessings of salvation, of knowing God’s design through the law, of mercy, were all intended to bless the nations.  Repentance itself was never meant to terminate on Israel and their mental health and well-being; it was meant to overflow into blessing for the nations.

Which naturally leads to questions for personal reflection:  What does my repentance lead to?  When God grants me mercy, does it overflow into mercy that impacts the nations?  Or is my repentance merely for the sake of my own sanctification, without impacting others?  Is God’s purpose being fulfilled in my life, that all the nations would be blessed?Image