Tag Archives: Musings

It’s Not Bad It’s Just Different

In the next 370 words I hope to address what is one of the most complicated issues in missions…cultural bias. It is imperative that missionaries not revert to mission tactics of the late 19th century and try to impose their “superior” culture on the people they have been sent to serve. The gospel is not American nor Western. The gospel changes cultures, the messenger should not.

Our landlord just had our house painted. The painters did their work in a very Honduran way, which in the U.S. would be viewed as lazy, sub-standard and unacceptable. White paint was on black paint, blue paint was on white paint, paint was on windows and there were few straight lines or right angles. And, here is the part that is going to get under your skin (and it would have me too a few years ago)…that’s ok. The way they painted is not wrong. It just is. Why do we, in the U.S., insist on straight lines, right angles and non-touching paint? Yes, I know, you are screaming at your computer screen, “BECAUSE IT IS THE RIGHT WAY!!!”

As fulltime missionaries we have hosted over 500 short-term missionaries and they see things through culturally biased glasses…as we all do. We have been asked many culturally biased questions; “Why are Hondurans so lazy?”, “Why don’t they care about their community and throw trash on the ground?”, “Why are Hondurans always late?” These are questions that originate from the concept that our culture (no matter what culture it is) is better. We all believe that our way of doing things is best. And, that is normal, but not healthy in cross-cultural settings. The answer to all this is, “It’s not bad, it’s just different”.

Missionaries are not sent to change cultures, but to deliver the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ. When we as cross-cultural missionaries get bogged down in cultural bias we miss the point of missions. It is our job to enjoy, celebrate and sometime endure cultural differences without passing judgment. Christianity is global and our multi-ethnic family should rejoice in diversity and proclaim our unity in Christ. Let’s not weigh down the purity of the gospel with our sinful biases.

What I Want For All Missionaries

I have often been asked, "How can our church, small group or family better serve missionaries?” I get lots of churches that ask similar questions. They start with great intentions and have poor follow through.

Missionaries…obviously…are human…we miss home, we sin, feel neglected, raise our kids poorly, have bad prayer lives, etc. Just like we did when we weren’t missionaries. The hard-to-swallow truth is…out of site, out of mind. Our friends, family and brothers in Christ don’t see us every day, their lives move on without us, and we become forgotten by those who used to care for us and love us.

Most missionaries knew this would happen when we left for the mission field. People don’t sign up to be missionaries for the fame, glory and additional friends. It is no surprise, but I am shocked at how much it hurts me. I am surprised how much it hurts to be forgotten.

If I could ask for one thing of a church or small group or a family it would be for them to show some interest in my family and me. Send a small care package of stuff we miss twice a year. Give me a call once every other month. Send my kid an electronic iTunes certificate on her birthday and Christmas so I can be reminded someone other than me cares a little about her. Ask me about my marriage and my spiritual life…because, both are probably suffering. Send me an occasional e-mail and tell me you prayed for my family today.

That being said, my family and I would continue to do missions work if we never heard from another person in the U.S. And, I know that is the same for all eight missionaries on my mission team. But, we are sinners, we want to be loved and we want to know people are thinking and praying for us. If my team members were reminded that others care and pray for them, they would have the strength to go on, on the hard days.

As a Team Leader of a mission team and an ex-Elder in my home church I would love to see each missionary on my mission team have at least one church that loves them and shows interest in them. In my four years on the field half a dozen churches have told me that their church has a new plan to better care for their missionaries, and, "…I have been assigned to care for your family." And, few have followed through. I pray that each missionary serving on the field has one church, or small group, or pastor that shows interest in them…their lives…their faith…their struggles.

When William Carey volunteered to be a missionary, he implored those who sent him, "but remember that you must hold the rope." Missionaries must go and senders of missionaries must remember to hold the rope.

Great Mission Quotes

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot

“God isn’t looking for people of great faith, but for individuals ready to follow Him” – Hudson Taylor

“I will not believe that thou hast tasted of the honey of the gospel if thou can eat it all to thyself.” – Charles Spurgeon

“There are only three kinds of Christians when it comes to world missions: zealous goers, zealous senders, and disobedient.” – John Piper

“Cannibals Need Missionaries.” – C.T. Studd

“There are three indispensable requirements for a missionary: 1. Patience 2. Patience 3. Patience.” – Hudson Taylor

“Answering a student’s question, ‘Will the heathen who have not heard the Gospel be saved?’ thus, ‘It is more a question with me whether we, who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not, can be saved.” – Charles H. Spurgeon

“And people who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives… and when the bubble has burst they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.” – Nate Saint

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” – John Piper

First Day In La Ceiba Honduras

We woke up at 3:00am.  The first surprise of the day occurred when we heard our friend Cam Clausing at the gate at 3:30am.  He came by just to say “bye”.  What a nice guy.  Our friend Matt McClain picked us up at 4:00am to drive us to the airport.  We checked our 18 bags with no problem.  In fact, we should have been charged $1500 for our extra bags and the lady cut the price down to $800…right on.  She did remind us that we would likely not be receiving all our bags today.  We are sitting in the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica waiting for our boarding call.  Our first flight today takes of for El Salvador at 6:33am

First flight was fine.  Into El Salvador on time.  Should start boarding our second flight in about 20 minutes.  We next fly into San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  Erin had some pretty good sinus pain while descending.  Likely leftover problems from her three month battle with allergies.  She will try some sinus medicine to clear it up.  San Salvador is the TACA hub.  We have been in this airport a dozen times.  Our next two flights are short and our next layover is quick.

We are here. Our flight to San Pedro Sula took off late.  Then our flight to La Ceiba took off late.  We sat on the runway in San Pedro Sula in the crazy heat with to air for about 30 minutes.  When we got to La Ceiba we learned that 17 of our 18 bags did NOT make it.  But, good news, the guitar made it. We will check at the airport this evening and tomorrow for our lost bags.  We rented a vehicle and checked into our boarding house.  A very nice lady owns it. But, we do NOT have internet.  So, until we rent our own house and get internet blog entries will be intermitent.  We have to go to internet cafes to post. We are now going out to look for cell phones and register for a P.O. Box.  Tomorrow we start the house search. We are well and happy to be here.  Thank you for all your prayers.  That´s it for today.

Happy Fathers Day Dad – From Mike – 2008

Dad long agoMy Dad was born in the 1920s.  He was a Depression era farmer, high school drop out, WWII veteran, drill sergeant, abandoned by his mother, tough guy, 25 year survivor of a triple bypass.  That all paints a picture that fits him perfectly and at the same time misses the mark by a mile.

Part of his youth was spent living in tents or railroad boxcars.  He and his two siblings lived on an Oregon farm with their Mom and Dad, until his Mom decided she couldn’t handle it and abandoned the family.  This left three kids to be raised in the worst of situations by a Father who was physically and verbally abusive.

My Dad played, managed and officiated any sport you can imagine.  He never missed one of my football, baseball or track events.  He brought food for our team and invited everyone over for pool parties after.  He criticized the refs and encouraged our team at embarrassing decibel levels.  But, he was there.

He never finished high school, but, today his three children are all college graduates.  He came from a broken home, but, is rapidly approaching his own 60th wedding anniversary.  He never earned much money, but, his kids never wanted for anything.

His internal conflict has always been that he felt his job was to toughen us kids and prepare us for life, while my Mom provided all the comforting, nurturing, and “I love you”s.  He desired to do all that nurturing stuff, but, it wasn’t done by his father and he really didn’t know how to do it for us.

Dad todayToday, I see it in his eyes.  He is proud of his kids and he is happy the way he raised us.  But, in his eyes I also see thousands of hugs and “I love you”s that he wanted give and regretfully never knew how.

I always claimed that he was never as tough as he tried to portray.  There was often a hollow, obligatory tone behind his, “Clean your room!” or “No, you can’t go!”  I believe now, as I watch him hug my daughter and lavish love on her that the man he always wanted to be is finally emerging.

He has regrets.  I have none.  I love you too Dad.