Serving Where It Isn’t Safe

My guest for this interview serves in an area where it would endanger her family if her name were provided or if any specific information about their location is revealed. I am especially grateful for her sharing her story.

Where have you served on mission and at what age?

Well, I began taking short term trips in High School. My first trip was to Mexico. I was 16 years old. The most impacting thing about that particular trip was just having real conversations with a couple that was serving there and seeing their day to day lives. I also took trips to Honduras in high school and college. I went to China when I was 22 years old and now live in Central Asia.

What made you decide to serve there?

Honestly, my first trip happened because my best friend was going. After that trip, my heart was drawn to missions. I felt that God was telling me to go and serve. Now, I live overseas and at times have to remember that deep call to share the good news in another country.

What is your greatest challenge while serving?

I am not sure that there is one great challenge. Everything becomes a challenge when living in a different culture and learning a new language. But, the hardest parts for me include: being away from family, having no traditional church to attend, trying to learn a foreign language, and learning new cultural norms.

How have you seen God at work where you serve?

I see God at work both in me and in those around me. He is working in my heart to break down pride and the need to be understood and accepted. When you can only communicate on a kindergarten level it is difficult to be understood and accepted. But I am learning that my identity is only found in Christ. Also, I see God doing a great work in refugees who are flooding our country. These people left their home because of war, but God is using others to help meet both physical and spiritual needs. God is able to use all circumstances for his glory.

One specific example is that of my language tutor. Before we arrived, many others had shared the good news with her. She was often harsh and combative in response to the Truth. Over the course of 3 years, she saw a difference in the lives of the Christians around her. She saw them serve by teaching her children English. She heard over and over again. I was very intimidated by her when I first met her, but she then became my tutor and closest friend. When we shared with her, she no longer argued. She listened. She no longer took a strong stand. She helped us learn bible stories in our new language. Her heart has slowly softened. She has not believed. But she is not the same. Please pray for *Rose to believe.

What opposition did you face before you went or while serving?

I actually had people in my own church tell me that they did not think we should go overseas. I was very offended because these were Christians who were asking me to disobey God in order to “stay safely in America.”

What would you like people to know about the people/place that you serve?

I want people to know that Muslims are people who need the love of Christ. My friends here are Muslims…they are good hearted, sweet, and helpful. But, they do not believe and therefore need to hear the truth. Please do not give in to the current trend of labeling Muslims as terrorists. Pray for them daily to hear the good news!

Give Your Child the World – Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time

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GIve Your Child the World Cover

When I first heard the title of this book, I immediately felt a connection to the author, Jamie C. Martin. Like me, Jamie’s calling is to reach the next generation with the wonder that is God’s most amazing creation, the people around the world. Gaining an understanding for those who are not like us is an essential characteristic in our 21st Century world where we are closer in many ways, yet more divided than ever. Jamie’s book is a primer on how to teach your children systematically and from a young age to value and respect all people.

Jamie starts off by sharing a glimpse at her journey in becoming the mother of a multicultural family that represents four different ethnic backgrounds. But this book is not just for those who have adopted internationally and want their children to know something about their heritage. Give Your Child the World provides lists of age-appropriate books for age 4-12, categorized by the region or country represented and including a brief description to help you select books of the most interest to your family. She also has great suggestions for how to incorporate reading these books, or any books, into your family activities in a way that is sure to broaden your children’s (and maybe your own!) perspective on the world.

As a mother of four, my only regret is that my youngest is now well beyond the age for these books, but I was encouraged to see many familiar titles among them. Whether your interaction with children is as a parent, a teacher, a Sunday school teacher, or a babysitter, this book provides excellent guidance that allows you to give the children you love an experience they will never forget and create in them a love and appreciation for all people.

I highly recommend Give Your Child the World to anyone who has children in their life!

Summertime Madness

Love this…and not just because you plugged my book. 🙂 Love YOU and looking forward to helping you and Scott get settled in your new home.

Turner Adventures

For those of you following along, yes we have missed 3 whole months! This blog post is about all the madness and amazingness that has occurred in those 3 months.

Hello dear friends and family! If you are reading this, odds are that we have seen you and hugged you at some point in the past 2.5 months. We have travelled through 4 states, and been at home a grand total of 3 weekends during the months of April, May and June. And as you can imagine–WE ARE TIRED. Coming into this summer, we knew it would be busy. But there was no way to prepare for the emotional rollercoaster of having packed literally as much into the first 3 months of summer as humanly possible.

To work chronologically, the first large-scale event this summer occurred on April 27th. After two weekends of Hybrid classes in Raleigh, I was offered a position at…

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Mission to Mexicali

I’m so excited to be interviewing Heidi Schussman, author of El Tiburon, and a fellow Vinspire Publishing author, this week. You can read more about Heidi’s adventures following God on her blog at Author H. Schussman.

Heidi, let’s start by sharing your experience on the mission field. Tell me a little about where have you served on missions and at what age?

My husband and I started going to a local church about ten years ago. It turned out to be a mission-based church. These guys take mission very seriously, both locally and in distant lands. My husband felt called to go to Mexicali with the youth group right away. He came back a changed man. His excitement and enthusiasm was contagious. I went with him the next year (I was about 40). This time we went with the senior’s club. I work in the medical field with geriatrics, so this was my actual focus… making sure our older missionaries were safe and healthy. They out-worked us all! I could barely keep up.

What made you decide to serve there?

Selfish reasons, really. My husband and I were learning Spanish and this represented an opportunity to serve and practice our newly developing language skills. The final decision was made when I knew I’d be working at an elderly orphanage in Mexicali with abandoned grandparents.

Describe how you knew you should go and what challenges you faced to this decision.

The first time I went, I can’t say I knew I should go. I actually struggled with it quite a bit. Taking time off of work was difficult, and the news was constantly showing scary scenes from Mexico. I was fairly certain I would be kidnapped for ransom or beheaded! But we were very safe and well cared for. My husband told me, “If God wants you dead, he can kill you right here at home.”

What opposition did you face before you went or while you were serving?

My biggest opposition was my physical well being. I had just injured my neck and had surgery. I was concerned I would re-injure it. Our team was set up to do a lot of repairs to the home for the elderly. I found plenty to do that didn’t damage my neck.

Once we got down in Mexicali we didn’t have opposition, but crossing the borders was difficult… especially coming back. One year we got stuck with the job of driving the huge truck full of camping supplies for 150 people. When we attempted to cross the border back to the United States, the guard decided to make my husband and I get out and unload the truck. It had taken the base camp all morning to load it and we were supposed to unload it and re-load it alone! After we emptied about a third of it, they got bored and let the police-dog sniff around. Then we re-loaded the truck. They wouldn’t let anyone help us. It was a bummer to say the least, especially because we had a ten hour drive ahead of us.

What would you most like people to know about the place/people group you served?

Mexicali is a great community with hundreds of churches serving the needs of the poor. The pastors are unified in a way that allows them to accomplish a lot. That being said, Mexicali is inundated with two people groups, three actually. First are the elderly parents who are left behind when their children jump the border. Second are the women left behind with babies, and selling their bodies to the third group… the men who have been sent back over the border because they have gotten in trouble with the law. Prostitution and abandoned children are major issues in Mexicali. The orphanages are full of children with living parents. Because of this dichotomy, the kids can’t be adopted. One of the large school/homes we serve has developed a recovery section for women to be reunited with their children. They live in a tightly controlled drug-free community.

What are some other ways you’ve served the God?

That’s a huge question. There must be a million ways to help the missionaries and to share your faith in different places. We have found that as we travel around the world, especially when we are living in Spanish speaking countries, we constantly find opportunities to help the poor, widowed and orphaned. You just never know when or how it could happen.

Most of the people we meet down there are “religious.” After three or four weeks of living with a family in Mexico or Guatemala, they begin to ask us about the peace they see in us. That becomes our chance to explain the personal relationship with Christ that is available to them. We also love scuba diving. This is definitely a rich person’s sport. Club Med is our favorite resort to dive with. Because Club Med is a European company, tons of visitors are from the elite upper class of Europe. I absolutely love sharing my faith with the intellectual non-believers.

Have you seen things you’d call miraculous?

Too many to count! The first one that comes to mind was when we were in Guanajuato, Mexico at language school. We were visiting a Christian lady who had set up a safe zone for teenagers. As we stood on the sidewalk chatting, a lady crossed the street and said she’d heard that we were Christians. She asked us if we would pray for her shoulder. She was scheduled for surgery the following morning. She bowed her head and waited expectantly. All three of us placed our hands on her and prayed for a miracle. It was a powerful moment because she had no doubt that God would perform the miracle. About a week later, we were back visiting and all of a sudden the lady screams out to us in excitement and waving BOTH arms, she races across the street to embrace us. We couldn’t understand her because she was talking so fast and with such detail, but the interpretation was; She’d gone in for her pre-op x-ray and the surgeon asked for more x-rays and scans. Finally he called off the surgery because there was nothing wrong with her shoulder!

Do you have any recommendations for people considering serving as a missionary?

Just do it. Keep in mind that you are the one who benefits the most from your journey, as God loves to mold your heart to be closer to his. The sweet joy of serving others who are struggling can be experienced in your local town too. You don’t have to go to India to participate in his plan.

Thanks, Heidi, for sharing your experiences with us!

Mission on Mercy Ships

The Great Commission doesn’t include a retirement age! Thanks to Warren Johnson for this peek at some missionary adventures that prove missions isn’t just for young adults. You can read more from Warren at Focusing the Lens of Life

Where have you served on missions and at what age?

Two weeks on the YWAM ship Caribbean when I was 35+/- Two week trip to Bungoma, Kenya @ 55+/-

What made you decide to serve there?

Not sure that I knew I should go; found out that the ship would be dockside for repairs and determined that I would go if they’d take me. Kenya trip was in response to our Pastor’s ministry there. He was going again and I had the opportunity to sign up. My question to myself and the pastor was, “This may be my good idea, but is it God’s will?” Pastor said yes.

What was your greatest challenge while serving?

I went to serve however they liked. Going with that in mind, I wouldn’t call the trip challenging, other than trying to sleep in a ship bunk made for 5’6″ people when I’m 6’4″. The Africa trip went well except for the deterioration of the country infrastructure. What should have taken four or five hours to drive, took twelve. My knees were painful to tears by the time we arrived. A couple of aspirin and twenty minutes of no vibration ended the challenge until the trip home.

How did you see God at work while you were serving?

The crew of the ship was made up of many people groups. I bunked with Bill, a guy from an island in the S. Pacific. Others were from around the world and each working for God’s glory in the day to day tasks of refitting the ship with an eye surgical suite, replenishing food supplies, cleaning, chipping paint, painting, greasing things, cleaning, bible studies, cleaning, etc. My Bungoma mission was to support pastor and his wife during the trip. The Bethesda girls school had 50 young women/girls attending on campus. As little money as there was to run the school, sacrifices were made daily so the girls could learn. The bigger mission for the group entailed encouraging over 100 pastors who came on three days’ notice to hear Pastor speak. Some walked 11 hours to get there. I was asked to speak for a couple of minutes, but I simply referred to the scripture about being poor, blind and naked because that’s the way I felt compared to their demonstration of faith.

What opposition did you face before you went or while you were serving?

At one point, although the Mercy Ship was a privately pursued venue, the young man appointed as the “Missions Director” commented to our pastor that I hadn’t contacted him. He was right, but Pastor allowed me to go. This was a case of positional authority rather than relational work. I think we both learned something. The big opposition occurred on the way back while changing planes in Istanbul. I had previously traveled to Dubai on business and went through Israel on the way home. No passport check occurred on the way to Kenya, but on the way back there was a small incident. Apparently relations between Turkey and Israel changed. I took the last position of passing through customs and the girl behind the kiosk took one look at my “stamps” and said, “Wait here.” She passed me on to another who passed me to another who passed me to another. Finally, the supervisor says, “Do you read or speak Hebrew?” I chuckled (and thought to myself, “don’t say Shalom”) and said, “No.” He waved me through.

What would you most like people to know about the place/people group you served?

YWAM Mercy Ships personnel do a tremendous work with sparse resources. If you’re looking for a place to leave a legacy in the medical missions field, this is a great place to invest. Bethesda Ministries International deserves your consideration, especially if you value education for the local people. The vision is to grow to a 300 seat school and the foundation is being built. Funds are always required.

 

What Rock are you Pushing?

In Greek mythology, the legend of Sisyphus relates the tale of a poor mortal who angered the gods so much that they punished him by sentencing him to spend eternity at an impossible task – pushing a rock up a mountain, only to have it roll back down time after time.

This is my twist on the legend of Sisyphus…

Once upon a time, a man prayed fervently for God to reveal His will for the man’s life. God led him to the base of a tall mountain where a boulder had fallen from the face of the slope.

“Push the rock,” God told the man.

Tiziano_-_Sísifo

“Tiziano – Sísifo” by Titian – Photo taken by Dodo. Retouched with clens and the Gimp.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

“But, Lord, that boulder is larger than I am! I couldn’t possibly push that rock up this mountain!” The man responded.

“Push the rock,” God repeated.

The man argued with God and reasoned with God. He ignored God’s instruction and turned his back for a time. He folded his arms across his chest and finally threw them up in despair.

Finally, he sighed, bowed his head, placed his hands upon the rock and began to push.

The rock did not move.

All day the man pushed on the rock. He tried throwing his weight against it. He tried pressing with his legs. He tried turning around and pushing with his back. At the end of the day, the rock had not moved. Not one inch.

The next day, the man arose and heard the voice of God again. “Push the rock.”

The man returned to the rock. Again he pressed and pushed all day long. No matter how hard he tried, the rock did not move. Not one inch.

Day after day, God called the man and he returned to the rock and pushed. Day after day, the rock did not move. Not one inch.

Some days the man pleaded with God to give him some other task. Some days the man sang as he pushed. Some days the man wept and cried out to God to help move the rock. Some days the man stood back and prayed, “Lord, I know in your mighty power, you alone are able to move this rock! I believe and have faith that you will move this rock when I say, move. Now, rock, by the power of God, MOVE!” Still the rock did not move. Not one inch.

At the end of the man’s life, he wept with frustration and sorrow. He was a failure. He had spent his entire life pushing that rock and he had failed. In all those years, the rock had not moved. Not one inch.

When the man passed away, he was greeted by God. He wept and cried out in regret, “Oh, Lord, I’m so sorry! I wasn’t able to push that rock no matter how hard I tried.” He hung his head, ashamed of his failure at the one task God had given him.

But God took his hand and led him to the shore of the crystal sea and said, “Look into the water and tell me what you see.”

The man looked at his reflection and barely recognized himself. Before him was the image of a mountain of a man, strong and rugged. Muscles built through years of pressing on the rock covered his broad chest. His arms bulged beneath his sleeves and his legs were as hard as the boulder itself had been.

“You have achieved everything I asked of you. Your task was never about moving the rock – it was about moving you from complacency to action, from self-assurance to dependence on Me, and from weak, ineffective faith to a faith that moves mountains.”

Sometimes God calls us to work that is not intended to change others, but to change us.

What has God called you to that you have yet to see any fruit from?

Transforming Faith

Isaiah 1:13-17:

Stop bringing meaningless offerings!

Your incense is detestable to me.

New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—

I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.

14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals

I hate with all my being.

They have become a burden to me;

I am weary of bearing them.

15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,

I hide my eyes from you;

even when you offer many prayers,

I am not listening.

Your hands are full of blood!

16 Wash and make yourselves clean.

Take your evil deeds out of my sight;

stop doing wrong.

17 Learn to do right; seek justice.

Defend the oppressed.[a]

Take up the cause of the fatherless;

plead the case of the widow.

Such strong words!

“I am weary of bearing [your worthless assemblies].”

“I hide my eyes from you [when you spread your hands in prayer].”

“I hate with all my being [your feasts and festivals].”

Religious observance without heart change is detestable to God. This is not to say that we must “do” something to have fellowship with God; Christ has already done everything necessary for life and godliness on our behalf.

But when we recognize the magnitude of that sacrifice, it changes our heart as surely as a seed exposed to light and water will be transformed into a plant that provides food for many.

John 8:12 tell us, “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

And just before this in John 7:38, he said, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

When our lives are exposed to the Light and Living Water that Jesus offers, they are transformed into something through which God blesses others – not because of our great efforts. This is the power of God and it is a law we see at work in those who have embraced the Light and the Living Water as surely as the natural laws transform a seed into a crop!

It is not something that we can do. No amount of effort, desire, or work on our part can multiply in this way.

And yet, when we bring what we have to the Lord with earnest prayers for Him to use our meager offerings, like the young boy’s lunch or the widow’s mite…

He listens with delight to our prayers.

He gazes on our hearts with joy.

He accepts our worship with satisfaction.

And he transforms our worthless crumbs into a feast!

A Very Special Kind of Crazy

 

A recent conversation led me to share the story of Nate Saint, Jim Elliott and the three other missionaries who gave their lives in the 1950’s trying to help natives in Ecuador with someone who had never before heard their story. One of the widows and the sister of one of the missionaries later went to live with the tribe, taking their children with them, and through their efforts many in the tribe turned from a destructive, violent path almost certain to end in their extinction, to Christianity.

“That’s a very special kind of crazy,” was the response.

She is absolutely right. In our morally upside-down world, it takes a special brand of insanity to offer up your life for someone else without any possible tangible reward.

We value the return on investment above all.

Even in our most altruistic moments, we bear in mind what our actions may net for us:

“Will this extra work earn me a raise or a promotion, or at the very least a pat on the back?”

“Will this little kindness to my spouse promote peace or merit a favor in return?”

“Will I get an allowance for doing this chore?”

What kind of person gives something of incredible value, knowing the one to whom they are giving cannot possibly pay them back…ever?

What would make those mothers – newly widowed – risk the lives of their own children for the sake of the very people who left their children fatherless?

A very special kind of crazy.

The kind of crazy that in smaller doses takes in a child in need of a home. Or provides for a massive financial need. Or donates a kidney.

The kind of crazy that in more extravagant doses throws oneself on a grenade or in front of a bullet. Or runs into a building that is burning or collapsed because maybe there is someone they could save.

The kind of crazy that in the most perfect example of all takes the sin of the whole world on Himself and pays a penalty that He would never deserve so that you and I would never have to pay for it ourselves. It’s a debt that we could never repay and Christ knew that and chose to pay it for us anyway.

Yep, that is a very special kind of crazy.

PS – I loaned her the video “The End of the Spear” which depicts the story and the culture behind the deaths of the missionaries as well as the harvest God has brought through their wives’ ministry. Please join me in praying for greater understanding and a little bit of crazy.