Monday, July 16, 2007

Forgiven to Forgive

I am back in the West this week running around in the woods doing some training. It has been great but I miss my family who has stayed in Gondor. One of the really great privileges of doing what I do is who I work with. Overseas workers are frail and human like everyone else and yet I believe that our King has created some truly remarkable people to go and do what we go and do. This week I have met some great folks. One man I have met this week is yet another study in the transforming power of our great King and with his permission I would like to tell you about him.

Thengle is a small man with a huge smile. He was born in the far east of Middle Earth in a war torn part of the world East of Dale. When he was just twelve years old his father was killed by an old family friend who turned him in so that he could save himself and increase his own fortunes. Thengle was separated from his family and forced into the army. He served as a child soldier for a short time before rejoining his mother and escaping to the refugee camps of a neighboring country. To their surprise his father’s murderer was also their in the camp. Thengle and his family made a plan to murder him in revenge. At that same time however, Thengle began listening to some interesting volunteers in the camp. These people were very different from anyone he had ever met before. They talked about Jesus and a God of love and grace. Thengle hungered for such a God in his life. He and his family became followers of Jesus. They prayed about how to kill their enemy. They believed in the verses that were taught to them that God would give them what they asked for so they asked God to kill their father’s murderer. God spoke to Thengle one day and informed him that vengeance belonged to God alone. Thengle was content. He believed that God would kill his enemy for him.

Thengle and his family moved to the West. He was educated. He grew in grace and love of the Lord Jesus and forgot about his enemy. Then God called him to go back to Middle Earth and proclaim His Kingdom. As he prepared to go Thengle was encouraged to tie up any loose ends in his life. Unresolved relationships could cause bitterness that would cripple his effectiveness. He went to see his mother one day and she told him that the man who killed his father was still alive. He had not thought about this man for years but was amazed to hear that this man was not only alive but he too lived in the West. In fact, he too was a follower of Jesus now. Thengle’s mother went to see this man and last year she sat next to him in his Church and told him that she forgave him. Thengle forgave him as well and rejoices at the goodness of our heavenly father.

Thengle trusted God to kill his enemy and God was faithful to do so. Thengle’s enemy is well and truly dead and in his place God has raised up a brother in Christ. May heaven be filled with men and women like this.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

And he gave gifts....

Personal note: I have been really busy with projects and travel so I have not been very involved in blogging lately. Tomorrow I will go to the West for two weeks of training. Arwen and the kids will remain here in Gondor so we appreciate your prayers. I will be pretty much off-line until I return.

Last week I traveled up to Andros to celebrate the completion of the project there. It was an exhausting but very rewarding journey. Halbarad and his wife were already up in Andros finishing the project when I grabbed his driver, Sam, and my daughter Luthien and we headed up over the twelve thousand foot pass and into the Cair Andros valley. It took us seven hours. After arriving we went and talked with the Emergency Services Director. We ended up spending the evening talking. Finally, I went to bed but not for long as we were back up at dawn and out to the village to for the end of project celebration. I did an interview with the Governor of the area for the local TV station. After all the big wigs left we got to sit with the villagers and I let Sam make a speech in the local dialect which he knew. We then went back into town to be shown around the area looking at potential projects.

That afternoon we met with some Christian workers from another organization. They detailed the difficult situation in Andros. Most of the male leadership of the three or four local groups have renounced Christ. One of the more important leaders gave into heavy persecution and now he has a commercial on the local tv station detailing how he became a Christian and is now a Muslim again. The local mullah interviews him and makes the point that foreigners should be avoided and there is nothing to this whole following Jesus thing. That's tough ground to plow in.

We went back out to the Emergency Services guy and spent the evening with him again. His leg is injured- possibly a pinched nerve- and he went to see the Mullah for their folk medicinal mumbo jumbo. We prayed for him but the Lord spoke quite clearly and said that He would not heal him at this time. Not the same day the Mullah did his thing. Luthien got a marriage proposal. It seems that the Emergency Services guy's wife thought she would be perfect for her son. She isn't, but she was flattered. Sam then proclaimed Christ in a very bold and direct manner for about 15 minutes. Halbarad's driver then gave his testimony, then I gave mine. We talked alot and the Emergency Services guy is very interested. We will keep praying for him.

I talked to Sam afterwards and ask him about his direct Gospel presentation. I told him that the content was great but didn't we have an indirect method that we used? He said, "I know, I talk about this all the time with Frodo and Merry but honestly sometimes I just can't keep quiet any longer!" Ok. I am always happy to hear the men of Gondor proclaim the Gospel in their own language. That makes my day everyday.

It rained that night in the mountains and the road was washed out over the pass. They are constructing a five kilometer tunnel and we tried to go through that but that road was washed out as well. We waited for about five hours and when they finally let us through the tunnel had almost three feet of rushing water through it. It was a remarkable journey. After 13 hours on the road we made it home.

Here is the thing I would like to point out. Halbarad is learning and growing in his role as an apostle to the Cair Andros valley. In a very short time he has learned the valley, the people, the language, how to run projects, and how to share his faith effectively. He is not a pastor. He is not a teacher. He is not an evangelist. He is not a prophet. He does not operate in any of these giftings at all. He is an apostle- and a very good one. He delights in breaking barriers and bringing hope to those in utter darkness. I am proud to work with him. I am honored to be a part of sending him and enabling him there. This too is an apostolic role. It is not for everyone, and it is not for so-called super Christians. It is for those whom the King calls and gifts to do it. I pray that you will be about your calling today. For the sake of the lost, and for the glory of God.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

TCK's are totally cool

TCK means Third Culture Kid. It is the new descriptor for MK or missionary kid. TCK refers to all children who grow up outside of their cultural home. I was a TCK myself growing up. My father was in the Air force and we lived overseas most of my teen years. It is interesting that now that I have been trained as a cross-cultural worker I know understand much of what happened to me as a teen. I never saw the connections at the time but my grades alone tell an interesting story. My sixth grade year we moved East and my grade dropped from A's and B's to C's and D's. Then my seventh and eighth grades report cards showed almost all A's and a couple of B's. My ninth grade year we moved to the West. My grades were almost all D's. Then tenth and eleventh grades saw report cards with almost all A's and a couple of B's again. We moved back to the US my 12th grade year. You guessed it- all C's and a D or two. Clearly I was affected by the moves, by the lifestyle, by the stress. I tell you this because I want to describe my own kids to you. I want you to understand them as I see them. Before I do that I need to tell you one more story about myself. It was not all difficulty and maladjustment for me overseas as a teen.

We arrived in Okinawa, Japan when i was 12 years old. Our plane landed at night and we were
whisked off to a hotel off base in Koza City. It was a dream. We were tired and jet lagged and I remember very little of the trip. The next morning we awoke in a strange hotel and went out to see where we were. Those first moments are etched on my brain. I walked out on to the street in a light rain in January. There was strange dissonant music loudly playing, there were people everywhere, the smell of the 'benjo' ditches was sharp. Strange things were hanging in all the shop windows and everyone was speaking a language I could not comprehend. It was electrifying. I was mesmerized. This was fantastic. It was a call. I would never be the same again. I would never look at downtown USA and think, 'this is all there is' again. The world was much bigger than I imagined, than I could possibly conceive and I was very grateful to see even the small piece.

My first born was a girl I here name
Luthien. She was born in Texas but she is not from there. She landed in Middle Earth when she was just five. She has been home schooled, cooperative schooled, and now boarding schooled. My second daughter was born in her Grandmother's town in England. Goldberry was just three when we moved to Rohan and four when we went to Gondor. Many people say that kids learn the language and culture quickly. Not always. The second day we were in Rohan we were walking down the street and a group of kids were playing in a field nearby. Our girls said to us, 'We don't want to talk like those kids'. We were surprised. But they refused to learn. They played everyday in the street with 20 different boys and girls and learned very little of the language. Sure, they could say a few things but for the most part they could not converse. One day I sat down with Luthien and told her that we were going to be here for awhile and if she was going to be happy she needed to learn the language. She said, "Nope, I am going to teach them all English!" She didn't succeed but it was interesting watching her try. All the years of her growing up have been very difficult. She was very difficult to teach. She was an extreme introvert with no attention span at all. But slowly, with a lot of work on her mother's part especially, she has changed. We baptized her a few years ago in our home Church in the West. We were not totally convinced she was ready. What was she really thinking? This was always hard to tell with Luthien. Two years ago we ran out of schooling options for her. Home school was not working anymore, Internet school was a disaster for our family- it requires a lot of discipline! So, we sent her off to boarding school three timezones away. We didn't know if she would make it but she blossomed. I am irritated to say that now that I have sent her away my introverted, non conversant daughter is now an extremely interesting person to be with. She reads the Word everyday and makes her decisions based on it. We are really enjoying having the girls home for the summer. This week I took Luthien to the village to see one of our projects. It was a difficult road up over the pass and a long long day the next day as we evaluated the project, met lots of people and government officials and looked over new project possibilities. While we stayed up late one night witnessing to a local official Luthien was proposed to by the wife of our host. She had a young son that she was sure was just right. Luthien didn't think that she would be a very good daughter-in-law in Gondor culture. I am sure she is right. But she did help cook the meal that night and the whole discussion was in the language of Gondor which she supposedly doesn't know very well!

Goldberry is the opposite of Luthien. She is vivacious, fun, and outgoing. We knew she would do well at boarding school but there was something we did not take into account. While Goldberry is much more interactive and aware than Luthien she is also much more emotional. She really struggled this last semester being away from Mom and Dad. She failed algebra and that hurt her emotionally too. One day she told me that she was not good at anything, she was not talented, was not intelligent, was not special. I lost my temper. I told her in no uncertain terms that grades, clever tricks, or physical ability meant nothing in the Kingdom. Love was everything and no one could love others like Goldberry. She is sensitive to others, she includes others, she is a good friend. No, she does not juggle or play soccer well. But she is great in the Kingdom and I am grateful for such a daughter. She wants more than anything- at the moment- to be a cross-cultural worker like Dad and Mom. She wants to tell the world about Jesus.

The boys come next.
Elladan was born in England in 1999. He is wiry, strong, and thinks he is a gymnast. The fact that all the furniture in our house is broken is a testamony to this. He is not crazy about school and Arwen is going to home school him this next year to see if she can motivate him better. He stays locked away in our yard too much of the time. The neighborhood boys just throw rocks at the foreigner whenever they see him out. He has a bad attitude about the people of Middle Earth even though it is the only home he knows and would not want to live anywhere else. He loves camping and I try and take him out to the villages when I can. Elrohir was born just two years ago and is a small tank in motion. He is a chunk of a kid with the sweetest attitude you could ever hope to see in a child. He loves to sit and play quietly with Woody and Buzz of Toy Story fame and play for hours. Probably due to the dual language issues he does not speak at all yet. The only thing he can say with any consistency is, "To infinity and beyond!" of course, quoting Buzz.

I guess the purpose of this post is obvious. There are great advantages to raising kids here and there are great challenges. The kids will never be the same as a result of what we have done to them by bringing them here. I think that our Father is going to take them and make them exceptional humans as a result of being here. They don't know their grandparents or extended families at all. They don't like the US and don't feel 'at home' there. The truth is they, like me, will never 'feel' at home anywhere. This might be the best lesson of all. We are taught theologically that this world is not our home. Most people around the world do not understand this.
TCK's know it all too well. They understand that they do not belong anywhere in this world and for most of them it drives them to seek somewhere else. A Kingdom not made with hands and ruled by our mighty King. When we get there many of us may have to deal with culture shock. If you do, just look up a TCK, they will proudly welcome you home.