Cathy’s Corner – Rest on the mission field

Russ asked me to write something for the blog. After all there’s a “Cathy’s Corner” that’s been sitting rather empty.

At first I sort of dreaded it.  I mean a picture of a meal I’ve made or flowers that grow in my yard on facebook is one thing.  But writing is so personal and really opens a window onto one’s life. At first I thought I’ll just do the “here’s how the kids are doing, here’s what my ministries look like…” blog entry.  But you see how our kids are doing if you have us on Facebook.  They’re doing great! And in the past I’ve told you about my ministries to women and children and how they aren’t too dissimilar to what you may be doing…just add in some different accents and food that might be unfamiliar to Americans.  So what would I write about then… today I got some inspiration.

When was your last family holiday or vacation as you’d say in the US? Did you go to the mountains of Colorado? Maybe one of our past family favourites: Silver Dollar City in Missouri? The beach? Or maybe a big splurge: Disney World? Do you ever wonder if missionaries have a holiday? If so, when? Where? Is furlough a holiday? I remember back to the training we had just before leaving for the field. We were told that vacations were meant to be taken in our field country and furlough (which I think used to be for rest and recuperation) is for getting in touch with supporting churches and supporters and letting them know what our ministry is doing.  Furlough is work.  Plain and simple.

And then, we live and minister in a country that looks like we’re on perma-holiday.  I mean its beautiful.  The weather is almost always perfect. Compared to some other missionaries, our life looks like a holiday.  But ministry can be 24/7. And living on a ministry budget means the cost of a holiday can be hard to scrape together.  Right now its school holidays here in Australia.  It would’ve been lovely to escape to a holiday by the beach or some other restful place.  But when that’s not possible, what do you do? Russ was able to schedule in a “long weekend” away from the city ministry.  He put an “I am out of the office” message on his email.  And with some penny pinching we have been able to do some fun things with the kids. The answer: a holiday at home! We’ve gone to the movies on discount tickets, had a nice date night, gone to a major professional sports game and sat in the cheap seats, and just this morning, had a big breakfast together as a family, read the Saturday morning paper in a slow and leisurely manner, and plan on a walk later.  Also in this “holiday at home” we included a perennial family favourite: a train ride into the city and lunch in Chinatown. Ministry doesn’t take a holiday though.  I’m still taking morning tea to church on Sunday morning and Russ is still in charge of leading the devotional at prayer meeting on Sunday afternoon.  I wish he could change his body clock to “vacation mode” but he can’t. He’s still up at 5:30 every morning.

Why am I sharing this? To make you feel guilty about your family vacation time? Not at all.  But instead of the usual missionary update, I thought I’d share another perspective on being a missionary.  If it causes you to think of us, pray for us, give generously to missionary families, great! But also, if it causes you to think outside the American box, of how others do life in ministry in other places, that’s really good too.

I read a good quote by Charles Spurgeon the other day: “Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength…It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.” We are headed into summer here in the Souther Hemisphere. That will mean we can go to the beach on the occasional Saturday or Sunday after church.

Pray that we “gather fresh strength” on this “holiday at home” and on such occasions.

Thanks for your prayers and reading a bit from Cathy’s Corner,

Cathy

Friends, the message and some other small things

Some of our office team got into a conversation about how many friends we have on Facebook & how many followers we have on Twitter. In all honesty, it was a competitive conversation. Rather silly, when you think about it, because it is a discussion on popularity. Facebook and Twitter are poor marks of popularity, once you think of how much you really know about your Friends or followers.

What overwhelmed me in the conversation was looking at other people’s ‘Friends lists’. The  feeling was not how many people I knew, but how many people in the world I do not know. That feeling made me go even deeper in my thought process and to think of how many of the people I do know and don’t know who do not know Christ as their Saviour. (That will bend the brain a bit)

As a ministry worker, these thoughts caused three reactions.

  1. I was overwhelmed with the need to reach as many people as I can, in this lifetime, with this message of hope.
  2. Sorrow and urgency for all who do not know Jesus, yet.
  3. Relief of job security, most likely I will have a job for the rest of my life! The work will always be there, that is a bittersweet thing. (I can explain to you if you are interested at another time)

The heart of the message

The long and the short of it can be explained in these words written by a man named John. Inspired words that will explain it all. If you would like to discuss it further, write me back.

After these words , I will explain some of the things we do to share this information with people in Sydney.

Some good news written by John

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

These words explain the primary message of the bible. I would love to discuss it further with you. Via email, mobile or come along to some of these events in Sydney in the coming months.

Some other small things

Revelation series- Pastor Ben Kwok and I are going through the book of Revelation in the current sermon series at Rouse Hill Bible Church. Come along and hear from one of the most intriguing and misunderstood books of the Bible.

Can we make a difference? The Forum is back at City Bible Forum. We will be engaging in the topic of making a difference in society. Philanthropy, social activism and the Bible. Does any of this make a difference in society and can we make a difference with the life we have been given?

Authentic Spirituality: how to be a follower of Jesus without being religious – In a large architecture firm in the city, we are going through this great series. Looking at some of the key components of a life with Jesus. Grace, the Bible, prayer, hearing from God, integrity and more. We have a great mix of Christian and Enquirers coming along.

Love, God and other small things- In one of the largest banks in Sydney, we are going through this great course on relationships. Homosexuality, marriage, divorce and what the bible has to say about them. It has been one of the biggest meetings we have going in the city. This series from Ian Powell is worth hearing and engaging in the Bible.

For more information, go to the links provided.

Spelling reminder: Also, as we regularly remind our friends and readers. We live in Australia, the spelling is a bit different than in other parts of the world. Don’t worry, I do have spell check and it is on the correct settings.

Thanks for your interest and prayers.

The adventure continues,

Russ, Cathy, Becca, Hope, Joshua and Caroline

Missionaries are weird

John 15:19

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

I am going to take you back to one of my weakest moments. I remember sitting at a camp and hearing a missionary speaker. I was distracted. I was distracted by his clothes, his manner and his words.

Then I am horrified by what came next. What I had planned in my heart for this poor man. The infamous questions. The questions that I wanted to ask the poor man during Q&A time. ‘How many people have you lead to The Lord?’  ‘How many churches have you planted?’ ‘Share with us the last time you shared your faith.’  They may seem innocent enough, but this was not the case.

Unfortunately these questions were not for his edification or to glorify the Lord, they were to be asked to measure his evangelistic prowess and communication abilities. My purpose was to show him to be a bumbling fool and a poor communicator. An unfortunate judgement, that would come back to haunt me.

Had I taken any consideration for him? Did I ever step back to think that he was having to do reverse translation in his head? Or that he was suffering from the sheer exhaustion of the curse of furlough? Or maybe the last evangelistic conversation, as with most of these conversations, was not one of any significance and maybe he was trying to remember a ‘positive’ one for my benefit?

Shame on me. I did not think of any of those things. I just saw a weird guy who needed to be humiliated. I will admit, I thought it and I am not proud of it, but in my head was the question…

‘Are all missionaries weird?’

(Pause for effect…)

Definition: weird (in Australia it is pronounced wid, now that is weird) 1. Of, relating to, or suggestive of the preternatural or supernatural. 2. Of a strikingly odd or unusual character; strange. 

As I ponder this question, I know the answer. You might not like it, but the answer to this question is ‘Yes.’ They (we) have to be weird. Before you judge me and start to write a scathing status on Twitter or Facebook, keep reading.

All missionaries are weird. At the time, due to my own short sightedness and sinful nature, I was focused on the external of this man. I did not take the time to meet this bloke, I cannot remember his name, but now I realise I was missing something. Missionaries have to be a bit different, dare I say weird, to even consider doing what they do. Going to a foreign country, sharing a strange message and setting themselves up as counter culture in a new culture, and then do the unthinkable. Fall in love with the country, the culture and the people they are sent to by God. I know, weird.

Fast forward to 2013: Our family is classified as missionaries. We call Australia home, we have lived here close to 8 years and we have become citizens. I do not wear white shirts  and we call ourselves ministry workers, not missionaries. Why? Because otherwise we are thought of as Mormans. I know, weird.

Weird Words: Relating to the original example, I understand why the missionary struggled at the camp. The longer we are in Australia, it is harder to communicate with people from our country of origin. We dress differently, we talk differently (Mate!), we like different food, we communicate the Gospel differently, and do you know why? The explanation is… We live in a different country. I know, weird.

Visitors: We had some Christian friends come and visit. They experienced the ministry, our life, the country, the people that we serve with here and our Australian friends that had become some of our closest friends. As we described the experience of ministry in Australia to our US friends, one word kept coming out, ‘Weird.’ It was strange, but this caused me to get angry. The word hit me in the face and the reason that term frustrated me was this visitor was in ‘my country’ and kept calling it weird. The culture, the food, the language and the churches were all apart of this country. Technically he was the odd man out. Based on the definition, he was the the weird one. Yet, even in my frustration, he was right. It was weird from his perspective.

In the near future, we will be weird with an audience: We will be the guy standing in front of a crowd trying to communicate what we do in Australia. Our family will be going to the US for the infamous furlough. A strange position from both sides of the ocean. Americans think we come back for rest and refreshment. Our friends in Australia that think that is is a time for holiday in the US. Yet, it is one of most challenging and exhausting times in ministry.

To give you perspective, try leaving your current career, country and home. All your work, the relationships and career objectives you have been building over the last eight years and travel through a foreign country and raise funds for months. Hoping that all the work and people will be there when you come back. Each week you pack up to travel to a different church every week. Deliver the same message to every church. The expectation is to keep it fresh & make sure there is enough rah-rah! Oh yeah, now you are the one who gets asked those questions. During the Q&A sessions, if you talk too much about the challenges, people think you are depressed. If you talk of too many successes, you are bragging and need a dose of humility.

I will let you in on a little secret, the goal and ultimate desire of missionaries is to get back to the country that is now called home. So, we can recover from furlough. Getting back to the people and country, that we see as where God has directed. Deep in the hearts of missionaries, we want to go home. I know, weird.

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

If you have made it to this portion, you might think this is a poor judgement of a people group, a personal lament or a pity party. You would be wrong.

I am a missionary and I am weird. 

Guess what? This is the life the Lord has directed us. We understand it and in a strange way, we enjoy the process. Through all of the challenges, all the travel, all the rejections and humiliations, we come out the other end better for it all. If weird means loving the country the Lord has sent us to serve, loving the work we do, loving the people we serve alongside and loving the God who sent us here. I am good with that.

I know, weird. 

 

The adventure continues…

Russ, Cathy, Becca, Hope, Joshua and Caroline