Monday, April 23, 2018

April Showers Sunday Funday

Our weekly vlog is unapologetically grandma fodder:

I also made Language videos about verbs and irregular verbs, but you probably are not interested :). A public school asked if they could bring their students on a field trip to the International school to have an English class by a native English speaker, so I am preparing a two hour lesson for 45 11-13 year olds (yikes!). I wanted to have additional resources for them, so am finally getting around to some beginning English classes on our YouTube channel. Say a prayer for this great (and challenging) opportunity coming up May 15th! 
BIG NEWS! Caid has passed the last of all the (3) tests for getting his driver's licence in Brazil (as well as all the translating documents and other hoops we had to jump through)! I will be working on getting mine soon as well. We had a nice week (everyone healthy!) where Ana Sofia got her first Minnie Mouse temporary tattoo, Jessica got to try mushed bananas (she has this fruit sucker thing), and I had time to work on my "Creative projects" (anything that I enjoy doing that isn't priority when there are two littles). 
On Tuesday, we had a Skype baby shower for Jessica (our friends and family had wanted to bless us with one before, but we had no way to get presents down to Brazil until we knew my sister and goddaughter were coming!), and it was such a blessing to be they prayed for us and rocked out the home missionary support system! It made us feel so loved and connected. 

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Research results about missionary attrition: super important for those of us in missions: why are most people leaving? The short answer has always been "Not being able to get along with other missionaries," which has always saddened me and made me a bit disgusted with missions. But this survey says the top five reasons are: "lack of missionary care, lack of integrity on the team, lack of freedom to pursue calling, team conflict, and confusion over role on the team." which makes much more sense and is very understandable--and gives us many more tools in fighting missionary attrition. 
2. Parents, call out the beauty: wondering why your kid doesn't like (insert many things)? Maybe check your own response to it. 
3. "Be kind, loving, and don't get bitter:" I was all like "awwww-what an amazing dad!" and then I realized/remembered what a great dad my kids have and I thought "We are gonna make a video like that someday!"
4. State of the World: hum. So after the whole "Failed Missionary" thing I wanted to look into the whole "$53 Billion spent on missions" thing. These kind of videos always got me fired up when I was younger. Now I am wondering where they got their facts and where exactly I fit in these figures. What all are they calling missions in group C? Am I in group C?  Where are these 2 billion people in group A? Am I in group B? What are the requirements for group A? An interesting video to watch. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sunday Funday April

Our weekly vlog is...well, actually just a short message to our home church as they celebrate 20 years, so I will put the Living Stones video that shares some BIG NEWS:
We are super sad that we can't make the Trek this year, but Tele will be there, with a bunch of other special (and SURPRISE) Brazilians coming as well! Why all the fuss? We have a special goal this year: a van! So make sure to sign up before May 1st to get a free shirt! (You can sign up even the day of, at the just won't get the great shirt) 

Our week was much less exciting than that great news...I got the horrible bug that Caid had a few weeks ago, so was in bed from Wednesday on. But we are slowly back on track: Caid was a fantastic dad and fill-in mom, Ana Sofia has discovered the joys of tea parties, and Jessica went to her check-up and was pronounced super chunky and healthy! 
Reads from the Interwebs:
1. This ten minutes TED talk about pictures of people around the world, sorted by money: super powerful!
3. The Roundabout way: a new blogger I am excited to hear more from!

Monday, April 9, 2018

April Sunday Funday

Our weekly vlog is actually from before Easter, behind the scenes:
Here was the official video about the week, from Jeff Turner:

We had a sicky week as I got the sniffles and had a foggy, stuffy head most of the week, and Jessica got her shots and had a bit of a fever. But we were all better by the end of the week. Ana Sofia has decided her profession is and will be to be a ballerina. Our big news is that we have our tickets to return to the USA--December 4th! Very excited! 

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Failed Missionary and other Undefined Terms: This is actually a response to what I read/listened to. All of the links are included in it. This was a very good and important processing time for me. 
2. Good vs. Bad or Wasteful Mission Trips: another part of my processing discussions and ideas. 
4. Dear Missionary Mom of Littles: yes, written for me:)

Failed Missionary and Other Undefined Terms

I recently listened to the first two podcasts from a site called "Failed Missionary" in series named "Called, not Qualified." It brought up a lot of interesting thoughts and ideas about missions, and included some people I follow and respect in the missions community. I heard about it from a community called A Life Overseas, which has amazing resources. The podcasts, unfortunately, are a bit rough, and even bitter in some areas, and have received some responses that I feel balance them out well, and add to the discussion--which is one we need to have. And so I add my own thoughts.
In the podcast, they say that corrupt short term missions is a result of corrupt missionaries which is a result of corrupt churches (I summarize). Our missionary history, often based on colonialism and capitalism, and often told as an adventure book reality, is deeply flawed, just like each person who has ever said “I feel called by God to...”

Some of the issues the podcast brings up:
1. The unprofessional-ness of missions. How many people go who are untrained in, well, anything. You go, and get celebrated, because you are called- not because you have any actual skills. Unfortunately, I have seen this as we have had some “interns” sent to Brazil who we have, sadly, had to babysit rather than be assets.
2. Intentions. What is the mission? To save people? To love others? It is so unclear. Are you a missionary because it makes you a super Christians? What makes you successful as a missionary? I am still working on many of these questions!
3. Misuse of resources. Missions is a 53 billion dollar business. Where are the results? We all need more accountability- if we have chosen missions as our vocation, we need to be professional and honest about where the money is going, even if it means people will stop giving. If we are scared to share: it probably means some thing is wrong or at least unhealthy.
4. Defining our terms. What is missions? What is a missionary? The terms have so much baggage and haziness to them.
5. Short Term Mission Trips. My thoughts are already HERE.

I feel defining our terms needs to be done before this can even begin to be a discussion. How can you be a 'Failed Missionary' if we haven't defined what a Missionary is? I've already talked about changing terms from 'Short Term Mission Trips' to 'Vision Trips' or 'Long-Term Partnership trips', and from 'Furlough' to 'Home Assignment.' Here is my quick, and yes, lumped in, definitions:
* Missions: serving and sharing God cross-culturally
* Missionary: someone who has chosen missions as their (long-term) vocation. (If you are not going to another culture/location, we call it 'Ministry,' such as pastoral positions)
Since being a missionary looks vastly different in every place/person, it should be followed up with what you do in that vocation specifically: church planter, teacher, doctor, pastor, coach, translator, worship leader, resource developer, stay at home mom...the label "Missionary" does not exempt you from having a “real” job (where actual work is being done, and where you are accountable to other people). And yes, stay at home mom is a real job.
So, for example, I am a missionary in Brazil who teaches English and coordinates Living Stones, a child sponsorship program.

What makes you a missionary?
1. A degree in missions
2. A calling from God
3. A strong desire to serve God overseas
4. Being supported financially by others
5. Doing cross cultural ministry
6. Declaring yourself a missionary
7. Signing up with a missions board
8. Moving your family overseas

It could be all or one or none of these things. Most of the time, it is a weird combination of these and other things. But when it comes down down to it- you are a missionary when you say you are. When you take the title. You can be doing the work without it, or you have have the title without really being it. It is a label, and as a fellow blogger wrote, “labels are lazy.” They are to help us not have to sort through information to comprehend. Unfortunately, it often stands for things we don’t: or at least in someone else’s schema it does.

Called. Being “called” has many different looks for many different people. It can be a clearly defined moment in time, or just a general feeling. It can be specific words or circumstances or just an opportunity. But it is important to have something bigger than yourself to look back at and say, “Remember that?” Because there will be days you need it.
Not qualified. Even the most educated people who leave as missionaries are never qualified for everything they confront in missions. It is just impossible. Because you have no clue what all is going to come up. I don’t have a degree in missions. I have a degree in general studies (which means a little bit of everything). I believe this prepared me more for missions (where I am) because I have needed a whole lot of everything. My story is different because I was on the field while getting my degree. When I knew I wanted to work with people, I started my counseling degree. When I started teaching English as a second language to kids, I started my education degree. When I started writing newsletters, I took writing classes...and so on. My job changes regularly (about every semester) to best serve those around me- and I want to be the best me to serve them. So when I was 21 and started serving, was I qualified? Not really. 

God doesn’t call someone and then that is all they need. Called, Done. Wham. 

That is like faith without works: you have to work it through. Spiritually, we call this sanctification. Emotionally, we call this character development. Professionally, we call it lifelong learning. In any profession, you do not succeed unless you further your learning, your skills, and your education. Same thing with missions. If we are not doing as much as secular jobs, we are not giving our best. Not giving our best is never what God calls us to, or accepts. Missionaries who are not actively working to be qualified, professionally, are not the normal, from what I have seen, and are not the standard.

At the heart of what I believe missions is, and being a missionary, is serving God. Following God. And that doesn’t need a label. It doesn’t need everyone to understand it. It just means God knows, and I am what He wants me to be.
I hope you, who call yourself a missionary, are true to what God is asking you to do. I hope you, who are supporting people called missionaries, have gotten to know those people well enough to understand what they are doing more specifically than “missionary.”Then maybe we can start working on the rest of the issues. 

Good vs. Bad or Wasteful Missions Trips

Mission trips can be done well, can be done wasteful, or can be done horrible. (Horrible would be where it hurts those it tried to serve, and gave the “server” an undeserved pat on the back, giving them a tainted view of missions and Christianity.) Thankfully, I have never been on any horrible trips, but I have been a part of good and of wasteful trips. Here are my suggestions, after working with Short Term Missions Trips for 14 years:

1. Rename it. Most people agree on this: change the terms. You are not going to be a missionary. You are going, mostly for your own benefit, to see and learn from others. To share life with others. To listen. If you have relationships built, then you are going to grow and continue reciprocal relationships- and figure out how more than just money is going back and forth. Read here for other people's ideas on this.
2. Be accountable: the missions group receiving you is accountable to share where the money is going and why. The people raising funds are accountable to give accurate reports (and random selfies with poor children that accentuate how great you are and how poor they are is not okay) and not inflate their own greatness.
3. Invest more than just money: if you are going on a missions trip, get training before you go, and have debriefing when you get home to help unpack and truly learn from your experience. ALL OUR TRIPS THROUGH WORLD RENEWAL OFFER THIS! If you can’t give that time, it isn’t worth our time or your money. If you aren’t going to commit to getting sleep (or general healthy habits) on the trip to be the best you that you can be (teens, I am talking to you, using the trip as a glorified sleepover), then it isn’t worth our time or your money.
4. Do it their way. If you are not in contact with local church leaders where you are serving (or missionaries currently on the ground serving) about your trip- don’t go. Don’t do a trip that isn’t the time THEY suggest and don’t go do things THEY don’t ask for (example- they say come in June to do VBS and you come in July and do construction).
5. Don't bring more than 15 people at a time. Preferably under 10 people. Because it is impossible to translate for everyone. It is impossible to talk with and organize and orientate everyone when the group is too big (let alone transport and feed, which can quickly become a nightmare).

Here is a video, with some other suggestions, as you think about responsible, helpful mission's trips. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Easter Sunday Funday

Our weekly vlog obviously includes eggs:
We had a full, wonderful week as our friend Joy was here to do ministry with us. Lots of sports ministry, and also egg hunts:
at the trash dump and Guadalajara

and on Sunday at Cajueiro Claro. 
We said goodbye to Joy on Friday, and it really hit me how Ana Sofia was now affected by our goodbyes too (read about her first goodbye here). We had a wonderful Easter as a family, and also got our first official family pictures (Thanks Jeff!) with the girls in their matching Easter dresses (Thanks Uncle Loren and Aunt Carol!):

Some reads from the Interwebs (from the last two weeks)
1. The gifts death has stolen: " I recognized a sort of salvation that does not always look how we think it should." 
2. Stop asking children these 7 questions: "6. “You can’t do that.” vs. “What would it take to do that?”"
3. How I became the poster child...: it is always different when it happens to you
4. Three surprising reasons Youth are rising up right now: I wrote my own blog a little bit about the same subject--Dear NRA
5. No, you're probably not called to move to the nicer suburb: "the next time someone says they want to move to a “better” suburb, ask them what they mean. Ask them what makes a suburb “better”."
6. When we blame lust, we intensify sexual sin: "we have lost sight of the other interrelated factor that drives sexual sin more than all the rest: anger."