Monday, November 26, 2018

Thanksgiving Sunday Funday

Happy Thanksgiving from the Fergies, and also from Living Stones:
One week until we fly out of Brazil, and a million little details to complete: just sayin--there will be no Sunday Funday next week, because of traveling. But after that, our videos are going to have a completely different view! God continues to bless in big and small ways, and we enjoyed a perfect "So grateful Sushi" Thanksgiving this year: 120 pieces for four adults--DONE.

Reads from the Interwebs: 
1. The Myth of the Absent Black Father: Interesting. I don't think I agree with all of it, but do agree that the media has made it worse and has not helped create positive roll models. I appreciated hearing a different side of things than I usually do. But fact is, most of my black friends did have absent black fathers :(. 
5. Four life changing holiday words: I really like them (no, those are not the four words, haha)

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Wednesday Sunday Funday

We have two vlogs this week (kinda catching up from last week):
Our little lady is 11 months old! And last week we had a holiday (I guess it makes up for not having Thanksgiving celebrated in Brazil this week)

Caid and I (Rachel) were able to take some extra time (on the November 15th holiday) to pray and seek God's face for clarity in what He has planned for Caid. Caid has done an amazing job helping out at the Living Stones programs, teaching sports and music these four years: but he hasn't really found his nitch that fulfills his passions and spiritual gifting like I have with Living Stones. We are excited to see what God is revealing for the future, as He takes us deeper, and brings in amazing mentors and encouragement along the way. As we count down to heading back to the USA, these breakthroughs are such a blessing, and so needed. 

Reads from the Interwebs: 
1. Capable of Complexity: A much needed (encouraging to me) article about TCKs
2. My Friend: on intercultural friendships, that connected with me
3. The parable of the Caravan: finally, an article that I connect with on this issue!
4. Three reasons to shop ethically...and 4 reasons not to: as we move into Black Friday...
5. Process of Becoming: by Eugene Peterson's wife, as he recently passed away
7. The day my heart grew three sizes: the perfect holiday post
8. Domestic abuse and #metoo: I know that the movement has gone overboard in many aspects, and I desperately hope a healthy balance is gained and maintained, but I am also grateful for it, and will share #metoo stories. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Sunday Funday November

No vlog this week, as I posted 7 videos last week:). Feel free to go back and watch one of them.

It was a really important week for us last week as we met (and were encouraged) with some different leaders in Brazil. While we don't have our suitcases packed yet, there are a lot of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual things to make sure are in place as we leave for six months.
This year has also hit a lot of significant dates: 25 years of World Renewal Brazil, 20 years of Living Stones, 15 years that I've (Rachel) been serving in Brazil, 8 years of Cajueiro Claro church, and 5 years that Caid has been serving with World Renewal. We've been "on the field" for 4 years now, and it is a milestone and a time for review and reflection. November 9th was also our 5th wedding anniversary! Some people buy extra rings to go with their wedding ring. This is what we do:
Reads from the Interwebs:
1. I'm a US Citizen living in Honduras. Here is what I think about the Caravan: To tell the truth, I haven't found anything else written about the Caravan that I have connected with. I would have liked to have had a more liberal perspective as well, but unfortunately, the only liberal ones I have found seem to link all immigrants (legal and illegal) as well as refugees together (which are three very different and complicated issues). In general, I take a liberal stand in the issue of immigration. I have had plenty of personal immigration problems myself. I have definite views about refugees and those seeking asylum (as does the Bible!), and am ashamed at how few we accept and how hard we make it on these people who have already been through hell. But I still feel a process is necessary. I am not for open boarders (although I can see myself, if having been born into a different situation, attempting to illegally cross because of circumstances). This article puts well some of the reasons for that. I also think that we should be giving more visas (and different kinds of visas) to more people who do go the legal way of migrating (like myself), but this caravan is none of that. It makes my heart hurt that there are so many people in need (I am currently working with some of them every day), but I do not think bypassing our laws and processes is the answer (fixing the laws and actually dealing with the many, many problems they have--YES, please).  I am surprised at how hard it is for me to say this: it would be so much easier to just say "Yes, let them all in," but the solution is not so simple, and there are many long reaching implications. My prayers are with those in the caravan, and with people like the woman who wrote this article, who I feel are doing real, needed work.
2. Following Jesus into a political no-man's land: Yes, Caid and I voted by absentee ballot:) (Mom, I know you were wondering)
3. Mass Shootings and...: Another one come and gone and I just needed a minute to stop and grieve.
4. Spaghetti, Applesauce, and another Goodbye: I feel like I waited until I read this to grieve my great aunt's passing. Grief is a weird looking thing when so far away from home (If you don't know, the author's grandmother was my great aunt--we are second cousins? Or something like that).
5. Saying "God called me" can be dangerous: and a really big responsibility. And YES.
6. Coming back from Narnia: what re-entry feels like: This is happening in like three weeks.
7. Wise Generosity: If giving shoe boxes isn't the best idea, what is? I love her points, and would like to say that Living Stones meets all five of her points:). Just sayin.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

November Sunday Funday

Our weekly vlog (this week we have two):

(This was catching up from when Jessica was sick)

We will be back in the USA next month, and things are rolling quickly! I am moving from "Let's figure this out" phase to "Let's get this done." You can tell from all my blog posts recently, as I am trying to finish processing 15 years of serving in seems like a good milestone to do it:). Bascially, the end result was summed up here, in my "What Missions Means to Me" Series (It also has a video). 

It was a lovely week, as we celebrated Jeff's birthday instead of Halloween, and November 2nd is the Brazilian holiday Dia dos Finados, which is basically like day of the dead but without all the cool makeup and music (but they do have the flowers)! Jessica is all better health-wise, which makes life much easier on everyone, and she officially has her first words (we don't count them until they are repeated enough to know they aren't an accident)! 

While Sofia's first words were in English (we were having bets on which language she'd speak first), and the very common "Da-da" (he was very proud), Jessica's first words are also in English, but are "Hi" and "Bye." Yep. We are always telling her to tell people "Hi" and "Bye" on Skype and Facetime with family, and whenever Daddy leaves in the mornings...and now she regularly does it. Does this say something about being a third culture kid?!?

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Rethinking the Language of Short Term Missions: I have posted many things with this general idea before, but this just keeps coming up, and I think is really important, and is something I am continually evaluating to see what I can do, and what changes I need to make. 
2. Unprotected: This is a very long, secular investigation into an NGO. I read it with a heavy heart, because so many good ideas and good intentions can go wrong so quickly. I am constantly reminded that "But for God's grace, there go I..." This is a hard read, but important for those working in NGOs, especially if you don't have a (actual working) child protection policy in place. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

What Doing Missions Means to Me Series

In a conversation, one friend remarked about a missionary who'd recently shared at church: "They just seemed to really be doing what missionaries should know...orphans and widows and such."
A wise older woman replied, "You know what missionaries do? They live their lives. They do life and wash their underwear just like you do."
"Except it takes three times longer." I added. Everyone laughed and nodded.
This sums up what missions means to me. But when I unpack it more, I find I could go on without stopping. So I will just address seven things that missions means to me:

1. It means calling yourself a missionary
2. It means figuring out what a missionary is (and isn’t)
3. It means answering “Why am I am Missionary?”
4. It means refining what your mission is practically
5. It means sharing your mission
6. It means learning from others
7. It means learning from your mistakes

You can watch a summary of the series here:

Doing Missions Means Learning from Your Mistakes

(Read or watch this blog)

What I have done wrong:
A. I blurred the lines between personal funds and ministry funds. I would end up paying for most of the Living Stones supplies and parties out of personal funds (which were pretty non-existent)
B. I blurred the lines between ministry fund raising and personal fundraising. I could talk about Living Stones all day, and ask for money for the kids, but I didn’t want (or feel adequate) to ask for myself. You must know who you are and know what your ministry is- each needs funding and each is worth it- but one cannot suffer because of the other- boundaries are there to protect us. Find the lines and make them clear for everyone (for me, that meant separate videos, websites, updates)
C. I worked crazy hours to prove I was worth the money given/ worthy to be called a missionary
D. I didn’t call myself a missionary for years, while I was being a missionary
E. I didn’t want to spend any money on myself or making a home for myself. And while I survived fine, I think I missed out many enriching experiences and the support of feeling “homey”

What I have done right:
A. I kept reporting on what was happening and the beautiful stories God was writing. Blogging was a really good outlet for me to do this, and to get better at it.
B. I kept putting myself out there and connecting with people. I created a “round” of people to visit every time I was in the USA. I had a list, that I kept updating, of people to write and connect with, even when these people didn’t reply or respond back. I made sure to write personal thank yous to new and continuing supporters.
C. I didn’t get into debt, or got out of debt quickly. This is one of the top things stopping a while generation of people becoming missionaries.
D. I really loved what I was doing, and made sure not to publically complain. Was everything perfect? No. But when something needed to change or needed working through, I did it privately, making sure not to burn bridges and tear down other people, especially people in the ministry with me.
E. I was okay with only knowing a little bit. I used to joke that God would only show me the next 6 months of my life because He knew I wouldn’t have to trust Him if He showed me more. But it was true, and for most of the 10 years I served as a single missionary, I couldn’t tell you what was going to happen after that current 6 months.

Doing Missions Means Learning from Others

(Watch or read this blog)

2. and his books Subversive Jesus and the Alongsiders Story
3. (for women)
4. and her books One Thousand Gifts and The Broken Way
6. and her books Rhinestone Jesus (and others)
7. and her book Assimilate or go Home
8. and founder Christopher Heuertz (and old copies of “The Cry”)
9. Half the Sky and A Path Appears by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
10. New Friars and Overturning Tables by Scott Bessenecker 

Doing Missions Means Sharing Your Mission

(Read or watch this blog)

I am not going into sharing about Jesus: that is all of our mission and bottom line. I am talking about sharing how God has called you to do your specific, practical part of missions. In a way, you are a salesman: you have a message explaining who you are and why you and your ministry is worth investing in. I have heard it said that you should have three ways to present your message: the movie poster, the movie trailer, and the actual movie. Over the years, these are the tools that have helped me to do that:

A. The prayer card: personally, I use a business card because it is smaller and cheaper. It works great these days, because mostly, you just want to connect them with a website/giving site that has the rest of the information. I have a quick “elevator pitch” (condensed message that I could share on an elevator ride) that works like a movie poster.

B. YouTube Channel: we have a quite literal movie trailer that is our introduction video on our YouTube channel. We upload weekly 5 minute of less videos, so that people can check us out and get to know us in little, digestible bits. In the past, this was newsletters—and we still do a Christmas letter and monthly e-newsletters, but the videos have been much more accessible to this generation. I also have a blog, but that is more of personal thoughts, rather than missions updates.

C. Website/personal meetings: The whole story can be shared on the website, or in a personal meeting, when you have time to really connect (hopefully). This would be like the actual “movie.”

Doing Missions Means Refining what Your Mission is Practically

(You can watch or read this blog)

My mission, 15 years ago, was to love people, especially children, and especially at-risk children. I’d figured that out during my teens, and it seemed pretty simple. Then I went to Brazil and it practically looked like teaching English. So my mission was to teach English. And while I love doing that, it wasn’t my core—my lifeblood: it was simply one of the ways that I do my core mission. Then I became the coordinator of Living Stones, working with at-risk children. This was in complete alignment with my core mission, and I have found so much satisfaction in doing this. I am blessed to have found this: a vocation that lines up perfectly with my core mission.

And then I got married. Part of my core shifted. Now, an integral part of my core mission was to serve and love my husband. And then I had children: another part of my core mission is now to be a mother. I am still me, but I have been stretched. It is a wonderful thing, and as any mother will tell you, it isn’t addition, it is multiplication. You aren’t piling on one more thing you have to do in life: your life and love is multiplied and expanded to include more: and somehow, miraculously, to help you become even more YOU.

In 2016, Caid and I realized that the best way we could connect with others quickly, in this day and age, was through vlogging (video blogs). I was already making a lot of baby videos for our family, and making weekly vlogs about our life and mission just made sense. Missions is changing rapidly, along with culture and technology and the times. Gone are the days of missionary slide shows (I remember them from my childhood fondly), now your supporters want to really see and understand what is going on (as they should!) An annual newsletter isn’t enough anymore.

While we are the first missionary vloggers that I know of, I think in the next 5-10 years it will become more of the normal, as supporters want more involvement, and investors want more accountability. In three years of vlogging, we now have over 300 videos, with lots of baby pictures, laughing, learning, life and culture in Brazil, and whatnot. We hope to share practically what a missionary looks like in a world where for many, it isn’t very clear.

Our family is serving God in Brazil. But if God leads us somewhere else, or to do something else, then we will follow. I get asked a lot “But are you going to live in Brazil forever?” And the honest truth is, I don’t know. I believe that part of being a missionary is always being ready to go, if God says so. It is about following Him, whatever that looks like. It means putting down deep, deep roots in Jesus, because locational roots can, and will change.

Doing Missions Means Answering "Why am I a Missionary"?

(You can read or watch this blog)

1. Because I have found something good--the Way of Life--and I want everyone who comes into my world to know Jesus--whom they need. I am sold out to this idea.
2. Because I have been invested in and given the set of skills needed to the job--and a darn good job--in Brazil. The workers are few. I can go where many others cannot.
3. Because people who have need to give just as much as people who have not need to receive, and I have a gift in connecting those people.
4. Because it makes me happy. I want and desire to go to Brazil. I LOVE working with Living Stones. It lights me up, it is my passion. "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." ― Howard Thurman. Is God big enough to match what He wants me to do with what makes me happy? YES!
5. Because I need to learn how to walk in grace, not control.
6. I am a missionary because this is what God knows will work in me to make me more like the image of Christ.

Doing Missions Means Figure out What a Missionary is (and Isn't)

(You can watch or read this blog)

He looked into my eyes, and with all of his seven-year-old self he asked, “Can I be a Missionary too?” Of course you can, was my teary-eyed response. Here I am, trying to lump 15 years of my life and thoughts and learning into seven-year-old speech. They want to know two things: what is a missionary, and can they be one. Two HUGE questions for any of us.

I have heard that being a missionary is telling others about Jesus. That everyone is—and should be—a missionary. Yes, AND. And so much more. We all, as Christians, are called to tell others about Jesus. I have heard it amplified to say that being a missionary is GOING and telling others about Jesus. Yes, AND. Much of the current focus on being a missionary is going to a different CULTURE than your own. This could be your next door Muslim neighbor or to Muslims in Africa. Being a missionary definitely carries the idea of stepping out of your comfort zone and sharing Jesus.

Officially, in this time and age, I would say when most people think of the word “Missionary,” they mean someone who has moved (become a migrant) somewhere different (than their own culture) for the specific purpose of telling others about Jesus (direct spiritual ministry in some form), mostly being supported (at least partially) by Christians from their original culture/home.

This isn’t what missions looks like in the Bible (that is a another discussion), or what it has looked like over the years. Not everyone fits into this narrative, and that is good: each person has their own journey that God takes them on to become a missionary. This stereotype is what has come out of our culture and time period: who knows what it will be in the future?

I love being a missionary. It is my dream job. But like all jobs, it is hard, it has its downsides, and sometimes I just don’t want to get out of bed. One of my biggest struggles in being a missionary has been money issues. It is hard to receive money (no, really). It is humbling and requires grace—both giving and receiving. God is my boss, but there is a lot more to it than that. I hate to say it, but many of our plans revolve around if the money comes in or not. And how do you tell that to seven-year-olds?

I am all for telling our seven-year-olds that they can be missionaries. But let’s make sure it is true. Let us, as parents, as older siblings, as aunts and uncles, as mentors, make sure our children/the children in our lives have the opportunities to be those missionaries we told them they could be. Let’s choose to live in THAT part of town. Let’s choose to go to the church that doesn’t feel so comfortable. Let’s maybe even choose THAT school.

Let’s choose to actively have other cultures as a vital part of our lives. Let’s have friends who don’t agree with us. Let’s have people over to our house that don’t look like us. Let’s not encourage/support people (ahem, politics) who don’t love people who are different than they are (race, religion, sexuality)—but let’s still love and pray for them. And if we are not doing these things, then we need to stop telling our children they can be or are missionaries.

Stepping outside your comfort zone is scary. Not being “home,” not knowing if they will accept you, not knowing if they will be kind to you…these are all things involved with being a missionary. It is not safe. It is not being cautious. It is being so full of Jesus that you have to share or you will burst.

Doing Missions Means Calling Yourself a Missionary

(Watch or read this blog)

Personally, I refused to call myself a missionary until I was “on the field” for many years already. I had grown up reading biographies of great missionaries like George Muller and Amy Carmichael and Hudson Taylor—and I knew that wasn’t me. I was simply following the green lights God had on my path—and loving it—was I supposed to be enjoying myself so much?

They actually called me “The Intern who kept coming back.” I called myself an EFL teacher. I was in Brazil 6 months and the USA 6 months a year because of visa problems, but also because I was mostly self-supported and worked my butt off in the USA to spend it all in Brazil. I was living off of $350 a month—or less. It was a great life for a single person who wanted to travel and live and make a difference.

But then I had a dear friend sit me down and ask me about my long term plan. About sustainability. And most tenderly, why I was scared to call myself a missionary: did I not think that I was good enough? I also had a cousin who came and visited me in Brazil. She looked me in the eye and said “I have visited a lot of missionaries and seen a lot of ministries: you are doing a good job. What you are doing is important and valuable.”

I was easily putting in 60-70 hour work weeks. I ate and breathed missionary work. It was my life. And slowly, I began to realize that I was a workman “worth his hire.” I could call myself a missionary, even if I didn’t look like everything in my head that was a missionary. Even if I didn’t know the future, and how long I’d be serving abroad.

Language is crazy. We connect emotions, expectations, and experiences to words until they almost become their own entity (consider all that comes up when you hear the word “Mother” or “Father”). The word “Missionary” in my mind was someone who left and never came back. It was someone who had a prayer card on everyone’s refrigerator and spoke at missionary conferences and knew what they were talking about. They always had stories of miracles and “GREAT WORKS,” all in capital letters. And I didn’t fit into this missionary narrative.

"The word missionary comes from the Latin word mitto, which means "to send." It is the equivalent of the Greek word apostello, which also means "to send." The root meaning of the two words is identical (Herbert Kane, The Making of a Missionary, ISBN: 081053587, p. 13) Unfortunately, this word “mitto” was also used and historically rooted in the sending out of merchant ships to bring back slaves and colonize the developing world. Many other people have very sad and angry associations with the word “Missionary.”

After 15 years of (now I can say) being a missionary, missions to me means how I live my life. It involves washing dishes a lot more than I thought it would. It is a lot of paperwork and what seems like wasted time as I navigate a second language and a second culture. But I also have the opportunity to work with and serve people I never would have been able to meet otherwise. I get to be a part of incredible stories that God is writing in a different context than my “normal.”