Interview with Naomi

Naomi is eight years old and just finished second grade.


What are some of your favorite things?
I love to read. I like reading stories to Isaiah and Hosanna. I like cooking, especially making cookies. I like to play tennis. I like making things out of clay. Snuggling with my mom. Playing with my brothers and sister. Doing handstands in the swimming pool.

Do you know what you want to do when you grow up?
I want to live on a farm and have four children and live in Canada on Vancouver Island. Or maybe come back to Ohio, since I’ve lived most of my life in Ohio.

What did you think when your parents first started to talk about possibly becoming missionaries?
I thought it would be very exciting. I was a little bit happy and a little bit worried about missing my home and not being able to eat some of my favorite foods and just not knowing what to expect.

What are you looking forward to when you move to the Philippines?
The tropical weather, because I like wearing short sleeves. Using pesos instead of dollars because all I’ve ever used before is American money. Eating different kinds of fruit that I’ve never tasted before, and drinking coconut juice. I’m looking forward to going to the beach, learning to snorkel and seeing coral reefs. I want to see whale sharks.

Is there anything about moving that you’re worried or scared about?
I have a lot of friends here, and I’m going to miss them a lot. I’m worried that when I’m on the other side of the world from the rest of my family who aren’t going to the Philippines, I will feel very disconnected from them. I’m also uncomfortable about being somewhere that I’ll have to throw toilet paper in the garbage — I’m used to flushing it!

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Interview with Ezekiel

To get a different perspective on our upcoming adventure, I interviewed each of the kids. (Some of them are more verbose than others.) I’ll be posting the interviews throughout the week.

Ezekiel is 10 years old and just finished fourth grade.

What are some of your favorite things?
COOOOOOOKIES!! (Interviewer’s note: His sister had just baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies earlier that day, and had then been forced to hide the container so that they wouldn’t all “disappear”!) Playing basketball. Tickling Isaiah, Hosanna, and Naomi.

Do you know what you want to do when you grow up?
Artistic things.

What did you think when your parents first started to talk about possibly becoming missionaries?
Hot. AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! I do not LIKE the heat!

What are you looking forward to when you move to the Philippines?
Mangoes and buko juice. Trying out the Outland Adventure ropes course and the zip line.

Is there anything about moving that you’re worried or scared about?
HOT. (Interviewer’s note: Average high temperatures in Davao city are between 88°F and 90°F and is rarely above 93°F. Earlier this month we had a heat wave here in Ohio with daily highs above 100 for almost a week – we even saw 110 on our thermometer once. I think he’ll survive.)

Called, part 2

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Sometime last October, I awoke at night in a cold sweat, with the voice of a Filipino man ringing in my ears, “Come and help us.” My heart was cut to the quick, and I felt a sweetness in my soul and a burning desire to become a missionary.

OK, it wasn’t like that at all. I don’t hear voices, and I don’t get dreams. My heart wasn’t especially filled with compassion for the poor, and I had no particular desire to leave my comfortable life in Mason, OH — which is, or so the signs proclaim as you enter town, one of the top 24 best places to live in America.

So how did God move me to be willing to leave all this, and more importantly, to desire to go as a missionary to a land I’ve never been to?

The answer is in a different sense of the word “calling”: namely, vocation.

First, I am a teacher. I love to find things out and explain them to other people. I derive my happiness from the look of realization and excitement on the faces of others. And what I most like to teach is the Bible. In the past 9 years, I have become more and more involved in Bible teaching at our church. This started with Bible studies that I initiated back in 2004, and is shortly to culminate in my ordination as a minister of the Word next month. I especially love to read closely and find details that help God’s people grasp the stories of Scripture in ways they hadn’t thought about before. You can get a sense of how I think about the Bible from reading my blog, Colvinism.

So there was this continual tug of Bible-teaching. At the same time, I began to feel that the time was right for me to leave the K-12 Classical Christian school I was teaching at. I have no doubt that God brought me to the school and blessed me and my family by our time there. There are a few students coming into high school whom I will regret not having in my classroom — it is always hard to find a good time to stop teaching — but on the whole, the time seemed right to close this chapter of my life and serve the Lord in other ways.

Second, I am a husband. I’m responsible to God for how I treat my wife, and that includes my stewardship of her time and talents. A husband who keeps his wife from serving the Lord in ways for which she is especially suited and trained is hoarding abilities that he ought to enable and deploy for service to God. My wife’s work and skills have benefited primarily our own family and the clients who can afford to hire her here in Cincinnati. That’s not insignificant, but it is not the best way to leverage her skills for the kingdom of God. She will do more good in a place that doesn’t have America’s health care system.

Another consideration also relates to my wife: Sora is the most thoroughly converted person I know. She came into my life in a marvelous way, and I haven’t been the same since. Every decision I have ever made to help my wife follow God has also brought me closer to God. Thus, I have no doubt at all that for me to go as a missionary with her will also be a way for me to grow in my faith and in my knowledge of the Lord. (To be clear, I’m not stating that “your marriage will bring you closer to God” is a universal rule for other people. But it has been my experience with Sora and Jesus.)

So far, everything I’ve described could be categorized as “internal calling,” i.e. the Spirit putting desires in my heart. But I believe that the human heart is deceptive, and it is easy for men to imagine a call to ministry in the Church because of their own desire for importance or fame. For that reason, I place a high value on external calling, the opinion of those who are over me in the Church. I told Sora, “I’ll go if the Church will send us.” So the first thing we did when entertaining the idea of becoming missionaries was to meet with our pastor. He is my parents’ age, and one of the wisest men I’ve ever met. I was expecting him to say either, “No, we can’t spare your family from our parish right now. Wait a while,” or else to question whether we had really thought it all out, and wouldn’t we be better waiting until our kids were grown. Instead, he thought about it and replied that he thought it sounded right, and that it made sense in terms of where our local church is in its history and growth. Our bishop likewise was supportive and enthusiastic.

A further external calling has become apparent over the course of the past five months. I started out by agreeing that my wife had a calling to missions, and wondering what God might do with me. Since then, two things have happened to make things clearer for me: first, within 24 hours of deciding to go long-term, I received an encouraging answer from the principal of Faith Academy, saying that yes, he would have a use for me, so that my teaching vocation could still be fulfilled. Second, I have discovered a never-suspected talent for deputation. I am not a schmoozy person, and I hate sales. But I really enjoy telling others about what we’re going to be doing in the Philippines, and explaining the Biblical doctrines that underlie it. I like talking to people in my home and from a pulpit — and thankfully, it is in those places, and not in a crowded room or a noisy party atmosphere, that the joyful work of deputation takes place.

There are two ideas in the New Testament that have been most on my mind in making this decision and following it through. One is the parable of the talents, where the servant who does not maximize his master’s investment is chastised for it. I do not want to look back on my life and say, “Yep, God gave me a knowledge of ancient languages, the ability to communicate with students, and a good grasp of the Bible, and I used it all to make myself more comfortable.” I want to use what I’ve been given in ways that will make a bigger difference.

The second idea is that God has created us for good works, and that we are vessels for His use. “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20, 21 NKJV) Some vessels are no good: they’re leaky, filthy, or ugly. Some vessels are good only for destruction. Some are for “baser use” — chamber pots, grease pans,etc. But some are of silver and gold, beautiful vessels with which the Lord is pleased; vases and cups that he displays on his table. Paul says that we ought to be “prepared for every good work.” The path to being this sort of vessel is service to others.

Called

Yesterday’s lectionary reading was 1 Samuel 3.

“The word of the Lord was rare in those days…”

Such an old familiar story. I’m always struck by how quickly and readily Samuel jumps up when he thinks Eli is calling him. I frequently have to call my children two or three times! (Granted, two of them do wear hearing aids…)

My “call” was not an audible voice. I did not hear someone calling my name or dream prophetic dreams. But from the first week that I spent in Davao in 2009, I had a deep desire to return and be a less transient participant in the ministry of the birth center there. I felt that a flame had been lit inside me: a small but persistent and unquenchable longing.

When I came back to Ohio in 2009 I jumped right back into my busy life and the spark was buried, hidden, and often forgotten for days or weeks at a time. I looked at my full life, my husband’s career, our large family, and my increasingly busy midwifery practice and did not see how this abiding desire to care for mothers and babies in a missionary clinic on the other side of the world could possibly be reconciled to the place that God had put me. So I gave myself wholeheartedly to life where I was and occasionally felt irrationally strong pangs of homesickness when something reminded me of Davao.

My second trip, in 2010, came together on the spur of the moment with less than a week’s warning. God’s hand was apparent in the myriad details that all fell into place in less than 24 hours. While my ostensible reason for the trip was an eleventh-hour effort to complete certification requirements I was determined that what I was doing as a midwife must never be about the numbers, but about the people. I would go with an open heart and a desire to be a blessing and try my best to forget that I needed to document a certain number of births within a fairly tight deadline in order to sit my exam that year and become a Certified Professional Midwife.

Halfway through my time there, I had experienced several days in a row of very quiet shifts with not even one birth. Then a client back home, midway through her pregnancy, experienced a tragic loss. I struggled to understand why God would have brought me halfway around the world at just the right time to prevent me from being there to support and comfort this grieving young mother. I wept and prayed. I told God that I knew that I was in Davao at that moment because He wanted me to be there. I was where I was supposed to be. But I was missing my children’s last week of the school year, my wedding anniversary, and someone else was taking care of my client (not to mention my preschoolers) …and I wasn’t even getting any births! “If it’s not about getting the births I need, why bring me here now, Lord? Is this whole trip just supposed to remind me not to get too settled and comfortable in Ohio? Was I getting too complacent? Because I’m not the one you need to convince! I’ll do this next year and for the rest of my life if you open the door… but I’m not just one person on my own. You gave me a family, Lord, and if this is where I’m supposed to be serving you, you need to make that clear to my husband!”

…to be continued…

Visit to Bishop Cummins REC

I spent the first half of last week doing my first solo deputation visit. Bishop Cummins REC in Ellicott City, MD (suburbs of Baltimore) invited me to speak at their missions conference. Many thanks to the Albright family for hosting me during my stay, and to Pastor Crum and his wife Jill, who served me a delicious supper on the Lord’s Day after the service. Pastor Crum is a military man, and had been to the Philippines several times during his years of service, including on an aircraft carrier.

Sora likes to be in charge of things, so it was a bit of a challenge for her to trust me to do the whole visit on my own, 500 miles away. In the event, it went very well.

This marked the first time we used our retractable banner display. Many thanks to our team member and supporter Keith for drawing it up for us:

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Technology is always fraught with peril – many is the missionary on deputation who has hoped to show a sideshow from his computer, only to have some crucial component break down. But this time, things went swimmingly, thanks in part to Walter Seymour, who helped me get the projector screen set up, and provided an extension cord.

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I installed Keynote on my iPad, and found it absolutely terrific for giving a presentation. This will eliminate the need to bring a computer to any future church visits: the iPad will fit in the projector bag. Now I need to start packing my own extension cord!

The congregation at Bishop Cummins is very missions-minded, and it showed in the excellent questions they asked after my presentation.

Pastor Crum has invited me to return later this year with Sora. I hope that will come to pass!