Missions can be lonely. Motherhood can be lonely. Put them together, and, well….double lonely. At least some days can be. There are days when my house is filled up with people from different cultures and worldviews; evenings with young people discussing the Bible and theology, sipping on coffee or tea I have prepared for them; older men praying with my husband and imparting wisdom to us. But as a mom most days are the same for me as they ever were before we became vocational missionaries.
I knew it would be like this. I even told people that my life would look very much the same as it already did, because my first priority is my children and our home. But I’m driven. And I used to be in vocational ministry as a single gal, so adjusting to being a mom and missionary has been harder for me than I anticipated.
Before I go on, I need to say that we like being where we are, we have been extremely fortunate to have built many sweet relationships, and God is at work. He is blessing the fact that we are here and our life is NOT terrible. I feel I must offer that disclaimer because I’m about to get honest about how some things are just very hard.
My personality type (ENFJ in the Myers Briggs) can be known for getting stuff done. The ENFJ’s of the world are empathetic go-getters, the life-of-the-party leader types. When I was single and doing college ministry at one of the largest universities in the country, that “M.O.” worked for me. But I’m not 22 and single with all the time in the world at my finger tips any more. I’m a wife and a mother. I’m 34. My children and our own home are my first mission field. But I have to be honest, most days it doesn’t feel like ministry. I wasn’t trained to view making PB&J, changing diapers, doing endless laundry and teaching small humans how to blow their nose as ministry. I was trained to lead effective Bible studies, to disciple younger women who would then disciple others, I learned how to share the Gospel in a variety of contexts, to be a counselor, etc. But, wiping the table five times per day, or let’s be honest, only once if I’m lucky, doesn’t always feel quite as compelling to the go-getter deep within.
When ministering to adults I experience meaningful conversation, mutual respect, results, closure, etc. As a mother, with my kids as my primary mission field, conversations are often centered around lego creations, play-doh, discipline for “potty talk,” arguments over sleep and food, and the nonsensical ramblings of toddlers. With my results oriented drive, I get worn down by endless laundry and endless dishes. I find myself thinking, Couldn’t I be in a meeting right now getting stuff done? Couldn’t I be in a counseling session with someone helping them grow? Couldn’t I be sitting in a coffee shop for hours on end prepping for Bible Study? Nope. I am in a different season of life now.
Lately, I have been pretty convicted about my negative attitude about it. I have realized that so much of the kind of day I have is wrapped up in my perspective on it. The more selfish I feel, the more I allow resentment to build up for doing what I think are menial tasks. The less patience I have with my kids, the less willing I am to support my husband in his work. And guess what? I am the one who ends up having a bad day because of my own attitude. And I miss out on more than just a good day. I miss out on opportunities. Ministry opportunities.
Since having my third child I have struggled in my heart with my “contribution” to the ministry. I’ve been impossibly hard on myself, and consequently my family. I’ve struggled because my focus has shifted dramatically. When we arrived on the Rez, I was basically working part time in a number of areas. I was seeing clients for counseling two or three days a week. I was leading a Bible study, hosting a young adult group in my home, teaching an emotional health workshop at the school, I was on a committee for a new website and planned special events. I was workin’ it!
But now, I have a new baby. I also have a history of post-partum depression which makes the first year after having a child a pretty vulnerable time for me. Like most moms I struggle with guilt and fear of failure, or more like terror of failure. By the end of the day I am dead-dog tired but sometimes I push through to get the last of the dishes done. Honestly though, a lot of the time the dirty dishes stay there overnight and I do them the next day, maybe. (This is embarrassing, btw.)
But then I get to thinking about wether or not this is where my value really comes from. Do I really get my worth from my accomplishments? Sure, I might feel a little better about myself when my house is cleaned up, I’ve had my time alone in the Word, exercised, and my kids are well fed. But that isn’t always a realistic expectation. Plus, I’m trying to learn one of the most difficult languages there is. The language that helped win WWII. It was impossible for the Japanese to break the code, and last time I checked Japanese are very smart people. In other words, THIS IS HARD for my mommy brain.
My pride is being found out and sanctified because, since I’m being honest here, I don’t always enjoy this season of life, I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, and I fail a lot. Does this mean I’m not good at what I do? Uh, oh. This Iowa farm girl is trying her best at something and still isn’t getting it down right?! Guess what? I’m learning to be ok with that. I need Jesus just like every one else. I need to be saved by him and rescued from my sin every single day. We all benefit from knowing that we are imperfect and in need of a Lord and Savior. It humbles us and gives us such gratitude.
Even though I know the truth, that self criticizing voice comes back and whispers, If I just had fewer ideas about things, less ambition, less drive to be with people, maybe I’d be more content, right? No, I must turn to Jesus for creativity in this season of life. In a recent conversation with my counselor I was processing how there are things in motherhood that I am just not good at, and so I hold myself in contempt. She told me that introspection plus condemnation kills creativity and the ability to hear the voice of God. So that means honest introspection without self hatred can open up doors for God to work through me and creatively minster to my family.
I was saved by grace through faith, so I also live out my life and ministry by grace through faith. I discipline my kids by grace through faith. I stay at home and build into the next generation starting from day one. It is all done by God’s grace, the grace that helps me to change and grow.
I’ve been reading Gloria Furman’s book Missional Motherhood which has been a great encouragement to me in reorienting my perspective. We have also been listening to What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done which is also helping to redeem my thoughts about the work I do.
It would have been about four years ago when I first heard about Harriet Butler. At that time she was 90, and still laboring for the Lord on the Navajo Nation. Whenever I hear about a saint who is in that age range and still working heartily as unto the Lord, I have a strong inclination to want to get some time with that person. To learn from them, to see what is going on around them, and to follow in their footsteps. I met Harriet’s son John the summer of 2013, and didn’t meet Harriet until the summer of 2014 when we spent six weeks volunteering with WIM. I sat in on her Navajo Women’s Bible study that summer my heart soaking up the discussion of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians, and my brain expanding with early lessons in Navajo pronunciation and reading. My heart soars when I hear the Scriptures being read in any other language. It reminds me of God’s heart for the nations and His promise to make Himself known to all tribes and tongues.
Since we moved to Window Rock in November 2015, I have been privileged to attend Harriet’s Bible study again. There have been times that it was called off due to nasty winter weather, or Harriet’s health. Shortly after my daughter was born in July, her son John called to tell us that Harriet was going to be officially retiring this fall and that she wanted me to take the reigns of her Bible study. Imagine me, a 34 year old white lady leading a Bible study of older Navajo women!
I agreed, with the confidence of having a Navajo co-leader who is excellent with reading the language. The Lord knows that I would love to see a Navajo woman leading this group with strong language and theology. In the meantime I am honored to learn alongside these older, wiser women. They have welcomed me with love and entertain my questions about Navajo words graciously.
Currently we are reading through Edmund Clowney’s book “The Unfolding Mystery; Discovering Christ in the Old Testament.” As we read the book together, everytime we come to a scripture reference we read it in the English Bible and then in the Diyin God Bizaad (Navajo Bible).
Now that Harriet is 94, we will be throwing a retirement party for Harriet on Oct 2, 2016 to honor her legacy and many years of service to the Lord. If you are interested in sending a card or a letter to her, please contact me at email@example.com.
Addiction is defined in the DSM as having three or more of the following:
- Tolerance (markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or the desired effect
- Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following: (a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance or (b) The same (or closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
- The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.
- There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.
- A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance (such as visiting multiple doctors or driving long distances), use the substance (for example, chain-smoking), or recover from its effects.
- Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.
- The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance (for example, current cocaine use despite recognition of cocaine-induced depression or continued drinking despite recognition that an ulcer was made worse by alcohol consumption).
A few weeks ago while my sister in law and I were waiting in the parking lot of Butler’s Office Supply in Gallup, I witnessed something I will likely not forget. I saw a group of 4 adults passing around a bottle of Listerine like a bottle of liquor. Yes, they were drinking it. We observed a lack of shame about drinking a substance with alcohol in it that is not intended to be ingested. This was being done in a group. In public. In the day time. No hiding, no concealing. No shame. It was shocking to us and so, so sad.
Seeing this reminded me of a woman I met several months ago. She came to talk with me about her husband who is a severe alcoholic. She reported that she had to hide everything from him. If he found a bottle of hairspray in the bathroom, he would ingest it. If she had a bottle of hand sanitizer in her purse, it was disappear. Cleaners, toiletries, aerosol cans, anything that had a trace of alcohol in it was a stumbling block for this man. My supervisor had met with this couple many times, but to no avail. This man was, and presumably still is so entrenched in substance abuse that he is apparently beyond help.
A friend of ours considers that 80% of the population in this area suffers from substance abuse. It is hard to do anything about it. Will you pray with us about this troubling issue?
“Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?
Those who tarry long over wine;
those who go to try mixed wine.” (Prov. 23:29-30)
- From the greatest to the least, Lord, let individuals no long ‘be given to drunkeness’ (I Tim. 3:3)
- ‘Lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted’ (Prov. 31:5)
- Instead, let them be filled with the Spirit’ (Eph. 5:18).
Until recently, I had a negative impression of pawn shops. In my mind I had imagined pawn shops to be filled with seedy characters, thieves, and generally sketchy people. I only had one category in my mind to place pawn shops. The “bad” category. This Iowa farm girl had a narrow view. I’m not even sure where I got the idea. After college I bought my guitar at a half pawn shop half instrument shop. A few years later I bought my mandolin at that same shop too. Somewhere in the back of my mind I felt that I shouldn’t be in there because pawn shops are “bad.”
The summer before I got married I spent a month in Hobbema, Canada. The Reserve I thought my soon to be husband and I would have our first ministry assignment. Day one: my camera was stollen out of my purse and we visited a number of pawn shops to see if it had turned up. I was heart broken, and angry. This experience once again solidified in my mind that pawn shops were “bad.”
While it may be true that some thieves will bring what they’ve stolen to a pawn shop to make a quick buck, that is only on side of the coin. The other side, I have come to learn, is a very different idea. In downtown Gallup, NM you will find the city blocks lined with huge pawn shops, next door to coffee shops, art galleries and other small businesses. Our language tutor brought us to one recently. Richardson’s Trading Co. & Cash Pawn takes up half a city block on Historic Route 66. We even had the privilege of going into one of the back rooms and meeting Mr. Richardson, a personal friend of our language tutor. This room was a storage house for jewelry and some special items they weren’t planning on selling, ever. Walls were lined with hooks which were each burdened with half a dozen or more authentic turquoise necklaces. Counters had shelves with more fine jewelry inside, each with a tag and a number.
Because our friend knew the owner, we were free to tour the whole shop. We went into another back room which smelled of old leather. From floor to ceiling, and wall to wall there were horse saddles. A narrow hallway led into another store room. This hallway was filled again from floor to ceiling with Pendleton blankets. Each item belonged to a family, each family having their own story. I asked our tutor, who for the moment had become our tour guide, how this whole system worked and why would people bring their stuff to a pawn shop. His answer surprised me. He said many people are willing to pay to store their precious items (a Chief Joseph blanket, a squash blossom necklace made of real silver and turquoise) to keep them safe. They do it not because they are thieves, but because it’s a safe storage for a family heirloom. Many families cannot afford the “rent” anymore, and Richardson’s is having to lower their interest rate in some cases.
Richardson’s is not only a pawn shop that attracts tourists, but an art gallery and a Navajo rug collector’s paradise. They have rooms filled with thousands of rugs whose beauty and artistry is astounding. I was humbled to learn of the opposite side of the coin when it comes to pawn shops.
God amazed us with His kindness when we arrived at Western Indian Ministries on November 3, around 4:30 PM — this is a permanent move, we’re not just visiting. The five and a half hour drive felt more like ten hours because we were all so excited to get to our new home. Phinehas and Josiah were hyper with excitement and well — so were we!
We awoke this morning to see the first snowfall of the year, and it snowed off and on throughout the day. Having spent the last three years in Phoenix (where there hasn’t been a measurable snowfall since 1985), it was a wonderful sight to behold.
We reached 101% of our monthly support goal and Western Indian Ministries has given us approval to move to Window Rock! Saying goodbye can be bitter-sweet. In our case, we are sad to leave our two church families in Phoenix and be without the many perks and conveniences of living in a big city. On the other hand, we are excited to move to Window Rock and begin the work God has been preparing us for over the years.
Thank you for partnering with us – we wouldn’t be able to do this without you. We are humbled by the privilege, sobered by the position we’ve been invited into, and expectant of what God is going to do.
This week we enjoyed a time of needed rest and reflection at Cloudhaven, and visited churches in Tucson and Alamogordo on the way. Lord willing, after one more church visit in El Paso, TX, we will head north to Window Rock. We hope to be there this Tuesday, November 3rd!
When we arrive we will focus on settling into our new home, establish a language learning schedule, solidify our job descriptions, and continue in earnest prayer for the Lord’s anointing on this ministry.
Please join us in praying…
- A sacrifice of PRAISE for God’s abundant provision (Heb 13:15)
- For added courage and wisdom as we transition. (Joshua 1:9, Eccl 7:8-11)
- A hedge of protection over our children, marriage and intimacy with Christ (Psalm 91, Job 1:10)
- That we would devote ourselves to prayer and the Word (Col 4:2, Acts 6:4)
DH, Emily, Phinehas and Josiah
PS – Please take a moment to update your contact info here – we’ll be sending out a newsletter soon in the mail.
The Navajo Nation has declared a state of emergency twice in the last two months. Please join us in praying for this beloved people.
On August 8, 2015 the Navajo Nation declared a state of emergency because of the Gold King Mine heavy metals spill in the Animas River, affecting the San Juan River. Navajo Nation President Begay is attempting to address not just this problem, but many others. On September 21, 2015 the Navajo Nation declared another state of emergency because of four suicides within six weeks in Montezuma Creek, UT. These were the first suicides in this community in ten years. Click here for one blogger’s thoughtful insight into the problem of suicide among Native Americans.
It recently hit me that the Navajo Nation could be in a constant state of emergency, and our burden for the people grows stronger with every story we hear. Of course, we know we cannot solve their struggles, but we do know the One who can heal their hearts, and He is moving us with compassion.
All four gospels record Jesus cleansing the temple — this was no madman’s outburst of anger but a premeditated purging of prejudice. Religious leaders of his day had begun to use the eastern wing of the temple, which was called “the Court of the Gentiles,” for trade and commerce rather than reserving it for a place that other nations might come and pray. Therefore zeal for God’s house consumed our Lord. He is still in the business of making room for all the nations. Inside of all of us, in the place where we should show hospitality to those who are different or minorities, our old nature runs out of room. Last week, at our denomination’s regional leadership meeting (a.k.a. Presbytery), it seemed like our Lord continued this work in us, not wielding a whip but convicting our hearts by His Spirit. He helped us realize the need to purposefully make room for Hispanic and Indigenous leadership to thrive in our churches. In this environment, as DH shared with the pastors and leaders about the opportunity and needs on the Navajo reservation he was met with tremendous encouragement. The Southwest Presbytery, and especially the missions committee, wants to come behind our outreach on the reservation. We are grateful for the way God has made room in your heart for us and for the Navajo.
We are more excited than ever to move up to Window Rock to begin outreach. In a recent trip to Northern Arizona, we dropped by WIM’s campus for a visit. We met members of a language development team, UniSkript, and had an encouraging visit with the mission’s director. The photo above was taken from the hill overlooking Window Rock — our boys love the view from up there. Phinehas, especially, expressed interest in moving there and climbing up to the prayer tower.
Please ask the Lord to…
- bless DH’s second fundraising trip to Seattle next week, Oct. 7th-12th, increasing our partnership there (Phil 4:16)
- enable us to seek God’s kingdom and make Himself our delight, while He adds the remaining $1,632/month, even by our desired date of Oct 13th (Lk. 12:31; Ps.37:4)
- bring His grace to the Navajo people through the revelation of Jesus Christ in the gospel and give them hope (I Peter 1:13)
DH and Emily Henry
|At this point we have raised $6,448/month, 81% of our total monthly need. We still have $1,632/mo left to raise before we can move to Window Rock.|
|Our pastor, Bill Phillips, has been behind us in our ministry to Native America from the moment he first learned of that passion in us. This photo was taken at Presbytery, in it he is praying for Phinehas to recover from a bad case of strep.|
It is a blessing to see God’s faithfulness through the Body of Christ. We are so thankful for every single person who is represented in this chart! We have been raising support since March and God has already supplied 74% of our monthly need. Please continue to pray with us that we could reach 100% so we can get to the field, even this month. Our original goal was to be able to be in Window Rock this week for the Navajo Nation Fair. Turns out that God’s timing was different from ours and we are trusting Him with when we are able to move — our times are in His hands. We still need $2,147/month in order to be fully funded.
Thank you so much, all of you who have been supporting us in prayer and finances! We couldn’t do this without you. We wanted you to see the house we will be living in once we get to Window Rock. It is centrally located on WIM’s campus, right across the driveway from Hilltop Christian School, which makes the school playground our front yard. The side yard (under the large tree) is where the community garden is!! I (Emily) am very excited about this, because I’ll be able to learn how to garden in the high desert, without being in charge of a huge garden all by myself.