Fiesta

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Forty-five women gathered in a partially remodeled chapel on WIM’s campus to reflect on God’s work in 2016 to gather 3,000 men, women and children for Living Proof Live’s first event on Native soil. We looked back to see how much God had done, and looked ahead prayerfully at what He will do in October 2018 at the next LPL event in Chinle, AZ.

Why do an event for leaders? There is something that happens when people sit across the table from one another and share a meal. Friendships form, fellowship occurs, and connections are made. The women who sat across the tables from each other last night are all influencers in their communities. They went home after a beautiful night with a gift in their hand and Bible study resources. These women will go back to their churches, ministries, offices, schools, board rooms, homes and neighborhoods with the excitement of seeing Navajo women all across the Reservation reached with the Gospel!! I’ll climb a ladder to hang papel picado banners and carve a watermelon into a cactus any day for that.

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Lord, may we see generations of women following You with all their hearts because of a fiesta dinner in Tse Bonito, NM on May 7, 2018.

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We Have Good News and Bad News

Which do you want first?

The good news or the bad news?

DH was a judge for the Hilltop science fair. Here he is with two students.
Since we believe in a God who loves us and knows our whole story, even the bad news can be used for His glory and our good. Even so, there are things we experience on this side of Heaven that are very hard. We’ll start with the hard news.

Most of our prayer updates are focused on the ministry God has allowed us to be involved in. However, we know that you who pray for and keep up with us care about us as a family. That is why we wanted to include you on some significant personal family news.

Last week DH had an MRI to explore a possible cause of some hearing loss he’s been experiencing over the last year. While we waited for a follow up appointment with the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor (ENT), we sent a DVD of the scans to a friend who is a neuroradiologist to have a second set of eyes on what was there. Monday night we got news back from our neuroradiologist friend, who said what he sees is a textbook instance of Vestibular Schwannoma (acoustic-neuroma) – precisely what we were hoping to ELIMINATE. He said it is a slow-growing benign tumor – a growth on the nerve (not technically a brain tumor since it’s not connected to the brain but the cochlear nerve).

Tuesday we met with DH’s ENT again and he confirmed the diagnosis. He pointed out that the tumor was less than 1 cm (9.44mm) in size, which is still relatively small in comparison to others he had seen. He recommended that DH get another MRI in six months to see if it grows in size. Again, he reminded us that this type of tumor does not grow fast and he saw no danger in waiting that long. When we inquired about a non-invasive procedure that could remove the growth all together, he explained that the procedures all share the risk of loosing hearing altogether in the affected ear and he could not suggest that course of action unless the tumor began to grow so large that it threatened more than just parts of DH’s mid-range hearing (DH still has hearing in that ear and the doctor would like him to retain what remains). There still are some questions we hope to ask other doctors, particularly neurosurgeons that specialize in this non-invasive procedure (i.e. gamma-knife radiosurgery). However, DH feels content to wait on the Lord to see how He will respond in answer to the many prayers sent up to heaven.

The good news is God has already begun answering prayers regarding DH’s hearing loss, even before we knew it was a tumor. We had been praying for answers and peace. Now we know what’s going on and DH has a clear mind and is taking the news with faith that God will use it for the best.

Ministry continues despite this condition:

  • Pastoral Summit planning meeting this Friday (please pray for the equipping of Navajo pastors all across the reservation).
  • DH has been asked to moderate a long over-due congregational meeting at Community Bible Church. He is reading through two decades of meeting notes, and church communications to get up to speed on what the needs of this body are. Pray for the Pastor to be built up in this process, and for DH to be a blessing as he prepares the meeting’s agenda and moderates the meeting itself (scheduled for this Sunday, March 11).
  • Emily is beginning grief counseling with a third grade student from Hilltop Christian School and his mother after the death of his father/her husband.
  • AWANA is on Wednesday nights and DH has a energetic class of six pre-schoolers. Two of them, a brother and sister, are faithful in attending and excelling in their scripture memory.
  • We have been meeting with a couple on Tuesday nights to press on in language learning. A recent phrase we translated into Navajo was the English idiom, “He was born with a silver spoon in his hand.” We laughed together because, in the Navajo language, it is even more silly than it sounds in English!
  • We continue to work hard to help the Christensen family reestablish a normal life — in January, they lost their home and all their possessions to a fire. So far, we have seen God provide them with a used double wide trailer, and, it seems, they finally got water hooked up just last weekend. The process of setting up utilities is quite long here on the reservation, so they don’t yet have power in the house. They are still in need of funds to be able to set up what’s needed for their family to thrive. See the GoFundMe page.
  • Emily has been pouring her life into a young woman named Brianna over the past two years. Together, they’ve done Bible study, deliverance prayer, emotional healing, counseling for depression, suicidal thoughts, processing past trauma, and, most recently, Emily has been joining with her to battle against the Accuser’s attacks on her faith. In a conversation earlier this week, she confided, “I really want to be with Jesus but I’m having a hard time believing what He did for me.” She knows the Gospel, was recently baptized, and Emily is confident in her faith, but the Lord has to confirm in her mind the assurance He alone can give. The enemy is whispering lies to her along the lines of, “You’ve screwed up too many times…it’s too late for you…you’ve said and thought too many bad things…Jesus can’t die for that sin…” As you can see, the battle is intense. Please join us in bringing her before our Great God who is delighted to use this dear friend. Just today Brianna had the great joy of leading a woman to the Lord! Hallelujah!
Partner with Us

Please Ask God:

  • To give DH wisdom to moderate the Congregational meeting Sunday, and for God to give this congregation certain and final direction on matters that have been endlessly deliberated (James 1:5; 4:1-3)
  • To lead DH in all his preparations for the sermon to be delivered to High Desert Church in ABQ on March 18 (Eph. 6:9)
  • To provide a way to both preserve DH’s hearing and eradicate the tumor around DH’s cochlear nerve – whether through His miraculous power or through a medical procedure that He’s ordained. (Mark 7:34 — there are more recordings of Jesus making ears hear again. He’s certainly good at it)
  • For His healing presence to be with Emily and the family who she is counseling regarding the loss of their husband and father. (Phil. 2:13; James 1:27)
  • To strengthen Navajo believers in their faith and to enable Brianna to have a firm hope in the face of Satan’s accusations. (Eph. 6:16)
In Christ,
DH & Emily

Navajo Culture: Corn Model

02867In Diné culture there is something called k’é [friendship, or peace]. When we looked the word up in our Navajo Lexicon it sounds a lot like the Hebrew concept of shalom [completeness, soundness, peace] mixed with the Greek concept of koinōnía [close relationship]. Simply put, it is a system of kinship, but it is so intricate and deeply woven into who they are, that when asked, a Navajo may not fully explain it though, subconsciously, he still thinks and acts in terms of the conscept. Dr. Yazzie has studied how the Gospel moves in the Navajo culture through k’é. A Navajo understands that a critical part of k’é is restoring peace, harmony and balance of life through relations. Having this mindset can create avenues for the Gospel to spread.

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Cultures have many layers. Some have compared cultures to onions. However, because of its importance to the Navajo culture, Dr Yazzie uses the various layers of corn to illustrate the external, relational, traditional and foundational layers in the Diné culture.

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The relational layer shows up in the people’s behavior, and how they relate and communicate socially. One example of this is how a Navajo introduces themselves. In order to really know someone and connect with them they introduce themselves by their four clans. When they share this with one another they automatically know how they are related (even if a person seems to be only distantly related to another, from a western European perspective, if their clans connect, they’re related) and thus traditional introductions inform Navajo how to address one another, whether they should use the Diné term for “uncle,” “younger-brother,” “grandfather,” etc… or just “friend.”

The traditional layer manifests itself in Diné customs, values, and norms. Their traditional teachings and ceremonies come from this layer. When our daughter Zoe was a couple months old, people started asking us if we were going to have a “First Laugh” party for her. This custom was something we never would have known about if it wasn’t for having a baby on the mission field.

 

In Dr. Yazzie’s corn model the foundational layer of Diné culture is their worldview. How a Navajo thinks and views the world is the core of who they are. What they believe and the meta-narratives they live by lie deep in their culture.

The external layer consists of the most visible aspects of their culture like what they wear, eat and live in. This has been shifting in the Navajo culture. Today there is such diversity among Diné that, externally, some of the more traditional members of the culture still live in a hooghan nimazin [hogan/circular home similar to a yurt], wearing kéłchí [moccasins] etc….

…while much of the younger generation might live in a house with four walls and wear skinny jeans. Instances of that younger generation meet at our house for Bible studies on Thursday night.

No Swimsuit Competition

Miss Navajo 2016

As a young girl I grew up watching beauty pageants like Miss America and Miss Universe. It was like watching real, live Barbie dolls walking across a stage. We’d make a night of it. I’d invite a few friends over for a slumber party and we’d open up the hide-a-bed and snuggle up with pop corn and candy, soaking up ideas of what it meant to be a woman in our culture. Though the pageant itself seems to focus on external beauty, these contestants were and still are more than “just a pretty face.” Many are activists in their communities, reaching out to help others in need, highly educated, motivated and talented young women.

When I heard there was a Miss Navajo pageant, naturally I was excited and curious. Before we came to the Navajo Nation, I saw a documentary about Miss Navajo which opened my eyes to just some of the cultural differences between Miss America and Miss Navajo.  Navajo women are amazingly strong. The photo below shows a moment in the sheep butchering competition we were able to attend during the Navajo Nation Fair. Yep. I said butchering competition. No high heals, people. No swimsuit competition. These women must work hard on a dirt floor by a hot fire until the job is done.

Being a Navajo princess means you are a preserver of culture, a picture of strength and dignity. A Navajo woman reveals her strength as she competes to carry the crown. They must speak their Native language, Diné Bizaad, which many their age do not speak anymore as it is an endangered language. They must know the story of their people. They display poise and strength and knowledge. And they do it so gracefully, while sheering and butchering a sheep. I am inspired by this. I’ve always loved beauty and the process of creating it. I appreciate the beauty in cultures other than my own and find it striking how much of a culture’s values are on display in a pageant such as Miss America or Miss Navajo. Concepts of femininity, beauty, talent, strength, servanthood and leadership are on display.

We are incredibly thankful for the opportunities to grow in our knowledge of the Navajo culture. Concepts of family and beauty display the image of God in their people. Thank you for your support and prayers for our family as we work to learn the language, culture, build relationships, and disciple young Navajo leaders. We couldn’t do this work without you!

Behind the scenes, a few ladies were handling the mutton and various other parts of the lamb. We watched them wave this piece for a good 5-10 minutes, letting the excess blood and fluid drain off. Then they folded it up like a bed sheet and covered it with a Blue Bird Flour sack.

These fresh wool fleece were piled up outside the arena where the competition was taking place. They were still warm and dripping with blood. Such an amazing sight!

Some of the contestants taking a much needed rest and drink of water after they finished.

 

 

Would You Camp on a Highway for Candy?

We praise God for the many things that have been happening: DH’s discipleship with several up-and-coming Diné leaders; Emily’s research into grief counseling techniques by way of participation in a group counseling cohort; and the start of the school year.

The private school owned and operated by our mission, Hilltop Christian School, has begun its fall semester and we have begun our first official year of homeschooling. With the private school being so close to our home (the play-ground is essentially our front yard, the school garden is our side yard, and the school building is across the driveway) these two often intersect. Hilltop Christian seems to be functioning well with a full staff and we have been enjoying our homeschool curriculum. Not only do we get to enjoy playing with Hilltop students at recess and during afterschool recess times, we are blessed by joining them every Wednesday for their weekly chapel. Furthermore, our family has been able to share some of the benefits of our curriculum with the school kids, particularly some of our extra futuristic space-gel for an ant farm and sharing some extra pairs of solar glasses last month during the eclipse.

DH has been continually impressed by God’s grace displayed in Western Indian Ministries’ interns, Seth, Wade, and Leander. These young men can frequently be found hanging out at our house – sitting down in our living room speaking to DH about relationships or connecting with Emily while she moves about the kitchen. We desire to not only serve as the fragrance of Christ to them but to share our space with them and our own selves too; they have become very dear to us. Zoe, especially, has fallen in love with these guys.

Last month marked the seventh anniversary of the loss of Daniel’s mother and a number of the things Emily learned during a recent counseling cohort weekend were used to aid in his grieving process this year. Beyond that, however, we are praying and expect that far more of the things gleaned from that time will prove helpful in Emily’s counseling or with friends who have been avoiding the grieving process, glossing over the painful work of facing their story and numbing it with addiction. The books below have also been instrumental in growing our understanding about grief, addiction, and the brokenness of our stories.

Praise the Lord for all His sweet providence that has guided us through last month! We love that you can join us in our thanksgiving.

We also feel grateful to have you share in upholding us in prayer and we certainly need your prayers during this next week. It seems as though the whole Navajo Nation converges on our community in Window Rock during the Navajo Nation Fair; it’s the largest and most celebrated event of the year. Thousands of Diné from all around the reservation come for the fair that officially begins this Tuesday and continues on till next Sunday (the 10th). What an opportunity for outreach! People have already begun setting up camp all along highway 264, which is our street, to be closer to the festivities and for a better view of the parade that happens Saturday morning (during which candy is thrown from every float). Nevertheless, we know from experience that this open door for effective ministry also carries with it more spiritual opposition than we have felt during any point the rest of the year (this is saying a lot since we often encounter weird supernatural opposition). Last year, every one of us got sick, and felt so worn down and discouraged that we didn’t feel up for going out to interact with the masses. The oppression was subtle enough that we didn’t recognize its spiritual dynamic till half the week was gone. When we finally got people praying with and for us, DH was able to do outreach at the tail end of the week.

Please pray for WIM’s involvement in the fair – for unhindered gospel proclamation, for opportunities to be a blessing to the Diné, for eternally changed lives. Pray for good health and sweet sleep for our whole household so that Satan couldn’t knock us out of this opportunity.

Pray specifically for the event we have heard called “Hope Fest” to bare fruit for Christ’s kingdom. It’s a Christian concert that the Navajo Nation President and Vice President have scheduled for the evening of Thursday September 7th. Also pray for WIM’s partnership with a local church in creating a baby-changing station on the fair grounds (it’s a need that has not really been met before); ask the Lord to bring about new relationships with young moms.

Pray, too:

  • that God would give Emily a heart to hold the sorrows of the young moms and women she already knows. Emily often has ladies come by the house in the midst of really difficult situations ranging from homelessness to heartbreak to family drama.
  • for the dreams of a language immersion experience to become reality. We have heard from numerous Navajo friends about sheep camps deeper into reservation that would truly provide such an opportunity but we need God to make all the connections and provide for our whole family to go on such an adventure.
  • for Phinehas and Josiah as they engage in Classical Conversations for their homeschooling. We travel to Grants, NM every Tuesday (1.5 hours away) in order to participate in this exceptional curriculum.

In Christ,
DH & Emily Henry

Birthdays and Language Learning

Nelson Betoney, DH’s friend and fellow pastor is also one of his language helpers. They meet once or twice a week to work on language acquisition projects (LAPs). The above picture shows them working together on a LAP about locations and means of transportation.
Irene (L) and Antoinette (R) help Emily twice a week with language learning. Antoinette doesn’t speak Navajo fluently, even though she grew up on the Rez. When she heard Emily was going to be learning the language she asked her mother to teach us both.

Why do missionaries need to learn the language of the people? An obvious answer is to communicate. Without the ability to communicate with others we cannot build relationships. Think of the chaos at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) when the people suddenly couldn’t communicate with one another and they scattered. God’s intention was to spread His image bearers into all the world and then to send his Son into the world. The Son of God became like men — spoke their language, ate their food, and experienced life as they did. We call it the incarnation. Then, just as the Father sent the Son into the world, so He sent out His disciples to preach the Good News to the nations in a manner they could understand. We call it incarnational ministry. To the Jews they became as Jews in order to win JewsTo those outside they became as thoseoutside that they might win those outside the law. They became all things to all people, that by all means they might save some. Once Paul wrote, “if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said?” (I Cor. 14:9) That’s why we believe this went beyond learning and using cultural customs but also language.

Languages are a little like birthdays, when you know them they can be personal, cultural, and social. Emily recently celebrated her birthday and DH took the opportunity to integrate many aspects of their life, ministry, and language learning into the party. One of Emily’s love languages is words of affirmation, so DH invited all our language helpers to come to a surprise party. Each one brought a card filled with words of encouragement written in Navajo. Even some of our non-Navajo speaking friends spoke words of encouragement in Diné Bizaad [Navajo]. It was an incredible experience of not only feeling deeply loved, but also recognizing our progress in language learning. When Emily’s friends spoke to her in Navajo, she actually understood some of it!

This might not seem like that big of a deal, but we live in a situation where we don’t actually have to learn the tribe’s original language in order to survive; and one could say we don’t even need the Navajo language to communicate or build relationships. After all, most Navajos speak English. In fact, many say that the tribe’s language is dieing. Nevertheless, we have come to the conviction that modeling the incarnational ministry of Christ requires us to invest in learning their language. We have seen this open doors of trust — seen our attempts bless the people. We’ve experienced laughter and joy with those whom we’ve practiced speaking. At the same time, we’ve also seen suspicion brought about by the fact that so few missionaries have pursued this.

The Navajo culture, though surrounded by and infused with the Western culture, is just far enough removed from our context here in the United States for us to realize we are missionaries in a foreign land in our own land. How many other ministries here in the US would benifit from a full-on language and cultural study? Certainly, ministries that serve in hispanic communities but what about other tribal groups? What about various dialects found within minority cultures in the inner-cities? Let us in every way become as they are “that by all means we might save some.

Thank you for being a part of sending us into the Navajo Nation to love and learn from this beautiful people. We are so grateful for your support! Please pray with use that God would help us to learn Navajo for the sake of the Gospel.

 

Premises of Language 

by Dwight Gradin – Chief Language Facilitator, MTI

Premise 1. Language is a natural/human capability. Your amazing brain assimilated your first language without you even thinking about it. It was human nature to learn language, and it still is true that: Your brain and language are a perfect match!

Premise 2. Language is a personal/creative production. You put together your very own version of your first language and you will do the same this time. But now you can take ownership using a wide variety of personal projects to help you be proactive in your learning.

Premise 3. Language is a social/relational experience. Language has one main purpose: to communicate. Language learning is one of the best ways to interact and become integrated with people. Without people‐contact, language learning lacks purpose.

Premise 4. Language is a cultural/historical expression. Language expresses culture. Meanings come from the history of use. Underlying meanings are readily apparent to native speakers. Language learning is your path into the rich meaning base of that culture.

Premise 5. Language is a structured/governed behavior. Getting into another language requires a mind, ear and mouth ‘re‐tooling process’ to enable you to ‘behave yourself’ and stay within their grammar and pronunciation framework. One thing is certain, “You cannot speak ‘French’ correctly with an English mind or mouth.”

DH and Dwight discussing the possibility of a sixth premise. They delighted in the thought that language is supra-physical and soulful (image of God required). Dwight shared that bees and ants communicate instinctually, their language can never be lost, in contrast, human languages (even mother-tongues) are not built-in but rather acquired. (c.f. Gen. 2:20 & 11:7) DH had a thought that the focus of such a premise has to do with bearing the image of God. The implication he shared with Dwight was that since language is soulful it should result in glorifying God with our speech.

Yay Ducks and Yuck Ducks

February was an amazing month! Our time at Mission Training International (MTI) was life-giving for the entire family. We were with a small group of other missionaries who were preparing to go different places all over the world. Many of these families and individuals just got to their field in the last few days! 

We have returned to the mission field after a full month of training ready to apply the things we learned – praise the Lord for allowing us to attend MTI’s COMPASS program! The COMPASS program was filled with classes on language acquisition, phonetics drills, and cultural acquisition activities (role plays and simulations) for the adults while the kids were all downstairs in their own classes learning age appropriate versions of the same things. One of the first visual lessons they taught the whole community was about two ducks – the “Yay” Duck and the “Yuck” Duck. These two ducks always swim together, they’re a pair of ducks, a pair-a-ducks. A paradox. (Get it?! :))

The idea is that life is full of paradoxical experiences. We can experience opposite emotions about the same things simultaneously. In any given day we will experience things that are good (the “yay ducks”) and things that are bad (the “yuck ducks”). Missionaries and missionary kids face some unique challenges and being able to talk about the “yays” and the “yucks” has been very helpful in preparing us to head back to the mission field.

There were simply too many lessons beyond the “yay and yuck ducks” we learned to be able to share them all with you in one update. However, we feel that we simply must share a few of them. Through our time at MTI, the Lord has begun to teach us how to, in practical ways, take ownership of our language learning, manage stress, and how to better keep record of the joys God brings to our life here on the mission field.

The first two weeks at MTI were dedicated to preparing us to be better language learners. Each day we spent either expanding our skills in phonetics (the sounds we make in language) or learning how to become entrepreneurial language learners – how to manage our own language learning enterprise and where to risk embarrassment for the sake of acquiring our target language, Diné Bizaad. The COMPASS program placed a lot of emphasis on learning how to conduct “Language Acquisition Projects,” or LAPs for short. We practiced the techniques, not learning Navajo but in other languages (DH was placed in a group learning Mandarin and Emily with a Hindi group) so that most of our attention would be on the technique rather than the language. In the short time we have been back on the reservation, we have already seen how effective these methods can be. These language-learning techniques, without a doubt, were one of the biggest takeaways of our time there.

The second half of the COMPASS program was spent focusing in on issues that have led many missionaries to burnout and situations that have forced them to leave the field prematurely: conflict, overload, and stress, to name a few. “Ministers in a cross-cultural setting” we were told, “face non-stop, unrelenting, hard to manage stress,” and our first 14 months working in Window Rock bore witness to the truth of that statement. Whether it is the completely new culture (full of polar opposite values), the new ministry team, the new line of work, the new habits of language learning formed, the new working conditions (not to mention the new addition to our family a few months after our move)… so many factors contribute to the accumulation of stressors. The lessons we began to learn while there at MTI in managing stress are invaluable for us to have so that we might maintain a healthy lifestyle while we move out from the transition toward resettling. Practically speaking, we learned that in order to recover from the physiological effects of stress (the fight or flight hormones released), we must intentionally foster consistent stress relieving activities to help us recover, namely, physical exercise, and spiritual exercise: fellowship with God.

One of our most practical takeaways was the practice of recognizing our “Joys and Thanksgivings.” When we arrived at MTI the faculty expressed the importance of glorifying God by calling to mind the joys He has allowed, and expressing thanksgiving to Him. Each day we were encouraged to record our joys and thanksgivings and the staff there even provided a place to post these publically. Now that we have returned home and created our own Joys and Thanksgivings board, we still benefit from this very practical lesson. All of the Henry household, and especially the boys, continue to thank God for our time at Mission Training International.

We are also thankful for you and your partnership with us in the ministry. Please continue to pray:

  • that we might put into practice the lessons God taught us from his word while we were there at MTI (James 1:25)
  • that we might put in place habits like physical exercise (which is of some value) and “exercise ourselves unto godliness” cultivating habits of private prayer throughout our day (1Tim.4:7-8, Dan. 6:10)
  • that we might be made increasingly more like Christ and dwell among the Diné and, like Paul, become all things to all people so that by all means we might save some (Jn. 1:14, 1Cor. 9:20)

In Christ,
Daniel and Emily Henry

Emily’s language learning group with their language helper Pramila from India. The group had fun and had her teach them to say “we spit and we smile” in Hindi using a series on how to brush your teeth!

Dwight Gradin, a veteran missionary and linguistic expert, was a delight for us to learn from. As a missionary in Vietnam among the Je people, Dwight had the honor and privilege of helping the Je discover the name for God in their own language!

DH’s language learning group pictured here hard at work on a Language Acquisition Project (LAP) studying Mandarin! In this picture, they were grappling with phrases that described the weather.

We celebrated DH’s birthday with two of his siblings and their families. We were only about 45 minuets away from Denver where both his sister BJ and brother Nathan life. It was a joy to see family.

Missionary Mom

img_3300Missions 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.

screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-10-25-47-amI’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.

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