Sunday, September 2, 2018

Grace and Peace


Lately, I have been struggling. Struggling with goodbyes – the see you next in Heaven kind to the see you in a few years/I don’t know when kind – wrestling with understanding God’s Will for my intelligent, creative but academically challenged kids – and finally battling the discrepancy between what my spirit is willing and wants to do, but my body is unable to accomplish. I am still grappling with how to express those experiences into words here….


But in the meantime God has given me a gift of these words of encouragement through the Scriptures.


Our Bible study started the book of Philippians we talked about the first 11 verses of chapter 1. Over an hour on spent on essentially a greeting and opening prayer? Yes. It’s packed. Paul was great at that, his words have punch.


“1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,


To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:


2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.


7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.


9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” – Philippians 1:1-11 (NIV)

At first, I was not really hearing anything. I was feeling sick and tired. I was anxious and sad. Yet, God met me. He used my friends, both old and new, in the study to speak words of encouragement and conviction.

Here’s a bit of what was given to me to ponder and move forward with.


“1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus…”


The letter came from both Paul and Timothy, elder and younger together. Paul had already expressed his confidence in Timothy, continues to endorse him here as co-authoring, and would go on to further 
encourage him  (“12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)) New blood and old hands in the mission field and in Christianity, we should work together – sharpen and encourage.

“2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

The comment was raised last night that very few people we knew spoke in this way to each other anymore; imparting blessings in every day speech. But what if we did? What would fruit? The examples we had in our lives, those who speak blessing on mundane ‘see you later’ partings, those who say ‘Lets pray about that right now’ – rather than the oft-empty platitude of ‘I’ll be praying for you’, were poignant.

When worship – and praying and speaking blessings over others is worship – becomes ritualistic, routine, and mindless – it loses impact, and we forget the most important part, its transforming power; its power to aid us and those around us in becoming more like Christ.

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

We say it in newsletters, in e-mails, in thank you cards and we meant it. Paul and Timothy had their partners in their pioneering mission work, and we have ours so many generations later.

The role of the faithful who were established in one place to gather support and prayers were clearly an integral part of the burgeoning work in the early Church. That role has not diminished. For us, it is not empty sentiment to say “thank you” no matter how many times we say it. We could not be here without our partners.

Those who financially support the mission as well as those who pray for us (and as it was brought up last night – those we are surrounded with in our community here), hold us up, keep our feet moving forward in faith, directing our eyes to stay fixed on God.

As it was pointed out in our study, it is meant as a two way street. We get prayed for, but we should be praying to. As the verses continue…

7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.


9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

Like Paul, I carry our partners in my heart, and whatever my circumstances I should be praying for each one of them, not just when we hear of a need, just as they pray for us. In doing so, the pain of separation lessens, the worries about my kids lessens, the physical trials of my broken world body diminishes. And God is glorified through me. The “good work” begun in all of us continues to refine “…until the day of Christ…” It is a complex process, on one side of things we are lifted up and become stronger. On the other side, we become less so that He is that is in us is more manifest through the bright spots of us following in those footsteps set before us.

Let us pray continually that all – especially those individuals brought to our minds – including those on our minds because of a conflict with them – that their“…love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that [they] may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
Please pray with me that I don’t hinder the process in my own life and that I continue to seek God’s guidance in this crucial area of growth.

In closing, grace and peace be with you today as you go forth into the future.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Grateful list

Here is another installment of things I am grateful for…

1. The boys’ school:
Here in Ukarumpa our boys attend our center’s school. It is a mix of families with many ethnicities and backgrounds joining together for a common purpose. To support the spread of God’s word into every tongue and promote His love for everyone and His desire to see them grow and thrive.
The school provides amazing academic help but also there is a lot of fun and learning…
Ice cream class reward...can you spot Julien? Hint he's in green
(photo credit goes to Laura Young (his teacher) and Anita McCarthy for taking the photo

A few months ago we had book fair, which culminated in the book parade which has the kids dress up as a character from a book. Last year Liam was a Buckingham Palace Guardsman and Julien was Paddington Bear. This year Liam is Geronimo Stilton and Julien is Chiro from the picture book Nightsong. This is always fun for our family as we love reading and crafting.

Chiro
Geronimo Stilton
 Most importantly, the school instills lessons about how to be children of God into each day.

2. Our Jeep. God blessed us with miracle after miracle in getting our car here this term. I enjoy being able to give others a lift, remembering our first term of not having a car.

Often we get several inches of rain in a few hours. With gravel roads, no sidewalks and several hundred feet change in elevation from our house to the rest of center we are reminded of God’s provision for us every time we get in the car…especially when it is raining.

Even when it’s not raining, getting around and especially being able to take trips off our center has been made more possible by owning our own vehicle
 Going to village church

 Highlands Highway
picture of the bridge which we took the river ford to avoid. The guy posing in the picture is standing right in front of the hole in the bridge that we couldn't drive over. On the way back it was patched.

Here are some videos of driving to a village church, and down to the coast for vacation and a shopping trip. There are major repairs happening on the Highlands Highway but for now we are grateful to have four-wheel drive.

3. The diversity of God’s creation. In flying down to Madang for my Thrive retreat a few months ago I got to sit in the co-pilot seat for the first time. I also got the birds eye view of the landscape going from the Eastern Highlands where we live, down to the “nambis” (the beach/coast). I was able to converse with the pilot Mike, husband of a friend who was also attending the retreat (Mike flew three plane-loads that day) about the beauty of PNG. It again made my heart cry and prompted me to pray for the people and the land we passed over that God’s word would touch them and they would grow to know Him and His will for their lives in powerful ways.







4. Unity amongst diversity. I love to marvel at our worship times here, especially during a service when there is scripture and song presented in many languages. It shows me a tiny glimpse of what Heaven is going to be like. But we also get to have some of that experience in our home too, with celebration of holidays particularly. American holidays like Thanksgiving and Fourth of July, and also Christmas here is a bit different than in the US, but we are lucky to have a great community of friends who are like family to celebrate with.



At the annual 4th of July party food traditions come from all over -- sugar cane next to the American flag cake
For Thanksgiving this last year we gave thanks for God’s provision with having not only Americans but also Romanians, Canadians, AND Americans who spent their growing up in the Philippines and other locations as MK’s, and naturalized Americans…so we have a lot of food and perspective that may not be “traditional” but it’s also awesome and truly what the spirit of Thanksgiving is about.
The lead-up to Christmas is always different here. One year the boys made cookies with an “auntie”, one year we spent Christmas Eve at an Old Testament dedication. Christmas day we sometimes have a brunch with friends…but always spend the afternoon at a potluck at the home of our dear friends the Albrights in a tradition that started for us in 2012, the first Christmas we spent in PNG.

All these things I am able to enjoy are because of the generosity you all who join with us and partner with the ministry and allow us to continue to live and work here…Thank you.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Teatime

I just came into possession of a book called “If Teacups Could Talk: sharing a cup of kindness with treasured friends” by Emilie Barnes

As I leafed through, admiring the beautiful illustrations by Sandy Lynam Clough, reading bits here and there, many memories were brought to mind.

As a little girl I enjoyed playing tea party. I still have my dolls china tea set in storage in America. It is white with pink and blue flowers. As I grew older many more fond memories and attachments to people came via tea. Curling up with a steaming mug and a good book is still one of my favorite activities.

From the time I was in about 5th grade through college, I attended an annual “Christmas tea” hosted by a friend’s mother. It is such a delightful event, and she is such a gracious hostess; in order to accommodate the women and girls who attend, there are tables set through-out the house and three sittings! I was so very pleased to be able to attend for the first time in several years when were in America on furlough in 2015.


The first present Evan ever bought me was a mug, a boxed selection of quality teas and a fuzzy blanket. On a visit to Evan’s brother in Seattle, he took us to a tea shop where we were served several cups of throat-scalding, but very good, tea out of jars and drawers and given a lesson in which tea gave what flavors and properties to the drinker. 


One of the presents I brought back from my trip to Russia was a traditional glass and metal tea cup for my father. He and I share a love for tea.


A search for replacement Tupperware popsicle molds on ebay ended with me in possession of some lovely cups which I enjoy using:


I came across one seller who also was selling a beautiful set of blue and white tea cups produced by Staffordshire engravings. The thing that caught my eye was that the birds on the cups are birds of paradise, the national bird of Papua New Guinea. The price was reasonable, but in calculating how much it would take to ship to PNG, plus the molds I decided I couldn’t buy them. In communicating with the seller about shipping for the molds (I was having her mail them to my mom who would ship them on), I complimented her on the cups and told her we were missionaries in PNG where the birds on them are found in many varieties. She quickly replied that she wanted to send them to me as a blessing and asked for an address. A couple of months later I was a very proud owner, and indeed blessed by the kindness of a stranger.




I have been able to continue a tea-loving legacy in my boys…though they are only allowed mostly herbal teas like chamomile at the moment; Liam in particular has been drawn to the ritual of tea drinking and “tea time”. Those blue and white cups I told you about? They are his favorite to drink out of.

One of his favorite things to do while visiting his grandparents (my parents) was prepare a tray with tea and toast to bring to Granddad in bed in the morning. Last school year, in social studies, they learned about the UK, and at the end of the unit, Liam took great pride in carefully dressing for their special “real UK tea party” served and explained by women in our community from the UK. His hospitable nature is drawn to the social care of teatime.

Here in PNG, where spending time on developing relationships is of paramount importance, it makes sense that “tea-break” is still an observed time of the day. 10 AM and 3 PM every workday. In many cultures, to eat and drink with someone is a profound step in acceptance. Jesus uses this ritual many times as an object lesson in showing God’s love to others.

I have heard many people comment that they hear the best stories and grow closer to their co-workers over their tea-breaks. In our multi-cultural environment, where the number one reason for missionaries leaving the field is inter-personal conflict, I hope the tea-breaks never stop.
When I am having a tough time, or just want to visit, going and having a cup of tea with a friend…even if she tidies up her kitchen while we sip and chat, is refreshing and comforting. In the evening, when Evan sets the kettle boiling and asks if I would like a cup, I feel the warm glow of love and companionship from that one question.


So, raise your cups (even if they contain something other than tea) in salute to this special pastime and maybe even throw a special party and create some memories when International Tea Day rolls around on December 15th.

The Hardest Little Things


“It’s the little things…” She said. A friend and I were talking about holidays recently and the conversation drifted slightly in another direction as she asked me, “Don’t you find it’s the little things that you miss the most?”

She went on to say “ I mean, I do miss my family at Christmas time, birthdays and all that…but when it’s big things like that, I feel like I can sort of prepare myself. But sometimes you can be blindsided when you remember something suddenly.”

She went to give the example of how she, her sister and mom would have their annual tradition of going out for breakfast and shopping on Black Friday in the US. She was reminded of this as she was standing outside the gate to our center’s store waiting for it to open for our version of Black Friday. It is the one time that the store is open on a Saturday. There are seasonal items, specially ordered, on display, the store is decorated and there is Christmas music playing.

She said she almost cried standing there, remembering and being sad to miss out by doing what God has called her to.

We all have those little things…and much like the question “Where are you from?” the longer you live and work overseas the more difficult it becomes to answer… "What is hardest about living there?”

One Question we get asked especially by folks really interested in our lives during furlough is: “What is the hardest thing about living there.”

The answer shifts, sometimes daily.

I can tell you something that, for me, is always hard. That twinge my heart makes and brings a lump to my throat, and sets my eyes glistening…

When I see memories on facebook pop up reminding me of memories our kids have shared with cousins, and grandparents…

It does make me sad that my kids miss out on birthdays, and holidays with family…but what I feel is more of a sacrifice in our obedience to God are the camping trips, woodworking projects with Granddad, swimming in their cousin’s pool, growing up with their cousins…
Thanksgiving at Oregon coast with Liz's family
Snow with cousins in Portland
Swinging with Granddad
Getting ready for a canoe ride with Granddad
Riding bike with uncle Jonathan
Playdough with Sasa (grandma Rodman)
Christmas cookies with Grandma Debbie
video games with cousins at Thanksgiving
Snuggling with uncle Justin's dogs..Billy and....
Lucy
Beach trip with Evan's family
Trip to the redwoods with Grandpa Robin just a few months after Liam was born
Grandpa Robin entertaining Liam on a long car ride after a camping trip together

It is certainly little sacrifice, little suffering in comparison to many. But it is still sacrifice and still suffering and I have to pray each day for the willingness to continue under God’s will. In doing so, it breaks my heart a little…but it also strengthens it as we draw closer to Him and the finish line.



Thursday, September 21, 2017

Quick update from Larson family

Prayer and Praise:
This past week has been an encouragement as we cross paths with other like-minded and motivated people.  We have met several who have a vision for meeting local needs in conjunction with the traditional missionaries’ translation, literacy and evangelical work. 

One person we met, I’ll call him Greg (because that’s his name), came to serve for a short time with another mission and decided to return to do research into Business As Mission and coffee roasting.  One of the projects on my back burner is to build a coffee huller so that local growers can add value to their crop and transport more value per load to the wholesale buyers.  This could overlap very well with the work Greg is researching.  Greg happened to cross paths (if you believe in coincidence), with the Papua New Guinean man with whom we started down this Business As Mission road.  He literally crossed paths with him in the road in front of his house.

In the same conversation I was invited to explore the micro-hydro project in a village where the locals are already working on other community development projects.  In that village specialization is developing on its own without outsiders saying, “You should be doing this…”  Local ownership is paramount for the sustainability of any project.  And specialization is a giant step in the process of developing a community.  For instance, one person mills timber but pays someone else to build his house.  Traditionally, everybody does everything and there is little or no expertise because there is no time for it.  The next day I was invited to another village to assess their site.

A couple of days ago we attended a talk given by a man, Bruce French, who started working in agriculture in PNG over fifty years ago.  His life’s work has been how to address nutritional issues with local plants rather than imports.  

Here is his website and database (which is truly astonishing):  Food plants international

In PNG the ground is so fertile you can poke a dry stick in the dirt and it will sprout leaves.  But malnutrition is still an issue due to imported trash food and lost knowledge of local nutritional plants. 

We seem to be on the crest of a wave of people from all over asking, “How do I live as a Christian in this world in a practical way?  What practical difference can I make and not just say ‘stay warm and well-fed?’  What knowledge or experience do I have that can be used as an expression of God’s love in this world?”

While working on these things I am still acting as Assistant Manager at the Auto Shop in Ukarumpa. 

Please pray for:
·         Appropriate goal setting; keep our goals in line with the Lord and not just follow an idea.
·         Wisdom when to strive forward on a plan and when to wait on the Lord’s direction.

·         Continued prayer for Liz’s energy and pain level.