Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mission Connexion

On Friday and Saturday Evan and I attended MissionConnexion. It is a huge mission’s conference, held every year in the Pacific Northwest. There are booths from many different organizations as well as Christian Universities. Some of the booths Evan and I were particularly impressed by were:
·        Crescent Project
·         Gleanings for the Hungry
·         India Partners
·         SAT-7

There were also 125 workshops to choose from as well as large plenary sessions. We enjoyed, and in some cases, were quite inspired by the workshops and sessions we participated in.
We took workshops separately and together. We would be happy to share what we learned if you’re interested. But, for this post I wanted to focus on what touched and inspired me.

Firstly, in the session with Dr. Miriam Adeney, speaking on Global Christianity, we heard three amazing stories about the power of God to work in His timing through those who are called to go. These stories are so wonderful I don’t want to diminish them by trying to shorten them to fit in this post. So I have made a separate post for them, link here.

Another class that I found particularly helpful was the class on Missionary stress and care. Though much of the content was discussed at Wycliffe training, I was still able to glean some new ideas on how to deal with stress and how to ask for help. Missionaries are not invincible. It is important for us to remember to communicate that fact to our friends and family. We want to be able to be real and vulnerable so we don’t burn out/breakdown completely.

I learned that 94% of missionaries experience trauma on the field; 86% experience multiple traumatic events. This can take the form of experienced trauma and vicarious trauma. If missionaries are not allowed to deal with these stresses and trauma, much like a soldier coming back from war, everything from our health to our psychological well-being is at risk and often times will not manifest itself until they are in a safe place, like furlough in our home country. As part of our preparation I have compiled a list of ways in which you, our friends and family, can help in missionary care. Link here.

I or Evan would also be happy to converse more on this subject anytime.

The most intense class Evan and I took was entitled: Trespassing…Continue at your own risk. It was led by a good friend of ours and her friend. The purpose was to better understand the significance of the land, and how to be covered when entering into unknown spiritual territories. Papua New Guinea is a territory that has an unbroken line of spiritual darkness. Much of the practice has changed in the last 20 to 50 years (like cannibalism and headhunting), but the spiritual foundation for them is largely unchanged. We were grateful for this class in helping us to recognize signs as well as ways to protect our family. We were given anointing oil by our friend and we fully intend to connect with her prayer group Rea’ International so we can be covered even more with all your prayers. We feel that we cannot take one step without prayer and we are so grateful for you all.

The final few things I want to share about the classes we took are from the workshop I took called: Carving God’s Message into People’s Hearts. It was a class that was showing how art could be used as ministry. I have felt for some time now that, while my primary call is to be the wife of Evan and the mother of my boys, I have been searching for another way for me to minister. I was excited as I felt inspiration rise in me as Paul, the speaker, shared his heart, encouraging us all to find that thing that “puts light in our eyes” and do it as well as we can. I still don’t know exactly how my gifts will end up being used by God, but I am even more excited to get to PNG and find out.

In closing this post I want to share the lyrics of a song we heard during the worship time. It was written by Kate White and called We Will.

If we open up our hearts
If we open up our ears
We will hear the voice of God calling our names
If we open up our hands enough
To grab hold of the cross
We will feel the touch of God ignite the flame

We will rise, with a burning heart to serve the living God
We will run, with a passion for the lost and lonely ones
We will go, to the trenches of a world that's filled
with need-We will live out the calling of our God
We will

Let us count the cost of Christ
Let us give our very lives
Let the people be awakened to His cry
God has given us a vision
So much greater than ourselves
It is pounding in our chest, we can't deny

Holy God reveal yourself
Holy Spirit fall
We await your purposes
Responding to your call

3 Stories to Inspire

Inspiring stories from: Dr. Miriam Adeney

There was a little girl in Egypt named Amina. She was from a devout Muslim family. Every morning her mother would roll out the prayer mats and this little girl would kneel and pray. One day she said to her mother, “Mommy, I wish God was like daddy. When I talk to daddy he answers me. When I talk to God, he doesn’t. Why doesn’t God answer me?”

As Amina grew up, she saw the problems in Cairo; of not enough sanitation facilities or clean water, not enough housing, etc. and she wanted to go to school to do something to help the country that she loved. When she was 12 years old she was given a religious text in Arabic, she didn’t know what it was, but she took it home, put it away in her closet and forgot about it.

Eventually Amina went to University and being an intelligent woman, was very successful. One day she came upon a Christian concert in park. She liked the music but she was puzzled by one thing. While the singer prayed he kept referring to someone called “father”, but when she looked around all the people there were her age. As she continued to ponder this, she wondered if he was referring to God. She wondered if the Christians thought of God as a father. She remembered the conversation she had with her mother as a child. And Amina remembered the text she had received many years ago, by now she knew it was a Christian text. 

She went home and rummaged around until she found it. It was the book of John. She began to read.
As she read she began to fall in love with this man Jesus. Then she came to chapter 8, where the teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in the act of adultery before Jesus, saying to him (verse 5) ‘“In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (verse 6) They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. ‘

Amina stopped reading.  She did not want to continue because she loved the Jesus she had come to know up to that point and did not want to see him compromise himself as she had seen religious and political leaders do in her life. She knew that if he said, stone her, she could not respect him. But if he said to let her go, she could not respect him, because that would mean adultery meant nothing. So, in order to preserve Jesus in her mind as the compassionate and wise person she had grown to know in the first 7 chapters, she closed the book and went and watched television with her family.

But that night, Amina could not sleep. She got up, opened the book and read on. You know how the story ends, “those of you without sin cast the first stone.” With the words of Jesus to the woman, “Then neither do I condemn you, go now and leave your life of sin” She knew the truth of Christ.
I love this story because it shows the importance of the Scriptures in someone’s heart language. There were no evangelists trying to convince her, she read and the Truth spoke for itself.

Wang and Liang
In the island province of Hainan, in the most southern part of China, there is a church. This church felt the call of God to go into the mountains and minister to the indigenous people. The largest group was called the Li.

When the group of missionaries approached the Li village, the villagers met them with anger. They said “You Chinese have pushed us into the hills; you are here to steal more from us; now you are here to take our gods.” They took their farm implements and attacked the missionaries. A young man in their group named Wang was killed. The missionaries took his body back down the mountain and mourned for three weeks. Then, after fasting and praying for three days, decided to return to the Li. A quiet young woman named Liang stepped forward saying “Take me with you.” She was the widow of Wang. They said “Oh no dear, you are still mourning. It is better you stay here and pray. We wouldn’t be able to protect you.”

Liang responded, “Haven’t I earned the right to go?” So they let her come.  As they approached, villagers came out to greet them with angry faces. Before either side could say anything, Liang stepped forward. She said, “I am the widow of the man your murdered.” Everyone was so shocked no one said anything and Liang continued. “But my husband is not dead; he has gone to paradise to live with God. When he came to your village he wanted to share this with you. If he were here, he would forgive you for what you did. Since he is not here, I forgive you in his place. I can do this, because God has forgiven me. If you want to learn more, meet us tonight at that big tree outside the village.”

The missionaries waiting and no one attacked, so they went away to talk. They said to Liang, “You should keep going; they seem to listen to you.” And Liang said, “Oh no, I was just clearing the way for you, I am no teacher.” But they said “We will teach you what to say.” So that afternoon and every afternoon for a week and a half, the missionaries prepared Liang and every evening she spoke. After this time, many villagers believed. When the missionaries left after two weeks, one man stayed behind to continue to teach, and baptize the new Christians. He was Wang’s father.

After two months, he returned to the church with three tribal men. One of these men stood in front of the congregation and said, “I am the man who killed Wang.” The congregation was silent and he continued to speak about how God had forgiven him, he asked for forgiveness and expressed gratitude for the missionaries who came to their village. They brought a money gift from the new church in the Li village to the church that had brought them the good news.
Those who are called to go can and do great things for God.

The Lambalo

In Borneo, there is a people group called the Lambalo who lived the in the mountains. In the 1800’s some missionaries from Australia felt called to go to these people. Those in the valleys warned them, “You should not go there, the Lambalo are dying out.  Alcoholism is so rampant there are almost none left. In a few years, their language and culture will be no more. It is not worth your time to go up the mountain.” But the missionaries went anyway. Through education, Bible translation and simple, pure, loving relationships the Lambalo were saved. Now there are more than 150,000 believers and 1,000 churches. Their language and culture has been fortified by giving an alphabet to their language. A believer said that Christ had not only saved their souls, but also their lives, language and culture. All because those who felt called, heeded the call and became the hands and feet of Jesus to the Lambalo.

I hope these stories blessed you as they did me. They give you a glimpse of how we feel about our mission to go to the peoples of Papua New Guinea. We are going to be the hands and feet of Jesus there. You are part of the mission as well, by sending us. Your love stretches across the ocean and becomes part of the global Christian movement.

Missionary Care

Tangible ways to care for us as we go to and return from Papua New Guinea:
  1. Sending letters or e-mails. We want to hear about your life, the life of the church and things that are going on back in the states. It helps us to feel we are not forgotten, we are still a part of the community.
  2. Skyping
  3. Care packages. Small or big, from an individual or a group. Everyone loves receiving presents. Especially for our kids, this will make them feel special. We have a list on Amazon.com to give you ideas. Search wish lists: The Larson family**** One thing to keep in mind, we cannot have food products of any kind shipped into the country. The best gifts are books, movies, and games. Things we can share with others as well as enjoy ourselves.
  4. Providing opportunities for true rest (particularly when we come home on furlough). If you have a place for us to stay and recoup as a family/couple for a few days it would mean so much to us. As much as we will love to be back in the states, we will need time to renew ourselves and debrief.
  5. Scheduling – Particularly when we return, and now as we are in the final stages of our fundraising, help with organizing talks, meeting people and all the logistical areas of partnership development would be invaluable. If you know someone we should talk to, want to put together a slide show for us, make copies of hand-outs, arrange for the snacks at an event, or even host an event, we would be so grateful.
  6. Grocery shopping – Again, particularly when we return, we anticipate there being culture shock. Even going to the store for milk and cereal will at first seem overwhelming. To have someone stock our fridge for the first week or so would be great appreciated.

In-tangible ways to care for us as we go/return
  1. Allow us to be human. We feel sad, angry, stressed just like everyone else.
  2. Understand that particularly for our children home is a complex concept.
  3. Keeping up with us as best you can, if we hear things like “How was your vacation to Africa?” we feel you don’t care about us, and we are sad. If you can’t remember, or don’t know something, ask, we won’t be offended.
  4. Just listen, don’t try to fix, particularly as we return we may need just to process things.
  5. Ask questions, please don’t assume all missionaries think or act the same.
  6. Understand we do value you and your friendship, just because we can’t meet you for coffee doesn’t mean we don’t love you. And we will do the same for you.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual battles in the United States don’t seem to get as much press as they should. The concept of demons, evil spirits, angels, get trotted out on occasion when it really important to emphasis the power or intervention of God. “My guardian angel”, “demonic presence”, “heavenly battles for his soul” are all phrases I have heard used. Here’s the thing, and I may be stepping on toes here, I don’t believe too many people in America really get this side of our walk with God.
A friend last night, talking about marriage, said that in our society it is easy for materialism to mask over problems in our lives. But living in a culture like that of Papua New Guinea, where easy distractions and band aid-fixes are less commonplace, hidden issues can bubble to the surface which might otherwise remain unseen. The same is true with the spiritual life – including spiritual warfare. When other distractions are taken away, we notice things that we should have seen all along.
Another conversation I had last night, with another friend was discussing sacrificing. Specifically, choosing to sacrifice everything to be missionaries, this may include our very lives and (and this is the part I still struggle with) the lives of spouse and children.
Yes, you did read that correctly. When you choose a life of fulltime ministry, you stand in the enemy’s crosshairs. Now, I am not saying we are super holy people who miraculously survive 24-7 barrage of demonic attacks. You can drive yourself nuts seeing demons and angels in every bad or good turn of events. But, we have experienced a number of definite attacks since beginning our journey toward Papua New Guinea. Most have come alongside a significant step involved in the process of becoming a missionary or moving the ministry a step closer to Papua New Guinea.
One of the first being Evan’s father falling dangerously ill right after we became members of Wycliffe. It would have been easy – justified even – to set Wycliffe aside, reasoning that there are just too many other things in “real life” to attend. As a number of folks have observed, “It’s like you land on Satan’s radar”. He definitely doesn’t want us to get there.
The worst has been the targeting of our children. Another missionary told us to be very mindful of our children, as they are the target the enemy most enjoys to torment. We have had to endure and fight back when Liam has been plagued by demon forces. Quite tangibly in the case of our PNG masks, which we subsequently burned, and cleansed our home. Most recently, the attacks have come in the form of illness, the spirits of discouragement and oppression, and nightmares. This last, particularly potent for Liam. In fact, what prompted me to write this was Liam crying uncontrollably, and not being able to calm down until we turned on a light and prayed. This incident made me lie in bed crying and unable to sleep for some time. It is something I think about and struggle with almost on a daily basis. Knowing the choices I and Evan are making is affecting our kids.
I can’t claim that is takes some kind of super-human, super-spiritual person to be a missionary. But, I can say with absolute certainty, it takes all the love, support, and prayers of hundreds of people to send one. I don’t know where we’d be without the prayers of those I know are behind us and beside us. But, I do know we are where we are because of them (you all).
I don’t know what this is going to accomplish other than me being able to let a little out of my heart onto the page. Maybe make it a little less difficult (at times) to walk this path. I’m not a martyr, I’m not a saint; I’m not even a particularly good person sometimes. I’m a mom, wife and missionary. All that I ask is that when we cross your mind, you send up a little prayer. Because there are demons and angels in America and they do battle. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

We're not dead!

Well, dear followers of our blog. Here we are in 2012 and I find I completely bypassed fall 2011 for blog entries. For that I am sorry, and it’s not that I didn’t think of you. I even attempted several times to write entries. But somehow they didn’t feel right, or didn’t get finished for one reason or another.
Looking back on what we requested prayer for all the way back in July, here are some over-due updates (though I hope you have heard at least some of these through other avenues of communication):

Our time at the JAARS training facility in Waxhaw, NC was an intense, educational and profound experience. We certainly saw God in the new and old friends we met there. We are looking forward to seeing many of them again when we arrive in PNG.

We are currently staying with our friends, the Dolan’s. We have been staying with them since we arrived back home from training. Our family has been blessed in countless ways being in their home. Our boys love being here and love John and Connie. They have been a great influence on us and on the boys. We cannot express our gratitude for the privilege we have had in their graciousness and experience God through them.

We have been making slow, but steady progress on our financial goal. We took a bit of a break over the holidays, but we are now at just under 60% and we are very excited to see how God chooses to bring us the remaining 40% as we begin to schedule more meetings and speak to more individuals in 2012. We have been in communication with the Papua New Guinea branch of Wycliffe and they have made it very clear that they want us there as soon as possible. We are working hard to make that possible. If you have not already done so, we ask you to prayerfully consider your part in our work. If financial partnership is something you are considering, please know that we mean it when we say a few dollars a month helps. We have been truly blessed by the individuals who took us seriously on that; your $5, $10, $25…ect. monthly gifts have helped get us to where we are.

As 2012 dawns, we aim to prayerfully to determine, and reach our goals for this year.
We are in the process of getting Evan’s work permit. Once we have that, we can apply for our visas. Once we have our visas, (which usually takes about 30 days to process) we will be poised to leave as soon as finances come through. In the meantime, we are getting our final immunizations and gathering supplies in readiness to leave. On this note, if you would like to make a one-time gift donation to defray our costs, that would be greatly appreciated. Another option is checking out our needs list on amazon.com. We mostly don’t need new versions of these items, so if you have something on the list you would like to donate, or purchase for us, that would be appreciated too.

I will be doing my best to post some more pictures and video updates of the family. Also, we would love your participation on a new project we are launching on youtube site. http://www.youtube.com/user/UkarumpaLiving?feature=mhee
We are going to be posting some videos, answering frequently asked questions, and not so frequently asked questions. If you have a/some question/s for us, respond to this post, or shoot us an e-mail and we will try to answer all of them. You can ask about us as individuals, a family, about Papua New Guinea, Ukarumpa, our living conditions…anything! Looking forward to hearing from you, and recording the first installment.

In closing here are some praises and prayer requests:

*A wonderful and safe advent season
* New prayer and financial partners
* God’s provision for our needs

*Smooth workings for the rest of the state-side strings to be tied up (vaccines, government approvals)
*A clear leave date-goal
*Temporary welding work for Evan (if this is indeed what God wants)
*Guarding of our family’s health
*New partners!

Thank you so much for being a part of our mission with us to minister to the peoples of Papua New Guinea. We pray that God keeps you and brings you joy in 2012.

The Larson family