Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Writer's Block and God's Grace in Everyday Life

Hi friends! In the past two months I've attempted to write several blog posts only to be thwarted by a bad case of writer's block. Actually, I was simply having difficulty figuring out how to communicate both with honesty and a positive tone! And most of what was on my mind sounded very boring and mundane, not exactly glamorous testimonies and inspiring stories of missionary life. Of course, God has been working and giving us plenty of reasons to praise Him, but much of our time and attention has been consumed with mundane tasks that could bore you to tears or sound like whiny complaints.

But I have found motivation to write something because 1) I know you care and are praying, and 2) our baby will be born soon, and I'd rather face writer's block instead of sleep deprivation! I'll begin with the more "official" ministry-type news and then share more personal happenings, with some fun pictures to keep it light. :)

The Right Person, the Right Time

Fernando is coordinating a graduate-level, distance learning program for pastors and leaders. More people have joined the group, and they have been meeting weekly to study together, in addition to their individual reading and assignments. It is clear that God has prepared and gifted Fernando, particularly in administration and teaching, as an instrument for pastors and leaders to receive access to this training. He's also provided the contacts and materials. (Another group of students continues to meet quarterly in their second year in a more basic discipleship/church planting program.)

Construction Projects

Fernando helped oversee the construction of a kitchen and dining area where seminary classes are held. Before, the women had to use a less efficient kitchen, and students ate in the classroom or outside, depending on the weather. Now, the classroom space is larger, where the kitchen used to be, and a separate, more functional kitchen is available, including ample space for students to eat.

The larger classroom accommodates the growing number of students

Our village house project is moving along, and we're happy that the roof was just completed before the rainier weather begins in the next month or two. Although there were some unforeseen complications, Fernando is happy with the work done so far. He has had to keep track of a lot of details, from purchasing materials, to having someone get them across the river, to the actual building process.

How to cross remote rivers

Building Relationships in Our Neighborhood

Fernando has been helping some young men lead a story fellowship group in our neighborhood. He also has been getting to know more men and teenagers by taking them to play soccer on the weekends he is home. I continue to build relationships with women, especially those with small children, as much as Mr. J lets me as he runs up and down the street (!). Just between our house and the corner, I can say hi to neighbors in Garífuna, Spanish, and English (English-speaking islanders are another people group on the Honduran coast). People know we are believers, and we like to share with them as we have the opportunity, in actual meetings in our home or informal conversations.

Several members of the story team

The Dreaded "T" Word

I have written about the Spanish word trámite in a previous post. It refers to paperwork or a legal process, usually conjuring the idea of unexpected delays due to infrastructure challenges and systemic corruption. Fernando had to take our pick-up to another city to register it, thinking it would take a day or two. Two weeks and two round-trips later we were thankful and relieved the process was complete and that God gave Fernando wisdom and the right contacts to navigate through the different obstacles (supposed "extra charges" and delays) he encountered.


The Good, Bad, and Ugly

As much as we want to focus on what the Lord is doing and the positive aspects of life here, I will be honest about the less exciting and easy parts lately. For example:
  • While Fernando was dealing with the pick-up truck delays, Mr. J and I got a stomach bug at home, and then I got a bad cold. When Fernando took a trip to the village, Mr. J got a 48-hour fever, and then we topped the week off with his 18-month shots, which gave him a fever and made him limp for a day or two.
  • Pregnancy is going great, and we're in the final weeks. I always felt rather proud of how well I handle the heat... until now. Mr. J and I have had heat rashes, and I am gaining greater empathy for those who feel miserable and tired in hot weather!
Having fun cooling off in a nearby river!
  • We had a few weeks of water outages, filling up water when it came on and hauling buckets to the kitchen and bathroom when it was off. As much as I told myself to be thankful for the water we did have... I didn't have a stellar missionary attitude on some of those days!

Where did the water go?
  • My patience was tested in ridding out cockroach infestations while "nesting"; dealing with garbage pile-up and, after it was collected, clean-up while Fernando was gone (I'll spare the details of garbage issues/animals in the tropics); finding my best defensive driving techniques put to the test; and being caught off-guard by a few power outages.

A very short nap with the power off. Even Pooh was sweating! ;)

Probably the most frustrating issue was the big gap between my reactions and the attitude I would rather have had. It was a good reminder that only God's grace can fill that gap and that He is kind and patient with His children. (Having a toddler is giving me a greater glimpse into this!).

Mr. J and Pooh in a happy moment!

I also found myself upset that such trivial things bother me when others have much greater struggles. For example, the garbage collectors work with their bare hands under the hot sun or pouring rain for long hours and are not consistently paid. I hope God uses a kind word and cup of cold water to remind them of His love. I am sobered by how injustice and brokenness affect others. It is good to know God understands our conflicting feelings and keeps our hearts tender and compassionate.

The reason I share this is to show how challenges in everyday life reveal our human weakness and frustration, wherever we happen to live, and even when we feel immensely grateful for what we do have. As missionaries, we find great comfort and strength knowing you pray for us, not only for the big projects and dreams, but also for the everyday challenges that can wear us down. We want our communication to be centered on what the Lord is doing and His love for His people here, but occasionally it’s good to share with you what we struggle with and experience in day-to-day life.

See the waterfall?

Thank you for your love and support, and we’ll let you know when our baby girl is born!