Thursday, July 28, 2011

On Foreign Soil

Well, here we are again. Going down memory lane remembering all God has done in the past 10 years. It's interesting because so often in Bible, mostly the OT David and others are reminiscing about what God had done. Even in the NT Paul recollects his encounter with Jesus-always retelling the story. It is a good practice. In the OT, we read much of the good and the bad when it comes to the children of Israel. Right now in the OYB we are reading through Chronicles and that is what the book is about-chronological order of events, kings, leaders, battles, etc. Oh and on a side note, I was once again amazed at how people have such a difficult time believing that women can be evil. Athelia (don't think I spelled her name correctly) was so wicked, so evil, just like her mother! I suppose that subject can be a whole different blog post one day lol!!

If you have read the past couple blog posts, you know I am writing about our call and move to Hungary and then later on to Italy. It's good for me to actually be recalling all of these things and have them down in writing for when I am old and can't remember anything anymore !!! Who knows, I may not even know what country or language I am speaking!

We are at moving day! Moving away from beautiful, sunny CA and a group of friends and my parents are there to say good-bye. Funny side-story. My friend Sandy was going back east to a family reunion so she came over earlier in the week to say good-bye. For some reason we started talking about how rough the toilet paper was in Hungary-see I told you I thought about weird things! Well, we decided to go to Vons around 10pm and get a couple big ole packs of comfy toilet paper and packed it in the big moving truck. I will say that it was quite a nice site when the truck finally arrived in Sept!!!

We arrived at the airport and the airlines had now decided to do something differently with seating. Just a couple months before if you booked your ticket with another person you automatically sat next to each other. Well, imagine our dismay and shock when we checked in and all three of us were sitting separately. It was awful!!! We got on the plane, I am stuck in the middle seat with 'guys' on either side, Marla is a few rows ahead of me and Jim a few rows back. Up until this point, I was still in excitement, is it really happening, mode. It was once the plane took off that the tears began to fall. What made it worse was I had to try to contain them because I was next to strangers. All I could think of at that moment was "what in the world are we doing?" The stewardess asked several people if they would change seats so we can all sit together and noone agreed-finally one person did so atleast Marla and I could sit next to each other. We arrived after umpteen hours in France with a 4 hour layover. I say that because it was the longest layover in life. Finally, we arrive in Budapest and a friend Steve came to pick us up. After all that, we had to go to the church service that night-I remember sitting in the back, Lloyd Pulley was guest speaker and nodding off -not because of Lloyd lol! Oh the exhaustion.
The next day we arrive in Baja-late in the evening and our new landlady was not pleased with us. She expected we would be there earlier and showed her disapproval!! Welcome to Hungary!!

It seemed that once we actually arrived in Hungary, all the emotions that I had pushed aside in my mind and heart were now starting to come out. The fears, the feelings of inadaquecy, already missing those we left in the states-all these things started to make their way to the surface. Our truck wouldn't arrive until Sept so that meant wearing whatever it was we packed into our suitcases when we left. No pots, pans, utensils, no coffeepot!!! No iron or ironing board-not that it should matter, but now that Jim was pastoring the church I had to be sure he had a nice, crisply ironed shirt to wear each week.

I was determined at this point, after hearing so many people put down Americans and how we acted, how inconsistent we are, how selfish, lazy, blah blah blah we are, that I would be the best example of an American missionary Hungary or any other country for that matter would ever know of. My family would become Hungarian. Never would I forget my country, my fellow countrymen, but by golly, this girl was out to become Hungarian. Never mind that Hungarian is the 2nd or 3rd most difficult language to learn, nevermind that I had just turned 40 that past November-I would prove them all wrong!! My daughter, my husband and me-we would be Hungarian. I wanted so much that they would approve of us, like us, want to be friends with us. I wanted them to know that we were going to give everything we had to them and then some. Morning, noon, night-weekdays, weekends, we would be there for them. We would eat what they ate, go where they went, attempt to speak as they speak. Whatever they wanted us to be I wanted us to be that too.

I can tell you as a Mom, I blew it big time! As I look back on it now, I can weep thinking about how many mistakes I made. How my daughter turned out sane is only by the grace of God! I not only put the pressure upon myself to be Hungarian, to be pleasing to the people there no matter what cost, but I put the pressure upon her. I think of all the eye looks I gave know them if you are a Mom-out of the corner, lips pursing, trying to convey everything you want to say to them without actually speaking. My daughter was not going to be one of these spoiled American kids that some in the church would often speak about-nope, Marla was going to be "Miss All Around American Missionary to Hungary child:" Imagine a sash with that title on it!! What a burdensome title to have to wear! If someone wanted her to come to their home, I would tell her she had to go. When cleaning or other things needed done in the church, I would make sure she was doing it. If I saw her sitting, I would want her to stand, if I saw her looking sad, I would tell her to smile. All the pressure I put not only upon myself, but sadly upon her too so that we could become what I thought we needed to become in order to get the approval of the people there.

There is a balance when we have children on the mission field. It is easy to write about it and give advice after you have gone through it and made all the mistakes. Our children are called when we are called. God has a plan for them also-but it is His plan. In wanting to do well, we can sometimes put unnecessary pressure and guilt upon our children. This isn't just on the mission field. I think anyone in ministry has to deal with such things. We have all heard of the stories of pastors' kids and missionary kids-put them both together and wow-you can sometimes feel double the pressure. If someone else's child acts one way-they are going through a stage, if our child acts the same way, they are just a 'spoiled pk or mk'. In all fairness, I do believe there are children in these categories that are spoiled and misbehaved, but not all are and that is true of ministry or not in ministry. Noone knows what the families go through when noone is looking. Ministry isn't a 9-5 job, or at least it shouldn't be. Here we were in a small church and our phone rang at all hours, people wanted to speak to us before 9 and after 5. You can be in the middle of something and then something urgent comes up and you have to attend to that need. I cannot imagine how it must be for those in bigger congregations. Well, I got a bit off track here, but you get the point.

As I look back, I think in the first few months, even year or so, I wanted so much to be whoever the congregation wanted me to be, I wanted that for Jim and Marla too and in the process, it was easy to put the church's thoughts above the Lord's. I was serving Him, I prayed, I read my bible, I did all the right things. However; in trying to please others, I learned I could never really please them. If you pleased one, you ticked off another. Back and forth until before long everyone would be upset with you for one reason or another.
I am not trying to paint a horrid picture where nothing went right! Of course there were laughs and fun things going on-but today as I typed, these are the things that came . Perhaps it will help someone to know my weaknesses and the things I did wrong so that you don't have to do it that way. You cannot please man-you never will! We must hear from the Lord moment by moment. It is His voice that matters, His voice that we need to allow to guide and direct our every move. He is the One who sticks closer to a brother and will never ever leave us nor forsake us. Sadly, the ones we so desperately try to please are usually the ones who end up leaving us and forsaking us!

As women, we tend to be people pleasers. We desire to make everything right and we think that there is just one ingredient missing and if we get that ingredient then everything will be perfect. The problem is that that one ingredient is Jesus-the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts and yet He is often the One we can put to the side without realizing it. We as women are good at making things happen. We are go-getters, problem solvers, and achievers. We want to see things work as they should-or at least as we think they should. It's not usually that simple. Sadly, we can find ourselves putting out so much effort and then not getting the results we expected. We find ourselves disillusioned, saddened, heart-broken and even despairing at times. It is then we fall on our knees and on our face before the Lord and we find ourselves asking Him what we did wrong. Often times for me, His answers was the same-'you spent so much time trying to be good, so much time trying to please everyone else, that you forgot to ask Me what I wanted you to be'. Don't put undue pressure upon yourself or your family!! There are many days I wish I had those times back to do them all over again. Thankfully, God is merciful, full of grace and never giving up on us. His grace covers our mistakes and I am forever thankful for that!

So.....who knows what will be next. I had planned a whole different post for today so maybe that will be next :) I will try to put up a few pictures from the past 10 years throught the posts. I started to make a scrapbook and eventually will finish....yes I will!!!! :)
To God be the glory!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pt 2 Packing Up

It has taken me longer than planned to get this next post written. We had some great things going on here with ministry and concerts and time flew by. I was also eaten alive inside as I started to think back in my mind about the past 10 years. Why is it that so many amazing things can happen in life and yet we are prone to remember the negative! The negative that just eats alive at your very core and wants to render you useless, helpless, causing you to doubt your calling, your effectiveness. To keep our eyes on Jesus, to cite Philippians 4:8 over and over again until those thoughts just flee. I hate them-I really do because Satan would desire to rob, kill and destroy all that God has done and so often I found myself entertaining his thoughts rather than those of my Heavenly Father. Oh how we need you Lord Jesus!
It's interesting how when you think back on things what you actually remember. In July 2000, we were on vacation at our favorite place for a couple weeks-Capistrano Beach. We rented a house right on the beach for a few summers and it was the best!!! I remember one day my Mom was visiting and I don't know why or what we were talking about but she asked me 'would you want to give up all this?' We were doing the bible study at our house that summer Living Water and Mom was coming to it so maybe we were discussing something from the study. It is interesting to me now because at that time of my life I had no desire to move or no thought that Jim would ever go into full time ministry. We were completely content in the ministries we were serving in. I remember telling my Mom that 'yes, we would give it up if that is what the Lord wanted'. Again, I am curious to remember what it was and why we talked about such things!
I do find it amazing that we can answer questions like that when we don't necessarily see being asked to actually do those things in the future.
That same summer, in August, we were travelling to San Francisco. We were dropping Marla off to spend some time with her sisters and Jim and I were going to do some sightseeing since I had not been to that part of CA before. We were also going to pick up some checks from contractors for jobs that Jim was doing. I remember driving and chatting about how after 5 or so years of working so hard that it was finally paying off. We were now going to be completely in the black-no more red. Jim did things honestly and ethically and as you know, in construction, it is hard to get ahead when wanting to do things the right way. That weekend was one I will always remember. We also went to a small Calvary Chapel in Livermore. Jim had attended there a couple times while he was working up that way. I was so impressed with how the pastor and his wife were so hands on-the wife did the childcare, the people seemed to be pretty in need there. It wasn't a big church, didn't even look like there was a lot of extra money to spare.
We went out to dinner and I remember talking about how so many people would want to be a pastor of a huge church and not many would want to be like this pastor and his wife who pretty much had to do everything. Again, thinking back on it, it was interesting what stood out to me.
In my mind, it was just conversation. I wasn't ever imagining that Jim would be a pastor one day. He was asked to take some classes with Pastor Rob on pastoring, but to me it was just to equip him in the ministries he was already doing-never thinking that he would pastor a church one day.
In Jim's heart, now that the business was going to be on its feet, he wanted to spend even more time helping out at church. He would tell me he would just go janitor, help out with the school, if that is what they needed. That is the heart of my husband. Honestly, he would take the lowest position somewhere and he would never think twice about it. Sorry to boast, but so many people see him as this big burly guy and don't bother to know the heart of this man as I do. He has never been the type to want to make a name for himself. To me, he is a description of a humble servant. Ok, back to topic :)
Here we are in Sept and suddenly one, two and then three contractors bail on us!! Bankruptcy, unethical, and some other things-all the same result though....none of them were paying the money they owed us. We are talking about government buildings involving lots and lots of money. Materials already bought, roofs already put on, payroll to meet, office bldg rents to pay, etc. What we one month ago thought was the begining of the good times was now a time of horror and great disappointment.
In the meantime, in Oct, our landlord of 7 yrs or so informed us that his son and daughter in law were getting divorced so he needed our house. Ok-sure, we will move!!! Our world was crumbling before our very eyes. How could we move, where would we move? One thing on top of another and inside I was so confused.
We ended up buying a home-that's a whole different story... but atleast we had a roof over our heads. I was content, happy with the possibilities of what we could do with our new home and we had a great yard. Jim was away a lot, working on the jobs himself since he had to lay people off. During that time, our good friend Chris stayed on and became an even closer friend-he really stuck by Jim and that was amazing! I was at home trying to pretty up the place, my Dad would come over and plant some cactus bushes for us, we entertained a lot at the new place. Work was still a problem but we just trusted God to work it all out.
On to Feb when Pastor Rob asked Jim to pray about that we have a background on what was going on in our lives prior to being asked to move. Could it be that the Lord was allowing all this business stuff to go on to prepare us to let go and move on to a different call?
Rob wanted us to go to Hungary with him and Howard to meet the church and to pray. I didn't really feel it necessary to go because if Jim would know to move there then of course I would move too right???!!!! I also was afraid that I would hinder him if I was there. I had no clue what to expect in Hungary-the buildings, bathrooms, food, people, etc. There was a fear in me that those things would bother me and I would ruin the trip for him. Rob told me I needed to go since I would be living there too and he thought it would be good for me so I did.
The scariest thing was before we left for the visit, we filled out a form which was sort of a will but mainly to have someone watch over Marla in case something happened to us. We sat down with our friends and asked them if they would be her guardians should anything happen-that was really difficult! Thankfully, nothing happened :)
It was April 2001 and we headed to Hungary with Pastor Rob and Howard. Not knowing what to expect, all I could do was pray. It sounds funny, but I prayed about the toilets, the showers and the coffee. I suppose they are my priorities!!! Yes, I prayed for the trip as a whole, but just that those things wouldn't bother me. They proved to be doable-I had packed my little creamers so even if the coffee was bad, the creamers disguised the taste.
We arrived in Hungary-I now understood what the word jetlag meant. We went to Vajta, Kaposvar and then to Baja. In Baja, we met the congregation, Jim taught that Thurs night and again on Sunday. I had not remembered in my life a time of being looked over by so many people :) Sunday night Jim was asked if he was going to move there and he still didn't know. I think some were getting restless at that point. Monday morning, Howard and I walked around the town so he could get some souvenirs for Lucia and the girls and we left Jim alone in the hotel. When we got back, there were tears in Jim's eyes and I knew that meant 'yes, we are moving to Hungary'. Psalm 45 was the one the Lord used to speak to Jim at the Sugovica Hotel. That night was prayer at the church in Baja and he made the announcement to those who were there. I think I was in such a blur-I tried looking at the faces of these people, taking it all in, realizing that they were now my new brothers and sisters in the Lord. This church building I was sitting in would soon be my new church. The city I walked around in would soon be our new home.
Of course with all this going on, there was Marla back in CA. Imagine being 12, and in a few months turning 13 and hearing that you are going to be uprooted and moved to another country! Wow!! I could write about it, but perhaps it would be best told by her one day to get the full effect of what was going on with her. If you ever want to feel like the worst Mom in the world, take your daughter away from family and friends for her teenaged years!!! I do have to say she was amazing through it all. Yes, normal teenage drama and stuff, but we were completely blessed by Marla's attitude (most of the time lol)
We flew back to CA with the news to share with everyone. It was May and we were to move in July! We had two months to pack up our belongings and prepare to move to Hungary! My oh my. Pastor Rob asked Jim to make a two year committment. We knew in our hearts that we were going to be committed to however long God would have us there.
Looking back, I believe the Lord couldn't have given us any more time because it would have been too much time to think about what we were doing and it wouldn't have made any sense to me. Had I had more time, I would probably not have wanted to move. This way, there was no real time to think about it. My focus had to be on packing up the house, preparing things to move away. We were blessed to be able to have all our things shipped over to Hungary. Having an 40ft trailer at our house for a week while trying to decide what to keep and what to give away, boxes suddenly taking over every square inch of our house and still the day to day work, what to do with the house while we are gone, etc.
There was an excitement within me. Perhaps it was the unknown, perhaps it was that the Lord would actually turn our world upside down like this. We all know ourselves, we know our weaknesses, our pasts, our struggles and to know that despite these things, God Himself desires to use us. To me, it was beyond amazing. That thought carried me through the next couple of months of getting ready to move. There was no real time to sit and ponder what was actually going on. No time to grasp the fact that we would kiss friends and family good-bye and not know when we would see them again. There was also the fact that some dear and close friends would be going to Hungary in Aug for the family camp so I would see them soon. Our daughter Christina would also be coming out in Aug so it wasn't quite like having to completely say good-bye. We would be able to prolong some of the good-byes for a bit.
A friend of mine was on the mission field in Scotland at the time. The were home for a visit and came to our going away party. She reminded me that at their going away party I came to her after everyone had left and said 'I don't know how you can do this, I could never move away from CA' Isn't it just like God to take what we think of as an impossibility and make it a reality. Even though I was born on the east coast, I was a CA girl!! I think inside I was born to be a CA girl :) The beach, the smells, I don't know what it is, but it is me! Does that sound funny? I couldn't fathom living anywhere else.....but God!!!
Next post we can talk about arriving in Hungary.....
I leave you with a song-one that people might think is a bit cheesy, but I still love the song. I recently read something someone wrote that Americans aren't very good at being friends-well, they must have the wrong kind of friends. I have been blessed beyond blessed with the friends I have had. Some say they lose friends when they move to the mission field. For whatever reason-only God's grace, I gain friends through the years. Not only aquaintances, but true, loving, we are here for you, type of friends! I love all of you!!!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

An Ordinary Sunday

Yesterday marked 10 yrs that we have been on the mission field in Europe! It's hard to imagine that 10 yrs ago we left all we knew and loved behind to embark on a journey-one that we had no idea how long it would last or what to expect along the way. We only knew that God had called and Jim answered the call.
In remembrance of this, I thought to write a few different blog posts about the last 10 yrs. Not sure if it will get written in a week, a month, or what-I do however want to write down about the past years. What God has done, the high points, low points, what was learned, the heartaches and the blessings, the trials and the triumphs. If you know me, you know I will share from the heart.
Today I will share with you about the call.
Have you ever noticed in reading your bible the settings in which certain things take place. Samuel went to annoint David to be the future king while David was out taking care of the sheep. The disciples were fishing like any other day when Jesus called and told them to put down their nets and follow Him. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was probably cleaning house or preparing things for her wedding to be when the angel Gabriel came to speak to her. Often times we find it is in the ordinary business of our day that the Lord will speak to us too. Perhaps doing dishes, driving, taking care of our children-God will use those moments to teach us something or to speak something to our hearts.
Feb. 11, 2001 was one such day for Jim and me. We always took our separate cars to church because he would either be helping in worship or at the Senior Center doing worship and I would be teaching Sunday School to the 4 & 5 yr old class. We would meet up at 3rd service. This particular Sunday, the children were learning about God's call to Abram-to leave his land and go to a place that God would show him. One of the great things about living in So. Cal was the weather. Here it was Feb and we were able to go outside to act out our lesson. I lined the children up and we we walked around the church building pretending that we were going on a journey. We walked slowly, pulling our cows and carrying all our luggage with us. It was quite fun. The memory verse for the day was from Deuteronomy 31:6. Nothing to it right-just another fun time with the 4 and 5 yr olds.
After class, I ran into Pastor Rob and he asked me if Jim was around-I told him he would be here shortly (he was at the Sr Center that morning) Pastor Rob asked me to have Jim talk to him after 3rd service. I thought nothing of it-it was quite normal for Jim and Rob to chat. Jim owned a Sheet Metal company at the time and also helped out with the Drug and Alcohol Ministry at church. Often he would hire some of these guys who were out on their luck or Rob would hear about a guy needing a job and ask Jim if he had any openings. To me, it was just about another guy needing a job.
I told Jim and after 3rd service, Marla and I went home. My phone rang and it was my friend Irene. She had heard Pastor Rob ask to speak to Jim and wanted to know what it was about-I had no clue, but she made me promise to call her as soon as I knew. To me, I just didn't see the big deal in the two of them talking.
Well, Jim came home about an hour later. I didn't even ask him what it was about-because again, I thought nothing of it. He looked at me and said- "well, you will never believe what Rob asked me" I don't remember my exact response but knowing me it was probably something like "Who needs a job now?" He told me how they talked about his business and how it seemed to be taking a weird turn at the moment. He then told me that Rob talked to him about this church in Baja, Hungary that was in need of a Pastor and would Jim pray about moving over and pastoring the church. Again, me being the wonderfully sweet and supportive wife said something to the effect of "yeah right, quit lying." I must have glanced at his face and saw the seriousness of it and realized....whoa....this is for real!! What in the world is he talking about? Where in the world is Hungary and why would anyone even think we would consider moving there!! We chatted a bit and he filled me in on the details of their conversations (well, details as far as a guy is concerned!!!!) and that he agreed to pray about it.
Being the scholar that I am (insert laughter) I went to the computer and looked up on a map where Hungary was. I had only heard about it-but never knew where it was or anything much about the place. To my dismay, I looked on the map-now mind you, I am not good at map skills either but I did know that if there was an ocean or body of water there would be blue on the edge.....NO BLUE!!! "nope, we are not moving, there is no ocean" I couldn't imagine being land-locked somewhere!!!!
Within an hour or so we drove over to Chris and Shelly's to share the news with them. I think we swore them to secrecy because we didn't want the news to get out. I called Irene later on and told her and swore her to secrecy too. I think in all we told about 5-10 people we knew we could trust to keep it private and more importantly be praying for us.
So, there you have it. An ordinary Sunday, doing our ordinary service when unexpectedly God shakes our world.
And isn't it just like the I am teaching the children that Sunday morning about Abraham and how difficult it must have been to leave his country, to go some place that would be strange to him. The memory verse from Deuteronomy never ceases to amaze me. Who would have thought that I would be afraid of anybody-especially Christians!!! Oh the things that God would teach me over the next 10 yrs. The many times that verse was a joy and comfort to me. I marked it in my bible that Sunday after Jim told me the news. Honestly, I felt it a bit strange to read the verse at the time and to even date it, but praise the Lord that He gave me that verse not only that day, but so many days in the future!!! He always knows what we will need in our lives!
In the next post I will share about our visit to Hungary, what was going on business wise and whatever else the Lord will bring to my memory.
Be's often in the ordinary-in the simplest of things that we do that God will bring about something that will change our lives. As Christians, we are to pray, to meditate upon His Word, and we are also to be occupied til He comes. Doing whatever He has put in front of us to do. Nothing is ordinary to Him. And just think, as we are going about our everyday routine, God knows when He is going to shake things up a bit.