Monday, January 23, 2012

Messy Missions...

(I've been trying to write this blog post for a week now. I'm having a little writers block because my processing of everything around me is going a little numb. ha. This may be heavier than you want, and sometimes I read it and think someone with schizophrenia must have written it because it's all over the place, but hey... enjoy the tornado...)

You know, before we moved to Zambia, we thought we "had it all together" when it came to orphan ministry. After all, we were working for one of the largest mission sending organizations in the world... and were marinated in the American world of "orphan care." So... surely, we should have a little heads up, right?

This reminds me of college. I spent a total of 6 years in school after high school. After I received my Master's in Clinical Social Work... surely THEN I would be prepared for the job, right? (please catch the sarcasm). I remember spending my first year, with a full caseload of over 150 mentally ill clients thinking "What in the world am I doing?" After 7 years of working in the mental health profession, I realized all I DIDNT know... and learned a few things along the way. So... yes... this is pretty much the same thing.

You can spend months training, reading, speaking to others, seeking support (all of which are very worthwhile and lifesavers) But NOTHING prepares you for life on the field, except that... life on the field. What was "best practice" in America looking into the field has now become very blurry. The ideas... and the practical execution... 2 different things.

So... wow. Here we are.

Words to describe our first 4 months:

emotionally overwhelming: both good and bad
learning boundaries
little family time
full of vision
and last but not least...

Don't get me wrong... This isn't meant to be negative AT ALL. When I think about our first 4 months, I think it is a mixture of the greatest joy and the greatest sorrow. It's simply amazing how the two mix.

But I say this because I've been asked privately "how are you all REALLY doing?" The truth is that it's all a little messy right now. What's the right balance between family life and missions? How do you set boundaries, and what are they to be? What's the balance between giving your life away and destroying it all in the same token. Of course, we all have our AMERICAN ideals as to what the answers are... but ultimately, lived out... it's a lot messier than that.

Balancing this....

and this...

with this...

Your idea of how family should look is built upon culture.
Your idea of how family should function is built on culture.
Your idea of how much family time... or even the concept of "family time" is cultural.
Is it necessary to remain healthy? Yes... but ultimately the Bible must be our source.

To say this... we've felt swallowed whole by need. EVERYONE has needs around us. And we are learning that just because we COULD meet the need, doesn't mean we always SHOULD. We are learning. Of course, it's easy to apply that to adults. Try applying that to children. That's the blurry part.

When I look at the life of Christ, ultimately, he gave his life away. And we are trying to do the same, while still very much loving each other in the meantime.

The past few months have been difficult for us, the learning curve is HUGE, (and honestly, if you've never lived in a a foreign country for a long period of time, you can't understand) and we are praying for grace to be extended to us... grace for us to give each other in our marriage... grace to give to our children and them to us... grace from our many employees at our home and school... grace from our fellow teammates... grace from our supporters at home... grace from our families in the US... lots and lots of grace. We aren't going to do this perfectly, but God will give us the grace and strength we need to do it the best we can. The truth is, our family will never look like it did when we lived in America... and I'm grateful for that.

Besides, I don't want to live the kind of life that I could do on my own... "apart from me, you can do nothing."



  1. This post wrenched my heartstrings. May you remain faithful to God's calling as you meet the needs of those around you. I felt just a tinge of your struggle when you talked about the COULD and SHOULD. There is so much need in this world. (Have been out of the country.)

  2. Beautiful indeed! This sentence made me pause and read it over, "What's the balance between giving your life away and destroying it all in the same token." This is a balance. THE balance. And you've nailed it that it can not be achieved apart from Him! Even for those of us called to service within the states (with it's own "foreign" areas), the balance and effectiveness of our outreach all depends on our reliance on Him. For me right now, it's learning the firm, steadfast love of God is no less than the delicate, comforting love. Oh friend, I feel the pull of your heart and celebrate God's work in your life and family! Thank you for sharing it all! You are an encouragement to me and I pray along with you!

  3. I think that feeling pulled in every direction means that your heart is in the right place. God taught our Uganda team last year, though, that while God can use you ANYWHERE, he can use you EVERYWHERE. Praying for wisdom and discernment for you guys to pick your spots. Breath, pray, repeat.

  4. My word for this year, Mitzi, is ABIDE... not coincidentally :) my key scripture is the exact one you referred to at the end -
    "I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing."
    It's only through abiding in Jesus that you can possibly process all that He is asking of you and all that He desires to bless you with. Stay at His feet, my friend. You are indeed navigating some "heavy" waters...
    Thanks for sharing your heart... and for stirring mine... I love you.

  5. Touching lives in HIS name, Amen.

  6. Really proud of you guys!

  7. I think i understand your balancing...
    praying the grace and love you need.
    And Yes, Abide in Him,
    Taking one step at the time!
    He will guide you with His Spirit.

    love from Germany
    (did some years out of my comfortzone and will do again)


  8. Thank you for sharing both the good and the messy. Life is sure messy isn't it?! Prayers for you all!!!

  9. Praying for you and your family and your work!
    God Bless you all.

  10. Dearest Friends, Oh! As I read this, I could picture Reid and I with our five boys wrestling through the same questions. Having our hearts pulled in all directions - wanting to give ourselves away completely yet, knowing we have to give ourselves away with our family too. What a fine line. A delicate responsibility - on both sides.

    One thing we learned at training last month was to SABBATH. Intentionally. Every Week. Without excuse. Without guilt. We dove into all the passages about it, and came back with a yearning to desire to make this a priority for our family. We also were told that - for our family - this was one of the most important things for us to do on the field. Without it, we will drain ourselves dry within a year. We heard story after story of families who returned home...needing counseling, needing help, children detatched, rebellious kids, addictions, etc...

    Reid and I had many discussions about it b/c we know that family does not hold the same priority where we are going as it does here. And, you are correct. Our "family mission model" must come from scripture - in all areas.

    Please know that I don't really know anything except what I've shared. I have not yet lived it, as you have. We will be praying for God to lead you. For God to FREE you. For God to help you find the balance you need.

    We love you and are praying,
    Robin and Reid

    PS - We are bumping 70% with support. Please keep praying. Any advice welcome. Reading your honest heart is preparing mine!

  11. Thank you for sharing. Praying for you all and your ministry.

  12. Thank you so much for sharing. Prayers for you, your precious family, and all those impacted by your obedience and your hearts for the Lord.

  13. wow mitzi, thanks for sharing your hearts...praying for you, shane, & family and the lifesong team!

  14. I encourage you both to hang on like crazy! You are making a difference. I didn't know too much about Zambia before you went over there but I've learned some things. Mostly, I learned about the Zambian soccor team. In 1993, tragedy struck the National Soccor team but then the following year they rebuilt the team and they made it to the finals. Zambians are resilient people. You are giving them hope! I pray for God's grace. God bless you as you do His work.

  15. I have been following your blog for a while now but usually don't comment. However, I just wanted to encourage you to stick with this messy life that is now yours :) I know EXACTLY how you feel as my hubby, children and I just celebrated our 5 year anniversary as international workers in the Middle East. I know the internal conflict of seeing so much need, feeling overwhelmed by that need and then at the same time feeling angry at the need because there are just SOME days I want to live my life as I used to- BEFORE being exposed to such poverty and need. don't know if that makes sense, but I think to you it probably does. sometimes i want to pretend it's not there and i want to go to a restaurant without having to walk through a crowd of children begging in front of the door. after 5 years, i can't say it necessarily gets EASIER (and to be honest, i hope it never does!!) but I can say you continue to learn how to depend on god in new and different way. you see him work miracles on behalf of your family and the ones you love in your new culture, and all of sudden what once seemed so ugly, becomes beautiful as you find your heart transformed by it. the bottom line is- missions is messy. wonderfully, beautifully, scarily, overwhelmingly messy- sometimes you will feel so lonely as you try to explain your new life to the ones you love back home and your old life to the ones you love now. it's odd. and beautiful. and sooooo worth it. press on, sweet sister. it's okay to be honest and say that it's kinda crappy sometimes!!!