This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through…
So, will we spend the rest of our lives in Brazil? I think some of the following facts have prompted that question…
– we’re now closer to 55 than 50,
– we’re no longer the “green-horns” but are considered veteran missionaries (we just completed 30 years with Baptist Mid-Missions),
– we are “empty nesters”,
– we have 4 precious grandkids in the USA (and we love their parents, too!),
– our youngest (whom we love very much) also lives in the USA,
– Julie’s parents aren’t getting any younger,
– some of our supporting churches are having a hard time finding a pastor, including our home church.
On the other hand…
– there are fewer and fewer missionaries on the field to whom we can ask advice or counsel, or that can take care of mission business (…are we it?),
– we have 1 adorable granddaughter who lives in south Brazil and another one will soon join the family (and we love their parents, too!),
– we both teach various classes at the Carirí Baptist Seminary and count ourselves privileged to have a part in training the future Baptist church leaders of Brazil and missionaries who serve in various countries of the world,
– Jim’s mom lives nearby and she’s not getting any younger,
– our latest ministry endeavor is the OASIS, a restful place where Brazilian missionaries can stay when they return to Brazil on furlough,
– we’re currently building our (2nd) dream house at the OASIS.
Dream house #2
– sometimes we’re so busy we usually don’t know which end is up. (Jim thrives on that, I just try to keep up.)
Wow. It sounds a bit crazy, but that’s us at the moment. More experienced, wiser, grayer, older? When I look back at the past 12 years, it’s been a wild ride that I wouldn’t change for the world. Some of the crazy curve-balls the Lord threw at us weren’t always pleasant, but I wouldn’t change the learning curves for anything. Those curves have brought us to where we are today.
Let me share some of the quick details about some of those curves.
Twelve years ago, I was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma. To make a REALLY long story short, I had a very successful surgery to remove it. The results: total deafness in my left ear but still smiling, with no facial paralysis. Oh, and I was left with only one balance system. That’s been a bit tricky at times, but God has kept me on my feet (literally) through a lot of stressful situations. The best thing? I came out of that experience more spiritually balanced than ever. God taught me how to really, truly trust Him. What a precious lesson and a much needed one for the approaching curves…
A few months after my surgery, our first-born (Josiah) left for college. Multiple curves. I don’t think I need to go into any more details.
The next year, our middle child (Joy Anna) left for college. I think you understand…
The next year, our first dream house almost became a nightmare. It was way, way too big
Dream house #1
without two of our kids. On top of that, God drastically turned the Dollar/Brazilian Real exchange rate so that we lost 50% of our buying power almost overnight. Then it became too much to maintain. But we never lacked and He always provided, which in that case meant giving us a buyer. God sold that dream house for us. The money went into a savings account and we became “homeless”.
I’ll use that term very loosely, for we never lacked and God always provided . . . seemingly countless times. Here’s a quick run-down. 🙂
1) A year was spent as house-sitters for missionary colleagues who were on furlough.
2) A year was spent in Faith (Baptist Bible College) apartments while we were on furlough.
3) Two months were spent in another colleague’s guest bedroom when we returned from furlough.
4) Six months were spent house-sitting for other colleagues while they were on furlough.
5) Two years were spent living in an adapted dorm on the Carirí Bible college campus.
6) Five months were spent in a gorgeous farmhouse that my Dad remodeled. We were privileged to be the first to live there while we were on a short furlough.
7) Eighteen months were spent in married student housing near the Carirí Bible college campus.
8) Two years have passed since we moved into one of the house/apartments at the OASIS, originally meant for other missionaries, not us. 😉
9) Six months of those last two years were spent in an apartment in Austin, MN, (and on the road) while we were on a short furlough last year.
So why is all of this important? No, we’ve never been truly “homeless” and certainly never without places of ministry. God has been ever faithful to provide SO many places to stay and serve. But the lesson and the truth of being a pilgrim has been well ingrained and duly learned after living in so many different places. This world is not our home, we’re just a passin’ through. Believe me, those words have a whole new meaning because of the past ten years. If He hadn’t sold our first dream house in 2007, I would probably still be chasing after the wrong things.
We really get attached to things in this terrestrial life. Houses. Family. Friends. Ministry. Jobs. Cars. Pets. Places. Stuff. None of it will go with us, except those souls that we can lead to Christ through our testimony and example. True pilgrims don’t count the things of this world to be dear because they won’t last. Investing in people will.
I’m still learning all of the facets of being a pilgrim. But I can confidently say that God brought us to NE Brazil. Then He took us from church-planting on the east coast to bring us to the desert oasis of the Carirí to serve at the Bible college. And while we’re still serving at the Bible college, we’re serving in different positions than when He originally led us here. He can change that again or take us to another place in Brazil, to any other country in the world, or even back to the place from which we were sent: Austin, MN. That’s up to Him. It’s up to us to trust and obey when He leads.
So, no, we’re not planning on going anywhere until He leads. But if and when He does, the house (and all the stuff!) will stay where it is with no regrets. Believe me, that’s not exactly how I felt ten years ago when I had to leave my first dream house with glass windows and screens, hot running water in the kitchen and baths, a real dishwasher (beside the kids), plenty of space to decorate, and lots of space to entertain and receive guests! Our new home will have a few of the same amenities but the way that I look at them is so different. Yes, our prayer is that our home will continue to be used for His glory to encourage others who have made sacrifices to “go”. But now I have a much better understanding of what true contentment is: to focus on Christ, His purpose and plan. The curves have become much easier to manage when God is in the driver’s seat because HE knows what’s around the bend.
The move ten years ago was the beginning of a lesson in the life of a pilgrim. Sacrifice, yes. Giving things up, yes. Letting things go, yes. Learning what really matters, yes. Investing in the eternal, yes. Most importantly, the example and instruction that has been passed on to others will have hopefully landed on listening ears and teachable hearts. Not to our acclaim, but for the glory of the Lord and His eternal kingdom. ‘Cause I’m just a pilgrim. And I’m just a passin’ through.
P.S. The well-know hymn, Anywhere with Jesus, has been running tough my mind lately. It was sung (in Portuguese) on August 9th, at the commissioning service of one of our former students, Criselite Siebra. Cris is headed for Bolivia as a missionary in a few months but had to say good-bye to her family on Wednesday evening. (If you want to peek in on the moment, check out the video post on my FB page.) It was humbling to hug her mom and try to encourage her as she struggled to say good-bye to her beloved daughter. I shared with her that my life as a pilgrim would never have begun had my Mom and Dad not been willing to let go.
They gave up a daughter, a son-in-law, and the privilege of having three of their grandkids close to them during the formative years. There are some sacrifices that are made daily, on the part of many, not just the ones He calls to go. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for being willing to parent a pilgrim! Thanks for understanding, Josiah, Nikki, Jeremy, Lydia, Tabitha, and Jordan; Fabio, Joy Anna, Kristi, and Baby V.; Jennifer; our siblings and their families; our sending church family. Part of our hearts long to be with you every day and to live a “normal” life. But normal needs to be measured by the standard of God’s will. Going anywhere with Jesus is one of the possibilities, and it does have great rewards in spite of the sacrifices. Thanks again for being willing to make that sacrifice. Because we’re all pilgrims, just a passin’ through.