Thursday, April 29, 2021

When you’re chosen and called for a particular job

 

Early in the morning on August 30, my kids set out walking to school with Dave. They were nervous, but Matt’s first grade and Karen’s Kindergarten met in the same classroom, and Dave taught on the same campus—such a comforting thought.

 

That evening we all agreed the kids had done well so I started my job the next day, mornings only, which was important since Karen’s Kindergarten dismissed at noon.

 

Gulp!

 

I worked in the administration office, a small, low, pale yellow building. Remember that hill Karen Mac drove us up on her moto our first evening? The tallest, steepest hill in our center? That’s where my office was, just feet from the radio tower.

 

Up to then, I’d thought hiking up comm hill was bad—and it was a doozy—but after I started my job, I climbed comm hill and the hill on top of it, one right after the other, each morning. (And yes, I did lose weight from all that hill-climbing.)

 

On that first day, along the way, I thought about my new boss, Rich, and that he was the top administrator at our Lomalinda center of operations. Yikes! I had pictured working in a quiet little back office somewhere.

 

On my application I’d written I had secretarial experience—jobs during high school and college—but when I heard I’d work for such an important person, reality hit. I hadn’t worked in an office for seven years and my skills were sure to be rusty.

 

I wish I’d had the maturity to pray with eloquent words but, instead, I held my breath, every muscle tense, as I hiked those steep hills.

 

How blessed we are that “God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans” (Romans 8:26, The Message).

 

And so, somehow God deciphered my wordless thoughts.

 

Maybe He knew that if I could, I’ve have prayed like this:

 

“Father . . . may I live today with the creative esteem

of knowing You have chosen me 

and called me to receive Your love 

and to serve You [in this particular job].

May Your peace flow through me, 

calming my agitated spirit, conditioning my disposition 

and controlling all that I say and do. . . .

Help me to experience the peace of a forgiven, forgiving heart,

the peace of a heart completely open to You,

and the peace of a pure heart filled with Your Spirit.

You are the sole source of perfect peace.”

(Lloyd John Ogilvie, Quiet Moments with God)

 

And it only kept getting better!

 

God, bless His heart, had arranged schedules, Rich’s and mine, so that during my initial days on the job, Rich worked in Bogotá, giving Donna Weber, his outgoing secretary, time to orient me.

 

I still take delight in the way God had gone before me to prepare the circumstances of the first few days of my new job, which seemed overwhelming. I experienced the truth of this:

 

The Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither abandon you nor fail you” (Deuteronomy 31:8, NLT).

 

By scheduling Rich’s days and mine, God went ahead of me and made potential rough places smooth and crooked places straight (Isaiah 45:2). 

 

In the beginning, my clumsiness troubled me—I was out of practice—but soon I caught on.

 

Later, when Rich returned and the office sometimes ran at a hectic pace, I recalled the blessed quietness of my first days and thanked God I got acquainted with the job when I did.

 

Donna tutored me in duties few secretaries in North America carried out. I learned city and town names—Mitú, Caño Colorado, Cobaría, and Acaricuara—and their locations in departamentos (states), names like Meta, Vaupés, Amazonas, and Nariño.

 

I also learned names of some thirty indigenous languages in which our people worked, names like Tucano and Guambiano and Muinane, and I forwarded messages to our radio crew who kept us connected to linguists working in those distant locales and to our planes and our staff in Bogotá.

 

And I typed correspondence in Spanish and used rocks and coffee mugs as paperweights because wind blew through doors and windows, open because of the heat.

 

When I thought of a few of my previous bosses, words like persnickety and curmudgeonly and stuffy came to mind, so I wondered what to expect in my new boss. Donna assured me he was a gem, and soon I discovered she was right. Courteous, approachable, and unassuming, he had a way of putting people at ease.

 

Rich and I worked well together, partly because he was a grace-giving soul and partly because he was organized. “I want this office to run like a well-oiled machine,” he told me, and it did. Since Donna was a real pro, the two of them had the place humming like that well-oiled machine.

 

We had two types of personnel and during my first day on the job, I needed to sort that out.

 

Rich, as Associate Director of Language Affairs (ADLA), helped the first group, linguiststhose carrying out Bible translation and literacy among indigenous groups. Rich and his wife Karis had worked as linguists among Colombia’s Wayuu people for more than ten years but, when colleagues elected him to the ADLA position, he set most of that translation work aside to serve all the linguists.

 

The second type, called support personnel, carried out jobs that freed linguists to concentrate on their work—people like pilots, mechanics, medical staff, finance office staff, school teachers like my husband Dave, and many others. To succeed, or sometimes even survive, linguists needed support people, those with skills and personalities willing to fill such roles. Both linguists and support personnel joined forces on behalf of Colombia’s minority language communities.

 

And so it was that I began my new job in Lomalinda.

It was a good day, better than I could have imagined.

(From Chapter 11, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: 

A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir)


The view from our yard: My office is to the right of the radio tower.




 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Living among choice saints disguised as regular folks

 

I’d always planned to chase the American Dream—I’d marry a guy who’d earn more money next year than this year. And more money each year after that. And we’d get a bigger, nicer house every so often. And increasingly nice furniture and carpets. New cars, too.

 

And I expected we’d continue our pursuit of happiness—which the Declaration of Independence says is our right. I assumed gaining more and better possessions would lead to that happiness.

 

Abundance. Upward mobility. Living the good life. During my lifetime, the American Dream has been so pervasive in our values, assumptions, and expectations that we have allowed it to be a comfortable, acceptable part of Christianity.

 

In my circles, including my church circles, that was the thing to do—that was the way we lived—so when I was a kid and a young wife and mother, I assumed all of that would be mine. I never questioned those goals. I never questioned my motives for pursuing them. 

 

What a shock it would have been for me if, back then, I had read David Wilkinson’s words in The Prayer of Jabez: “Do we really understand how far the American Dream is from God’s dream for us? We’re steeped in a culture that worships freedom, independence, personal rights, and the pursuit of pleasure.” 

 

And then God sent me to Lomalinda in rural Colombia.

 

Lomalindians thought little of North America’s material trappings. For the most part, they had freed themselves, choosing to be satisfied with skimpy physical creature comforts, willing to overlook inconveniences.

 

I sensed no competition to outdo each other in vehicles, possessions, houses, or décor. They built homes where marriages and children could thrive, where they spent fun times with friends-that-became-like-family.

 

If they’d ever craved a big income, a fancy house, and early retirement, they’d set aside those dreams. They lived at peace with themselves.

 

Our population included charming, good-looking men and lovely, capable ladies. Most folks were clean and attractive but had little concern about the latest clothing trends. People returning from furlough brought back the latest fashions and hairdos, but the materialism frenzy did not flame throughout the community.

 

People worked hard—sometimes too hard. They showed kindness and gentleness and generosity.

 

They enjoyed playing volleyball and softball and taking motorbike trips and singing and playing instruments.

 

They also cried together and prayed together and rejoiced together and grieved together and cheered each other on.

 

God had sent our family to live with some three hundred colleagues who, I would soon learn, served Him with zeal. It’s not that they talked about God all the time or spoke in hallowed tones or prayed a lot in public.

 

No, they were ordinary souls who chose a humble lifestyle so they could live a radical faith, despite consequences that would come their way.

 

While Christians choose to spend their lives

fulfilling the American dream

instead of giving their lives to proclaiming the kingdom of God,

literally billions in need of the gospel remain in the dark.”

(David Platt, Radical, published in 2010)

 

Half a century or so before Platt penned those words,

the Lomalinda bunch had begun addressing those needs

by translating the Bible, and doing so much more,

for some of those billions.

Lomalindians knew from experience

the meaning and implications of Platt’s words.

 

Now, looking back, I don’t hesitate to call them

spiritual giants,

choice saints.

But I didn’t recognize that in the beginning.

They were camouflaged as regular folks.

 

Saints. What are saints?

 

In the Bible, saints are described as God’s faithful servants, consecrated people, and those who worship Him (2 Samuel 2:9, Psalm 50:5).

 

Henri Nouwen describes saints as “people set apartby God to be light in the darkness. . . . What makes them saints is their clear and unwavering focus on God and God’s people.”

 

Set apart, indeed.

 

And yet, Nouwen says, “Although we tend to think about saints as holy and pious, and picture them with halos above their heads and ecstatic gazes, true saints are . . . men and women like us, who live ordinary lives and struggle with ordinary problems. . . .”

 

Most of their lives are remarkably similar to our own.” (Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey)

 

Remarkably similar to our own,” he said. That’s what I meant when I wrote that Lomalinda’s people “were camouflaged as regular folks.” (From Chapter 10, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir)

 

God handed me countless blessings when He sent me to Lomalinda to work alongside choice saints.

 

He gave me a chance to sit around their dinner tables and to invite them to gather around our family’s table.

 

He gave me an opportunity to laugh with them, cry with them, pray with them.

 

In the commissary, I shopped alongside saints.

 

Some of Lomalinda’s saints worked as my kids’ teachers.

 

Saints piloted our fleet of small planes.

 

Saints staffed our clinic, our offices, and our childcare so moms could work during morning hours.

 

And then Henri Nouwen turns the focus away from the saints and instead forces us to look at ourselves: “The saints are our brothers and sisters, calling us to become like them.”

 

While I agree with Nouwen’s statement, I have a hunch genuine saints are not aware they’re calling us to become like them. Lomalinda’s people never even hinted that they were inviting me to be more like them.

 

After all, each of us—even a choice saint—is a recipient of God’s grace, His favor, His loving blessings we don’t deserve and can’t earn. Grace is a gift He gives us as we slog along on our daily journeys through ups and downs, failures and successes.

 

God was handing me one gift after another

and, among the finest, were and still are

His grace and His saints in Lomalinda.




 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

“Happiness, not in another place but in this place, not for another hour but this hour.”

 

And so it was that after those first few days, I told myself to embrace the present, settle into a routine, and live within my new normal.

 

That meant I accepted that lemons were warty and green, colored orange inside—that was normal.

 

Rufina, a stranger, worked in my house for ten hours one day a week—that, too, was the norm; cockroaches lived in our house and weevils lived in our flour.

 

We’d sweat, a lot, and get sunburned, a lot—all those were my new normal.

 

Embracing my new normal did not mean I’d have no more challenges and stresses. No, they’d continue to pop up, but perhaps I’d cooperate with God and adjust my attitude and do better than I had in the past.

 

One of those new challenges would be my future job in Lomalinda.

 

Now, I’d always been first a wife and mother, and if—if—I had time to spare, I accepted outside duties. But I also knew Lomalinda mothers worked half-days because visas were hard to get and personnel needs went unmet.

 

Before leaving the States, I’d had a phone conversation with a man at the California headquarters about moms working outside the home. He assured me Wycliffe understood a mother’s need to focus on her kids’ well-being and that gave me a huge dose of peace.

 

So, I expected to work part-time, but school wouldn’t begin until two weeks after we arrived, and I wanted to stay with my kids until they settled in school. They had a few jitters—everything was new to them and they were so little, Matt starting first grade and Karen starting Kindergarten.

 

But then one day a woman came up to me, introduced herself as Karis Mansen, and told me I’d be working as her husband’s new secretary.

 

She stood there waiting for my response.

 

I asked for his name.

 

“Rich Mansen.”

 

I could hardly wait to find my “Big Sister,” Karen Mac, and ask her about him. “Oh, he’s the number one man here.” She went on to explain that the director of the overall work lived in Bogotá, but Rich was the top administrator at our Lomalinda center of operations.

 

Yikes! I was to work for the top administrator? I had pictured working in a quiet little back office somewhere.

 

On my application I’d written I had secretarial experience—jobs during high school and college—but when I heard I’d work for such an important person, reality hit. I hadn’t worked in an office for seven years and my skills were sure to be rusty.

 

As the days passed, I noted, with relief, that no one in administration contacted me. I kept quiet, hoping they’d overlook me until school began.

 

That gave me time to take deep breaths, pray, and adjust my attitude.

 

It gave me time to embrace Walt Whitman’s wisdom—to choose Happiness, not in another place but in this place, not for another hour but this hour.”

 

“Father . . . may I live today . . . knowing

You have chosen me and called me

to receive Your love and to serve You. . . .

May Your peace flow through me,

calming my agitated spirit, conditioning my disposition

and controlling all that I say and do. . . .

Help me to experience the peace

of a forgiven, forgiving heart,

the peace of heart completely open to You,

and the peace of a pure heart filled with Your Spirit.

You are the sole source of perfect peace.”

(Lloyd John Ogilvie, Quiet Moments with God)

 


A few days passed and then one day the phone rang and the Director of Personnel, Harold Beaty, asked me to come for an appointment, so I hiked the one-lane roads of red clay and arecife (red lava gravel), preparing to tackle steep comm hill, as everyone called it—the big, main hill of Lomalinda where the commissary was, and thus the hill’s nickname.

 


The road swooped up and wound left and then right, like a grand curving staircase. I was accustomed to hiking that far because that’s where the dining hall and comm were, but then I hiked up another level and stepped into the administration office, perspiring and winded, my heart racing.


 

Someone ushered me into an office and Harold Beaty offered me a seat. I looked at him and silently hollered, Please, don’t say “Rich Mansen.” Please!

 

Harold asked if we were adjusting to the heat and our new surroundings. I lied. I assured him everything was fine. Only Dave knew of my meltdown and I planned to keep it that way.

 

Besides, I wanted to get on with the real reason for the appointment.

 

Harold said, “We’d like you to be secretary to the ADLA—Associate Director of Language Affairs—Rich Mansen.”

 

So, it was true. I groaned. (I think—I hope—it was a mute groan.)

 

Describing Rich as kind and quiet, Harold said the arrangement would work well for both of us.

 

And, best of all, Harold said I could begin after Matt and Karen started school. What a relief! I was so thankful he gave me those extra days for my kids’ sake, and for my heart’s sake, too.

 

I left Harold’s office feeling deeply blessed. (From Chapter 10, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A  Foot-Dragger’s Memoir)



 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

“Lord, grant me a sense of humor to laugh at myself”

  

After my humiliating flailings and flounderings during those first few days, I decided that with God's help, I would do Lomalinda life the best I could until I knew how to do it better.


No matter what went down yesterday,” writes Ann Voskamp, “today’s your very own fresh new canvas and there really is hope: ‘The future is as bright as the faithfulness of God.’

 

“Right now through your unlikely desert places, God is making unbelievable roads. . . . You better believe it! Just go face the day with brave joyGod’s got your back.” (Ann Voskamp)

 

Brave joy.” I like that.

 

And these words of Jesus sound so good at such a time: “I don’t condemn you. Proceed with peace. Choose to act with strength so you can live differently in the future”(John 8:11).

 

My heart felt cheered.

 

But in reality, I was still in transition, and transitions can be a time of fumbling through blunders.

 

On one of those first few days, someone asked me to make cinnamon rolls for an event, but I didn’t know weevils lived in the flour.

 

I’d never heard of weevils living in flourwhat a sheltered life I had lived.

 

And I didn’t know what to do about them.

 

Only later did I learn I could (1) put the flour in the freezer and freeze those critters to death, or (2) spread the flour on a cookie sheet and bake them to death. Then all I had to do was sift out their crisp dead little bodies. 


But I didn’t know that yet, and I stood there in my kitchen, clueless, with flour in the bowl and a few dozen weevils jumping into the air and diving into the flour again


What could I do? 


That day I stumbled upon a third way to murder weevils: I added the liquid ingredients and drowned them. They experienced a slow death. They kept trying to escape but I punched them back into the dough. 


And then I baked them. Dead. 


And I arrived at the big event with my cinnamon rolls, speckled inside with little black crunchy bits


Still today I laugh when I think about those cinnamon rolls. 


I’ve often wondered if anyone recognized what I’d done and snickered behind my back


On the other hand, several other people also brought cinnamon rolls—so maybe no one knew which were mine. . . ? 


Nah, I was the only newcomer at the gathering. Everyone knew I was the only one who’d show up with weevils in my cinnamon rolls. But those dear folks extended grace upon grace to me during my transition. 


And, like discovering a third way to murder weevils,

I would learn new ways of living, and even thriving,

in Lomalinda.

(from Chapter 9, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go:

A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir)



 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Would God look at me and say, “I’m not sure what to do with this one”?

 

At the end of that day, Rufina’s first day of working in our house, I was embarrassed that I’d struggled so much to understand her Spanish and mortified that I’d criedmore than once. I scolded myself for acting like a big baby.

 

Rather than admit my failures to others, my initial instinct was to keep my struggles a secret, and to lecture myself, “Pull yourself together!”

 

At that time, I could have used words from dear Chuck Swindoll, who reminds us that God keeps track of our tears. “Each tear [is] entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book” (Psalm 56:8, The Message).

 

Chuck says that usually tears “appear when our soul is overwhelmed” and that “a teardrop on earth summons the King of Heaven. Rather than being ashamed or disappointed, the Lord takes note of our inner friction when hard times are oiled by tears. He turns these situations into moments of tenderness; He never forgets those crises in our lives where tears were shed.

 

“One of the great drawbacks of our cold, sophisticated society,” Chuck continues, “is its reluctance to show tears. For some strange reason, men feel that tears are a sign of weakness . . . and many an adult feels to cry is to be immature. . . . How unfortunate!

 

“The consequence,” Chuck continues, “is that we place a watchdog named ‘restraint’ before our hearts. This animal is trained to bark, snap, and scare away any unexpected guest who seeks entrance.

 

“The ultimate result is a well-guarded, highly respectable, uninvolved heart surrounded by heavy bars of confinement. . . .”

 

Chuck says we must “impound restraint and let a little tenderness run loose. You might lose a little of your polished respectability, but you’ll have a lot more freedom. And a lot less pride.” (Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life)

 

Chuck nailed it. Pride. I’m okay with helping others with their burdens, but . . . not comfortable with admitting my needs and asking for help. However, the Bible tells us to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). That means sometimes I need to be on the receiving end. To do that I’d have to swallow my pride and admit my flaws and failures. And in the end, I gave in and asked for help—God Himself led me to call Linda Lackey to help me understand Rufina. What a relief!

 

That evening, I berated myself for my poor performance throughout that day. I was disappointed in myself, ashamed of my weaknesses. Why hadn’t I done a better job of wrestling through my panic and confusion? Why had I acted like a wimp?

 

And spirituallywhere was I? Did I have a faith problem? If my faith had been stronger, would I have not made such a mess of things? Was even God disappointed in me?

 

It’s easy to beat up on ourselves when we mess up. And yet, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened. . . . Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:28-20, NIV).

 

Or, as The Message words it: “Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live. . . .”

 

Hope When It Hurts writes: “In those moments and seasons, we can come to know the heart of our Savior, simply learning to rest in his presence. . . . He’s not distant in these moments, snapping at us to get our act together.”

 

“No, he clearly tells us that he weeps with us in our tears and receives us in [our] weak and needy state. Even though he sees the bigger picture and knows our pain won’t be wasted, he still grieves with us in our pain as a perfect Father or Mother would with their hurting child. 

 

“. . . Though you may feel weak in faith, trust that he sees and knows your deepest sorrows and is the only One who is able to comfort you with a complete and perfect love, compassion, and comfort. . . . Christ sees and understands even better than we do. Instead of running from pain, let’s rest in his comfort” (Hope When It Hurts).

 

Though I was stressed and oh-so-weary, somewhere deep down I knew I should take a deep breath and just rest—not try to accomplish much that evening. I told myself to embrace—to welcome—the fact that God was with me, He was not mad at me, and He would help me do better the next day.

 

“If the mountain seems too big today then climb a hill instead. . . .

A day is not a lifetime. A rest is not defeat.

Don’t think of it as failure, just a quiet, kind retreat.

It’s okay to take a moment from an anxious, fractured mind.

The world will not stop turning while you get realigned.

The mountain will still be there when you want to try again. . . .”

Laura Ding-Edwards

 

Elisabeth Elliot so wisely pointed out that “It’s not the experiences of our lives that change us; it is our response to those experiences.”

 

How true. Tomorrow what would I do about the rough day I’d just had? What should be—what would be—my response to my failures, my tears, my disappointment in myself? 

 

Do the best you can until you know better.

Then when you know better, do better.

Maya Angelou

 

Looking back now, all these years later, I recognize I had done what Maya Angelou said: I did the best I could that day. If I’d known how to do it better, I would have. What grace Maya Angelou’s words offer us: When the time comes that we do know better, we can and will do better. I love the way God enables mere humans to find words to illustrate His principles.

 

“God is not in the business of leaving things broken and messy. He’s not a God that sees a hard situation, shrugs, and says, ‘I guess I’m not really sure what to do with this one!’ He’s a God that brings life from death, beauty from ashes, hope from despair, light from darkness, and healing from the most broken, mixed up, and messy situations” (Stephanie May Wilson, The Lipstick Gospel Devotional).

 

I would rest that evening and then, the next morning, I’d make a fresh start—I’d leave behind my self-criticism and despair and instead, I’d reach for hope and a can-do attitude, believing God was always with me, cheering me on, urging me to trust Him for the ability to do better—mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

That reminds me of the poem Thomas Chisholm penned in 1923 that was later made into the dear old hymn that I love so much:

 

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me! . . .

 

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,

Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide.

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,

Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

(“Great is Thy Faithfulness,” written by Thomas Chisholm; in public domain, based on Lamentations 3:22-23)

 

I could rest assured that night, confident that, 

come morning, new mercies I’d see.



Noticing the good stuff, finding the joy

I began to notice more good stuff going on in Lomalinda .     God was offeri ng me new opportunities. He was offering me a new perspectiv...