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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

MedSend

Great news - I have been approved as a MedSend grant recipient!!  These people work hard to fund grants for the educational debt of health professional missionaries while they are serving overseas.  The high cost of health (and veterinary) education is one of the primary reasons willing missionaries never make it to the field.  MedSend is making it possible for more people to make it overseas by taking over their loan repayments while they are serving.  Check out the MedSend website to learn more about the great work they are doing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It Has Begun

My orientation to missionary life, that is.

[Written and posted while stranded at a local cafe that has been open for at least 5 years in this town, but I have never frequented.  I'd say that was a wise choice, considering this raspberry Italian soda.]

This week I am leaving the perfectly-red-leaves-in-the-66-degree-fall-pleasant Kansas for 4 days to the cold, soggy Northwest to be officially oriented as a Christian Veterinary Mission fieldworker.  I've been looking forward to it since I made the plans a few months ago.    

Suitcase brought up from Mom's basement: check.  Laptop and cell phone chargers: check.  Adequate layers to stay warm: check.  Umbrella: no idea where that thing went - I'll survive.  All liquids zipped into a clear bag: check.

Little did I know that my orientation into missionaries-have-stuff-go-wrong-frequently lifestyle had begun already.  It was all coming together until late this afternoon after I packed up my car and popped to the other side of town to run a couple of errands before heading out to Mom's tonight, to cut down on tomorrow's 2:30am trip to the airport considerably.  Errands accomplished and minutes before merging onto the highway, my car overheated, squirting a stream of green engine coolant into the street, and instantaneously rendering it nearly undrive-able.  

God is good.  I was just around the corner from my mechanic's.  
God is good.  He wasn't busy at all and had my car up in the air in no time.
God is good.  I didn't break down on the highway.

As it turns out, the diagnosis is a faulty fan that is not cooling the engine properly.  (If this brings back memories from the last time I posted on my car, I'm happy to report it turned out that it was a minor sensor problem, and not the transmission.  God is good.)  The bumper and headlight will have to be removed, and new parts ordered. It will be out of commission for a while.

God is good.  I have a Mom that is willing to come pick me up and take me to her house tonight, half way between me and the airport.
God is good.  The mechanic is just around the corner from a cafe that has free Wi-Fi and terrible Italian sodas.  I only suffered minor humiliation toting my wheelie suitcase, a big duffel bag, a loaded backpack, my purse, and a shoe box down the busy road, past a grocery store and a medical supply store before pulling up at the cafe.
God is good.  Thanks to Mom and Howard, I have a vehicle to get to the airport in the morning, and a way to get home at the end of the week.
God is good.  I won't be needing my car this week, so it can be fixed without leaving me cloistered at home.

I've learned that being stranded with a broken car, hours away from missing my plane and my plans can be a stressful event.  Unpleasant, to say the least, as is this raspberry Italian soda.  But, in the end, my orientation so far has left me with only one conclusion: God is good.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Almost There!!


I am getting close to being able to leave for Thailand!  I still need just about $1000 in regular monthly donations.  Will you help me fly this plane all the way to Thailand?

(For example: 10 people giving $100/mo will get me to Thailand!  Or 20 people giving $50/mo, or 40 people giving $25/mo!)  

Email me at rdbuffington@gmail.com for more information!


Monday, October 18, 2010

An Ocean of a God

Note: This is Part 6 in a 6 part series of an exploration of the book Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission.


Today is the last day of our series.  We've talked through expectations missionary women have of themselves, of their sending agency, of their sending churches, of the people they go to serve, and of their own teams.  Missionaries also have expectations of God. 

What does the missionary expect of God?  She expects Him to work in and through her to draw people to Himself.  Of this we can be sure He will do.  But, she expects Him to do it in a way that is predictable and makes sense, and not leave her disappointed when circumstances are hard and she needs him and wants him to show up: this is where she falters.  She wants God to show up in powerful and miraculous ways in despair, to always see him clearly in situations that are hopeless.  And when he chooses not to, she gets frustrated and confused.  Robynn explains it this way:

"I don't like swimming in the ocean: there are living things lurking beneath the surface; the waves are unpredictable and splash my face; it's cold and deep; there are undertows that pull and frighten; it's salty and sandy and alive.  I do not like swimming in the ocean.  I much prefer a swimming pool, a heated pool at that.  The temperature is controlled.  You can enter at your pleasure, either the deep end or the shallow end.  You can go in as far as you like and then climb back out.  Inflate a floating device and float on top if you choose!  The bottom is level and smooth.  There are no surprises.  Nothing lives in a swimming pool. 

"And that's the kind of God I would prefer as well: one that is controlled and moderate; a God I can measure and understand.  I can enter His depths but only as far as I am comfortable.  However, that's not the kind of God we have.  Our God is an ocean of a God.  He is alive and dangerous.  There are forces at work below His surface.  He alone controls the depths, the sprays, the splashes of His personhood.  He woos us to the bottom where the water may appear murky and mysterious.  Our God is wild and untamable.  He is expansive and unpredictable.  When we say He is holy, we mean He is strange and we do well to take our shoes off.  The ground is holy and the water is deep."

Our faith and trust in God is not based on what He will do for us, or how well the ideal outcome in our minds lines up with his plans.  Our faith in God is rooted in who He is.  We are studying Habakkuk in my church this Fall, and it is fitting that Sue and Robynn should end with Habakkuk's conclusion in Chapter 3:

"Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights."

God is not safe, but He is always good.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Team Spirit

Note: This is Part 5 in a 6 part series of an exploration of the book Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission.

It is extremely rare to send a missionary out on his own.  In the bush of Africa, or in the high rises of Delhi, missionaries work in teams.  We need each other for support, encouragement, accountability, advice, and a shared nostalgia for spaghetti and cookie dough ice cream.  We work together, play together, eat together, share holidays together, and worship together, and sometimes live together.  You can see where this is going.

Being on a team is hard. Different personalities, viewpoints, convictions, goals, and opinions can sometimes get in the way of being united in one purpose.  Team mates have expectations of each other and let each other down.  Sometimes these expectations can hinder teammates from being honest about their struggles, for fear of being seen as less qualified than others.

For a new missionary, coming into an established team is hard.  Team dynamics are already established, and it may be difficult to find how she fits in.  Vetran missionaries may not realize a newbie is having a hard time with the work or the language or the culture shock or just finding milk at the market.  Sometimes they are left to sink or swim.  Single women on the team often feel like the married couples expect them to do much more than they have the capacity to do, because no family is at home to care for.  They may not have a reason to take vacations or holidays, which can lead to burnout.

The Bible says that others will know we are Christians by our love for one another, and if for only this reason alone, team dynamics are incredibly important.  Good communication, grace, truth, mercy, love, and intentionality are paramount.  Sue and Robynn recommend honest communication about expectations of one another, expectations of ourselves, and humility in sharing our struggles.

Just like any situation in life where two or more people are involved, mission teams need to work with each other and grow together in order to move forward.  Luckily, we have a God who says he makes all grace abound to us at all times, having all that we need, so we may abound in every good work.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Church: Partner or Pen Pal?

Note: This is Part 4 in a 6 part series of an exploration of the book Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission.

Missions does not start or end with the missionary, but is a mandate for all believers in Christ.  Jesus told his followers to "go and make disciples", and this charge is still applied to Jesus-followers today.  The job is not done and we are all responsible to complete the Great Commission.

But the fact is, only some believers are called to minister in another culture, while most are called to be in a support role.  (I happen to believe more are called to go than actually end up out there, but that's a topic for another time.)  In fact, John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, would argue there are only three types of Christians today: the goers, the senders, and the disobedient.  The church plays a vital role in the sending and supporting of a missionary.

Understandably, sending churches and missionaries alike have expectations of the other.  Sending churches desire their missionaries to be faithful in their work and ministry.  Missionaries expect their sending churches to be supportive and care for their work on the field.  More often than not, I believe the relationships between these senders and goers are compatible.  However, the very definitions of going and sending describe a disconnect and distancing between the two, and that's when communication can break down and barriers can be built up.

Sue and Robynn explain that for missionaries, the sending church is critically important.  It is the church that supports her and cares for her, and faithfully prays for her.  It is the place she is accountable, she seeks guidance, and turns to for strength.  They are partners in her ministry.

However, time, distance, and life can disconnect the missionary from the bond of her sending church.  She may not be able to visit for years, and when she returns, she only knows a few of the faces.  The church may not understand her struggles and frustrations of living in another culture.  A surface-level relationship can end up feeling more like pen pals than partners.   Sometimes, in an effort to be good stewards of their resources, churches may place undue restrictions or requirements on missionaries that may cause misunderstandings.  All this can lead to a build up of hurt, frustration, isolation, and disappointment.

I am very blessed to be sent by Grace Baptist Church, where they take their call in the Great Commission seriously.  The mission of the church can be summed up in four words: seek (putting God first in all things), saturate (delighting in God's Word), send (working to expand God's Kingdom), and serve (loving others through serving).  They strive to walk alongside their missionaries, even from across the globe.  The love, care, and commitment Grace gives is unparalleled, in my book.  They do a great job caring for, praying for, and communicating with those they've sent, some of whom have been on the field 50+ years, and still call Grace their "home" church.  Though people come and go, Grace's commitment to missions and their missionaries are foundational in the church.  What a blessing.

I'm so thankful for Grace, and I'm excited to see where this new partnership takes us!







Friday, October 1, 2010

Introducing Mekong Minority Foundation

I just can't help it - one more video before we continue with the series.  I'd like to introduce you to a great team of people doing some great work in Northern Thailand, and I get to work with them! I am blessed!