The Wall and the Stairs

We have all been there before.

A wall lies in front of us and all we can see is this:

brick-wall

I think we know it can’t be all there is.

I think we understand that there has to be more, but that is all we know.

It is what makes up our life.

Sometimes when were are having a good day, we manage to look up.

Even those days we might still only manage to see:

photo-1446716336919-df838e44ce7b

Our view has changed, but our mindset has not.

We are still only looking at the wall directly in front of our faces.

I’m helping a young boy learn math at a local school.

All he has ever known is the wall of failure.

All he can draw upon is the sight of the wall…the thought that he can’t.

It pains me to see him say he can’t do it, before he even tries.

He may not learn a drastic amount of math under mu tutelage.

He may still be behind his classmates.

But what I am hoping is that he turns to the side and sees:

stairs

My hope and prayers for him is that he will see stairs.

A way around or over his wall.

There is hope.

God will help.

My young friend can do it.

So can you.

So can I.

5 Ways Singles Can Help Couples on the Mission Field

A couple weeks back I wrote a blog about how mission agencies, couples and ministry partners can help singles on the field. I had a good discussion with my sister about that blog and because of that I thought more about singles also having their own responsibility (which I will get to in a bit). I highlighted singles in my blog because I am one and I have seen some things that are lacking in the community where I live, but after thinking about the topic some more I came to the rather obvious conclusion, that every individual person on the mission field needs help. While there is no single solution to help every group of people I thought I would list some ideas as to how a single on the mission field might help the couples that are with them on the field.

I was thinking about this some and I realized that I have no idea what a couples needs are, really. I will do my best, though, to provide some ideas that have been shared with me and that I have observed on my own. I will now present you with 5 ways that singles can help couples (with or without kids) on the mission field.

  1. Invite them, as a couple or as an individual to join you. It’s no secret that singles, typically have more time to do things they want to do, whether it is a day trip to a city, dinner out or playing games with friends. That doesn’t mean, though, that couples wouldn’t have time to join them. They might not….but they might.
  2. Love on their kids. Couples with kids are missing family and friends just like singles miss their family and friends. Their kids not having grandma, grandpa, aunt or uncle there can be even harder than us adults not having our family. So bring a smile to the parents and kids faces by becoming their family. This may include babysitting, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. I’m Uncle Jacob to a few kids around here and I love it!
  3. Listen. Even though we might not fully understand the issues of a married couple or parent, we can still listen and be there for them when they are having a bad day. So put your feelings aside, for a bit, about wanting to be married and how you would gladly trade your troubles for their marriage troubles, and just listen. Be there for your friend, it’s that simple.
  4. Be flexible. A single’s schedule is typically more open, so sometimes you might need to be flexible in order to spend time with your married friends. This might mean that your plans will change suddenly or not be set until just before it happens (this is hard for me since I like my plans to be set well in advance). But really, that’s ok. Be flexible and don’t take it personal if they can’t hang out with you as often as you would like.
  5. Invite them to your home or bring dinner to them. It is way more common, in my experience, for singles to be invited over for dinner and not the opposite. To some degree it makes sense, I mean it’s cheaper to feed one than two (or more) but if you can cook, then why not host some people and give them a bit of a break. You might need to offer to bring dinner over if they have young kids who need to go to bed early, so again, be flexible.

I say this is for missionaries on the field, but honestly most of these can be applied, in general, no matter where you are and what you are doing. Every couple and every single is different, so what works for some might not work for others, but if you want to be a blessing to someone in your life, find out what they want/need and help provide that if you can. Everyone could use something, we just need to find out what that is and be willing to help them where they are.

6 Ways to Help Singles on the Mission field

I’ve been on the mission field for almost two years now, I am single and a male, so essentially I’m a unicorn of the mission’s world. We are rare, but so are singles in general. I recently read a blog entry that spoke mostly to the numbers between couples, male singles and female singles. I’ve also been reading a book, Single Mission, and processing through that as an individual and as a way to help eDOT with other singles in the future.

To be honest, being single in the mission field can, quite frankly, suck. Living cross-culturally can be quite difficult in and of itself, but when you have a built-in support system from the get-go, then it can be relieved to some degree. When you don’t have that built-in support system you might be going home by yourself. It’s tough, but that’s not the point of this blog.

In the blog, I mentioned earlier, Justin says that couples outnumber singles 8:2. Then single females outnumber single males 7:3. These numbers come out of 25,319 people and not every agency or area has that same proportion, but in general, these are the numbers the mission field has and it is something that should be taken into account by missionaries on the field, mission agencies and the ministry partners who get and keep missionaries on the field.

This might become a series of posts as I process through the book more, but for now I want to give those three groups some ideas for how to support their single missionary friends.

For the Missions Agencies:

  • Require or highly suggest the single gets and meets regularly with a mentor. This can be invaluable, but may be difficult in certain situations. No matter what though, this can at minimum, be done through Skype.
  • Educate leaders within the mission field and how to handle singles, but also how to give them time and help to accomplish things that couples have two people to do. For example, grocery shopping, running errands, banking and other things that is put solely on the single.

For Ministry Partners:

  • Send a letter/card/note, a physical one, reminding them that they have support from home. Sending it at a random time is great, adding in a little treat (if not too expensive) is appreciated as well.
  • Give singles a safe place to share struggles, even if it is about their mission, co-workers, their new country or whatever. This can be very hard for singles who might not be comfortable sharing struggles with co-workers and so have no one to turn to. Be open and let them know it is alright.

For the married missionaries:

  • Invite the single over for dinner or just to hang out. Every day they go home, maybe to roommates, but maybe not. Don’t just give them an open invitation, invite them to specific things. Even if they can’t come they, most likely, will appreciate the invitation.
  • Make sure they have someplace to be for major holidays and people to hang out with on their birthdays too.

There are definitely other things that you can do to help singles on the mission field. The best way to find out what the single missionary that you know would like is to ask them. I would love to know of some creative ways people have helped you as a single, or ways you have helped a single. Please share your thoughts below.

A Little Wednesday Fun with the German language

A while back I read an article about some German words that cannot be defined (the article then went on to define them), so I thought I would share them and briefly explain each one.

  • Das Fingerspitzengefühl – literally translated fingertip feeling – essentially means, one who has empathy
  • Die Kehrwoche – sweeping week – It’s a time where renters have duties to clean their communal living spaces in the apartment.
  • Die Schnapsidee – (this is especially interesting) liquor idea – This is when you come up with a great idea…after a few too many drinks.
  • Die Waldeinsamkeit – forest loneliness – It’s the feeling you get when you are all alone in a forest (I have no idea).
  • Torschlusspanik – door closing panic – when all of your friends get married and have kids and you grab the closest person, and marry them yourself, no matter how bad the match.
  • Bausparer – building society saver – having a job to pay the bills, but also taking pride in your ability to save money at the same time.
  • Geborgenheit – being secure – It’s the feeling of being comfortable, cozy, safe and warm all at the same time.
  • Dornröschenschlaf – sleeping beauty sleep – When no progress is being made on something it is in the state of sleeping beauty sleep.
  • Geschmacksverirrung – aberration of taste – This word is used to describe something taste in something as, well, wrong.
  • Scheinheilig – holy appearance – This is a term used for people who look lovely, but are actually the opposite.
  • Backpfeifengesicht – a face badly in need of a fist

Well, that’s the German language fun for the day. I hope you enjoyed them.

Facing Fears

Between Christmas and New Year’s I went up to Berlin to hang out with a friend and decided to head to a church service on Sunday. While researching churches in Berlin that had English translation (my German is still not good enough to understand a full sermon in German), I found that Saddleback church had a church plant. I was curious to see how they handled a church plant in a foreign country, so I headed out and here is what I learned.

I don’t want to go into detail about how Saddleback Berlin worked as a church plant, but instead I want to publicly ruminate on the topic of the sermon. The sermon was conducted via video and obviously recorded on a different week since it would have been 2 AM in California when I was at church. The pastor for that day was Derwin Gray, a former NFL player who is now the lead pastor of Transformation Church in South Carolina.

His sermon was on fears and as soon as he said the word fear, I had a lot of thoughts pop in my mind. What am I afraid of? What are those fears keeping me from? What could I be doing today that I’m not because of the fears? Then, the sermon started and Derwin put fear into the correct perspective for me. He had 5 points and I wanted to not only share them with you, but also give my thoughts on some of them.

1. Love God’s glory more than your fear. (1 Samuel 17:26)

Most of the fears I thought of were hindering me in my goals…it’s not about me.

2. Ignore cowards (1 Samuel 17:28)

People who are afraid that you will do more than them might try to dissuade you. Not necessarily out of spite or jealousy, but sometimes because they are afraid to do something too.

3. Be yourself, not someone else. (1 Samuel 17:38-40)

One of my favorite quotes from Derwin was when he said; “Be yourself, not someone else because everyone else is already taken.” I am who I am, because I am here for a purpose. My strengths and weaknesses make me who I am, so what do I have to offer that is unique from others, and here is the important part, to bring about God’s glory?

4. Trust the King (1Samuel 17:45-46)

Another good quote from the sermon, “Fear became my friend, because it pushed me to my Daddy.” I don’t know if I have ever looked at fear as a friend, but that’s because I typically let it cripple me instead of leaning on God.

5. Jesus is the true David who defeated the true Goliath: sin, death and evil (Colossians 2:13-15)

 

I don’t know about you, but my fears have held me back from doing a lot in life. While not all of those things are specifically related to expanding God’s Kingdom here on Earth, some are. How can we resolve this? There is only one option…be drawn to our Father and allow him to be our courage and strength.

 

Then at the end Derwin left a thought to take home that he called a “Soul Tattoo.” He said, “Attack your fear by trusting Christ.”

Rough day

Warning: If you are my mother this post may be tough for you to read, but stick through until the end please. Actually, everyone stick through to the end please. I promise it won’t be too long.

 

It’s not you Germany…it’s me. It just isn’t working…I need to move on…You are moving in one direction and I need to go in another. Look, it’s been great, but I think it’s time we see other people.

That’s how I felt like last Saturday. I felt like I was no longer committed to staying in Germany, I wanted to go home, to be with family, to be with my old friends. I wanted to end my relationship with this country and this continent. I felt as if I was drowning, like it was time for me to move on because I couldn’t survive being here any longer. Last Saturday was rough, Sunday wasn’t much better. I was able to talk to some friends and my parents on Sunday, but that only made me miss home more. I was lonely, I wasn’t feeling loved by people here (which I know is utter crap) and I wanted to go where I knew the love would be felt…I wanted to run.

I essentially hid in my apartment for the better part of two days. It’s not like I was turning down other engagements, but I wasn’t actively seeking them either. I left my apartment only to get food.

Monday left me in the same place as the weekend, with the only difference that I had to go to work. I had to engage with other people. It didn’t change much, but the week started to turn. The real reality, and not the fake reality that I was allowing myself to believe, showed its pretty face. I got an e-mail with a simple question appeared in my inbox. It said: “Are you free for dinner some day this or next week?” That’s it, that was what I needed. I needed someone to remind me that they want to spend time with me.

Before work on Tuesday I ran into an acquaintance who asked me how I was doing, but not in a flippant way, he wanted to know. For some reason, I told him how I was missing some of the types of friendships that I had in Toledo and Waldorf. He immediately said, let me think about some stuff and we will do something about it. Today we’re grabbing lunch.

The next day at work, my supervisor asked me what he could do to help me with my very unspecific prayer request and he wanted a real answer. He truly wanted to help, so I told him. He responded, but not out of a sense of duty (at least I hope), but again out of friendship. Wednesday was dinner and games with his family and we had a good time. Tonight I have dinner plans with friends.

These are the things I need to remember on a regular basis. This is how God is providing for me. He knows my wants, my needs, everything and He will provide. When I feel like it would be better in Toledo, I need to remember God has called me here and He knows it is better for me here.

Today is a good day.

Missing and Finding Family

After my recent trip back to Ohio and being able to see family for the first time in over a year I realized it was going to be tough, yet again, to leave them. When I originally left last April I was a mess while standing in line at the airport going through security. Even though I was excited to be going to Germany where I knew God was leading me, I knew it would be hard, especially without my family.

My family means the world to me and I am not sure what I would do without them. Thank goodness for technology so we can still communicate on a fairly regular basis.

So I miss them, but God understands that and he has provided me with family here in Germany too.

Just the other day I was helping a family get settled into their apartment after arriving from the US. I stepped outside to start grabbing some more luggage to bring in and one of the daughter’s of my coworkers and friends screamed, “Uncle Jacob” and started running my way. She immediately jumped into my arms and gave me a big hug. We talked for a bit and then she ran off to play with her friends. This same girl also got disappointed when I wasn’t coming to her birthday dinner (so of course I immediately came over). There is no blood relation, but she is my niece. She is not the only niece and nephew that I have gained in my short time here and I love that God knew I needed each and every one of them.

There are many other people that God has provided for me that in no way replace my family, but they provide a similar feeling as my family always has. I have many older brothers here, who look out for me, just like my brother always has. There is a couple here who provide the motherly and fatherly care, comfort and occasional meal like my mom, dad and step-dad have for me all of my life.

I don’t know why I am always shocked by it, but for some reason I am always shocked that God knows exactly what I need. This is not to say that I never miss my family, it is simply to say that He is providing for me, especially when I am missing my family.