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Thursday, November 6, 2014

10 Ways To Encourage MKs On Furlough

I recently read a great article full of practical advice on The Gospel Coalition's website, entitled 20 Ways To Refresh The Hearts of Missionary Saints On Furlough. Included in the article are some very practical, doable, and meaningful tips. When I was growing up my family experienced some of these -- such as people loaning us a car, storing some of our earthly possessions, and even a dentist who was an old friend of my folks who gave us free dental care. Not only were we blessed, but we felt very supported and valued by these things.

Today we work with a lot of MKs (children of missionaries) who go on furlough (itineration, home ministry assignment, however you've heard it) with their parents, and others who have returned to the States without the intention of returning to the field. We actually have a a few MKs on furlough now- shout out to Emma, Meghan, and Katie! Before we moved to Costa Rica, we had a number of questions on how churches can support their missionaries and MKs. I thought I would complement Jason Carters' post with some practical ways of caring for MKs on Furlough.

1. Ask them about their 'home'. For most MKs, "Coming home to furlough" has no meaning--it's an oxymoron. Many of them spend the majority of their lives outside of the US (or passport country) and they left home when their parents came home. Asking "do you miss home yet?" is a breath of fresh air to an MK in the midst of all the well-meaning "welcome home!"s.

2. Ask them questions in order to hear their stories... and really listen. Be prepared to listen for a long time. We MKs generally know and acknowledge the importance of what it is our parent's are doing in ministry. We're used to people wanting to hear about the latest trip to the indigenous community, and we're used to sitting silently and listening to the same stories for the 39th time. When around peers who can't relate to our experiences, we find there is often no interest in listening to our stories. Often, MKs feel bottled up because there's no one who cares to relate to us.

3. Take them to do something fun. In his article Carter suggests friends watching the children of missionaries to enable them to have a date. This is a huge double win, because small acts of kindness towards MKs makes them feel really valued. When I was 11, a student at Northwestern University in Illinois took me--not my family, not my sisters and I, just me-- to one of the university's small rec centers. He bought me a slice of pizza and we played pool (for my first time) and then I went home. Total hang-out time: maybe an hour, hour and a half. Recall time: 15 years and counting. It made a huge impression on me, that someone cared enough to do this with me. I was a person, not just the student of missionaries his church supported.

3. Take extra measures to make them feel like they belong in your community. Call them up and invite them personally to a youth event, tell them you've missed in their absence, have things for them to do when they arrive to help them fit in and belong from the beginning. If lead a bible study, invite them to the study; if you coach a sports team, invite them to practice; if you have a hobby, ask them to join you. This often takes consistency and preparation, but it can have some big payoffs.

4. If you have kids around the age of the MKs, invite them to do things with your family. Sports activities, picnics, concerts, etc.

5. Keep in mind that a fair number of MKs don't know the rules to many sports. Without making them feel dumb about the fact they don't know them, offer to teach them the rules to a sport you enjoy. Help them learn what a batting average is and what it means, or invite them to your fantasy football league and offer to guide them through it.

6. Work on a project together. This could be a ministry you're already involved in (Steven, would you like to help me run sound for worship practice on Saturday?), changing the oil in your car, starting a scrapbook, work in the garden, etc.

7. Once you get to know the MK, ask them to teach you something. It could be a hands on instruction (cook something, make a craft), or a hypothetical instruction (if I were to get on public transportation in your country, how would I avoid getting robbed?) It doesn't have to be specific to a foreign culture or ministry, just to their story.

8. Find out something they miss from their home (the field) and visit an international supermarket or hunt it down to surprise them! You'd be surprised what you can find if you look hard enough--especially if you live near an international community.

9. Send them a note or a care package as they travel. Or hand something off to their parents to give to them at a later time to avoid postage and timing. Extra hint: American candy is often coveted! (skittles, m&ms, snickers, milky way bars, nerds, twizzlers, etc.)

10. Don't let the brevity of time deter you. Trust me, MKs are used to making friends on short notice. It's a second nature survival skill that comes with the territory. If an MK is only at your church for the weekend, see how much time you can devote to spending with them and do it! But don't be discouraged if they've had their fill of saying goodbyes and aren't interested. It's not you they're rejecting, it's the pain of saying goodbye to friends over and over again that they're having to work through.

Next up: 10 ways to encourage MKs who have returned from the field (for good).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Today we celebrated our first year in Costa Rica. While we're getting use to things taking longer than expected (the biggest adaptation thus far), there are some things that still baffle us. For example...

I went to pick up a package today at the post office. Home delivery rarely happens and is challenging when your address literally translates to this: "San Francisco de Dos Rios, From the pharmacy La Pacifica, 400m east, 10m south. The garage is grey". That's great except the pharmacy is now a bread store and has been for 8 months. Somehow telling a taxi driver this always gets me home.

Anyways, this is the process for getting our package once at the post office:

  • sign with passport at the guard shack with written proof of receiving a package
  • receive a lanyard badge
  • go to the back of the post office
  • go to counter 1
    • give letter telling you have a package
    • show passport
    • receive a stamp on letter with your signature and passport number
  • go to counter 2
    • show stamped letter
    • acknowledge what is in the package
    • again, stamp, passport number, and signature
    • (the person has retrieved your package, but you cannot touch it)
  • go to counter 3
    • give stamped letter
    • pay a handling fee and/or customs (it was about $3)
    • receive a receipt that is stamped
  • go to counter 4
    • show receipt
    • wait to retrieve your package (it got moved from counter 2 to 4)
    • show receipt again to receive package
  • check in again at guard shack to confirm that it is your package
  • return badge
Some days you really question your effectiveness with how little you can accomplish each day. Then you realize it's just life here. Pura Vida!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Different Beliefs, One Bible

One Bible question I often get is, how can so many Christians who have the Spirit living inside of them read the Bible and come up with differing doctrines? If you ask this question, maybe this will help:

"Some would challenge the call to humility in reading the Scripture by arguing that the Spirit shows us what the text means. He is our teacher. But when two "Spirit-instructed interpreters" argue for mutually exclusive positions, a problem arises. Who brings the correct message taught by the Spirit and how do we decide? We would argue that this question emphasizes the Spirit's teaching work at the wrong place, by stressing understanding of content. John 14-16 describes the work of the [Spirit] as a ministry of convicting the world and instructing the saints through encouragement. In other words, the Spirit works in our hearts to convict us of the truth of what we read in Scripture and to encourage us with regard to how we apply what is said. There is a difference between understanding what the Gospel says, and accepting it. Those who crucified Jesus understood His claims, but they rejected Him as not being from God. Our contention would be that the Spirit is primarily concerned with our responsiveness." 
Craig A Blaising and Darrel L Bock.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Patrick's Morning Adventure

Today to kick off our family morning, Patrick practiced his climbing skills in the back yard! He did great climbing our mango tree, and went up 3 times! It was pretty exposed, so it gave me a good excuse to break out our rope and harnesses!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Disspelling the "Missional" Myth

In the last 5 years, a new buzzword came into play in the evangelical church in the USA: "Missional"

It was an adjective to describe being "On Mission". This new phraseology carries a strong, yet vague sense of purpose. We are "on mission"--we have have a job to do! We all have a mission--are you on your mission? But since this mission is the same across the church, we just did away with the article (on a mission, on the mission) and new power language was born: On Mission! When I saw this trending, I was concerned with the vague concept with which it so strongly thrust forth for three reasons:

1. I've said it twice, I'll say it again--it's vague... What does it mean?  Well, I think the best way to articulate it is the following: Be always ever focused on making disciples via the strategy of multiplication no matter where you are... I think... The strength of this vague concept is that church members were challenged to be 'on mission' in their schools and jobs all the time, not just at church or church outreaches. I strongly agree with the spirit of the saying (be a Christian everywhere), but think we could have maybe not made up our own word so that nobody really knows what we're talking about unless you've sat through a bunch of sermons and read a book or a couple hip Christian blogs.

2. 'On mission' blurs the line even further between traditional "missions" and everyday living out the love of Christ. Perhaps it came from the etymology of the word missionary: "Sent on a mission (1640)". But the origin of mission is: "a sending abroad" originally used by Jesuits. Having grown up in traditional 'missions' I've always been opposed to the blurring of this line because I think it hurts more than helps the advancement of the Gospel. The song "Be a missionary every day" which I so loudly belted out at age 7 in Sunday school with a bunch of strangers in every supporting church, did/does the same thing: blurs the line by suggesting everyone is a missionary, or missions consists of witnessing in the school you attend every day, or in your neighborhood or city. Certainly, these things are all essential and we should be doing them. But traditional missions* requires much training and sacrifice, and depends on the church for it's existence. One would not want me representing them in court as a lawyer, nor performing a check up as a doctor, nor operating a large crane (or any size crane) without proper training. Missions is the same way. To blur these lines is a) just false, b) setting potential missionaries up for failure and burnout because there is this mantra that everyone already is a missionary so 1. it must be easy and 2. who needs any training!? and c) weakening the entire base for on which missions exists in the first place--on the conviction of the church that men and women must be sent abroad for the spread of the gospel where those church members are not. It breeds the idea that the church can take part in "mission" in their own town and that be a sufficient reason not to send people abroad. (short term missions can also have this terrible effect).

3. The previous two points could be written off as opinions, and I would not be offended. But perhaps the primary reason for writing against the "missional" phraseology, is that being ON MISSION should NOT be our primary goal or purpose. Before you scream 'heretic' and cite the great commission, remember Ecclesiastes. The author experimented with every kind of hedonistic pleasure, and found it all meaningless. At the end of his conclusion of meaninglessness, he writes: 

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

(Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV)

And it is this that is the whole duty of mankind, not 'be missional'. I fear that we have, ever so softly, rolled away from the biblical mandate in order to focus on mobilizing churchgoers. And we must beware lest those new to the church who cannot see the evolution (of which I agree with the heart behind) miss this altogether. Jesus said the first two commandments are to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as your self. Certainly disciple-making is included. But beware not to change your purpose from that prescribed by God himself, and teachers who are judged more strictly (James 3) should take heed.

*Traditional missions crosses 2 of 3 barriers: language, culture, country borders.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sojourn Commencement Address 2014

Sojourn Academy Class of 2014 Commencement Address.
Written and delivered by Jonathan Hunter.

When I stepped into the icy snow-ladened wind, I stopped and caught my breath. It was 1 AM. What have I gotten myself into? But the person in front of me moved on, and there was someone waiting behind me. So I took a step further out of the doorway and felt the full power of the wind hit me. I could hear the bits of snow and ice on my hood, as they were hurled at my body through the gusty night. I took another step. What was I thinking? Why did I leave my bed, oh warm sweet, comfortable, warm, dry, warm sleeping bag. But still I stepped forward. Again, and again, and again. My feet were heavy. Aside from the wind on my hood, the only thing to be heard was the clanking of our ice axes on the rocks, like dull bells warning the mountain of our approach. We trudged up the path, muffled lighting peering out of our headlamps. I realized that I was trembling, though from excitement, cold, or terror, I could not distinguish. Probably all three. So I gripped my ice axe tighter, put my head down, and focused on taking another step.

After my first attempt at the snowcapped 19,000 ft giant, nicknamed, “the neck of the moon”, nightmares flash before my eyes every time I shut them. I didn’t even have to be asleep. I saw myself trip and fall, and felt again the panic of sliding down the steep, icy slope, repeatedly jabbing the point of my ice axe in the ice and snow to stop my fall.

No one ever achieved anything significant by lying on the couch, playing it safe and easy. Faith is hard to come by from the comfort of your pillow. Go out and do something dangerous, something that has high stakes.

In one of my favorite stories in the Bible, the king and his men are defenseless. They only have two swords for their six hundred men. They have no power to stop the enemy who was raiding towns all around them. What will they do? The son of the king had one of the only two swords, and he says to his servant, let’s leave secretly and go to the enemy’s camp. ‘It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.’ And his servant says, let’s do it. And they attack the camp! And the King sees them fighting off in the distance, and takes his men into battle. And those who were hiding in the hills in caves, came out to chase down the Philistines. The prince was a hero and was well loved in the land. It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.

Reserve action for things that are worth doing; dangerous things. Those where the stakes are high, and you have a lot to gain or lose. The kind that forces you to have faith. I could never climb a 19,000 ft volcano in a sleeping bag, and Jonathan, prince of Israel, would have never had become a great leader if he was too nervous to act on the faith he had in God.

Risk is not encouraged by our insurance-hyped, liability-crazed, wellness-infused society. When I was 21 I walked into a jewelry shop to buy a diamond ring. There were several older men in the store. “Don’t do it!” they cautioned! “There’s still time to back out!” Although the Jeweler himself was quiet—he wanted my business—our society cringes at the idea of someone getting married so young, and taking such a big risk.

Do not quit; never surrender.

And that leads me to my second point… Get married before you turn 20.
Just kidding, that’s not my second point
For real though, the other side of risk: Don’t just take a risk and turn around and quit at the first sign of trouble. You have to be committed to follow through, don’t quit, never surrender.
In College I read this story:

Growing up on the Oregon coast, I watched the Seaside Marathon from my house each year. Runners of all shapes, sizes, and speeds would come by over a five-hour span. The winner each year would complete the race in less than two and one-half hours. The rest of the field would string out for several more hours. One year, I remember the very last runner to finish the race came in so long after everyone else that the runner's banquet was over before he crossed the finish line.This last runner took more than eight hours to cover the twenty-six-mile distance!
I watched when he came by my house at the twenty mile mark, all alone with dusk settling, his pace little more than a shuffle. Grit and determination showed in his single focus of putting one foot in front of the other. No matter that there was a celebratory banquet going on someplace else with food and comfort. No matter the finish-line banner had been taken down already. He knew his goal and he wouldn't be satisfied until he achieved it. And he did, crossing the finish line some three hours after every other racer had showered and eaten dinner. I don't remember the name of that eighty-year-old runner, but his perseverance left a lasting impression. He was running a marathon when many of his peers were confined to walkers and wheelchairs..

The one thing we’re assured of in Scripture is that if we follow Christ, our life will be marked with suffering. The book of Hebrews describes life as a race that has been put before us. And we are challenged to run that race with endurance. Don’t quit. Keep going.  Never surrender.
But it hurts not to quit. Sometimes people laugh. Sometimes, people get angry and lash out. Sometimes life gets unbearable. It is only on the faithful and the loyal that receive scars, because they didn’t give in when the pain began. Bear your scars with honor, knowing that you are no greater than your master. Scars and wounds are, in fact, the mark of a faithful Christ-follower. In one of my favorite poems, Jesus questions he who walks without a wound or scar:

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierc├Ęd are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?
(Poem by Amy Carmichael)

Don’t quit on God when He seems so distant, or when injustice calls on you, and the heavens are silent. Never surrender. Don’t quit on church when you realize that it’s full of sinners like me and you. Be a person who is known for his daring acts and constant endurance. Don’t quit on a promise or commitment just because you get busy.

I didn’t make it to the top of 19,347ft Cotopaxi. We were turned back by some really bad weather. So I tried again. This time, we were on the glacial ice when a lightning storm hit, and we ran for our lives through the dark to get off the ice. That night being the scariest moment of my life as the thundered deafened us, and the lightening was blinding. But as of today I’ve stood on the summit of that volcano 3 different times. Don’t quit. Never surrender.

What you might not realize is that following Christ is possibly the Riskiest thing you’ll ever do, in the eyes of the world. God promises adversity. Homes have been burned, people hunted and beaten, imprisoned, mocked, shunned, and laughed at. In addition to what other might do to you, you run the risk of following Christ wherever he calls you. Just look at all the people here, in this room, who have left all the comfort of familiarity and family. They stand as witnesses to the great risk and reward of the faithfulness of God. And now, as you leave the safety and comfort of your pillow and home and venture out into the dark, howling, unknown, the stakes just got higher.

So I charge you: Since you are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, run with endurance the race that is set before you, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of your faith. Remember what Christ endured from sinners against himself, that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Sojourn Academy 2014 Graduates:
May the road rise to meet you, 
may the wind be ever at your back. 
May the sun shine warm upon your face, 
and the rains fall soft upon your fields. 
And until we meet again, 
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Family, Teachers, Friends:

The LORD bless you and keep you;
                the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
                the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


The last 3 weeks have been absolutely crazy...

  • Jonathan ran a Jr/Sr retreat with our students
  • Our intern, Caroline, arrived
  • We had a team retreat with a tremendous amount of car trouble
  • We packed everything up the day we returned
  • We moved to our new house and cleaned up our old
  • We've started to furnish our house (not so easy without a Bed, Bath & Beyond)
  • We hosted a pancake dinner for our students
  • We're planning our big spring retreat
  • We got over a stomach bug
Things have been so full that we're forgetful, unfocused, exhausted, and easily frustrated. Praise God that He is constant through the change and the stress that it brings. Praise God that He is unmovable and never shaken.

During our retreat, I was reminded of Colossians 3:15: It comes just after Paul lists out things for believers to put on. 
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 

We're definitely not in the middle of peace, but in our hearts we are very thankful for all that this business brings and the peace that we can rest in the most stable God. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

on January 24-25 we did something new at the International Youth Group. We held a 12 hour workshop on listening. How many teenagers will sign up for a 12 hour workshop? My guess was around 7. My parent's were coming from the States to share what they'd recently been trained in: Reflective Listening. And this was the number I told them.

You can imagine my shock, then we had a total of 27 each day at our workshop!

We met Friday from 5-9pm, and then kids split up guys and girls and slept at two different youth group family's house. Many thanks to the Gaults and the Cosners for housing so many students!

The goal of reflective listening is to help someone explore their own thoughts and feelings. Removing as many communication barriers as possibly, the listener uses a formula of tentative opening--feeling--thought.

If a friend comes with a issue, for example someone just bullied them at school and hurled a slew of insults at them, one might say: "Wow, it sounds like (tentative) you're feeling embarrassed (feeling) for that to have happened in front of so many people (thought)." In asking this question, two things happen: the person feels listened to (and therefore valued) because of the feeling and thought that were said back at them; the person also now has the opportunity to correct the listener: "No, I wasn't embarrassed as much as ashamed because now everyone knows that _____. And I really don't think that I can show my face in front of those people again!" The conversation can go on, and what ends up happening often times is that the person with the problem ends up processing what's going on. That person might not have even known they felt ashamed until someone helped put words to it. This is such a great way to love and value people, and help them process. At the end of the day, one can join with the other in prayer with better understanding of what to lift up to the Lord.

My parents (Ross and Mary) did a great job teaching the course, and put a lot of time and energy into the prep! If you are interested in learning more about their ministry or if they might be able to visit your church and share the same workshop, visit their website.

Also thanks goes to Equipping Ministries International, who made their material affordable for our youth group to use!