Meditation on Giving Something Up

We’ve been on deputation just over 5 years now – we started full-time deputation in January 2010. Thankfully, partners have pledged almost all our support, so we can begin detailed preparation to leave.

This 5 years has held a lot of good things for us and for our children. They’ve also held some challenges. Our children have become very aware of some of those challenges. Sometimes they express their wish to be at the same church every week, or get involved in school or community programs.

Now we’re adding more challenges: selling books, packing boxes, telling them that this visit with this relative will be the last in a long time. The other day we took apart the bunk bed so we could try selling the frame at a consignment sale. And we’re still facing some of the old challenges with a few more deputation meetings.

With all these things going on, I wasn’t surprised to hear more than one of my children say recently that they wish we didn’t have to do something specific related to going to Taiwan.

It wasn’t the first time, and won’t be the last. And I sometimes think the same thing. But the Lord gave us a teaching opportunity, reminding our children that Jesus left heaven to live and die on earth for us. If Jesus did that for us, can anything He asks of us be too much?

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March Meetings – Part 1

We thought we wouldn’t make it out west. A stomach bug hit the evening of our first all-day drive. Limping along, we wondered if we should stop early and get a hotel. But God really helped our children do great, and we made it. Unloading a few overnight things, thinking about another long day on the road made us want to cry! But we hit the road and continued limping along (Denver or Bust!).

Lots of stops, a detour, and heavy traffic conspired to keep us from reaching our missions conference housing. But we finally made it, dropping our luggage inside the door and crawling to bed. Thank the Lord we arrived on Friday. A snowstorm hit Saturday. We just got to hole up and watch the snow come down. All day.

Snowed In Van

Emmett especially was chomping at the bit to get out in the snow and have fun. I made a few attempts to build a snowman, but all were sabotaged by Arthur. He thought it was more fun to push them down. Two snowfalls were the Lord’s providence to change the missions conference schedule at RedRocksBaptistChurch. We were disappointed to miss a meal together with the pastors and other missionaries, and Erin especially missed the Ladies’ Tea which got cancelled. But the conference was great. Here’s some of what we got to do in addition to presenting our burden for Taiwan in a service:

  • Enjoy an international dinner.
  • Talk with church members and staff members. Many have missions experience or have family members in missions.
  • “Shop talk” deputation, missions, and ministry with the church leaders and other missionaries.
  • Children’s Sunday School, chapel, and evening meeting. I especially enjoyed the Wednesday night children’s meeting, during which I talked about Taiwan’s idolatry. Then I told the story of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus asking about eternal life. He thought he’d kept all the commands, but he wasn’t willing to give up his wealth and position. He didn’t have any statues, but he sure had some idols. We value opportunities to challenge children to live for the Lord wholeheartedly.
Pre-school chapel at Silver State Christian School

Pre-school chapel at Silver State Christian School

  • Reconnect with other pastors in the area. I visited a pastor’s fellowship with Pastor David Chavez, who’s church (Calvary Baptist) we’d visited for a conference last fall. Later in the week we all had a meal with his family and had a great time. I also got to visit another friend who’s now the youth pastor at a church in a southern suburb of Denver.

Because of the snowstorm Saturday, we expected the whole week to be cold and snowy. But the snow melted off and by the Friday after the conference, it was warm enough that we had a picnic lunch at the incredible Red Rocks formation from which Red Rocks Baptist Church takes its name.

Red Rocks Baptist Church  and Silver State Christian School

Red Rocks Baptist Church and Silver State Christian School

Children in front of Creation Rock at the Red Rocks Formation. This image doesn't do justice to the size.

Children in front of Creation Rock at the Red Rocks Formation. This image doesn’t do justice to the size.

The Denver skyline view from the Red Rocks Formation amphitheater

The Denver skyline view from the Red Rocks Formation amphitheater

 

Temporarity

That’s a word I made up. But I think it describes a lot of the experiences of deputation life pretty well. A lot of what we do during this stage of our life seems temporary. Our visits to other churches, and our direct participation in the Lord’s work there, is temporary. Our time with friends is limited. (One of the sad things for our children at this point in life is that they make friends and leave them. It’s a special treat when they get to be in the same Sunday School class for two weeks in a row.)

Our time at home is punctuated by trips to visit churches and present our burden for Taiwan. And even if we were here all the time, it would feel temporary because we’re doing everything with moving to Taiwan in mind. So we go to the store and see something we like. Should we get it? Do we really want to take it to Taiwan. Not really.

There are some interesting parallels here to the whole Christian life. It’s temporary, because this world is. But that doesn’t mean that everything is temporary. That’s the message of the book of Ecclesiastes. You’re surrounded by temporarity [vanity], but don’t live for it. Live for what is eternal. While our time with people is limited, our ministry with them has eternal consequences – all our little conversations. When we pray for people, we continue our ministry with them. And we’re supposed to imitate Paul (who himself imitated Christ). His attitude was: “I do all things for the sake of the gospel” (1Co 9:23) and “do all to the glory of God” (1Co 10:31). Life-orienting statements.

The touch, the feel… of cotton

Emmett, Bella, and Arthur leaning against a wall of cotton

Emmett, Bella, and Arthur leaning against a wall of cotton

This was Eli Whitney on a grand scale. With too much noise to hear our tour guide, we just looked up at the three-story-tall cotton gins – two of them. Our friends in Georgia, Greg and Melissa Davis, with their children Benjamin and Irene, had agreed to take us to the local cotton gin in the community near where Greg pastors.

Cotton, in semi-trailer sized modules, went through a machine that loosened the cotton up, through a dryer, and fed into the gins through big ducts near the ceiling. The gin ran too fast for us to see anything except a white blur. Then it ran back up to the ceiling and over to the packing machine. It was out of order for a moment. Big wads of cotton – cleaned up somewhere in the process – floated down as workers pulled them free of the machine to make a repair. Bella, Emmett, and Arthur got to hold big fluffy cotton balls. Owen just stared around.

Clouds of cotton float down to the floor as workers clear a machine that needs repairs.

Clouds of cotton float down to the floor as workers clear a machine that needs repairs.

Emmett covers his ears. He could have stuffed them with cotton!

Emmett covers his ears. He could have stuffed them with cotton!

Arthur holds a handful of raw cotton.

Arthur holds a handful of raw cotton.

From the building housing the gins, our tour guide led us to the warehouse. 500 pound, plastic-wrapped bales of cotton formed neat rows 3 or 4 high. Back in near the gin, the packer was working again, so we returned to watch big pistons pack the cotton into the bales, which the workers shoved into plastic bags.

Bales of cotton fill the warehouse.

Bales of cotton fill the warehouse.

Ever since we got a book about him from our library, our children have been fascinated with inventor Eli Whitney. They even drew some pictures about him on a poster-board we found in some missions housing. A visit to Connecticut in December had given us a chance to see the Eli Whitney museum. (Not much there for us – mostly set up for school groups to do projects about inventing.)

Major uses for the cotton seeds picked from the cotton bolls include pressing for cottonseed oil and cattle feed! We were in Georgia at the Davis’ church (Hurst Baptist, near Sylvania) to do a weekend Bible conference. Saturday morning at the cotton gin tour, we met one of the church members who was there picking up a trailer load of cotton seed to feed his cows. We took him up on his invitation to visit his farm for the children to help feed the seed to the cattle. All the children perched in the wagon for a ride to the pasture. Although they’ve been on several hay-rides, this was their first ever cotton-seed ride. They really had fun climbing up on the pile, then coming down to help fill buckets to hand out as Mr. Danny, his wife and daughter poured the seeds out into the feeders.

Emmett still has a wad of raw cotton as a souvenir. We adults brought back some good memories of fellowship and worship, along with an appreciation for the needs, blessings, and challenges of rural southern ministry.