Friday, January 29, 2016

Transitions: Part one

You might notice that this says "part one", that is because it does not seem complete.  We are transitioning.  We have been on the transitioning merry-go-around since we began packing back in April...9 months ago.  During that time Sam and a missionary friend stood nose to nose with the Mexican mafia while our kids waited outside in the van, we experienced a gas strike, made an international move, sold the majority of our belongings (again), said some heart wrenching good byes, our kids changed schools, they have learned to drive, and navigate American fast food menus just to name a few.  (Just an FYI: you should never take a MK to a fast food restaurant and ask them to order whatever they want.  It is extremely generous...and overwhelming.) That being said, we have more clarity this month than we did last month, and for that we are grateful, but we are still spinning.  I described it to my friend like this, I feel we are in the very calm eye of a roaring hurricane and I am trying to navigate my next steps very carefully so I do not move out of the eye and get smacked in the face with debris!  This may be a ten part series, but I have no idea what part two looks like.  

As we were making plans to leave Mexico, we talked over a lot of places we could go.  We even strongly considered a move to Honduras and took a survey trip there.  Oh how I love working with pregnant women and their families at Hospital Loma de Luz, it made so much sense, such a great fit, and yet our hearts weren't quite there.  Partly because we felt we needed better training to be truly effective, partly because we are pretty worn out from the last five years on the field, and partly because our hearts are planted in the rocky Oaxacan soil.

We strongly felt we needed to return to Northwest Arkansas were our sending church and family are located and set our hearts in that directions.  Sam felt very strongly God was going to provide a home for us.  It was not long after that we received confirmation that we were moving in the right direction, when a family offered us a great home rent free for a year!!!  This was a blessing in so many ways, as we could not have made it financially without this extremely generous gift.  

We also felt that I needed to get my Bachelor of Science in Nursing.  We wrote out charts and researched and researched to figure out a scheme that would accomplish this mission and get us back to the mission field as quickly as possible.  I already have a bachelors degree, so we thought I could do prerequisites for a nursing program and then do and accelerated program nursing program.  This would hopefully, with no hiccups, get us back to the field in two years.  We did not feel easy about this, but we marched ahead.  On our wall was the quote from J.R. Tolkin "There is no real going back.  Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same.  I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden.  Where shall I find rest".  And that is how we all felt trying to navigate this vaguely familiar, but oddly foreign land.  We had gone on a grand adventure and we were not the same.  We could not unknown the grand world full of needs that we had witnessed.  

As we met with frustration looking at accelerated programs, the one in Arkansas was six hours away and we had already put the family through a lot of transition and the closer one would charge us out of state tuition and would still require a lot of driving and being away from the family, Sam suggested that we drive over and check out a local Christian College.  The tuition was more then we could even think about paying and the time was more than we wanted to stay.  Interestingly, they were very willing to work with me to get me in the nursing program and the program was brand new.  If I attended I would be a part of the first graduating class!  We left the admissions office feeling like it would be a great school for Hannah, if she could get a scholarship or grants.  Upon their request I sent them my unofficial transcript.  Did you know I graduated from college with a 3.6 something?  That's actually pretty good!  When the hand of God moves, it is actually good enough to get a scholarship to a nursing program!  The scholarship does not pay for all my school, but it is very generous.  Wow!  I'll just let that soak in for a while....
Just before I was offered the scholarship, we became conflicted by a quote from the amazing missionary/martyr Jim Elliot.  He said, "Wherever you are, be all there".  Our hearts struggle.  We see the things God is doing here, yet we are not completely comfortable here.  We see the things God is doing all over the world and we long to be there, even if we are not completely comfortable there.  Maybe, comfortable is a little over rated.  Maybe broken and stretched and completely present wherever you are is just right.  

Extending our furlough is a direction that we have walked down very reluctantly, but we strongly feel that in order to be effective missionaries we need to spend some time preparing.  Originally we had hoped to have enough support during this phase of preparing, so we could continue making trips and stay engaged in the things God has allowed us to be a part of in Mexico.  After six months of trying to make it work, we have decide it is time to be "all here" for this time.  Sam is looking for a job right now and we are excited about this "tent making" phase of our ministry.  God has already used these last six months here in the U.S. to begin building us back up.  He has sent wonderful people who are encouraging us and pouring into us and he has even given us ministries to be involved in.

I think our next quote will be from Dr. Suess, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened" or maybe one from Corrie Ten Boom that says, "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God."  What do you think would be a good quote for the Mean's board?  What are quotes you have in your house?

I just started my second semester out of six this week.  God was gracious enough to allow me to maintain a 4.0 during a very challenging first semester back to college after...well, several years.  :)  I'm so excited for this amazing opportunity!  I really do like school and learning!  I know, unleash the inner nerd.  Since, I was not offered the scholarship until early August and classes started in late August.  We were certainly scrambling last semester.  I am hoping to be a little more organized this semester and I think I am off to a good start.  

Friday, January 8, 2016

Equiping and Retooling

Well, if there was anything we learned doing cross-cultural ministry overseas, it is that we did not know much about doing cross-cultural ministry overseas.  And most of the things we were told or thought we knew, we were wrong about.  And that is okay, because now we have experience and because now we know what we don't know, or at least we have a better idea of what we need to learn.

 Learning a new language and cultural has a steep learning curve, especially when you are not equipped with the tools to make that process easier or the support you need to thrive in a foreign country.  Thankfully, we are generally not proud people, so when we realized we did not have any idea what we were doing, we did a lot of praying and leaning on Jesus.  That praying turned into a lot of God made opportunities and guidance.

God gave us the opportunity to pastor for a furloughing missionary and that is were He taught us about oral learners and how to better communicate with people that learn differently than we do.  We are hoping to do some more training while here in the U.S. to better prepare us in this area.  If you are unfamiliar with orality, you can start by picking up a very short and easy read called Making Disciples of Oral Learners.  It is a new year, be enlightened!

In preparing to present at a Christian Midwives International Conference, I stumbled upon some really great books on cultural intelligence, transformational development, and helping the materially poor.  All things we would need for a special family that would soon knock on our gate and all things we face often in our own back yard and on the foreign field.  If you are interested in learning more about these topics, I would suggest Serving with Eyes Wide Open, When Helping Hurts (don't be offended by it), or Walking with the Poor, which I am currently reading.  Also a great documentary to watch on a family movie night is "Reparando" (Repairing).  As you watch, let it be a good reminder, that where ever you are going, you are stepping into an already ongoing story.  Sometimes we are only helpful, if we take the time to "read" the back story.  {Here} is a trailer for the film on youtube and you will find the full documentary by clinking {here}

God brought opportunities, kind nationals, and missionary friends into our lives.  He brought Roca Blanca Language school, who not only teaches Spanish, but encourages cultural engagement and are happy to sit a share their years of experience as well.  All of this made for healthier more successful ministries that did not point to us, but pointed to our Savior and encouraged and uplifted those we would leave behind during this next chapter in our lives.  God allowed us to be apart of a church plant and Bible Institute that will continue on long after we have left.  He allowed us to finish well for ourselves, our ministry, and our children even though I was so done long before that last year.  And in that year, He allowed us to see a very up close and personal view of the medical system, gave us vision and direction, and deepened friendships for when we relaunch into cross-cultural overseas ministry again.

2016 is starting out a little shaky for the Means family.  We are transitioning to a time of "tent making", while we equip ourselves for a relaunch in a couple of years.  I'll be honest, that drop off looks pretty scary and it was not an easy decision.  Pray with us that we can find the right bridge across this daunting transition.  And rejoice with us that we have found a great ministry here in NWA to plug into.  A ministry that will stretch us, and support us, and hold us accountable to being missional in our everyday lives.  A body of believers that will be sad and excited to see us go when we do relaunch.

This lady was excited to see our kids gobble down the chapulines (grasshoppers) like pros!