Monday, December 09, 2013

#5 Eat at Mr. Pig Stuff


Steve's favorite restaurant is owned and operated by a terrific family of believers and servants (Lori pictured with us above). We love them and their BBQ! Check 'em out at

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A little more faith and a lot more hope

Last Friday was a hard day—the kind of day that makes you want to curl up in a ball on the couch and have a  good cry.

We were already a little on edge. The tenant who had faithfully rented our property for several years suddenly decided it was time to move on. And with a mortgage payment looming, our financial situation looked desperate. So, it was with some eagerness that we arrived at the property to show it to a new prospective tenant (our regular property manager had taken a weekend trip and wasn't available). But as we showed him around the house, our excitement faded to disappointment. The house had been left very clean and in order, but the walls were shabby and in need of some fresh paint. The deck was peeling and we quickly realized we'd have to have it re-finished this spring. And, to top it all off, the lack of a fenced in yard was a deal-breaker for this man and his large dog.

More than a little deflated, we prepared to head to dinner with some family friends discouraged and frustrated once again. Before we left, Steve decided to load up some empty boxes from our storage shed in preparation for our upcoming move. After filling the back of his pick-up, he jumped in and turned the key. The normally very reliable rumble of the engine failed to engage. He tried again and again with the same result. As the hour grew later, we finally gave up, unloaded the cargo back into the shed and piled into my car. Now our moods were downright foul.

On our way to dinner, I encouraged Steve to call his mother and wish her a happy birthday as it would likely be too late to call after our meal. The cheerful conversation turned dark almost immediately when we were told about Steve's older brother's health. Having been sick for months with a rare cancer, his condition had worsened again.

I felt a little sorry for our hosts when we arrived exhausted, broken-hearted and with a considerable black cloud hanging over our heads. We spent some time discussing plans for our return to Honduras, but our hearts weren't really in it. Our minds were turning our problems over and over in our heads.

Most of Saturday was spent discussing, planning and debating—worrying. What was wrong with the truck? And could we afford to fix it? Should we spend on of our precious few remaining weekends painting? How could we even pay for the paint and supplies with that mortgage payment due in just a few days? Would Steve's brother ever be well? What could we do to help his family? Our grumpy household went about our day with little hope of any resolution or peace.

And that's when God stepped in and reminded us that He is bigger than all our problems. We should have known He would. Afterall, we had prayed and asked Him to do just that for the entire weekend! Still, we were surprised at the unusual turn of events. Sunday evening we met with a couple from our church to share our ministry in Honduras with them. We didn't know this family well, so we spent some time getting to know them a little. Steve casually asked Kyle what he did for a living. Our hearts leapt when he said he was an auto mechanic. Have you ever been in a situation when you just knew that God had pre-arranged everything? This was one of those moments.

Last night, Steve returned to Kyle's home in a tow truck. The two of them spent the evening replacing a faulty fuel pump and Steve was finally able to drive his pick-up home. We spent just $50 compared to the hundreds the repair would have cost at a shop. Maybe this doesn't seem like a great miracle to you. But for us, it was the shot of encouragement we needed. I don't think Kyle has even realized what a blessing he has been during a very dark time!

OK, we still have to paint the house, we don't have a renter, the mortgage payment is still due and Steve's brother is still sick. Oh how quick we are to forget the greatness of our God when we face trials like these! And as we prepare for our ministry, we can expect many more challenges ahead. Afterall, Satan would like nothing better than to discourage and demoralize us. But we're onto him now. And we're facing this week with a little more faith and a lot more hope. Today we remember that the Lord provided a Savior for the world. Supplying a friendly auto mechanic at the right moment is just a walk in the park!

Our next problem to tackle? I just had to put our other car in the shop this afternoon. Well, bring it on. Our God can handle it!

Friday, November 01, 2013

I'm Not Her Mother!

When we were in Honduras in 2010, we served alongside another volunteer named Sarah Larson. Shared experiences and a shared love of the Lord and nail polish brought us together like family. However, we also shared similar physical traits and since we were practically inseparable, many people we met assumed that I was her mother. I honestly don't know why anyone would make this assumption (I am clearly not old enough!). But if I did have a daughter, I would want her to be Sarah.

This week, Sarah made a trip to Minnesota to speak at a church and made little side trip to visit her (un)mom. It was  a mini family reunion with shopping, Mexican food and even a little nail polish.

Sarah and I have one more thing in common: our birthdays are just a week apart! Celebrating together made this birthday extra special!

See what Sarah had to say about her visit on her blog. And read all about her ministry in Honduras at

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

#8 See a Baseball Game

#8 from 30 Things We Want to Do Before We Leave

OK, we did this a few months ago, but it still counts. Nick and I had a great day together at Target Field.

Friday, October 04, 2013

30 Things We Want to Do Before We Leave

Since we're leaving in just a few short months, we've been busy making lists. There's a list for what we need to pack, a list for what needs to go to storage, a list of appointments and even a list of things to throw away. But rather than concentrate on the things we have to do between now and then, I thought it might be nice to think about what we want to do. Of course, the obvious first thing is to spend time with our family so that's a given. With that in mind, here's a list of other things we want to enjoy before moving back to Honduras.

  1. Eat at Pablo's
  2. Make a snowman
  3. See a movie at a theatre
  4. Have pizza delivered
  5. Eat at Mr. Pig Stuff
  6. Enjoy fall foliage
  7. Go bowling
  8. See a baseball game
  9. Go for a bike ride
  10. Eat at Taco Bell
  11. Spend an afternoon all alone
  12. Take a bath
  13. Have a root beer float
  14. Eat Nana's No-Bake Cookies
  15. Eat pumpkin pie
  16. Pet a dog that doesn't growl or bite
  17. Play Mario Kart
  18. Drink hot chocolate
  19. Appreciate the dishwasher
  20. Lie on the carpet
  21. Have a snowball fight
  22. Wear shorts
  23. Enjoy the a/c
  24. Eat a glazed donut
  25. Eat a bowl of cereal other than Corn Flakes
  26. Go skiing
  27. Knit something
  28. Go geocaching
  29. Watch t.v.
  30. Eat Grandma's pancakes

We'll keep you posted on our progress! In the meantime, what would you want to do here in the good ol' U.S. if you were moving to the third-world country in a few months?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

15 Ways HMA is Like a 185-Mile Bike Ride

Steve and Nick recently finished a 185-mile bike trek from our home in the Twin Cities to Lansing, Iowa. The ride is to raise money for Village Creek Bible Camp, a place very close to our hearts. I’m not a bike rider at all, but over the years I’ve watched Steve and now, Nick, embark on this marathon of a ride. And I’ve learned that, at least for them, it’s not about money raised. It’s about the time spent out there on the road with each other and with the Lord. 

While I’m not exactly sure what the riders endure and overcome (what happens on Bike2Camp, stays on Bike2Camp), I am certain it’s not unlike our journey on HMA has been. So, here’s 15 ways that HMA is like a 185-mile bike ride:
  1. Good food and good fellowship go hand-in-hand. Steve always jokes that despite all the physical effort and sweat that goes into biking 185 miles, he never loses weight. Could it be those homemade cookies at every rest stop? Or maybe it’s that famous Corky’s pizza stop? Whatever it is, we’ve noticed that it’s over good food that conversations get started and friendships get built. And we’ve already had about three dozen meals at Applebee’s to prove it!
  2. We’re in this together. No matter how sore your legs are or how many flats you’ve had on the side of the road, there’s a whole bunch of other people who are experiencing the same thing. We’ve been so blessed to walk alongside other missionaries and pastors (both with WGM and from other organizations) willing to share their wisdom with us. We’ve learned from their experiences, prayed for their ministries, shared in their heartbreaks and celebrated their blessings. God has used these relationships to encourage us and remind us that, despite how it may sometimes feel, we’re not alone on this journey.
Never ride alone!
  1. Support teams matter. From the moment they arrive at the church parking lot with their bikes strapped to their cars, riders are in the care of a fantastic team of supporters whose sole purpose is to ensure that each and every one of them makes it to their destination safely and with a memorable experience behind them. They plan routes, provide meals, man rest stops, fix flats and provide emergency care. They drive ahead of and behind riders to warn passing vehicles. And quite often, they stop and pick up an exhausted and aching rider and give him a chance to recover in the cool air-conditioned van, all the while encouraging him onward. Without the support team, most riders would not make it to the end of the journey. Like them, a missionary’s supporters are the ones that make the ride possible. Without their prayers, passion, encouragement, friendship, service and support, we could not carry out the vision God has given us. They are there beside us for each and every mile.
The Bike2Camp Support Team
  1. Training is a must. Steve starts taking short “training” rides as soon as the snow melts. He’s got to get himself physically and mentally prepared for the journey. There have been years where he wasn’t able to train as much as he’d like and it made the ride much more difficult to accomplish. Time and time again God has used our time on HMA to teach us new skills that will be a blessing in Honduras—from leading discipleship groups to writing camp curriculum for teens.
  2. It’s not always going to be a comfortable ride. Sometimes it’s sweltering heat, sometimes it’s blistering wind and sometimes it’s just the fact that your rear end has been sitting on a bicycle for a couple of days. The point is, getting there is not always comfortable. Becoming missionaries has been an exercise in giving up control. We no longer know if we’ll be able to pay the bills this month or if we’ll be standing in front a crowded church on Sunday. We don’t know if we’ll be here for Nick’s band trip next year or if we should extend the lease on our apartment. But we learn so much about ourselves and our God when things get a little uncomfortable.
  3. Rest stops are critical. Every 10-12 miles along the route to camp, there is a rest stop. This is a safe place to pull over and catch your breath, be encouraged and take a few photos. HMA means always looking forward to something else—getting back to the field. When you’re constantly looking to the future, you sometimes forget to enjoy the present. Our strategy to creating our own HMA rest stops? We stop at cheesy roadside attractions. We spend as much time as we can with our families. We take vacations whenever we can. And we always make time for board games. 
Steve and Nick take a pit stop to appreciate the view and each other.
  1. Flat tires are a bummer. Last year Steve had six flat tires on the trip. That was a record! It almost amounted to spending more time on the side of the road than actually riding. There have been some real down times during our HMA—times we questioned ourselves and our calling. Discouragement has sidelined us and left us standing on the side of the road in the rain. It’s during these times that we’ve had to stop, reflect, regroup and repair our brokenness with the Word of God.
  2. God’s power is pretty awesome. Signing up for a 185 mile bike ride can be pretty daunting and when you tell most people that you’re going to do it, they look at you like you’re crazy and tell you that it cannot be done. When I look at our family and how we’ve had to adapt and grow together in order to meet the challenges of HMA, I am so impressed with what God has been able to accomplish in us. Seriously, if you’d have told me that a few years ago that Steve would stand up and address an entire church on Sunday morning, I would’ve taken you for a crazy person. And if you’d have told me that I would be perfectly calm when my PowerPoint suddenly doesn’t work on a Sunday morning, I’d have had you committed. I’m telling you only a God that can raise up mountains and set rivers in their valleys can turn the Solheims into missionaries!
  3. Sometimes it’s all uphill. Steve always jokes that he’s convinced that Mississippi River must flow uphill, since they follow the river and he sure feels like they spend a lot of time trying to make it to the top of one hill or another. If that isn’t a metaphor for raising support, I don’t know what is! The trip from 15% to 17% was one of our biggest hills. And every little percentage since has felt like locking our shoes into the pedals, putting our head down and peddling as hard as we can to the next milestone.
  4. Sometimes you need a different perspective. While riding alongside highways, you have to keep a constant eye out for potholes, branches, and broken glass along the way. During this endless vigil, you sometime forget to look up and see what’s going on around you. It's easy to miss some pretty fantastic views along the route to camp that can take your breath away. Likewise, when we're down in the ditches making phone calls, planning the next event or making little progress, we forget to look up and see all of the amazing things God is doing in our lives.
It can be easy to miss what God really wants you to see when you've got your head down.
  1. The right equipment makes for a smooth ride. Having the right bike and right tires make a world of difference. Adding shoes that clip to the pedals to power up those hills and an aerobar to defeat the wind makes the ride go much smoother. Oh, and don’t forget, a comfortable seat. Similarly, missionaries need to be equipped spiritually in order to make it through HMA. We have to learn to rely on God to provide and practice trusting in Him. HMA offers plenty of opportunity for God to continue to teach us these lessons over and over again.
Nick was so blessed by one of our supporters who provided a new and state-of-the-art bike for the trip.
  1. Everyday is a new day. Some days after roasting in the hot sun reflecting off of the asphalt, you feel completely defeated and unable to continue and collapse in your tent for the night. But, then dawn arrives and you feel rested and rearing to go again. Often, we have to remind ourselves that today is a new day and that God is with us in our struggles. 
  2. A little rain isn’t a bad thing. Other riders get a little upset with Steve when he prays for a light rain the weekend of the bike ride. But he knows that a light, misting rain is perfect for staying cool on the long, grueling bike ride. Sometimes during HMA, things don’t exactly work out as planned (like leaving your luggage at the foot of your bed), but those hiccups just make the journey memorable and worthwhile.
  3. The last few miles are the most important. About 10 miles from camp, there is a bridge like no other I’ve seen. To cross it requires an almost vertical climb for about half a mile. It’s here, when a rider is completely exhausted and at the end of his stamina that he faces one of the biggest challenges of his ride. On the other side, the support team waits and cheers each rider up the steep incline. This is the last pit stop of the entire ride and once they finally cross that bridge, there is a sense of accomplishment and jubilation amongst the weary travelers. But if they were to stop here after having endured so much and having scaled every hurdle and achieving great victory, they would fail. The camp is still several miles away. There is more to be done. Completing HMA will be a wonderful accomplishment, but it is not our goal. Our purpose is to glorify the Lord. And to that end, we always have a few more miles to go.

The last big mountain to climb before reaching camp.
  1. We’ll get there eventually. When the riders finally make it down the last dirt road to camp, they race across a finish line together to the cheers of the staff and families waiting to greet them. And there will come a day that we’ll finally board that plane and arrive at the place God has put on hearts for so long. And I hope you’ll be there to cheer. Not for us—but for God whose perfect plan for our missionary journey has reached a new beginning.
Nick leads the riders across the finish line at camp.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Redneck Luggage

Last weekend, Steve and I were invited to speak at a church in rural Iowa. It's located several hours from our home, so we made arrangements to stay overnight and visit with some friends who live in the area. As a missionary, you get used to making these trips pretty frequently. A weekend trip used to take me several days of planning and at least an hour of packing. Now, I don't even think about it until the day before and I can be fully packed and prepared within about 20 minutes—at least that's what I thought.

So for this trip, I efficiently packed our prayer cards, items for our mission table, our computer, directions to the church and relevant phone numbers we may have needed. Finally, I packed up our clothes and toiletries. We were ready to go.

We hit the road on Saturday morning. As we approached our destination, it struck me that we should stop somewhere to pick up a hostess gift for the couple with whom we were staying. I knew they lived a long way from the nearest town and it might be difficult to find time to pick something up later. With our legs needing a stretch and our drinks in need of refreshing, we stopped at a Wal-Mart. I did the shopping quickly and we returned to finish the last half-hour of our journey. When we reached our car in the parking lot, I decided the best place to store my newly purchased gift would be in our suitcase so I wouldn't forget to bring it into the house with us.

Uh-oh. "Steve, where is our suitcase?" Silent stare. Then it hit us. Our suitcase was right where we left it—all nicely packed with all our church clothes and other necessities—and at home at the foot of our bed!

I truly love Wal-Mart. Sneer if you must. But that low-price, shopping oasis in the middle of Iowa cornfield was a lifesaver. OK, it was a little tricky. Have you ever tried to buy a decent dress for church at a Wal-Mart? Not easy. I opted for a skirt that I found on clearance and a tank that I could cover with the sweater I was already wearing. Of course, toothbrushes and deodorant were the easiest items on our list. But we also needed underwear, socks and a belt. Unfortunately, Steve had opted for comfort and worn his sandals. That meant we had to add a pair of shoes to our cart. $140 and a big headache later, we made it back on the road.

We were relieved that the crisis was averted. But we didn't quite get away it. Because once we arrived at the hosts', we had to offer some explanation regarding our new luggage set—6 plastic Wal-Mart bags!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Journal Entry

The following is an excerpt from my travel journal from our first mission trip to Honduras.

January 31, 2009

Wow! Today was an adventure. We went on an outing with the group and were allowed to invite Luis to join us. A few other sponsored boys also came along. We went to a restaurant in Catacamas. They served fried tilapia. They fried the entire fish―eyeball and all― and served it on a plate with rice. It didn't look very appetizing, but it was the best fish I've ever eaten!

With Lori's help, we were able to talk to Luis. He asked us about our jobs and our hobbies. We found out that he has three brothers from his dad's previous relationship and two sisters from his mom's previous relationship and he is the only one born to both of them.

After lunch we went on a horseback ride. The boys loved it so much. We kept buying more tickets and they rode over and over. They were so happy. It was nice to spoil them.

The place also had a zipline course. The idea is to zip between platforms. We went in the last group with Luis, Steve, Debbie and Reyes. Two guides also joined us. They gave instructions on how to use our hands on the line as a break.

For the first three zips, I braked too soon and didn't quite make it to the platform. It wasn't a big deal. The guide just came out and pulled me in. On the fourth zip, they told all of us not to brake at all. So I was happy. But when I got close to the next platform, there was an incline. I didn't quite make it and began sliding backward away from the platform and toward the center of the line. It took me a while to figure out I should brake to stop sliding backward. Like the last times, the guide came out to get me, but his rope was too short to reach. I tried to pull myself hand-over-hand up the line, but I didn't have enough strength to make it up the incline and I slid back. But his time, my arms hurt. Steve, Reyes and the first guide stood on the platform helpless, trying to figure out what to do. Finally, the guide made it out to me. He made several attempts , but couldn't pull is and his rope was just a few feet too short. So we hung there. I was panicked and screaming for help. My arms burned and I'd lost feeling in my hands. At one point, the guide had my arm caught in his harness and I heard it snap. I was sure it was broken. After hanging for about 20 minutes, the guide called down to someone on the ground to get a longer rope. The yells caused the second guide to think all was clear, so he sent Debbie down the zip. She came through the trees and saw me hanging there and screamed. She was able to brake a little, but she crashed into me hard and knocked the breath out of me. Now the three of us were stuck out there. Since Debbie had just arrived, she had more strength than me in her arms. She managed to get one arm around me allowing me to lean on her and rest one arm at a time. She was calm at first. But after ten minutes, she realized that the crowd forming below us was also beginning to panic. They had found a longer rope, but there was no ladder or way to get it up to the platform. She began to cry with me. Finally, someone on the ground produced a ladder, but it was too short to reach the platform. So a man had to climb it and then carefully straddle the tree with the rope. Several attempts were made to the throw the rope out to the stranded guide with no success. At last, Reyes took the rope and zipped out to us with it. We didn't realize it at the time, but this was a great risk because the line was not meant to hold that much weight and it could have snapped. Once Reyes got to us with the rope, Steve and the man from the ladder pulled while the guide and Reyes used their hands on the line to help. It took several more minutes, but all four of us finally made it safely to the platform. All in all, I had been hanging for about 45 minutes. I was shaking all over and I had no feeling on my hands. Worst of all, there was no way down except another zip to the ground. So I had to face it all over again. I gathered up all the strength I had left and held my breath as I jumped from the platform. On the ground, I collapsed exhausted into the waiting arms of my new friends.

After all the excitement had died down and I recovered a bit, we climbed back into the bus and drove into town. I declared Reyes a hero and promised to buy him a Pepsi anytime he wanted it. He had never been on zipline until today. What a brave kid!

We stopped on the street in town because Luis' mom was sitting outside one of the shops. Even though we could barely speak to each other, it was nice to meet her. I could tell she was proud of Luis. Luis hasn't said anything about his dad, so I wonder if he's still around.

Then we made a surprise stop at Reyes' house that he shares with his grandmother, aunt and four cousins. Their house was humble, but far more habitable than the shacks in the villages.

Since our adventures kept us out so late, the boys were allowed to have dinner with us in the conference center. This was quite a treat for them and they ate a lot of food. Luis even wrapped up his leftovers to take back to the dorm.

I feel bad for Luis. He tries so hard to communicate with me. He talks in Spanish so desperately. I wish I could understand. He hugged me goodnight after Uno tonight. Weird to make such a connection without being able to talk.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Confirmation of Inadquacy

Last week we were missionaries and youth leaders for the Iowa Holiness Association Camp Meeting in Oskaloosa, Iowa. When we were first asked to lead the youth services twice a day for an entire week, we were extremely nervous to say the least. We're not pastors and we've never worked with youth—at least not here in the U.S. where the standard is quite a bit higher than with our students at El Sembrador. But we knew God wanted to stretch us and we couldn't deny that, however it turned it out, this opportunity would be an excellent learning experience. But we just couldn't shake the feeling that we were completely inadequate for the job. So it was with great trepidation and fear that we packed our bags and made our way to Iowa.

Discouragement is something every missionary faces when raising financial support. We're coming up on the 3-year anniversary of the beginning of our Home Ministry Assignment (HMA) and we had expected to be back in the field months ago. It is in this type of situation that doubt and confusion set in and we wonder if we're really in the will of God. We question our lack of funding and look for signs that maybe we've misinterpreted the Lord's direction in some way. In short, we think about giving up.

Of course, the week went better than we could ever expected and we were so blessed by our time with the young people God put in our path. On the last evening as I sat in the final chapel listening to the evangelist's last message, a thought flitted through my mind: "This is what you were made to do." A simple sentence. A tiny little spark of encouragement. A undeniable peace in a doubtful and chaotic heart.

When we climbed into the car to head back to the hotel for the night, I shared this little moment with Steve. He looked at me like I'd just told him we'd won the lottery and a grin broke out across his face. Then he explained. As he sat listening to the evangelist's final message, a quiet voice whispered in the back of his mind: "This is where you're supposed to be."

The truth is we are completely inadequate for the job we've been given. But Our God is with us and He has a plan. This week He taught us to stop questioning what we can do for the Lord and start marveling at what He can do through us. Out discouragement has been replaced with excitement at what He will do next. So we press on toward the goal God has given us and we look forward to the day we can celebrate His miraculous provision on the airplane to our adopted home in Honduras!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Your Will Your Way

The worship team at church led us in a song we've never sang before. And as I listened to the words of "Lay Me Down", my heart was convicted in a new and powerful way.
"It will be my joy to say Your will, Your way."
I often pray for God's will to be done in my life. And even to remember to ask Him to do things His way once in a while. But it is very rarely joy that compels this thought. More often, I tack the phrase "if it is Your will" onto the end of my own desires as an afterthought.

I know that what God has planned is far better than anything I could contrive on my own. I know that His ways are the path of least resistance. But my stubborn heart has trouble relinquishing control. If you know me at all, this probably does not surprise you. I like to be the boss. And I like things done my way and on my time table. So the thought of giving up even just a tiny bit of my jurisdiction (even if it is the Lord, Himself) makes my stomach hurt.

No, it has been my habit to tell the Almighty Creator of the Universe what I want done, when I want it done and how it should be done. And then I just hope His will is to follow mine. Sadly, this is my heart's attitude more than I would like to admit. Even when I do manage to give myself over to His control, it is more an act of giving up than an expression of joy at having the Master at the helm of my life. Don't get me wrong. The God who knows my every struggle appreciates when I finally lay them in His hands. But what a blessing it must be for Him when I live in anticipation of His will and genuine contentment of His ways!

In all honesty, this lyric is somewhat of a mystery to me. I'm not sure I know how to say "Your will, Your way" with authentic joy. But the Holy Spirit has put it on my heart this week. And I am determined to make this my prayer:
Lord, Your plans are greater than anything than I can imagine for myself. Your ways are perfect and Your timing is impeccable. I don't just want to lay myself down. I want to do it with joy. I cannot do this on my own. Please help me to delight in your will for my life.

Listen to "Lay Me Down" by Chris Tomlin here.

Friday, February 01, 2013

5 Ways to Bless Your Missionaries

A few weekends ago, we were invited to participate in the missions conference of the North American Baptist (NAB) conference here in Minnesota. The conference was hosted at Redeemer Baptist in Oakdale, Minnesota on Saturday afternoon and each missionary was assigned to a different conference church to visit on Sunday morning. We joined Minnetrista Baptist in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota.

This one weekend was absolutely one of the most rewarding and uplifting events we've been a part of since we started our Home Ministry Assignment (HMA). So we thought we'd take this opportunity to share some of our insights with other church leaders, pastors and missions committees. Below are five ideas to help you truly bless your missionaries.

5 Ways to Bless Your Missionaries

  1. Be friendly and welcoming. This should go without saying, but you'd be surprised how often this gets overlooked because everyone is so busy getting ready for the day's activities. Not only were we greeted at the door when we arrived to set up, but we were introduced to key church and conference leaders. We were also given directions to important locations in the building like the sanctuary, the fellowship area where lunch was being served and the restrooms. We were also assigned a volunteer who helped us set up and asked no less than 15 times if we needed anything. I wasn't even allowed to wash my own dish after the event because the ladies in the kitchen insisted on taking care of it for me! The key here is to have enough people to provide this kind of attention to each missionary.

  2. Food. Ok, maybe this isn't important to most missionaries. But since it was the highlight of our teenager's weekend, it could not go without mentioning. Each missionary was invited to share a snack at their tables. I made chismol (Honduran salsa) and served it with tortilla chips. Besides getting to try foods from all over the world, this idea works because it starts conversations. I can't stress enough how helpful this was to break the ice with table visitors.

    I should also mention that lunch was provided for the missionaries prior to the start of the conference, which was nice because we hadn't had time to eat. We were also provided lunch on Sunday when the pastor invited us and members of his congregation to a local restaurant. Not only did it save me from having to cook lunch after a long, exhausting weekend, we were able to get to know many members of the church and answer questions about our ministry that would have otherwise gone unanswered.

  3. Provide time for missionaries to get to know one another. We have learned so much from other missionaries we've met at events like this. We love to hear about what God is doing in other parts of the world. It's also good to know that we are not alone in our struggles. Often just being with other missionaries is an encouragement. In this case, we were able to connect with missionaries over lunch and during an extended set-up time.

  4. Provide opportunities for missionaries to get to know you and your congregation. There's nothing more intimidating for a missionary than walking into a church full of complete strangers on Sunday morning. But because we were invited to participate in a monthly game party on Saturday evening, we already knew several people in the congregation of Minnetrista Baptist when we arrived for Sunday services. Even better, they knew us a little better and were naturally more interested in what we had to say. Not only did we have a great time at the party, but we met some interesting and fun people that we're happy to call our new friends!

  5. ATTENTION:  if you don't read any of the other points, YOU MUST READ THIS!

    Let your missionaries be heard.
    Nothing is more frustrating than trying to cram your entire ministry and the heart God has given you into 2-7 minutes during a service. Then you have to spend 15 minutes after the service trying to speak to as many people as possible before they run off to catch the football game. This method is typical for most churches, but it rarely works for the missionary or the church members.

    Minnetrista, on the other hand, allowed us to speak during Sunday School and for most of the service, as well. We took the Sunday School opportunity to share background information, photos and our cultural observations about Honduras. This laid the foundation for a greater understanding of the needs of the Honduran people and why our ministry is so important. Then we shared our personal journey of how God led us to Honduras and more details about the ministry itself during the church service. We were so thrilled by the level of enthusiasm and engagement this format offered.

    The most important impact of allowing us to be heard? When we finally got to tell all the stories we never get to share, we reminded ourselves of all the reasons we love Honduras and our passion for our ministry was rekindled! I know pastors value their very limited time in the pulpit, but if you're going to have a missionary visit you, your congregation and your missionaries will be more blessed if you give them the time they need to really share their hearts. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What do you miss the most?

Every missionary knows and secretly despises this question. We get asked it when we're talking about leaving for the field and we get asked it when we're talking about coming home from the field. And it's the hardest question to answer. Of course, we miss EVERYTHING!

Today, I decided to think about what I missed most about our home in Minnesota while we lived in Honduras so I could be reminded to enjoy those things as long as we're still here. So I made the list below. It's by no means all-inclusive, but captures the little things we tend to most take for granted.

15 Things I Will Enjoy While on Home Ministry Assignment*
  1. Carpet. Every floor in Honduras is either concrete or tile. There's nothing more luxurious than sinking my naked toes into plush carpet or plopping myself down in front of the fireplace or t.v. and spreading out on the soft floor. As long as I have Nick to vacuum, I'm going to enjoy every moment of our carpet.

  2. Dogs. We are naturally terrified of the dogs in Honduras because they roam in packs through the streets growling and stealing scraps of food. And while some missionaries do manage to keep a pet while working there, it would be difficult to do while living at El Sembrador. We can't actually have a dog while we're on HMA, because we don't know how long we'll be here. So I am forced to rely on the animals of our friends, family and neighbors to meet my puppy love needs. Thankfully we reside in the pet building at our apartment complex, which has helped immensely.

  3. Squirrels. We saw only one the whole time we lived in Honduras. Even if it was a really cool squirrel that would come sit on your shoulder or crawl up and down your legs, it just wasn't the same. Nevertheless, some little critters sitting in the tree chattering away and that won't eat your face or inject you with deadly poison is definitely missed.

  4. T.V. Maybe we'll get a t.v. when we return to Honduras, but it does some like an unnecessary extra expense that we could live without. Besides, it won't be the same in Spanish anyway.

  5. Air Conditioning. No explanation required.

  6. Privacy. It's been said that living at El Sembrador is like living in a fish bowl. With constantly open windows, a revolving door of students and staff with needs and tasks to be accomplished, it can really make you really cherish any moment alone. Since I'm home most of the day, I'm really catching up on Kelly-time!

  7. Mexican Food. I do love Honduran food, but it is decidedly different than that of the neighbors to the north. I plan to make as many trips to Pablo's as Steve will tolerate!

  8. Knitting. I did manage to find yarn in Honduras, but it was about as cuddly as Nick is these days. And since I can't stand the idea of scratchy sweaters, I guess I better get my knitting fix while there's plenty of the good stuff available.

  9. Internet. We are blessed at El Sembrador to be able to communicate via e-mail, Facebook and even Skype. But the internet is so slow it makes me want to punch a kitten in frustration. And since that is not very good missionary behavior, I try to take lots of deeps breaths and use surf only when in the best of moods.

  10. Nyquil. Inevitably, someone gets a cold (or malaria). And there is nothing worse than a snotty nose, cough and sweaty sheets when all you want to do is get a good night's sleep. There's plenty of medications to treat such symptoms available in Honduras, but sometimes you just want to be knocked out cold. This winter, I'm going to sleep through my cold!

  11. Smooth roads. Seriously, I sometimes worried that our entire car might actually fall into one of those potholes!

  12. Shorter Church Services. OK, don't get me wrong here. I love that we want to worship the Lord without a timetable for most of the day. But when you don't understand a single word of what's being said, a one-hour time limit is much appreciated. Also, there's only so many times a person can sing the same chorus without secretly wanting it to end. It may not be very reverent or missionary-like, but for now, I'm going to enjoy understanding everything and still having time for lunch with the family.

  13. Ice. We just never seemed to be able to make it fast enough in Honduras. I plan on having at least 6 cubes in every glass for as long as I'm here.

  14. Debit cards. At least out where we are, Honduras is a cash-only economy. And many times store keepers rarely have the money on-hand to provide change, making it difficult to shop with any amount over 50 lempira (about $2.50).

  15. Snow. Just kidding. I'm so over that stuff!

*By far the most important thing a person misses about a place (especially home) is time spent with one's friends and family. I think this is a given, so I did not include this fact in my list. Rest assured, making memories with these special people is a priority I have not forgotten nor taken for granted.