A while ago, I shared a list of questions to ask missionaries; and in fact, I’ve even made up a questionnaire to ask other missionary women over at Baptist Missionary Women, but then I realized that I’ve never taken the time to answer them myself. So here are my answers to that questionnaire.
I try to blog on missions, whether generally or more specific to our field here in the rural villages of South Africa (like prayer letters or what a typical Sunday looks like for us) on Mondays, which I call Missional Monday. (I explain why I used the term “missional” here.) I have a not-so-updated categorized list of my favorite posts on missions called Missions Musings.
- Children (how many? Ages?): We have four children, all born in April: Caleb (7), Colin (5), Callie (3), and Carson (2)
- Do you homeschool? Name your favorite curriculum that you use (whether just one subject, or an all-in-one): I use a mix of curriculum and lean classical in my philosophy of education, but probably my favorite curriculum specifically is The Story of the World (a 4-volume set on world history written in an engaging manner for grades 1-8), and more generally My Father’s World (more of an all-in-one scheduling history, science, Bible, art, and music), which utilizes Story of the World for some of its history assignments. I have researched quite a bit on homeschooling philosophies as well as reviewed several different curricula choices and am sharing that on my blog as well. Here is what we are using this year.
- Country of service: South Africa
- How long have you been there? My husband came single in June 2004, and I joined him after our marriage in 2005; I arrived in September.
- What do you do there? We are pioneering ministry amongst the Tsonga people, so after getting our feet wet and deciding where to live, we started a church called Elim Baptist Church. We also started a little Bible college called Limpopo Bible Institute and have graduated nine men, many of whom are pastoring in Zimbabwe currently. At this point, we have no students, however.
- Are you learning a language? How is it going? Are you discouraged? Yes, we minister in Xitsonga. We are not yet fluent, but other people consider us so. We can speak fairly well conversationally and translate lessons and sermons into Tsonga. Seth’s accent is much better than mine. In the beginning it was highly discouraging to learn Tsonga, but now we are encouraged. We actually began learning another tribal language at first, Xivenda, which I have lost quite a bit of, but Seth still uses at times.
- Success: Have you had any encouragement in ministry recently? Can you tell me two or three things that have encouraged you? Today, a young man in our church chose to follow Christ instead of living in immorality. This is a huge struggle for our young people, and therefore, a wonderful victory for his faith. Another encouragement is that our teammates (who do the same work as us in another village down the road) are having their opening service for their new church building this coming Sunday. We are also in a building project, and so it is encouraging to see their work come to completion!
- Challenges: What is your greatest challenge in ministry? What other difficulties wear you down? Probably the greatest challenge here is the African traditional worldview, which is so opposed to Christianity in general, and specifically to propositional thinking. It takes a long time to teach how to follow the logical steps of Biblical teachings, and further to integrate those truths into their lives and thoughts. Sometimes it seems that everything else (but specifically, their culture) trumps Christianity—and that that is how it will always be. The blindness and darkness of the culture is a drain that sucks our energy and will. The prosperity gospel and charismatic theology is also a huge challenge here.
- How is your life similar to life in America? South Africa is the richest African country, so there are several cities around the country that would look fairly American to an American visitor. In the cities you can go to grocery stores and buy products to cook almost all of the American recipes you desire (although you will have to cook more from scratch :)), and you can get technological items such as cameras or iPads (though they will be more expensive here). So we eat American foods most of the time, and although our data is limited, we now can even get wifi through cell phone technology. You might be really surprised to find not one, but two!, KFC’s in our own little village! (Since we moved here in 2006, they have built two strip malls in our village, which has become a hub for most of the villages around.)
- What are some special benefits you or your family experience from where you’re ministering? (or from being missionaries) We pay less for electricity because we live in the village, and until we had to purchase our well, our water was free from the municipality. (Of course, that’s also why we eventually had to buy the well, because the municipal water was highly undependable.) My point is that it’s cheaper to live in the village than to live in a city. In general missionary children, in spite of the many difficulties they face, grow up with a broader view and knowledge of the world than if they’d stayed in America. We have all learned so much about the world and people, about the Gospel, and our own sinfulness, from being missionaries.
- What are some positives and negatives of your culture (that you’re ministering to)? Positives: freedom of religion, a general respect for whites (they view us as more educated and able in general), an enjoyment of children, generally friendly and hospitable; they know how to survive on little. Negatives: We have learned that culture is rooted in religion. African traditional religion has nothing to offer a culture. It is permeated with lying, fear and superstition, jealousy, immorality, drunkenness, greed, and laziness of body and mind. Christianity has had almost 2,000 years to change Western culture, but only 100-200 years or even fewer to affect sub-Saharan Africa. It will take much time and prayer to change their culture and worldviews to reflect Christianity instead of a stronghold of Satan.
- What sins might a missionary be especially tempted with that another Christian in the U.S. might not? This is actually a theme I’d like to cover in more depth soon, but here is a list of sins that missionaries are tempted with especially that my husband and I have come up with: laziness, bitterness, pride, discouragement, foolish planning, inconsideration, and being doctrinally superficial. And the longer I am here, I feel I must add cynicism to the list as well. Being here has brought to light so many personal secret sins that I didn’t fully realize before: anger and selfishness are two examples.
- What books have you been reading? Do you have any book recommendations? I would like to review more of my favorites on my blog, but haven’t found the time. I’ve got about 6 books reviews over there, including a couple of children’s books. This year I read a novel that was really a biography of John Calvin (Betrayal), which was interesting and spiritually helpful. (I did review that one.) My best book from this year is The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit by Matthew Henry. I’m blogging my way through that on Thursdays. For homeschooling, the most helpful books I’ve read thus far, which I recommend to all newbies, are The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy (which walks you through the different educational philosophies, and then helps you match up your personal philosophy with great curricula that share that philosophy.) My favorite missionary biography so far (so moving!) is The Apostle by John Pollock (on Paul). If you like Christian fantasy such as The Chronicles of Narnia (which is incredible, unbeatable, by the way), I’d recommend a kinda new series for you called The Binding of the Blade by L.B. Graham. There are 5 books in the series, and they are hard to put down once you hit book 3.
- How can we pray for your people or culture in a general way? Pray that they would be willing and enabled by Christ to stand alone against their culture when needed and to persevere in the faith.
- How can we pray for your family specifically? That we also would persevere in our love and service to the people here. That Seth and I would be encouraged in our work and in the Lord. That our children would be converted and would find joy and friendship in one another, since they have no close Christian possibilities for friendship here. That we would know how to help our missionary kids handle the pressures of their lives in another culture—when to push them to reach out of themselves more, and when to understand and be gentle with them.