Monday, April 17, 2017

Life in a Foreign Country - Everyday Living

We had many people ask us during our Home Ministry Assignment (formerly known as furlough) what it's like to live in a foreign country. So I thought I'd mention a couple ways life is different for us here. Next time, I'll address another aspect of life in a foreign country.

Despite the fact that we live in an extremely modern city, there are certain conveniences and luxuries that we missionaries can certainly take for granted. Take something so simple as doing laundry, for example. Most Mexican homes do not have laundry rooms--indeed, many don't even have dryers. Washing machines are kept in a "service room" outside of the home, but typically with some kind of covering over the exposed area. Clothes are line-dried, for the most part. For us to have not only a washing machine and a dryer is a huge luxury (and a real blessing, particularly during the months of rainy season, from roughly May through October or November).

We're in the process of setting up an area for laundry on the roof of our home. Troy's been working on a platform for the washer and dryer in one of the two small rooms that had formerly been used as the maid's quarters. Once it's finished, we'll hire movers to "fly" both machines up to that room (NOT a job I'd want). This morning, he moved my clotheslines from the back yard to the roof. Surprisingly, I actually have more line room up there than in our longish, yet narrow yard. The added benefit is that it's open to all the breeze, and gets far more direct sunlight, which should enable the clothes to dry in significantly less time (the dryer is only used during rainy season, and once it's hooked up, I'll tumble dry all of our ling-hung clothes for about 10 minutes to soften them up). This was really the best solution to our dilemma of what to do with the machines during rainy season, as they are currently exposed to the elements (I do keep a tarp or cover over them when not in use, we don't keep them plugged in at all times, and they are currently on platforms, which keep them out of the water when it rains). The only negative thing to keeping laundry upstairs is my intense fear of heights, and our lovely spiral staircase to the roof. The solution, of course, is for Troy and the kids to carry laundry up and down the stairs for me, so that I can have both hands free to hold onto the railing. During the summer months and on weekends, when they're home during the day, the kids will be responsible for the laundry. But for now, it's mama's job.

However, laundry isn't the only thing different about life in Mexico City. Due to the extreme levels of smog (and particularly during the winter and early spring's dry season), only the newest cars are allowed to "circulate" every day. For those of us who aren't blessed with a brand new vehicle, our cars must be parked one day each weekday, and two weekends a month (and for even older cars, it's more often, but I can't remember the exact break-down). Inconvenient, to be sure. Especially on those Saturdays you're not allowed to circulate. For us, our weekday off is Monday. So, every Monday, we march across the street from our house to the taxi stand, and hire two taxis to get the kids to school and Troy to work. He accompanies two of the kids in one taxi, and I accompany the other two in another. Then, once the kids have been let out at the school, we take one of the taxis back toward our house, Troy disembarking 3/4 of the way home, where it's close enough for him to walk to work. The blessing of this is that it's enabled me to have much practice time conversing in Spanish with my drivers. As I'm not one to just sit in silence (as much as some of them probably wish otherwise), I've struck up conversations in my limited (and sometimes very messed up) Spanish, making myself speak, mistakes and all. It's been very good for me! We try our best to make sure all errands are run ahead of no-circulation days, and make sure we have plenty of cash on hand for taxis if the need arises. Most of the time, the weekends at home are welcome times of rest where we've been able to get work done at the house. As inconvenient as it is not to be able to circulate every day, I remind myself that there are literally millions of people in the city who don't even own a car at all. They must always rely on public transportation or taxis to get them where they need to be. And as we learned first hand in Costa Rica, where we spent a year without a car, trying to run errands without one is a huge annoyance (particularly doing a big shop--which is why many people without a car only shop for a day or two at a time).

Despite the differences, however, we are thrilled to be back in the city we love, ministering to (and working with) the people we love. It truly is a beautiful city, full of interesting things to do and see.

Monday, January 23, 2017

My First Day at MEFI

Today's post is written by our oldest daughter, Tayler, about her experience visiting the drop-in-center for homeless street youth, MEFI. The 11th and 12th grade classes go once a month and spend the day ministering to the "chavos" there. Here, in her own words, is what happened on her first visit to MEFI.

Since I am a junior this year, I get to go with the juniors and seniors once a month to MEFI—the drop-in center for homeless youth my mom partners with. So today was the day we went to MEFI.

After a couple prayers, we set off in a large twelve passenger van. We went to a store to get some supplies we would need to make brunch. Then we went to MEFI.

We were greeted by a couple of the chavos, as they are called in MEFI. Then for the next hour and a half, we helped with various tasks and talked to some of the chavos. There were ten in total that came today, one girl and nine guys.

Brunch came, and after first serving the youth, we got plates and ate with them. Today we had scrambled eggs with pieces of hotdog, fruit, juice, corn tortillas, and some bread. Some of the chavos had coffee.

After brunch, we went upstairs for devotions. My Math teacher went with us and he did the devotions. He talked about Joshua and that we have to choose today whom we will serve, God or not God.

After the prayer, we walked to a park. Most of the guys—chavos and my classmates alike— played soccer. The remaining guys played basketball with all of us girls. Then after that we played some simple games for children, but as the chavos really loved playing those kind of games, we kept on playing.

Finally, it was time for us to leave. We went in the van and drove back to the missionary school we came from. All in all it was a good day and very humbling.

At first I was nervous because it was my first time going to MEFI. I vaguely knew what to expect, and I didn’t know the chavos. But as the day wore on, I felt more at ease. As the day continued, I began to treat them like they were one of us. I didn’t treat them like they were bad people, cause they aren’t, they are just kids about my age or a little older, who have gone through far different things than I have.

While my Spanish is not the best, I tried to have conversations, doing my best to talk to them. I played games like tic tac toe with the chavos, ate a meal with them, and had conversation around the table. We laughed together and had fun.

Even though they’ve had bad experiences, we still have one thing in common: we’re just young people who want to have fun, to feel at home, and to feel like we belong.

I am glad of my experience with MEFI and I eagerly await for the next time I get to see and have fun with the chavos again.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Do We Truly Love God's Word?

Last night, Troy had the privilege of leading the devotional at Olde Towne Community Church in Ridgeland. In it, he asked us if we truly love God's Word. We honor His Word. We revere His Word. But do we love it? He showed a video clip of Christians from a closed country who were receiving Bibles for the first time. In the video, they fell upon a box like kids on Christmas morning, delighted squeals filling the air. One by one, we saw them hug their Bibles. Reverently carees the pages. Even kiss the Bibles. A hush filled the room as they were overcome with joy. Tears streaming down her face, one woman thanked those who had provided the Bibles.

Are we that joyful about God's Word?

I have multiple Bibles filling space on a shelf in our living room. I even have a few Bible apps on my devices. There are no laws in the country prohibiting the ownership of these Bibles. No one threatening me with jail for reading them. But I confess, I do not share the exhuberant joy these brothers and sisters had for their precious Bibles.

The inspired Word of God, held in their hands.

Watching the video last night was both poignant and convicting.

As missionaries, we've had occasion to receive care packages from family and friends. There have been times when other missionaries or visiting familiy members brought goodies to the field from home. We get so excited about these treasures. Understandably! Nobody would fault us for this.

But the problem, for me, lies with this thought: I get more excited about a new package of brown sugar or some scented candles than I do about the privilege of reading God's Word.


Clearly the Lord has some work to do with me yet.

How about you, friend?

You honor His Word, yes. But do you really love it?

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Faith is a Verb

If you had asked me whether or not I believed myself to be a person of faith, I would've said yes. Most emphatically and without any hesitation whatsoever. God has been showing me, however, that I'm not where I need to be with regard to faith. Many of you are unaware that we've been without a regular salary since the end of May. In fact, just this month we received a partial salary, the first in four months.

When we left the field the first part of June, our account had suddenly fallen into deficit. A large deficit. And, given our particular missionary status, we did not qualify to receive a reduced portion of our salary each month while our account remained in deficit, as career missionaries do. You can imagine the panic this threw us both in. Immediately, I started calculating the barest amount of money we'd need to survive on each month...and how we could earn it.

Did you note that last part? How we could earn it. God was trying to teach us a lesson in faith, how to blindly trust in Him for our every need. But I, in my stubbornness, continued to want to do things my way.

We thought we were doing well when, through a couple means, we were able to scrape together enough money to get through the summer. It also helped that we were staying with family, at OMS headquarters, and in a camp meeting where all of our expenses and physical needs were met. I have to admit that I continued to stress and plan and conspire. I cried upon the Lord, constantly asking Him to provide. But I still clung to my own stubbornness.

At the end of July, He even gave us a demonstration of what He wanted to do for us. During a random encounter at a grocery store, we ran into a couple we hadn't seen since before we left for Costa Rica. After spending a few minutes catching up, they handed us a check. Later, they called to say they had another check for us, doubling the total amount given! None of this was our own doing. Even the timing had God's hand upon it--we'd been delayed in reaching the store by dead battery on our car. If we'd arrived at the store when we'd planned to, we would've completely missed this encounter.

I'm sorry to say this was not enough to convince me that He was our ultimate provider. Throughout August and September, I continued to stress about the finances. Never mind the fact that our needs were met. Never mind that we had plenty of food to eat, gas for the car, and bills that were paid. Never mind that He kept providing opportunities to earn a little income--this is not something we've actively sought out during the last several months--or helped us find ways to stretch what we had. I still persisted in doing things my way.

Then, the beginning of October, I calculated what we'd need to live on for the month, calculating in extra things just in case. When the OMS prayer group met that first Friday, I asked them to pray that God would supply that amount ASAP. But I'm ashamed to say I didn't have much confidence that He'd actually do it. After all He'd done to prove to me He is faithful, I continued to doubt. That same Friday, on a whim, I checked our bank balance and discovered that a deposit had been made into our account that day.

It was for the full amount I'd calculated we'd an extra $40.

I sat there and cried, completely overcome. Immediately, I confessed my doubt and turned it over to God. He had finally broken through my stubbornness and shown me that faith is not an adjective, not a noun. It is a verb, something that requires action. I have to put aside my doubt and fears and make the decision to trust in Him. To rely solely, completely upon Him. Even when circumstances are hard and seem impossible. Especially then. A huge burden rolled off my shoulders and I felt free in the knowledge that our finances were not mine to control. They are God's responsibility, not ours. Yes, He asks us to be good stewards of that which He provides, but that's the key--He provides. Not me. Not Troy.

Then, not two weeks later, we received notification that we'd been cleared to receive a partial salary for the next pay cycle. The amount? Double what we'd needed the month before. Before I could even think about the next month, God had already provided.

I can't tell you where our next check will come from and when. But God knows. And He's more than proven Himself capable of providing for our family's needs. All He asks of us is that we make the conscious decision--every day--to trust in Him.

If you told me earlier this year that this is something we would be facing, I would've freaked out. But now, despite the uncertainty that still remains, I can honestly say that I'm thankful for this hard thing in our lives. Because it was only by going through it that I was finally able to learn that faith is a verb.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Time Flies -- The End of Our First Term

It's hard to believe we have less than 24 hours left of our first term here in Mexico City. There are a wide range of emotions we're experiencing, but mainly I'm (Jenny) just numb at the moment. I'm sure it will sink on as we're sitting on the plane tomorrow, or as we're saying perhaps one of the hardest "see ya laters" we've yet had to say tomorrow morning.

It's amazing to think how close you can really get to people you practically live with for two years. We've joked over the last months that we've been like ostriches--but as much as we'd prefer it otherwise, time really does march on. We as a family have been so blessed that God chose to unite our family and the Forsythes during our year in language school and then our first year on the field. Of course, this is not to say that we don't love the rest of our field family, only that we haven't spent as much time with them. We are all so thankful for Skype and in knowing that we'll see them again next summer (we are praying that we'll be funded by July 1, 2015. However, if this is not the case, we intend to come back at least for the big OMS Mexico 25th anniversary celebration next July).

Tonight, also for some reason, I've been thinking a lot about what my parents told me about my first return to the US from Burundi when I was 2. We'd arrived in Africa in time for my 1st birthday, so we'd only been away for a little over a year. But when kids are that little, they have a hard time remembering what life was like before. After living in Africa for a year, I'd had very little interaction with other Caucasians (aside from my parents, grandparents, and other missionaries or foreigners on the field). I can't even imagine how terrifying arriving in the US must have been--that sea of white faces and a landscape I was not at all familiar with. I've heard the story many times, how upon arriving at the airport, I was so overwhelmed with culture shock that when I spotted an African-American police officer, I walked right up to him and put my arms up for him to pick me up. His skin color represented home to me. I know our kids are a bit more culturally experienced than that, but I do wonder how things will be different for them going back. I know it's only been two years, but we've been warned to expect some changes--reverse culture shock.

As difficult and painful as it is to leave this country we've only just started to really feel a part of, we are very much looking forward to our time in the US. We're excited about the opportunity to share with many of you just what God did for and through us in Mexico. About the ministries and people that have so burdened our hearts. And about why we can't wait to get back. We're also looking forward to some time spent with both families during these initial weeks back. These visits will be a chance to reconnect with our extended families while recharging our batteries at the same time. Once the middle of July arrives, our schedule will pick up and we'll be "hitting the ground running" with regard to fund-raising. In the coming weeks, I'll be sure to update the blog with our schedule as it stands so that y'all know how to be praying.

In the meantime, please pray with us for the following:

(1) For our goodbye with the Forsythes tomorrow morning. Pray especially for Matthew and Susie as they adjust to having our kids away. Also, pray for the emotional ups and downs for everyone. Goodbyes are never easy--even when you know they are only for a period of time.

(2) For traveling mercies and that all of our 9 pieces of checked baggage will arrive together.

(3) For the transitions our family will be making over the next months as we travel from place to place and then again as we settle into a temporary home in North Carolina in August.

Thank you so much for your continued prayers for our family!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


The word 'home' brings many things to mind. Family. Friends. A physical place. A sense of being. Certain smells. Certain sounds. A country. All of these things combined make a home.

With very little, it is fairly easy for me to feel at "home". Anywhere my family is, in fact, is home to me. Our house in Jackson was home. But so was our house in Costa Rica, and our house here in Mexico City. It's strange to me, especially considering that in another two months, we will once again be homeless. We'll be leaving this home we've lived in since October and returning to the States.....but where? We've never owned a house, so we have no physical residence waiting for us back in the States.

As we've not been on the mission field for decades like other we know, the United States is still home for me. It's where our extended family members live. It's where many of our closest friends live, where our supporters live. It's where all of us were born and raised, where we have roots.

And yet...

Mexico is home too, in a way neither of us can describe. I can remember the very first time we visited Mexico after we were married. Immediately after stepping off the plane, we both felt this overwhelming sensation that we were home. How could this be, when we'd never been there before? Perhaps it's because we were visiting Troy's parents. Or perhaps it's because all of the people we met were very friendly. But I believe it's because this is where God has chosen to send us as missionaries. He's given us this gift of feeling at home to make the transition that much easier. And to make sure we don't get too comfortable back where everything is familiar and "easy".

We only have two short months left in Mexico before our first term is over. There is tremendous sadness in this. We know we'll be leaving friends and ministries we've begun. Leaving behind people--missionaries and Mexican friends alike--who have become family to you over the months you've worked together is painful. We rejoice that we'll be returning to many of them soon. But we also know that there are some who may be called onto other places or other ministries.

At the same time, there is excitement in returning to our home country. Having the opportunity to see family, friends, and supporters. Visiting favorite places again. Easing back into English and American culture. It's very strange to think how a person can be so completely torn--sad to leave one home, yet excited to return to another.

Maybe as missionaries, this is the way it always is--especially for newer missionaries. Perhaps the longer you've been on the field, the more your country of service feels like home and your birth country feels foreign. But for now, we have two homes: our home country of birth, and Mexico--the beautiful place that tugs on our hearts like no other.

Please pray for us in the coming months as we wrap up ministries here and prepare to say our temporary goodbyes. Please pray that the transition back to the States will be smooth for everyone. Above all, please pray for our children in this process. Troy and I are ever conscious that we are the ones with the calling, not them. They have a calling of sorts, yes, but it's not the same. We thank you for joining with us in prayer.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

God's Strength is Sufficient

Today, the missionary team was invited to join one of the church planting teams as they did door-to-door evangelism in a neighboring community we're trying to saturate with the Gospel. When I say "invited", we really didn't have a choice. And at first, I was absolutely terrified at the idea. I mean, street evangelism in English is not my strong suit (I must prefer the less uncomfortable method of friendship evangelism). Throw in Spanish, and it really did feel impossible.

For two straight days, I was in a panic about this. Finally, it was agreed that I would be permitted to simply share my testimony in Spanish, something I've done, and my partners would make the actual Gospel presentation. I did feel better about this, but I was still pretty nervous. After all, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

Our group of Mexican church planters and missionaries met together for prayer and then relocated to the area we would be working in. Before we left, our field director's wife, Helen, handed me a devotional and encouraged me to read today's passage.

I stood there, tears streaming down my face. It is from "Jesus Calling" (by Sarah Young), a devotional book with a daily reading from the Bible, yet from the perspective of Jesus speaking to us. Here's the reading:

"Walk by faith, not by sight. As you take steps of faith, depending on Me, I will show you how much I can do for you. If you live your life too safely, you will never know the thrill of seeing Me work through you. When I gave you My Spirit, I empowered you to live beyond your natural ability and strength. (Emphasis mine.) That's why it is so wrong to measure your energy level against the challenges ahead of you. The issue is not your strength but Mine, which is limitless. By walking close to Me, you can accomplish My purposes in My strength. (2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 5:25)"

Was that not the most perfect reading for today?

I was partnered with Diana and Margaret, and we had the opportunity to talk to five women. Three of the women listened to everything we said and were interested in hearing more (we wrote down their contact information). The first woman we talked to had recently experienced a house fire and was in the middle of the cleanup process. She took a little booklet of the Gospel of John with Margaret's telephone number on the back. The fifth woman, however, was a very strong Jehovah's Witness and was not interested in anything we had to say. Indeed, after about 10 minutes of back and forth discussion (which Diana and Margaret handled superbly), we ended up leaving.

Between all of us, there were 5 decisions for Christ and over 10 new contacts made---quite a blessing from God and an answered prayer for open hearts. Despite the fact that I completely forgot everything I'd planned to say in my testimony, I did share with two of the ladies. God really helped me by taking away the fear. Yes, I was still nervous, but even that went away after awhile.

This is not something I ever would've volunteered to do on my own. Only because it was part of my job did I even have this experience. And if I hadn't, I would've missed out on the tremendous blessing I received by stepping out in faith and leaving my comfort zone.

What might God be calling you to do that is outside of your comfort zone? How might he want to use you in a situation where you are forced to rely not on your own strength but His?