Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Reflections of a Battered Missionary

I am sharing this post today as we near the five-year mark of serving orphaned and abandoned children here in The Philippines.  It feels like a lifetime and yet also seems were were just landing
in the Manila airport, six kids in tow, wide-eyed and idealistic and with no idea what we were actually doing.

These five years have been fraught  with  highs and lows that I do not believe  are accidents.  God has used every joy and every pain to shape me into the image of  His son and I have come so far. And yet, still have so very far to go.

The joys:
Our first Muslim child (without the hat) is an amazing, strong young man

Three boys from very different and very hard places forging a brotherly bond 

A 'family' birthday party to honor one of our faithful caregivers
By far, with no exception, the JOYS of serving street children outside my first culture are the kids themselves.  I have witnessed startling transformations, seen children come to salvation in Christ, reunited some with long, lost relatives who thought they were dead and have handed others over to nervous and excited adoptive parents who prayed for them before they even knew their names.
And those are just a few of the indescribable joys of life serving the fatherless.

The Pains:
I have become more cynical and jaded about people, their motives, their honesty and integrity since moving to this place. "We are NOT in Kansas anymore, Toto" .  For Reals.

And to avoid using this blog as a place of vengence, I will refrain from calling names but, when we were new here, a woman who is older than I and has been in child welfare for much longer than I reached out to mentor me.  I was grateful. She was a sister in the Lord and someone I respected immensely.  I called her with questions about everything from paperwork to how to register our newly-admitted children to public school here. Everything was so new and different.

One day, she called me to meet for coffee. I was relieved. It had been a particularly hard ministry week and I needed that time away.  When I got to the coffee shop,  she looked right into my eyes and asked me  not to "step into her sphere of influence".   I had no idea what she meant and she would not elaborate.   I did not know if she was asking me not to be friends with her staff, not to have contact with her financial supporters, not to go near her husband . . . WHAT??? What had I done? What was she afraid of?   I still do not know. We haven't spoken except via email since then and nothing has been resolved.  She only responded that whatever I had done was "confidential". That's a big fat cop out.
Just a few weeks after that confusing meeting, I received a very strong letter from someone here who is a government official in charge of the work we do. That letter accused me of kicking one of my own adopted sons out of our home and not allowing him to come near us.  The information was UNTRUE and the situation was nothing like it was presented in the note.  But then I remembered. The mentor "friend" who asked me not to step  in her "sphere" (what even IS a "sphere"?) questioned me previously about the struggles we were having with that particular adopted child.
And  I realized what a naive, trusting, wide-eyed ding bat I had been.   And vowed not to let that happen again.
If that experience had been one-of-a-kind, I would probably still be  giving more grace and less suspicion of  folks. 
BUT . . . 
And staff has stolen from us (in small amounts) and had to be fired.  Kids have told lies about us to deflect from their own misdeeds and we have had to defend ourselves unnecessarily.  But none of that holds a candle to the CALLING we have to stay here and serve street boys.

If the enemy wants us out of this country, he's going to have to do better than that.

And in these nearly five years, I have not only been wounded, I'm sure I have been the one doing the wounding.  I am no better than the "friend" with the "sphere" .  I'm wretched in my own ways.

Aren't we all?  

If you said "no, not me", you probably have a "sphere". 

I know. I need to get over that. 

Five years of living outside the USA has given me a more global perspective than I ever had. I realize that the world outside my home country is huge and different. Better in some ways and worse in others.   And that people inside and outside the States all need the same things:  Forgiveness and a relationship with their Creator, a place to  be loved and belong, the security that someone is FOR them, even when they make poor choices and mess up and just to be respected and treated with dignity - whether rich or poor, brilliant or not, productive members of society or dependent ones.

So, five years has been challenging and a blessing with overflow so rich I can not contain it all.  I would not trade it, nor change it.
Even the pains. They have a place.    

I look forward with great expectation to the next five years, lessons to learn, children to bring off the streets, new families forming and, more than all of that, a deeper walk with my Savior as He uses all the joys and all the pains. 

That is Him. 

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