Monday, December 12, 2016

Our Year-End Goal

With full confidence in the Lord's provision, we are hoping to reach our 2016 goal of being 25% funded.  If you feel God calling for you to partner in this ministry to the people of Togo, please consider joining our partner team.  December can be a tough time of year to find extra funds, of course - did you know that ABWE allows you to commit to monthly support (which counts towards our goal) now with an actual support start date begining in January of 2017, or February, or April, or whenever?  God has a great work for his Church in West Africa - a place in desperate need of the gospel: the harvest is ripe!  Some he calls to be goers, and some he calls to be senders, but one thing is certain.  He calls ALL of his children to carry out the Great Commission, in one way or another, in one place or another.  We are so grateful to all of you who remember us in your prayers regularly and lend your support and encouragement of any kind.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Are you bold enough?

I'm currently doing a 31 day Christmas Scripture writing challenge.  Day 3 was too good not to share.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.  The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD--and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.  He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.  He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.  Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
Isaiah 11:1-5

Jesus promised us his Spirit, which means WE can pray for the very things Isaiah promises of the Messiah-- wisdom and understanding, counsel and power, knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  Are you bold enough to ask this of God?  Am I?

Friday, October 28, 2016

How Does Missionary Support Work?

Let's be real.  No one wants to talk about money.  It's awkward and uncomfortable.  But we know you have questions, and that's okay!  We thought it might be helpful to explain things in a blog post in response to some queries about how monthly support works (and why our numbers are as high as they are), especially for those who are used to religious denominations sending out missionaries as employees of the denomination.  First of all, monthly support includes our salary.  All missionaries with ABWE, whether they are surgeons or mechanics, make the same salary.  Our salary is $1560 per month.  For our eight children, we receive $1625 per month plus a $400 monthly educational stipend (homeschooling and online school is pretty pricey!).  Then we have a housing allowance of $650 a month.  We pay a bit under $800 per month in self-employment Social Security.  We pay $825 per month in health insurance, $25 in accident/life/vision insurance, $200 towards a medical expense account, and $243 monthly into a retirement account.  The remainder of our monthly support in the order of $2050 goes directly towards ministry expenses, as missionaries, through their financial partners, contribute to things like the hospital, the radio ministry, and all of the other ministries in the area.  So, as you can see, there's a lot going on, and truly our support partners are not just paying for the Fifes to be on the field, but also paying directly into the actual ministries in Togo, like the Hospital of Hope.  Pretty neat, huh?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A(nother) Big Announcement!

It's the week of big announcements for The Merry Band of Fife!  First we publicly announced that we are blessed to be expecting our eighth baby in April.  As if that isn't big enough, we have another huge announcement - we are stepping out in faith and will become full-time missionaries as of October 1st, 2016!  We noticed a trend as we returned from Candidate class in July.  As much as we were on fire for the Lord in this new capacity of missions, it was just so hard to balance secular jobs, family, and ministry.  We weren't getting as much accomplished as we wanted to - we had grand plans to have multiple face-to-face meetings scheduled beginning in August, but we hadn't had time to schedule a single one.  And so, the Lord made it abundantly clear to James that he was calling us, not this summer, not in a few months, to full-time ministry NOW.  It took me a little bit to process, but now I'm ready to step out with him, hand-in-hand, and we are SO excited to make this next step.  If you would keep us in our prayers as we step into deep waters, relying on His providence and guidance, we would sure appreciate it.  Our God is a great and mighty god!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Tell Me This Person Doesn't Exist?!

Is there such thing as a natural knack for waiting?  I don't know.  Maybe it's like the mythical unicorn.  If there is that person, well, I have yet to meet him or her, that's for sure.  Not only do I not have a natural talent for waiting, I would say that even my carefully cultivated patience skills are still mediocre at best.  And I have an independence problem.  Like that infamous toddler I too often have the mindset that says "I do it myself".  And boy oh boy.  This does NOT work when it comes to being a Pre-Field Missionary.  There is no "doing it yourself".  Raising your own salary and ministry funds for the duration of your missionary career?  Yeah, that's not happening without some SERIOUS God movement.  And I'm good at action (well, provided it doesn't involve phoning people.  I hate actually calling people on the phone so much.  If you are an introvert you understand this perfectly).  But waiting, pas tellement.  So, six weeks into this missionary journey, and yes, the waiting is the hardest test, thus far, that the Lord has put me through.  I see the photos of the folks already there, and I hear the prayer requests detailing the desperate need.  And I have to fight the voice bubbling below the surface that wants to say "Well, God, WE could be there helping.  Don't you want us there?  Didn't you call us there?  Don't we desire a good thing?".  And, on the lowest days, I simply can do little more than pray the prayer of desperation, "Lord, help my unbelief".  And He does.  I mean, of course He does.  I know that, really I do.  But sometimes that head knowledge fails to penetrate this fickle, deceitful heart.  The following Scripture, shared yesterday in our Pre-Field group, is a new one for me, not one that I return to over and over again for strength and patience, but it must might have to become one as we continue on this journey.  I share in hopes that it might speak to your own soul today or tomorrow, or whenever you are weary of this beautiful, vexatious human life.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

There IS an "I" in Missionary, But There Shouldn't Be

We've only been in this entire process, from application to Candidate Seminar to Pre-Field Ministry for six months, but one thing is crystal clear.  There's no I in missionary work.  Literally, none of this happens without a huge supporting and sending structure.  From the big (financial supporters, ABWE infrastructure, prayer warriors, and so on) to the seemingly small (graphic design help, childcare assistance, an encouraging note here on our website or on Facebook), missions work is all about the body of Christ working together.  This week is a special week - we will be placing our order for our very first set of Prayer Cards.  And that couldn't have happened without the generous assistance of our church friend, who not only took beautiful photos, but presented us with a CD full of various photos AND a lovely portrait of us to hang on our wall.  This journey to the field is not just about changing the lives of the people we meet and minister to along the way, but it's just as much about changing OUR hearts.  Every new experience is a stretching and growing in the knowledge of the love of Jesus Christ and a hunger to serve him and the sheep for whom He died.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Most Important Quality in a Wife

I said wife, simply because that's what I am, but I bet my husband would say that it applies to him too.  I'm not a perfect wife, and I don't have a perfect marriage, but in our 18 years together, I think that I have had the privilege of learning a few things as we've weathered the normal ups and downs of "happily ever after".  I don't know if it's just me, but washing dishes is my place of "aha" moments and I had one this week - I truly think that the character trait that the Lord has been gracious to grow and stretch me in that has benefited our marriage most is forgiveness.  Through no merit of my own (I've got a pretty quick trigger temper, combined with an mulish tendency towards stubbornness), I always find my heart softened and open towards my spouse a few short hours after a conflict.  And it's really not dependent upon his actions; it's a desire for inner peace with the Lord and a big dose of empathy - being able to see things through his perspective and understand why he does the things he does, for better or for worse.

One of my favorite parables about forgiveness: Matthew 18:21-35

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy seven times.
"Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
At this the servant fell on his knees before him.  'Be patient with me', he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
"But when the servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.
"His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.'
"But he refused. Instead he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
"Then the master called the servant in, 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart."

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Houston, We Have Recovered

I have a love/hate relationship with camping.  I think it's so, so good for the family and leaves your children with tons of memories to carry them through the years.  I grew up camping A LOT, and while I certainly complained (at times quite vociferously) as a teen, now I look back at those family bonding moments with great fondness.  But here's one secret that no one tells you as a kid: camping as a mom is a whole other ballgame.  It's so much work, from the moment of planning, through preparation, through execution, and then, to add insult to injury, the clean up is epic.  I also am a bit of an overachiever in terms of post-camping clean up, so that doesn't help.  Everything has to be washed, scrubbed, and decontaminated after we arrive back home.  I even wash camping toys, backpacks, and shoes.  It's just a thing for me.  So, the process of recuperating sometimes takes up to a week.  But I think I made a personal best this camping trip - everything was washed and put neatly back away in their respective places by last night.  That includes every pillow, every duvet, every sleeping bag (I've got a LOT of sleeping bags to wash), every towel, every utensil, every.thing.  All loaded into bins and put away on the garage shelves so that my garage floor does not look like an American Ninja Warrior obstacle course.  Life is good.  Or I have a bit of a problem.  Maybe both?  I wouldn't argue with you there... :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Little Preview from our "Dreadful" Night ;P

Oh my, look what a fantastic job our photographer did last night?!  She was so excited to share with us that she messaged me one of the finished photos last night already.  I can't wait to see the rest.  We are so blessed to have brothers and sisters in Christ that invest with their time, TALENT, and treasure in our family and in God's work.

Photo Courtesy of Mrs. A. Bourn

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dreading Today

Well now, that sounds awfully dramatic.  And I'm being a whiny baby, admittedly, but today is family photo day.  Ugh.  I loathe family photo day.  It's so stressful.  Don't get me wrong, I'm beyond appreciative that a lovely sister in Christ has graciously agreed to photograph our family so that we may have a current photo for our Prayer Cards.  But I'm dreading the actual photo-taking process like no other.  I'm not a big fan of photos of myself, period, but factor in trying to deal with having nine people needing to look somewhat presentable and looking in the same direction with some semblance of a smile is enough to make the bravest of parents tremble.  Oh, and how tempted was I to put this off when I checked the weather forecast and saw that it's going to be a balmy 99 degrees at precisely the time we're going to be at our outdoor photo shoot?  And we have to drive 20 minutes in our picture best in our non-air conditioned van for said photo?  All I can wonder is - can you edit out sweat stains?  Here's hoping.

Our last family photo - November 2014.  Trust me, if this wasn't missing a child, it would SO be going on our prayer cards, no matter how long ago it was.  :)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

My Vow For the Next Three Months

I'm not a uber-patriot, by any means, but I am proud of my country.  I tear up during Fourth of July fireworks, Lee Greenwood's Proud to Be an American, and I'm on the edge of my seat cheering on the red, white, and blue's Olympic athletes.  I will most certainly vote in the upcoming election and take my civic duty most seriously.  But something is going to be different for me this year.  I'm not going to talk about it.  I'm really not.  Our politics, which has always been ugly (this is not a new phenomenon at all, and anyone that thinks it is needs to take another look at US political history), is incredibly sordid and sleazy this year.  At several points I've felt the strong urge to take a cleansing bath after reading about the goings-on on both sides of the aisle.  So, right now I make the commitment that I will keep my political preferences private for the next three months.  This is a pretty big departure from my former self - I LOVED politics and prided myself on having fiery opinions.  But no more.  My duty to my country as a voter is my private business, and it's certainly not worth getting in the way of my witness or muddying my ministry.  And so, I will turn to the Lord every day and pray for wisdom and discernment.  This isn't to hold myself up as some shining example.  By no means!  What I am called to by the Lord might not be what you are called to - I wrote this post to hold myself accountable to my promise.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Graeme Stats

Mr. Graeme Paul turned 10 months old on Saturday!  It's hard to believe that in two short months we will have a first birthday to celebrate.  He had his doctor's appointment right before that, and he's following the normal track of our babies - he's doing great physical things, but he's on the small side.  Small but mighty, I guess!  He finally grew a tooth - it's slow in coming in, but it's there.  He has very strong opinions about what he wants and when he wants it.  He loves Daddy, baths, and pointing at stuff.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Growing in Christ

One of the most beautiful things about this missionary journey, outside of the satisfaction of following God's calling, is the opportunity for incredible growth in the lives of both James and I.  It's no coincidence that part of our pre-field training includes a local church internship, and to that end James has been working with one of our pastors and learning how to do hospital chaplain visits.  I'm so proud of him as he's studied and prepared diligently for both of his appointments.  I look forward to seeing the other ways in which he grows through this journey.  I've been seeing a lot of growth in my prayer life.  This has always been an area in which I've struggled.  I've known that my prayer life discipline isn't what it should be for about the last year or two.  And that head knowledge grieved my soul, but I still wasn't following through.  While I'm far from where I know God wants me to be yet, I am improving in the discipline of prayer weekly and, most importantly, the joy of purposeful communication with my Lord.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Back to School Shopping

I LOATHE back to school shopping,  Which is funny in some ways, because I remember it being kind of the highlight of the summer for me when I was a kid.  Mom and I would go to ShopKo, where I would get some super cool duds, like a shirt that said NOT! on it in neon colors.  And then Walmart came into town and I scored a pair of black chunky heel loafers (hello, layaway!) in addition to the practical stuff.  Well, that romanticism has not lingered past the first few years of back-to-school shopping.  Now it's a necessary evil, something I tend to put off until the last few days before school starts, so that I can join the equally grumpy parents bemoaning the lack of colored pencils and glue sticks at Fred Meyer.  The fact that I will have THREE kids in Junior High and High School does not help on the budget - those registration days are expensive!  But school, blessed school, you are worth it.  Routines, quiet days, a baby that can FINALLY nap without being woken up, no one to referee between except for the pets, quiet days, only one tiny human to clean up after, did I mention QUIET DAYS!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Our Very First Partner!

Today calls for a celebration of the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord - we have our very first support partner on this journey.  Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation! Oh my soul praise Him for he is my Rock and Salvation!

Also, both James and I were blessed this morning by our brothers and sisters in Christ - James by being given the opportunity to tag along with one of our pastors on a hospital chaplain visit and share a psalm that he picked after much studying and praying last night, and me by an encouraging email sent by one of our Sending Team and Prayer Partners.  I'm sure she won't mind if I copy it here, as perhaps it will bless someone else as it blessed me today--

Good morning, 

As I read this verse in Hebrews this morning, I thought of you.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21

Praying this for you today!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Grocery Budget Challenge for August

August is a hard month for the budget, a close runner up to December for spending.  August is the month of back-to-school shopping and registering for things - school, ballet, skating, holiday show, and so on.  So, in the spirit of keeping things light-hearted, I'm issuing a grocery budget challenge to myself and anyone else who wants to participate.  My grocery budget for the whole month is $500.  Now, as opposed to some folks, I don't include household items in my grocery budget - strictly food products.  So, there's that.  But still, this is not where our grocery budget generally sits and I will definitely be feeling it.  We already did our first grocery shopping for the month, so we've already burned through $132.99 of our $500 budget.  I'm praying that our garden starts producing more than herbs and jalapenos :)  (it's close - we've got lots of flowers on our squash, cucumber, and zucchini plants and several green tomatoes on our three tomato plants).  Feel free to share your favorite whole-food, inexpensive recipes here if you'd like.  And pray.  Pray for diligence and encouragment for me this month.  Sometimes the menu planning, shopping, and meal prep for a large family can be as daunting as you might imagine - it's easy to lose steam.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Just What's Going On In Togo?

For those who are unfamiliar with how medical missions work, this is a fantastic ABWE video from the older hospital in southern Togo.  The Hospital of Hope in northern Togo is a sort of daughter hospital to HBB.  A team of folks are in Togo right now and working on creating more videos to share with the partners and potential partners back home how very vital their involvement is to the spreading of the Good News.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Our First Presentation as New Missionaries

Yesterday we had the great, great privilege of making our first presentation as newly-minted ABWE missionaries to Togo, West Africa.  We did a brief summary of our experience at Candidate Seminar and our plans going forward at our church's morning service, and then we did a full presentation during the evening service.  It was a blessing to be allowed to report to these good people, and we were humbled and encouraged by their feedback.  We gathered a Sending Team of nine fantastic couples/singles that will help us through this journey of pre-field ministry, and a Prayer Partner list of 44 folks that have committed to regular, dedicated prayer for us.  To God be the glory!
Thank you to Elaine S. for capturing this photo


Friday, July 29, 2016

We're Officially Missionaries!

The tenor of our blog is changing - there will still be newsy family updates, and personal musings, but mostly I'd like this to become a blog about our ministry.  We are officially missionaries now, appointed by ABWE to serve in North Togo.  We are in pre-field right now, which is a ministry focused on raising team partners, spiritually and financially.  The thought of pre-field is daunting, as someone who is so uncomfortable with asking others for assistance.  Thankfully we were given a bible study to complete regarding partner raising for missions work, and it is so helpful to know that asking and allowing others to join with you in God's work is biblical!  I will admit though, knowing that in my heart and expressing it outwardly is two different things.  I pray daily for boldness, and might I make my first prayer request here for courage and endurance during this time of early pre-field ministry?  

Monday, March 14, 2016

When God Says No

The resistance to the word No in response to your desire manifests itself at a very young age, doesn't it?  It's one of the first signs of a toddler's growing independence.  Unfortunately, it's something that you never completely mature out of, even as an adult.  Some times, when God says No, it's fairly easy to understand why - perhaps that financial windfall would have led to a sense of pride, or that A on a test that you didn't study for would encourage your tendency towards procrastination and lack of self-discipline.  But the hardest Nos to hear are when you desire a good thing.  I recently went through a miscarriage that tore my heart up.  As soon as I began to sense that things were not going normally, I fell to my knees in serious prayer - asking God for a miracle, desperately asking that he might allow me to keep the baby that I already loved and wanted.  These fervent prayers and frantic pleas lasted for days.  The utter stillness and quiet tormented me.  Eventually, though, God provided an answer, and that answer was No.  I don't understand why, right now, and my heart still hurts.  But what I do know, and what I hold onto, is to be found in the Word of the Lord.

For I know the plans I have for you, " declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Call

Why us?

We are an average American family.

We send our kids to school.  We participate in extracurricular activities.  We have and enjoy nice things.  We like having the world at our fingertips via the internet.  We like our comfy, beautiful house.  We love living a place where we get to experience the four seasons.  We don't care for extreme temperatures.  We love air-conditioning and fireplaces.  We love to go out to eat.  I love Diet Coke.  I like flashy, outrageous heels.  We have seven kids.  We've developed deep roots in our community and especially in our church.  We have teenagers starting to plan for their future.  We are swiftly approaching our forties.  We have a new baby.

The reasons for not going are so numerous, I could go on for hours.

But none of it matters.  Because God has called us to the mission field.  And no comforts of home and community and family, however wonderful, are more satisfying than following where He leads.

We have begun our application with the ABWE mission board.  This process takes quite a long time, so this is not something that will happen immediately, or even within the next year.  But, if God desires it for us, as we feel surely that he does, it will happen exactly when it is supposed to.  

I've wanted to be a missionary for a long time - in fact in my 8th grade, under "What I Want To Be When I Grow Up" I wrote "A missionary doctor in Africa".  Well, I was a bit off on the doctor part, but I've gotten two thirds of it right.  For James, this hasn't been a lifelong ambition, but the Lord has been working in his heart during the last few years.  He's especially been moved to watch the developments of the mission work in Togo, Africa.  And at the beginning of February, we both approached each other with some trepidation, worrying that the other would think we were crazy or be totally opposed.  Oh, what little faith we had!  Instead God had moved us both in the same direction at exactly the same time!  Where we go and what we end up doing could change, depending upon needs, but right now we are hoping to go to Togo, a country in West Africa.  You could hardly find a place more different than Boise, Idaho. 

At times this feels all like a dream, like how could God be calling puny, unimportant little me to such a work as this.  How I wish I had more skills to help the people - that I were a doctor or a nurse, or something very important.  But I trust in our calling and that God can use even the smallest and the least of his people, and such a one as me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

On the Boat

The older I get the less I'm one for resolutions and the like.  But, I do think there's value in refocusing from time to time, and a squeaky, shiny brand new year seems like a natural fit for that goal.  This is by no means something that originated with me - I heard it last year from someone who read it somewhere years ago.  But I think it's good and, as Solomon says (maybe, I know, I know), there's nothing new under the sun anyways.  Anyhow, to the substance of my point: I want to ask myself, in all decisions I make, big and small - will it get me on the boat?  On the boat is a euphemism for closer to my goal.  The Merry Band of Fife has a very specific, mountain-sized goal in mind (I will share more about that in the future), but the thought process is a good one for more modest goals as well.  I think the Great Deceiver has such an easy time with us, really - we are so very distractible in this modern world, aren't we?  I read somewhere that studies have shown that happiness decreases proportionally with the number of choices that people are offered.  And goodness knows we are bombarded with choices, choices, and more choices.  It's so easy to live in the moment, how could it be otherwise, in the marketing culture we live in, whereby happiness is the great drug and we are always hopping for our next fix of it in the relentlessness of consumerism.  What seems obvious, the purposing of our lives, actually requires constant focus, planning and redirection - for me anyways.  If the answer to the question is "Yes", then it's full steam ahead (you'll have to forgive me with the nautical puns today, I'm feeling shippy - badum, dum, dum).  If the answer is "No", then I ask myself if I need this or if I just want it.  And wanting can be okay, and sometimes I absolutely will do things I just want, but I think it's so important to be more conscious of the ways in which I treat myself (because I'm prone to lingering on the times when I denied myself or comparing myself/my things to someone else).  Accordingly, the first thing I asked myself before deciding whether to restart my blog or not was "Will this get me on the boat?" and the answer is a resounding Yes.  It's important that I open myself up to others more, and writing is an easier way for me to do that right now (I'm working on being more open in person too, but it's going to take a while for this introvert).  Plus, it's just plain old good for the soul, isn't it?