Monday, September 15, 2014

That's Life in Africa!

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 here 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 am Amy Meyers, and I blog at Ita Vita African, which is Latin for "That's life in Africa!" I try to write 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.
  1. Children (how many? Ages?): We have four children, all born in April: Caleb (7), Colin (5), Callie (3), and Carson (2)
  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.
  3. Country of service: South Africa
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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.
  9. 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.)
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Have You Went on the Tour Yet?

When we were first praying about coming here, we had a romanticized view of what our home should be like. We were going to live in a "suffering for Jesus" missionary shack, thinking we could better relate to the people if we lived in a very humble abode. Through some very wise counsel, we changed our views. We were reminded that our family's goal is to stay on the field for a long time, and wherever we live needed to be conducive to that. We needed to be able to make our new house a home.

So instead of boxing God up in our plan of self sacrifice, we stepped back and let Him take the lead. Our home is much different that we originally imagined, and it is more beneficial in ministry, too. (I sure am thankful we let God choose the home!)

You are welcome to take a tour...

In case you didn't see yesterday's post, Baptist Missionary Women is taking you on a tour through the homes of fellow BMW's. Over the next few days, missionary women from all over the world are opening their homes to you to share with you God's blessing of a home on the field. Stop in each day to see the new additions to the blog links. Our home is on there, and we would love you to come visit us.

Proverbs 14:1 "Every wise woman buildeth her house:
but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands."

It's fun seeing how these women have worked so hard to turn the places that God gives them into HOMES that minister to all who enter. (Many of them use their homes all the time for ministry!)

As you look at the homes submitted, praise the Lord for the special touches of hospitality and love that these ladies have given each place... Proverbs 31 being lived out on the field!

Be sure to leave them an encouraging comment on their personal blogs. It isn't easy putting our homes on display for the whole world! Each lady has worked hard to transform their house into a home, and I am sure they would love to hear from you.

So what have you done to make your house a home? How do you use your home for ministering to your own family as well as reaching out to others around you?

I will be back to my regular posting next week.

Charity, Southern Asia

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Missionary House Tours - Come Link Up!

Are you curious what the inside of a missionary's house looks like?  Want to get a "keeping it real" look at how these missionaries live?  Then here is your chance!  Join us for a home tour blog hop here at Baptist Missionary Women!

Missionaries, please link up your house tour below.  Whether you have posted to you blog recently or years ago.  Let's see it!  If you've done it in several blog posts, please share each one separately.

A few ladies don't have a blog, so I'll share their house tours on this post.


Dee and her husband are furlough replacement missionaries.  While filling in for a young family with 4 children in Ireland, here is where they stayed...

And here is their living room while filling for missionaries in Hungary: 
The LaRue Family
Missionaries on Deputation to Chile
Decorated the bedroom. Cheap $3 clearance decals from Target!

Hanging clothes on the line using our trailer awning while in Montana!

My kitchen!
Ironic decal I found and put on my pantry/linen closet door. I love our tiny home on wheels!!

The top bunk bed (and my youngest son with a book).

And here he is, showing off the bunk bed ladder. :)

One of the many views we've had in our trailer!!

My boys hanging out in the dining area :)
Now it's your turn!  Please link up your blog post(s) below.
Be sure to copy the url of your blog post only!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fieldschooling: Seven Subjects for Study

Photo by: imagerymajestic

It's back to school time! Whether you’re on deputation, furlough, or the field, every missionary lady needs to be “fieldschooled.” Fieldschooling can be very entertaining. This is what we're talking about:

Fieldschooling* = learning about your mission field

Here’s how to get educated about your own field of service: 
  1. Read and study the history. We live in Spain, and its history goes back thousands of years. It totally blows my mind! This king marries this princess, swapping lands and titles, and all the rest. After a while, the history of Spain all meshes together in my mind into one huge royal stew. The clear standouts are the queen who traveled around with her husband’s dead body, actually opening the casket from time to time. (No wonder they called her Juana the Crazy!) Then there’s cruel King Felipe II, responsible for much persecution of Christians—in the name of the Church. He also hastened the end of Spain’s Golden Age when he sent the Spanish Armada against England and lost the battle. Also, I think of Carlos the Fifth as “the great destroyer of beautiful things.” (He’s the one who tore down parts of the Alhambra and the mosque of Cordoba in order to put in his own palace and cathedral.) Spain’s new King Felipe is from the long line of Bourbon kings. With all the annexes and wars and changes, we got to where we are today—a fairly stable country with very deep divisions. Learn the history of your country and particularly the region where you live, and you’ll have a better understanding and appreciation of your adopted home.
  2. Study the culture. This can be done informally or formally. Ask questions! Find out the reasons behind fabrics and clothing styles. Find out how to cook native foods just like they do. (Ask a friend if you can hang out in her kitchen at dinnertime, and watch what she does. You’ll learn a lot about achieving authentic flavors this way.) Get out of the house. Go to the market—even if you can’t speak—and observe how people interact, how they buy, how they jump places in line (not that you want to copy). Find out why people shop every day. Find out how they preserve food, grind flour, and make that weird paste you can hardly swallow. Look around you at the way the women dress, walk, and gesture in conversation. Find out the backgrounds of their music, art, and folk dances. (Know if they perform them to honor false gods or saints or if they are only folk traditions.)
  3. Learn about the prevailing religions. As we are in our field to share Truth with our neighbors, we need to do it in a way that they will comprehend. For example, I always start witnessing with an “everyone knows” statement, based on Roman Catholic teachings. There are some things we can very much agree on. “Everyone knows” that the Bible is the Word of God, that Jesus is the Son of God, that Jesus died to pay the price for the sins of the world. Those are universal Roman Catholic beliefs. From there, I can easily share the fact that Christ died for me personally, and then I can share Christ with my friend. When a Catholic hears the phrase “receiving Christ,” he thinks he receives Christ when he eats the wafer in the mass. He has no idea this terminology means a heart decision. We approach people from a Roman Catholic background using terms they clearly understand. It is vital to familiarize yourself with the religious beliefs of your country and know how they’re worded.
  4. Learn about the people’s values. Even atheists have values. In our Basque Country for example, their values include: friendship, sports, good food and drink, competition, traditions, and hard work. Except for drink, we missionaries would do well to get familiar with those same things. When we can speak intelligently about the soccer game the night before, the bike race, or the guy who won the cheese-making contest, we are building a bridge between them and us. When we cultivate loyal friendships, we are showing them we value friendship as they do. When we work alongside our neighbors and church people, they understand that we value work. We earn respect when we share their values.
  5. Learn about the geography and land. I confess geography was never my favorite subject in school. But, it is essential for the missionary to have a very good grasp of the locations of countries, especially in the region where she’s serving. A picture (literally) of the world must be clear in our minds. Unless you’re going to Russia, China, Canada, Brazil, or Australia, most of your countries of service will be much smaller than the U.S.A. You need to know about your neighbors, the continent, the lay of the land, and where there’s water. Get a detailed map of your field country and memorize rivers, oceans, seas, mountain ranges, and cities. Understand the historical and actual influence of bordering countries on your field country.
  6. Study the people. You can’t do this until you get to the field, but it’s important that you begin as soon as you get over jet lag. Make it a continuing study that never gets old. Watch the women. How do they interact with other women? How do they talk (gestures, movements, facial expressions, volume of speech)? What do they talk about? Find out if the men or the women customarily pay for everything in your new home. Who does the business dealings? Find out if the woman or the man leads the typical family. Find out about the prevalence of abuse. Find out about morals. (Even in “amoral” societies, there are concepts of right and wrong.) Ask non-nosy questions. Go shopping with native ladies. Take mental notes as you go. You will be able to identify with other women as you understand what makes them tick. You may not agree with much of what you find. You may even hate (Christianly speaking) the kinds of values you see in almost everyone around you. Remember, most of these ladies don’t yet know your Lord. There is no way they’ll be like you. But, it’s still very important that you understand their ways.
  7. Continue your Bible education. I am constantly surprised how little I know about what the Bible actually says about particular subjects. It's so important to know inside and out the key passages for women. You will use them over and over again as you counsel. They are: 1 Corinthians 7:2-39; Ephesians 5:22-24, 33; Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:3-5; and 1 Peter 3:1-6. Also know about a woman’s role in the church (Mark 16:15; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:11-14; Titus 2:3-5) and about God’s guidelines about women’s dress (Proverbs 31:22, 24; 1 Corinthians 11:5-15; 1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:3-5). Love your Bible! Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts (Jeremiah 15:16). 

Most of all, enjoy your fieldschooling! View your learning as an important adventure and challenge. Love your field and your people. God has lots of blessings in store!

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations . . .
and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
(from Matthew 28:19-20)

*Fieldschooling is a term I made up. You won't find it in the dictionary.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, and the Explosion

I had never used a pressure cooker until I came here.  It's pretty simple, though. I just put the lid on tight, make sure there is a good seal, and then turn on the stove. Pressure builds up in the pot and cooks the food fast at very high temperatures. Every few minutes the pressure cooker releases pressure in a noisy parade of steam. It's a pretty handy little thing! It saves time and cooking gas. Bonus: When there is a tough cut of meat, the pressure cooker can really help make it tender and delicious.

But I must admit, I miss my slow cooker. Just throw everything in the pot, put the lid on, turn it on, and hours later there is a delicious complete meal ready and waiting. The slow cooker sure makes some tender meat, too! But it does is with a lot less noise.


Right now, the heat is on and I am feeling it.

Everyone is screaming for my time and energy.

Monday, September 1, 2014

I Know What to Do! (I Think...)

Last week and the week before, I've been sharing three of our prayer letters from the past, which discuss ethical "dilemmas" missionaries sometimes face. I thought I'd share one last letter from two years ago. To be honest, it's my least favorite. But I hope you enjoy it, and perhaps you will recognize some items on the list that you've experienced yourself. I am interested to know if other missionaries have faced these same issues in their countries of service.

Last year about this time, I sent a list of ethical dilemmas that missionaries might face. Here’s a new slate of challenges. Of course, some of you will think the answers are obvious: last year two different people responded saying that one of the ethical tensions was obvious—unfortunately, they both gave the opposite answer. So, I’d like to ask again that you pray for us to be filled with the skill of thinking correctly in each situation.

1.     Should Christians tithe regardless of their financial circumstances?
If one of your church members lived in a one-room, corrugated iron shack away from his wife and child, and then one day got a $12 piece job, should he tithe on that amount? Give offerings? If he asked you what he should do, (remember he has a little girl and a wife to take care of as well), what Scripture would you counsel him with? Do you tell him to take care of his family because otherwise he has “denied the faith” according to 1 Timothy, or do you tell him to put money in the offering?

2.     Should you teach new converts how to vote?
There are more than a dozen political parties in this country, and very few of them (I know of only two) are pro-life. The most popular ones are socialistic or communistic. Should you spend valuable teaching and instructing time on politics, or stick with the Gospel and issues around sanctification?

3.     Should you pray for unconverted people in their presence?
We’re sitting at the Baloyi home for our weekly Bible study, and it is especially nice to have the father of the home there with us since he was back from work. What prayer requests do the believers have? The 16-year old daughter asks for public prayer for her father’s conversion. Is that unduly embarrassing or is that a good demonstration of evangelistic love?

4.     Should you church discipline or otherwise dismiss church members who are nearly permanently absent because of work?
We haven’t seen the four men on our membership role in months. One of them hasn’t been to a service in two years. They are all away because of work, but they tell me on the phone that there are no churches near them that teach the Gospel. How can I watch for their souls and keep them accountable; and if we can’t do that, in what sense are they members of this body?

5.     Should you give Bibles to people who can’t afford them?
Can’t afford them? What does that mean? It seems like everyone has money for satellite TV and cold drink (Coke). Should I just charge the list price, discount it, or give it free? And if you say, “Discount it. That’s the best of all options.” Then, how much?

6.     Should you use slang in formal settings if that is what communicates?
We’re trying to add enduring traditions to the worldview of those to whom we minister. Sunday afternoons, I am teaching about character, and the women’s Bible study is doing something similar. So, shouldn’t we use the strongest, purest Tsonga rather than the blend of English, Zulu slang that all the young kids are using from TV. But if they don’t know the old, classic Tsonga words should we just use the slang since they understand it? Knowat I’m sayin?

7.     Should you sing nominally Christian songs at a funeral?
Though a majority of people in my village claim to be Christian, I have learned that forms of syncretism are equally prevalent. So when at a funeral I hear the familiar song about Jesus which has as its complete lyrics “There is no one like you; we support ourselves by you,” should I join in to show solidarity or should I remain quiet because even Muslims could sing that song?

8.     Should I take parental oversight of believers who do not have parents or at least do not have Christian parents?
Most of the young people in our church do not have dads at home or have never known their fathers. Should I take the initiative to insert myself into their lives to guide them in ways that a father would? Or, should I teach father-like counsel from the pulpit? Does a dad’s counsel always have to a Scripture verse, or can I sometimes just give good advice about life? For example, “You should work really hard to learn English now, so that you will be able to get a job in the future.”

9.     Should you give new Christians jobs in church right away or wait until they prove faithful?
They’ve given their testimony and are prepared to be baptized. Now, should I find a place for them to serve, or is that being foolishly hasty?

10.  Should missionaries restrain the size of their family so that missions dollars can be used to send more families with less children?
This is probably the most controversial issue, and most people would probably leave it to the missionary. Maybe they’re right. But maybe not. Furlough, saving for college, insurance, and the rest can be very expensive. Should the churches just offer a fixed amount, or may the missionary raise more support if he can’t keep the same standard of living with 4 (or 6 or 8) that he had with 2? And what about all the missionaries running on the treadmill of deputation?

Having worked through these issues, I have a position on most of them. But it’s profitable for God’s people to think clearly in applying Scripture to life, so I hope this letter will serve to that end. Your comments and advice are always welcome. Please continue to pray for us and our church. 

Some of these are personal and perhaps a bit touchy. I'm not trying to start debates or endless questions. Instead I hoped to foster a familial spirit as you perhaps will recognize questions that you and your families have mulled over during a meal and wondered if other people felt the same!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Just Be Strong? No, Thank You!

We have all heard it. A tough time comes along, and well-meaning people give counsel. They want to see us succeed. They don't want us to give up. But then come the words...

"You just gotta be strong!"

And another popular one...

"God will never put on you more than you can handle."

Really? Where is that in the Bible?