Ca va?

Ca va? How’s it going? It is the common French greeting here in Mali. My favorite is when I’m also asked how my family goes? Ma famille va tres bien.

I want to touch base again on language learning. Did you catch on my last blog that the couple is taking 4 hours of French 5 days a week? 20 hours of straight language class. The second family I’m with are doing the same thing. One is learning French and one is learning Bambara, the common native spoken language.

Those who are in language learning will take lessons and tests until they are proficient enough to speak it well. This can take 5 or 6 months! It is hard for adults to learn a new language. Add this language learning dynamic to adjusting to a new culture, making all new friends, being away from family and not being able to work your new role for the first half of the first year you were hired. How would you fare? Would you keep the faith? Persevere? Quit?

In 2 Thessalonians 1 it says, “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.”

That verse is my reminder to proudly share the lives and work of these friends I’m with here. I am thankful for these people who don’t give up and persevere to further God’s kingdom in whatever role God has called them. They know the hardships, like learning a new language, they are enduring in the beginning have a blessing coming.

And now I ask you to pray for our fellow believers living and working in Mali and around the world. Remember them daily. And ask yourself what are you enduring to further the gospel and bring glory to God?

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A Day in the Life

On this trip I will be spending time with four different families. I thought I’d post a little bit from each on what a day, or part of a day, in their life is like. Each of them will be different due to where they live here, family sizes, time in country.  Many people do not have an idea of what an ordinary day in a passport country looks like. They either have a grandiose idea of a glamorous life led in an exotic culture or they believe it’s a life of hardship without modern conveniences or luxury. Honestly a lot of it is similar to your life in America. It is not glamorous but it is certainly far from a boring, no frills lifestyle. Some things are the same but require a different or lengthier process. There are modern conveniences and technology. They have friends to visit and see. They build friendships with the local townspeople.

I’ve been staying with the first family, a couple, who have been here less than a year. This is their life. In the morning they have French lessons for four hours Monday thru Friday. They have been doing this almost 5 months! They have homework every evening as well. In the afternoons the husband does the work he has been assigned to do here. He also manages relationships with the house guard who is here in the evenings.

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His wife has a new house helper whom she has to communicate with through French and some of the local language. Trying to explain to her the tasks for the day can be quite challenging. House helpers are the norm here as culture demands. While the house help does many chores, the time it takes to communicate, teach and monitor the work can sometimes be quite exhaustive.

Yesterday we walked several blocks to purchase fruits and vegetables at a couple of local outdoor stalls. She also purchased bread nearby. We had to stop many times to greet those who were sitting outside as is the custom here. Fruits and vegetables have to be washed in a solution to sanitize them before being eaten. American stomachs cannot eat these without that cleaning. Some items like lettuce have to soak for 30 minutes to be fully cleaned for consumption. (Now I know some of you wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly at home so this is not new to you.) Bread is French loaf style and fresh and must be eaten within a day or two because there are no preservatives.  Meat must be thoroughly cooked. Water is filtered and water bottles filled daily.

That is just a small picture of their daily life. Tomorrow I move on to stay with another family who have 2 small children. I will write about their lives in a few days.

It’s a GO

Our visas for Mali arrived a couple of weeks ago. Airline tickets have been purchased! Supplies are being acquired. And the best news – SIX, yes, SIX, missionary families will be personally visited by our team of 2 in the time we are there! This is what encourages my heart! To see God multiply the number of those we can visit and encourage is confirmation of His calling in this ministry.

I recently attended a wholistic missions conference where I had several prayers answered over the course of those few days. I met someone who experienced the growing pains of a new ministry. She answered my questions so graciously and was empathetic to the process of founding and leading a mission ministry. I made some contacts on the fund raising front who I can receive training and guidance from moving forward. One of the big prayers for this ministry, as for many, is funding. The trips cost money obviously both for the travel expenses and the supplies we take with us. To have regular donors sending in support will ensure the ability to plan future trips as well as take this ministry to the next level of having staff and a regular team of people to go on visits. Another prayer has been social media and visibility of Encouragement Expeditions. I learned some helpful tips and hope that over the course of the next few months to implement some new ideas, including this blog becoming more of a blog within a functioning website.

Thank you to those who support us! Please continue to pray for our upcoming Mali trip, those we will be ministering to while there and the future of the ministry! I was reminded in something I read yesterday that God planned this ministry and it is all His. I’m just along for the ride to be used by Him!

Seamail

I like to call my emails to other continents “seamail.” I cannot imagine trying to plan a trip across the sea in the days before email.  I know it was a phone call which is easy but it was constrained by time zones, schedules and costs. I’m pretty sure there have been at least 30 emails back and forth in the last month alone to coordinate schedules for the upcoming visit to Africa in June. There is an 8 hour time difference. My day starts when their day is ending. My day ends when their day is starting.  With email it feels like there is no time difference as we message back and forth. We don’t have to coordinate a time to talk. I’m so thankful for this mode of communication.

Our schedule is set for June’s trip. Now we wait for our visas to be issued. I cannot post the exact dates and details due to safety precautions both for my team and those I’m visiting. Your prayers are coveted for the visa approvals and safety for all. Pray for safety on a regular basis for those missionaries and others around the world who live in areas hostile to God’s Word in way that we can’t comprehend here in the US. Pray for courage and confidence in their daily lives! Pray for my team that we go with peaceful hearts and that our families at home feel the same.

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes

I often feel like people lose interest and excitement for the work of the ministry in the “quiet” months when there is not an encouragement trip taking place. The trips are the highlight, the outward result, of several months of work behind the scenes.

The process to plan a trip requires constant communication with the missionaries to coordinate dates, arrival and departure logistics, supply needs and pre-trip funding. Often a visa is required to visit these countries so that application process, including a fee, takes place as soon as dates are confirmed. There are also airline tickets and insurance to purchase. And supplies to buy and pack.

The other equally important work going on is raising support funds in order to make the trip possible. These trips are planned in faith that God will provide the funds for each expense occurred before and during the trip. I don’t plan a personal vacation without funds. But I plan these trips without the funds because I trust God will provide them through those people who’ve been called to financially partner with Encouragement Expeditions.

These silent partners are the “senders.” One recently told me that she supports this ministry financially because she is not called to go but she has been blessed financially to send. She’s obediently using the resources she has to be a part of God’s work through this ministry. She then becomes a “goer” through me as I visit missionaries. She’s there with me in spirit because of her financial support. Every person who financially supports Encouragement Expeditions blesses and encourages me so deeply!

Now you know what’s happening right now, this month and the next couple of months, as I prepare a trip for Mali, Africa in June. There are 2 other ladies going with me on this trip. I’m excited we will be able to bless several missionaries while there!  We need your involvement! Pray for the plans being made and the expenses involved. Plane fares were high last time I checked so we are praying specifically for those to be significantly lower when it’s time to purchase. And we would love to have your financial partnership to make this trip possible. There is a donation link above that takes you straight to our non-profit support organization. You receive the tax credit for your donation. You can give one time or set up easy monthly installments.

Thank you for supporting this ministry through prayer and donations. YOU are encouraging missionaries around the world through us!

Praying for Missionaries

I’ve been wanting to tell you that a great way to support Encouragement Expeditions is to pray for the missionaries serving around the world. Prayer is a vital component to encouraging missionaries that we can all do! I found a great article on how to pray for missionaries.

Repost from Chuck Lawless blog

Our guest post today is from Will, a cross-cultural worker who trains leaders in another part of the world. He writes from his experience, so I encourage you to hear him.

Most believers realize that missionaries need prayer. Their disconnect comes in knowing how to pray for them. The sad reality is that this lack of knowledge means many churches simply say: “God bless the missionaries.” This prayer method is certainly not bad, but it is far from the best. So how can churches pray more effectively for missionaries?

  1. Get to know us, and pray for our ministry. The best remedy for this problem is to get to know “real live” missionaries and ask us how you can be praying for us. Most of us compose a regular prayer newsletter that outlines specific and strategic prayer needs, so ask your pastors to connect you with one of us.
  2. Pray for our people. Missionaries carry the enormous burden each day that their target people group would come to know Christ. Living in isolated places, often disconnected from the outside world or even other believers, we face doubts that slowly creep in: Does anyone else care if these people accept Christ? Is anyone else even praying for them? If you want to pray for a missionary, ask about our people – and then pray for them.
  3. Pray for our physical health. Mission leaders often send people to “hard places” with little clean water and no adequate medical facilities. Moreover, the markets where food is purchased or the restaurants where food is prepared are often unsanitary. Pollution can be so bad that our lungs look like smoker’s lungs. Pray for us to stay healthy so we continue to faithfully proclaim God’s Word.
  4. Pray for our spiritual health. Similarly, some missionaries live in places that are spiritually hard, wrestling in a battle against “this present darkness” (Eph 6:12). Since we are putting ourselves in spiritually dark locations, our walk with the Lord is critical. Pray for us to pursue holiness each day. Pray we would have other believers – perhaps even some from our target group – who would encourage us and challenge us to stay faithful.
  5. Pray for our marriages. Paul teaches that marriage is a picture of the gospel (Eph 5:31) and that a healthy marriage is critical to ministry effectiveness (1 Tim 3:2-5). In some parts of the world, though, missionaries who cannot live in the same location as their target people must travel long periods of time to gain access to them. Such travel can strain a marriage. Language study and cultural adjustments also affect marriages. Pray that both husband and wife would share a sense of purpose and fulfillment in their missionary calling.
  6. Pray for our families. Issues like whether our children adjust well to a new cultural setting, have a stable schooling environment, or develop local friendships can affect the health and happiness of the family. At the same time, many missionaries struggle to support and care for aging parents from a distance. Pray for wisdom as we lead our families.
  7. Pray for our ability to communicate. One of the primary markers of long-term effectiveness on the field is the ability to communicate well in the target language. Language learning is certainly a challenge for those new to the field, but maintaining and improving language ability can also be challenging. Pray that we would love our target language and would choose to be life-long learners.
  8. Pray for us to have boldness. In Ephesians 6:20 Paul asked this church to pray that “words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.” Missionaries sometimes fear that sharing too openly could draw the attention of authorities, lead to persecution, or cause a loss of visa. Like Paul, we need the Spirit to embolden us to faithfully share the Word with the lost around us. Pray we will have this boldness.
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Cameroon – January 2016

Welcome to the Encouragement Expeditions blog! I should have had this up and running before my first expedition to Cameroon earlier this month. Since I did not, I will post what I wrote in my monthly email newsletter.

The number one question I have gotten since returning is, “How did it go?” It went fantastic! Next question, “What did you do while there?” In other words, “How were you an encouragement to the family?” First of all, I could hardly wait to unload the two bags of supplies and goodies that I took with me. I felt like Santa Claus and loved the smiles that came with each gift received!

0115160639cI spent time with the kids helping with school work, making crafts, playing games and feeding chickens. I heard some funny jokes. I watched kids play hard outside and enjoy sibling friendships. I played board games with the entire family – learning that a certain boy in the family is the master at winning. Together we all watched Home Alone 2 and quoted the movie the rest of the week – even when it was just me and Mark and Jess playing games alone at night.

In addition to helping prepare meals daily, I helped Jess prepare meals to freeze for after the new baby arrives. We reorganized the freezer. I sewed curtains for the guest bath and kitchen. And I worked alongside a budding seamstress as she sewed curtains for her room. She and I had quite the laugh about the not so straight fabric from Nigeria. I cleaned and organized the school craft closet. I went for walks with Jess.  Evenings were spent with Jess and Mark talking, laughing and a lot of time just listening. I prayed for each of them daily for the things they need or are facing.

I met their pastor, John. He came to visit that Sunday evening. He shared stories about his family, local legends and a mutual love of horses. Best of all, we prayed for each other. To know that I could be an encouragement to him just by visiting the Spanglers was a blessing bonus for me!

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I had to return to the capitol, Yaounde, two days before leaving Cameroon. I was a little (a lot) bummed to leave the family a couple of days early. But God had a great plan for those days. I had the opportunity to have meals with and meet a number of missionaries living and serving there in the city. I also attended church with them that Sunday morning. I sincerely hope that my short time and conversations with each of the couples and families that I met was an encouragement to them as well. I’m certainly praying for each of them and the requests they shared with me.

Words cannot express how thankful I am for God’s calling to this ministry and for the support I’ve had from my family and friends. Thank you so much for believing in God’s work through me! One trip down and so many more to come!

Notable highlights:

  • Flight from Brussels to Yaounde – Cameroonians are some boisterous travelers!
  • Dirt in Cameroon is a rust orange color. Reminded me of my Texas Longhorns!
  • Poinsettias grow like trees! Beautiful!
  • You don’t need a microwave, tv or processed food.
  • You do need locally grown, fresh roasted coffee every day.
  • Flying in a helicopter and a Cessna are really cool ways to travel.

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Where to Next?

That is a good question! Several possibilities, West Africa and China, are being prayed over now for early summer. There will hopefully be one or two other team members with me on the next trip as well. Please pray for where the Lord is leading next. And let me know if you know a missionary in the field who could use an encouragement visit!

Future encouragement visits to missionaries in the field are made possible through your financial support. Be an integral part of bringing encouragement to missionaries around the world by supporting the ministry with an ongoing monthly donation. Thank you.