Friday, July 26, 2013

Missionary Retreat Fellowship

Some time back in the '60's, a missionary family told a sympathetic couple that coming on furlough was so difficult because they had no place to live.  Coming back to the USA entailed renting a house for a year and begging, borrowing, or buying furniture and furnishings, all of which then had to be gotten rid of when the year was up.  Through this conversation, God gave them the vision of a place where missionaries could live with a minimal amount of set-up hassle.  They could move in with their suitcase of clothes, settle in to a comfortable home, be renewed and refreshed, and then move out at the end of their furlough (or home assignment as we now call it), head back to the field, and another missionary would move into their house.  A local farmer donated several hundred acres of wooded land on a hillside in the Poconos and Missionary Retreat Fellowship was born.

Today MRF has seven homes available for missionaries to use while on home assignment.  Each one is tastefully decorated with furniture, linens, and kitchen equipment.  Nestled in the woods, it is a true place of rest.

We spent an awful lot of time on the road this home assignment, but when we were "home", this is where we were.  We are so thankful to Bob and Bess Butters for having the vision of MRF, to Forrest Compton for donating the land and continuing to be involved in upkeep, to Don and Gail Schuit who manage the grounds, and to Brian and Lisa Biegert who do maintenance, housekeeping, and fund-raising, and most of all to God for creating such a beautiful spot on the earth and for working through His people.  It's a great place to stay and I'll let the pictures speak for themselves!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tourists in Lancaster County

Where we normally live, I am certainly not a true insider, but I'm not a tourist, either.  I have a certain understanding of the culture and what is acceptable and what isn't.  Often we chuckle over clueless and very obvious tourists.

So, when we spent a night in Lancaster County, one of the things I most wanted to see was the Amish way of living.  Of course, I knew I was going to look like one of those clueless tourists who stick out like a sore thumb.  

Relaxing at our B&B
We stayed overnight at Walnut Lawn Bed & Breakfast near Lampeter, PA.  A friend had given us a very generous gift to "spend on yourselves", so we decided on a night at a Bed & Breakfast. While "shopping" on line for a B&B, this one attracted me because the rooms looked fairly simple and tastefully decorated (I don't like a lot of flowery stuff and clutter).  The clincher was that the proprietors had served in the Peace Corps after their retirement so we figured we'd have world travel in common.  They were a delightful couple, the breakfast was spectacular, and we had a very restful night.  They routinely say grace at the breakfast which is served family style.

When we walked into our room I couldn't figure out where the bathroom was.  But it was there, hidden behind the large doors.  Originally the house had a large cistern system and the cistern was hidden behind these doors.

The view from the parking lot of the miniature golf place
We arrived Sunday afternoon.  After settling into our room we went out to play miniature golf.  It was definitely the best course we played, with 23 holes, most of them very challenging.  It went down through the woods and followed a man-made stream that had waterfalls, etc.  The only drawback was that there was a rain forest effect down there with the heat and the humidity coming from the streams and then the trees closing in all of that humidity.  From there we went to a sandwich place and had a light supper.

The next morning after our amazing breakfast, complete with shoofly pie for dessert, we went out to be tourists.  We found a place where we could get a ride in an Amish buggy.  Our "guide" was an Amish man who does not own the tour company, but is hired by them.  

He took us to his brother's place where they run a wood-working business.  
It was Monday and wash day
Farm land is so expensive in Lancaster County that many Amish can't afford to farm, but operate home-based businesses as well as having gardens, a milking cow, etc. He was very funny and joking with us all the time.  I kind of thought the buggy was manufactured just for tourists, but he said it had been a school "bus".  

After that we went to the Amish Village, which was advertised as a "working Amish farm".  Ha! Ha!  I guess it had been a farm, but there it was between Target and CiCi's Pizza.  
A typical Amish sitting room  set up for Sabbath worship.  Notice the lights...kind of takes away from the authenticity of it!
Still, it was quite informative though I would rather have gone to a real farm....  
No time is wasted spent making a friend.  Stitched during the 9th year of my life and I hated every minute of it.

This time of artwork is allowed...a hand stitched family tree
We also ate at a smorgasboard (Dienner's Country Restaurant) that was very good.  It was a smaller family-run business, but had been recommended to us by both our B&B hosts and the Amish tour guide.

From there we went to a model of the Tabernacle run by the Mennonite Information Center.  I wouldn't say we learned much from it, but we were both amazed by the size of the tabernacle when it was set up.  It's pretty incredible that it could be that big, yet taken down and carried from place to place. We weren't allowed to take pictures of the model itself.

Our B&B hosts told us that if we had said something to them they could have arranged for us to eat with an Amish family.  Oh well, next time.  We ended our day by driving through the countryside on our way back to the main highway and home.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What Does a Missionary on Home Assignment Do, Anyway?

What a missionary does on home assignment (aka furlough) differs from missionary to missionary, of course.  It also depends on the length of time they are home.  But one thing they don't do is sit around doing nothing!

Here are some of the things we've done this home assignment.

Attended Suzanne's graduation from Cedarville University.

Spoke at 12 different churches.

Visited our mission headquarters in Charlotte and had three very busy days of interviews and taking care of business.

Traveled over 14,000 miles by car and plane.

Slept in at least 16 different beds.

Spent time with family.

Created a prayer card.

Addressed envelopes to send out prayer cards and wrote personal notes to all of our supporters (over 200 envelopes addressed).

Had doctor and dentist appointments.

Bought some supplies to take back to Niger and packed them (John is amazing.  He's done all the packing this time!  Last time I ended up doing it all.)

Relaxed on our back deck.

Attended a wedding.

Watched fireworks.

Got to stay at a bed & breakfast and tour Amish country (thanks to the generosity of a friend!).

Enjoyed everything being so green.

It's been a great home assignment, but three months is just to short to fully relax and enjoy anything.  Two weeks from now we'll be back in Niger and it will feel good to get back into a routine!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Catching My Attention

R*m*dan started this week, so my mind has been on that and many of the links I'm posting here have to do with Isl*m.  

Marilyn, over at CommunicatingAcrossBoundariesBlog, has written an article on engaging with or rejecting our M*sl*m neighbors.  No matter what you think about the religion, get to know M*sl*ms personally.  Just to whet your appetite, Marilyn writes:  Engaging with people over their beliefs does not mean we are watering down our own. How did many of us come to believe that relationships, friendships and listening mean that we are being false to that which we believe? That which we hold precious? So the month of R*m*dan comes around and we have a chance to live out what we want others to live at Christmas. We want others to say“Merry Christmas” – so to your M*slim friends you might say “R*m*dan Kareem” or “R*m*dan Mubarak”. Or better still, ask them – ask them what to say. Ask them what R*m*dan means and what traditions accompany this time of fasting. And ask yourself the question: Will you engage during Ramadan or reject?

A pastor we know in Niger has shared that what won him to Christ was the love of a family while he was in the US who got to know him, loved him, and showed their love for each other and for Jesus in front of him.

 Christianity Today, in the June 2013 issue wrote this:
85% -- M*sl*m converts who cited "the love of Christians" as a major factor that drew them to Christianity.
60% -- Those who said this was the "exclusive factor".
30% -- Those who sited "disappointment with Isl*m" as a major factor.
25% -- Those who cited "dreams and visions" as a major factor.
Please see also BiblicalMissiology for the full article from which CT derived these statistics.

30DaysofPrayer offers a great booklet for helping you pray for M*sl*ms during the month of R*m*dan.  You can either download a booklet or check the website every day.  They also have a facebook page.

And speaking of Niger....
This series of blogs is written by a doctoral student doing research on women with fistula.  I highly recommend that you read every one of her entries at Sai Hankuri.

Samaritan's Purse also works in Niger and is raising funds to help a village, not only with food for the present, but also in providing clean water, teaching them better farming methods, and giving them the means to grow gardens for the dry months.  Don't miss this video and I hope many of you will contribute to this!