Learning from Behind

written on March 16, 2017   

A few minutes ago I told myself that I feel like the biggest failure.  I’m not keeping up with anything.  And no, that is not a perfectionist being hard on herself.  That is an honest assessment of the current situation.  Shall we take a look?

  • House – kitchen and visiting area aren’t bad, but the bedroom and bathroom are a disorganized mess.
  • Clothes – I haven’t washed clothes for five days, and they are piling up, which isn’t good when you wash them by hand. If I don’t do laundry soon, it will end up being an all-day project.
  • Writing – If I don’t write at least twice a week, there is no way I’ll be able to send out prayer letters and post on the blog while in the city.
  • Archiving language notes and photos – despite trying to keep up, these pile up fast, and my organization system needs to be improved somehow.
  • Bible study – Right now, I have a few items on the go in this category – reading Exodus, memorizing Ephesians, studying and practicing prayer, studying Job, and a study of revival. Some of these are actually occurring on a daily basis, while others are hit-and-miss, and others are on hold.  It would be easy to spend half of the seven hours devoted to ACL in Bible study instead, and still feel the need to learn more.

All the above categories are important, and shouldn’t be neglected.  But there are times, like today, when the heat saps my energy or a migraine makes movement and thought challenging.  So instead of cleaning or organizing or writing or studying, I end up lying on the cool floor and thinking about the above list instead of working on it.  Followed by the subsequent admission that I truly am not keeping up with all of these things, the question comes to mind, “But are you learning?”  And the answer is yes!  Every week, phrases are rolling off my tongue with a bit less stumble, even increasing ever-so-slightly in their length and grammatical complexity.  Words by the dozen are being added to my memory.  Sometimes the tones even come out right!  In more and more situations, I am learning how to act and respond, and feeling very at home with my Neno friends.

Another diagnostic question – is your love for the Neno people growing?  Yes!  Both in affection for them as individuals, and as an increasing desire for them to truly know God and have His Word in their language.

And perhaps the most important question of all – Do they see Jesus love in you?

Based on the laughter we share, their continued willingness to teach me, the older lady who invites me to swim in the creek with her, children eating crackers, dancing, and playing Uno in my kitchen, I dare to hope that the answer to that is yes.

And the fact is, I’m not here to be a good housekeeper.  If that were my ambition, I should have stayed back in Lewis County where there more conveniences for housekeepers, such as refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, vacuum cleaners, and Wal-Marts.  And where mold doesn’t grow in unexpected places in about five minutes.

So, while I’m certainly going to keep trying to organize my time and house and life better, perhaps, all things considered, it’s not the end of the world to stay behind.

His Mercy Endureth Forever

A post from the past.  This was written in November of 2012, in Lowville.  

Stress and sorrow keep me awake hours past bedtime.  The dawn of a new day, commonly associated with hope, brings with it only a sickening remembrance of reality.  In church one Sunday morning, I sense the need for conscious, intentional decision to cast my cares on God and praise Him for who He is.  So I go forward during the pastoral prayer, kneeling at the altar to pray and cry out to God.

As the tears fall like steady rain, a little hand pulls a tissue out of the box and places it gently in my hand.  And mercy floods my aching heart, not lifting the burden, yet somehow making it easier to bear.

“Do you need another one?” she asks matter-of-factly.  Saying “No, thank you,” I pull A_ close, arm around her slippery hot pink winter coat, my heart warmed by her kindness and her presence.  And His mercy endureth forever…

Two minutes later, one of my brothers joins me at the altar, summoned by A_.  He told me afterwards that he wouldn’t have gone to pray at the altar, but since A_ commanded him to, acquiescing seemed like a better option than dealing with the major fuss that would be guaranteed if he refused.  A_’s fusses had been experienced during church services on numerous occasions, and sometimes it was better just to avoid them.

This brother and I share concerns and personal needs, catch a quick glimpse into each other’s hearts, pray, share community.  And His mercy endureth forever…

Mercy washes over me…unexpected, undeserved, and unsolicited.  It is the Lord’s faithful mercy – the kind that endureth forever.

And what a wonderful manner of demonstrating mercy!  You see, A_ isn’t simply one of the typical little girls in our church.  She isn’t just one of my many friends there who are under ten years old.

If love can be measured by hands outstretched to people in need, by spending oneself to serve, by anger over injustice, by longsuffering in tough situations, then this little girl is one of the children I love best in all the world.  Many a time I have poured out my heart in fervent prayer for this child and members of her family, that God would bring restoration, healing, righteousness, truth, and His perfect love to their lives.  Many a tear I have cried over the pain and heartache A_ has already faced, and the continuing challenges that they cause for her present and future.  Yet God’s mercy endureth forever…

In the past, my heart has agonized for this little friend, burdened with deep concern for her safety and wellbeing.  God gave me the wonderful opportunity to be part of her life, to pour His love into her.  I started doing this out of love for Jesus and almost immediately grew to love this precious girl, who, despite her challenging behavior, also has endearing qualities, many talents, and intelligence.

Despite all the time, energy and love given to this child, I expected nothing in return.  All I wanted was for her to be blessed and protected by the Lord’s mercy, her footsteps guarded by Him who loves the neglected and oppressed.  Yet today, God surprised me by showing His enduring mercy to me through this little friend.

Mercy given.  Mercy received.  Mercy poured through channels of mere humanity.  None of this happens because of us or who we are, but all because of Him whose mercy endureth forever.

From the Mouths of Little Friends


Here in Brasil, when someone sneezes, the polite thing to say to them is “Saude!”, which is the word for health.

When you think about it, that makes a lot more sense than our English, “Bless you!” It is, of course, perfectly appropriate to desire and pray for God’s blessing on each other at any time, because we need His blessing constantly, whether we are sick or healthy, rich or poor, happy or grieving.  Yet I always thought it was a bit strange to automatically wish blessing on someone when they sneeze, because a cold or other sickness is no indication of a lack of God’s blessings.

The “bless you” custom actually originated in the Dark Ages, when people blamed sneezing and sickness on evil spirit.  According to this superstition, the sick person really did need God’s blessing in a deeper way than normal.  As we now know, bacteria and viruses, not spirits, cause sickness.  When someone sneezes, they probably are lacking a bit in the health department (unless they inhaled pepper or looked right at the sun, of course).  So wishing health for them in that moment, as Brasilians do, is quite logical.

However, in the mind of a Brasilian three-year-old, it may not really make sense, as I learned from Isadora.

During a bout with a major cold, Isadora was clearly not her normal optimistic, happy-go-lucky, energetic self.  Moping around the house, she sneezed loudly.

I said, “Saude!” (Health!)

To which Isadora replied dejectedly, looking up at me with her stuffy little nose and swollen red eyes, “It’s not health.  It’s sickness.”


Another day, Isadora informed me, “The butterfly died a little bit.”  After thinking for about two seconds, she changed the diagnosis to, “No, it died a LOT!”


The day before field conference started, I was taking care of a friend’s 3-year-old and 11-month-old, trying to tire them out on the soccer field.  We were “racing” to the goal, and since the 11-month-old was already tired, and held up her arms so sweetly, wanting to be held, I ended up running with her on my hip.

After the 3-year-old, Elisa, won the race, I told her, “You run really fast!  Who taught you how to run so fast?”

“My mommy and daddy,” she replied.

“That’s great.  So who runs faster – your mommy or your daddy?”

Without missing a beat, Elisa said, “Jesus runs faster.”

Where There is No Bible

During the 18 months of training with the missions agency of which I am now a member, one of our class assignments was to write an article about Bible translation to share with our church families back home.  I decided to write an English version, of course, as well as the required Portuguese article, so it could be printed and shared both in Lowville and Itapecerica.  If you read this two years ago, please read it again anyway, check out the websites mentioned, and ask God to challenge your heart afresh regarding this topic.  I need to post about Bible translation again soon, because now some of the “statistics” mentioned in the article are my dear Neno friends, neighbors, and language helpers.  Although they long for God’s Word in their own language, they don’t have it yet.  Seeing this spiritual famine on a daily basis has brought me to tears many times and stirred my heart more profoundly than words could ever express. 

Have you ever tried to imagine what our Christian life would be if we didn’t have the Bible in English?  Even if we had somehow heard the Gospel and believed in Jesus, would we be able to follow Him without the complete Word of God?  How could we seek wisdom for daily life, witness to the lost, clarify our doubts about God’s will, or seek His comfort in the midst of difficult circumstances?    Jesus emphasized the importance of Scripture in Luke 4:4 – “As it is written, Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

We are blessed to have the Bible in our language.  But not everyone has this blessing.  Although there are currently 2,195 translation projects in progress, according to statistics published in 2014 by Wycliffe Bible Translators, there are still approximately 1,860 languages with no Scripture and a definite need.  The process of Bible translation is long and challenging, requiring great dedication and investment of resources over a period of decades.

During our recent class in Bible Translation, I have become quite excited about this subject, spending extra time in research, as well as praying for unreached people groups, and for God to send more people to translate His Word.  If He gives me the opportunity, it would be tremendous to be involved in translating the Bible for a Brasilian tribe, either directly or in a support role.  Translation is an overwhelming task which would be impossible without God’s help, but He uses ordinary people as part of His great plan to reach all peoples, nations and languages with the Good News of Jesus.

May I extend the challenge to you as well?  Ask the Lord to show you how you can get involved in Bible translation.  Perhaps you could research and choose one specific language or people group as a personal prayer focus.  Maybe you can support a Bible translation project.  Or could it be that God wants to give you the incredible opportunity of actually going to an unreached people group?  A couple excellent websites are www.wycliffe.org/resources/ and http://usa.ntm.org/about   Let’s each get informed and do all that we possibly can to take His Word to the ends of the earth!