I picked my Twitter handle @tchlrn_ak over 6 years ago to acknowledge that teaching as a profession (and life as a whole) isn’t just about teaching, it better be more about learning. And for me, that is mostly going to be in Alaska. Well, this #widowteacher is on her way home from Bolivia right now, and this blog has now come to the intersection of faith and profession, of Christianity and public schools, and of vocation and calling. Come, jump in the van, and take that turn with me.
The Missions team in Cochabamba
The Bible is very clear about the role of missions in a Christian’s practice:
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:18-19 NLT
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:10-11 NIV
A Christian really can’t argue this one. Christianity spread in the Middle East as hundreds of Christ’s original followers obeyed that command; it spread throughout Europe and Africa and Asia and the Americas for the same reason. It continues to spread, and will continue to the ends of the Earth.
If you had told me a year ago (in the midst of our cancer) that I’d be serving Jesus in the Andes Mountains con mis hermanos en Cristo, I would have said you are smoking crack. If you’d told me two years ago before the Big C made itself known in my husband, I would have nodded and replied, “You know, that would be cool someday. Maybe when I retire.”
No, how about over Spring Break, just nine months into widowhood. God’s ways are not ours, indeed.
El Cristo de la Concordia, overlooking Cochabamba, Bolivia
For the four of you who have followed my blogging since the beginning, you know I like the “Next 3” list. It helps to focus one’s direction, so here are my Next 3 for missions:
1. Keep learning Spanish/reactivate French.
2. Find out how to $$ support Punto de Gracia in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and set up a regular contribution.
3. (Broad) Parent my children to the point where we can take a family mission trip by Summer 2022.
1. Keep learning Spanish/reactivate French. In January, I started using Duolingo. I got sick at the end of March and fell away from it, but even just those three months gave me a much better shot at communicating in Bolivia. And by the end of the week, I was looking to use what little I did know whenever I could. I’m sure I sound like a two-year-old with a funky speech pattern, but I can keep learning. Plus, I honestly think if this trip had been to a French-speaking country, the *8* years of classroom French would have come back.
Even if it is childish speech, I know that speaking Spanish and French opens up so many countries and ministry possibilities.
2. Find out how to $$ support Punto de Gracia in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and set up a regular contribution. Dropping my American self into the poor city of Cochabamba put a lot of things I know about world economics into perspective. Granted, it doesn’t take much to see how blessed I am to live where I do and with the resources I have. Somehow, there is a way to support my Bolivian church in an accountable manner that doesn’t ruffle any international feathers. I’m going to figure that out. (Si, mi iglasia boliviana. Seems I am collecting churches because I have one in Seattle, too, plus my home church and the church of my youth.)
3. Parent my children to the point where we can take a family mission trip by Summer 2022. Jesus meets us where we are to give us what we need. While I thought He would meet me in my widowhood (He has, but…), He meets me more as a mom. My children already love Jesus, and my teen is already active in ministry, but it doesn’t end there. It can’t. There is so much more I know (and don’t know) to do to parent them to God’s glory. So I am going to do that and part of that will be to serve Jesus together on mission by Summer 2022.
It would be reckless to roll back in to Alaska and announce we are doing that NOW, and I spend enough time in Proverbs to know what happens to fools. (Parenting deserves its own “Next 3” but I’m not up for that, somewhere over the Caribbean Sea. But I am reading “Raising Kingdom Kids” by Tony Evans and finishing that book would be on that Next 3 list.)
In a longer story I may someday share, on Monday, April 29th, I was asked to take some time to see if God had something to tell me. The reasons I even have a “Next 3-Missions Edition” is because it turns out, God did have a few things to tell me:
The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. Proverbs 29:7 NIV
Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire. Proverbs 29:17 NIV
So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:11 NIV
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3 NIV
Take up your cross and follow me. – Jesus, from Matthew 10
A week before the trip, I could finally verbalize at least one reason why I think God ordained this mission trip for me, or me for the trip: to trade the sorrow of grief for the joy of serving Him. Becoming a widow in one’s 40s isn’t in any wife’s plan. But God is so faithful when we put our trust in Him, and my joy in the Lord IS my strength. I return from Bolivia as happier than I have been for a while, not because the trip was beautifully amazing but because God is beautifully amazing. I return with a clearer understanding of who Jesus is and why we serve Him: If you love me, feed my sheep. John 21:17
10,000 ft in the Andes
Con mi vida quiero adorar
Todo lo que tengo y lo que soy
Todo lo que he sido te lo doy
Que mi vida sea para ti
Como un perfume a tus pies