Translating the Gospel for an Unreached People Group We Don't Normally Think About – Americans!

I’ve always been very interested in missions. While I was in college, I went to Mexico as a summer missionary and worked with a team that used puppet shows and clown skits to share the Gospel with Mexican children. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned so much about myself and saw the unselfishness of some of the poorest people in Mexico City, which put me to shame. I came back a changed person. No matter what has happened to us, even homelessness and doing without things that everyone around us considers necessities, nothing has ever seemed so bad to me because of what I saw when I was in Mexico. I know how well we have it in America, compared to most of the rest of the world, and I know how spoiled most Americans are. I also know how unappreciative most of us are of the blessings God has bestowed on us.

Our new mission field - a subdivision in the U.S.
Our new mission field - a subdivision in the U.S.

But I digress… the purpose of this post is to talk about my new mission field – America! I live in America, but it feels like a foreign country. I feel like a stranger and an alien here among regular American families who live their lives according to cultural norms. We are politically and culturally incorrect, and we feel it every day. The kids in this neighborhood ask my kids every day why they don’t go to “regular” school. They ask, “Have you ever even tried public school?” as if my kids just don’t know what they’re missing. It seems like they’re trying to evangelize my kids and convince them that public school is better than homeschool.

Well, my kids want to share their faith with them, and I came across a tool tonight that I think will really help these neighborhood kids to understand the Bible. My blogger friend, Kristi, has written a brief summary of the Bible in terms that biblically illiterate people should be able to understand and relate to – not just children, but adults. I think she did a fantastic job. She’s sharing it freely, generous person that she is. If you would like to read it and print it out, go to her blog here and read “God’s Big Story”. I bet you’ll enjoy reading “the Bible in a nutshell” yourself and want to share it with others.

Video game outreach
Video game outreach

God's Provision is Unstoppable, We Now Have Beds that are Unpoppable!

We have real beds now! We have been sleeping on air beds for about a year now. We left all of our old, decrepit mattresses in Kansas City when we moved to Belleville. And we knew that we would only be staying in the house in Belleville for a short time, so we just bought air beds rather than mattresses and beds. We wanted to save money, and we wanted to have less stuff to move when the time came to go somewhere else.

But we’re feeling more settled here. We have a longer lease here. So we’re getting some real furniture. Gary and I got a mattress and box springs last week from Weekends Only, which is only open on the weekends and has great prices. Check it out at www.weekendsonly.com. As I type this, Gary is putting together bunk beds we bought there for the younger boys. Yesterday, we rented a truck to haul the bunk beds and to pick up furniture from our friend, Carolyn, in St. Louis. While we were at Weekends Only, our friend, Marc, called about white metal bunk beds he just bought at a garage sale for $35. We went over and got them and loaded them with the ones we had just bought. Now we had bunk beds for two of the boys and bunk beds for two of the girls. When we go to pick up Carolyn’s furniture, we will have a whole bedroom set for the big boys. Anna got a new (to her) bedroom set last week and painted it herself (pink, of course!). We just need a couple more beds and everyone will have a real bed.

The boys' dreaded air bed
The boys' dreaded air bed
The little boys' new bunk beds
The little boys' new bunk beds
Poppable air bed - no more!
Poppable air bed - no more!
The girls' new bunk beds
The girls' new bunk beds
Anna's new bed and night stand - more pics to come as she finishes painting
Anna's new bed and night stand - more pics to come as she finishes painting

No more beds that leak air or get popped when the overzealous young ones get too rowdy and treat our beds like trampolines. We went through about 20 air beds during that year. That got pretty expensive, not to mention the trouble we had getting out of bed in the mornings when the middle of the bed sank down to the floor! And the twins were in the doghouse more than they were out of it while we had air beds.

Thank you, Lord, for Your abundant provision!

I’ll post more pics after we get our haul tonight from our friend in St. Louis.

God's Timing: Man Says, "Too Late", God Says, "Just Wait"

I was so upset about not being out of the house by the time the owners returned. I was stressing out in a big way, lots more than I usually do. The kids wondered what my problem was. They know that God always takes care of us, so they couldn’t understand why I was so upset.

Well, part of my problem was that I had actually made a plan in my mind for how we would get out of the house early enough to come back and clean the house after all the kids were out and nobody would be there to mess it up right after I cleaned. We actually found a house and got the keys by the 15th of July, so it looked like everything was going according to plan. But then the management group didn’t clean the house like they said they would. It was going to be a step down from the quality of living we had gotten used to. We would have had lots of space, but the appliances were older and didn’t even work, in some cases. The house still smelled like dog, and there was still dog hair in the carpet. The rental management group, Strano and Associates, said they would get everything cleaned and in working order, but they didn’t do it. They told us it had already been cleaned, and when I found dog hair in the corners and in the middle of the room, it didn’t seem to faze Linda Linder, who runs the property management group. She still insisted that the carpets had already been professionally cleaned. She had told me that the dishwasher was being replaced because it didn’t work. But then my husband got a call from a repairman who said that he was supposed to go fix the dishwasher.

There were so many things that we didn’t really like about the house that I went straight back to the rental management office after getting the keys and told her that we couldn’t live there. Linda told me that I couldn’t get out of the contract. We held our ground until they finally let us out of the contract about 2 weeks later. We would have hated living in that dark and dirty house. That kitchen was not a happy place, and I spend too much time in the kitchen to have one that is dark and dreary.

We went through all of that and then we had to try to find a house in less than a week and get out of the house we were in by August 1. All of that stress was just too much!

I went to the park with Emma one evening and met a woman named Crystal who told me about her church that met just across the road from our subdivision in the Elks building. At first, I wasn’t interested because “churchy” church is a real turn-off to us. But she told me a little bit about it, and I realized that I needed someone to pray for me and we needed someone to come alongside us and pray for us to find the right house at the right time.

So we went to the church that Sunday. They greeted us at the door and told us that the pastor was out with a kidney stone and the lady I had met at the park wouldn’t be coming, because her husband had a kidney stone and she was taking him to the hospital. The worship leader was gone. The service was not going to be typical, so we shouldn’t judge the church by what we saw that day. Well, the people were very friendly, and we enjoyed the fellowship, so I went back to the Tuesday prayer meeting. I met the pastor and his wife that night. They were very nice and genuine. I really liked their views of the purpose of Christian people gathering together. Not church as usual, but coming together like the New Testament church, working to help the poor and needy. They want to buy the Elks building they rent, but it will cost lots more money than they have. They are trying to raise the faith level of the people so that they can all pray and believe for the amount of money they need. They understand the power of agreement and the laws of sowing and reaping and other principles of faith that we learned along our journey. The building has a kitchen and lots of other amenities that would work well for feeding people and helping people in the ways they have in mind. The sermons have been about faith, and they have been so confirming and uplifting. I say “amen” a lot throughout the sermons. And our heart is to help poor and oppressed people, too.

The church prayed for us that first Sunday. I started calming down and getting my faith back in order. I stopped yelling and getting upset about every little thing. The kids were thankful, I’m sure. Not to mention Gary. It was nice to know that people were praying for us. I knew that God was at work, but I didn’t know what He was doing.

I really wanted to be out of the house by Aug. 1, but it was impossible. We couldn’t find a house to move into, thanks to occupancy limits in neighboring towns that were unfriendly to large families – discriminatory, if you ask me. (We have encountered lots of injustice along the way.) On Aug. 2, the owners came to our door and rang the doorbell. It was one of those dreaded moments when your worst nightmare is about to come true. I’ve had a few of those in the last several years. I immediately told them that I had tried to get us out of there, but I just wasn’t able to. They assured me that everything was okay. Their stuff was still in Israel and they were staying with a brother-in-law. So it was okay that we were still in their house. They gave us 2 more weeks to find a place to move to. They understood our situation and were not upset at us. OH, heavy sigh and lots of happy dancing, and even a hug or two!

We finally found a house that we would be allowed to occupy and got the final word of the owners’ approval on Aug. 13. We rented a truck the next day, loaded it all day long, took the first load to the new house at midnight and went back to pick up the rest of the kids and the rest of the big stuff after midnight. We were out of the house in 2 weeks, just like they wanted. But there was still some stuff in the house that we couldn’t get because of lack of time and manpower. At 9:00 that Friday night, I knew we were going to need help. I called the pastor and asked if he could get some people and trucks together to help us move the rest of our stuff the next morning. He said he would do that. Gary and I had to take the moving truck back by morning, so we did all we could do that night and then returned the truck at 5:00 AM. We then went back to the house and did some more. We didn’t get in bed until 7:00 AM. We knew we couldn’t get up and get back over to the house by 10:00, the time I had told the pastor we would meet him. So we texted him and told him to cancel that time, and I called him later and asked if we could possibly do it Sunday instead. He said he would announce it, and we would do it after church at about 2:00. He was so nice about it and very willing, actually anxious to help us. We walked into the service just as he was announcing that they needed people to help a family move. He said, “Oh, here they are now” and everybody looked back at us. It was perfect timing. Nobody really knew us yet, but now they knew who he was talking about.

At 2:00, we were at the house, and several pickup trucks and a trailer pulled up and lots of people hopped out to help us finish our move. The pastor took charge and organized an assembly line to get our boxes packed into the trailer and then each pickup truck. They worked so fast and efficiently that everything was loaded in no time. We saw how the Body can work together to make things easier and less stressful when they have leadership that encourages such things. After all of that, they told me that they would come back and help me clean whenever I wanted to do that. We set the day for Tuesday. They came and cleaned the whole house just the way I had envisioned being able to do it with the house empty. But they did it in 3 hours. It would have taken me several days. And I couldn’t have gotten it as clean as they did even if I had a couple of weeks. (Cleaning is not my forte.)

I needed to do some laundry and asked the owners if I could use their washing machine and dryer a little bit longer. I used it Tuesday night for the last time, and we were out of the house for good. We never could have accomplished it without the church’s help. We have had a bad taste in our mouths about “churches” because of the way we’ve been treated in the past, but this group of believers has been better than family to us.

The owners started getting picky about things that were broken and saying that we needed to fix things ourselves. We had already offered half of the deposit because we knew there were some repairs that would have to be made. They kept insisting that we make the repairs or hire someone to do it. We kept telling them to take it out of the deposit. We were able to get an estimate from the pastor who helped us clean, since he was a carpenter with 26 years of experience, that showed that the repairs would cost far less than half of the deposit. We were being generous in our offer, which is what we wanted to be. It put my mind at ease, knowing that we were being more than fair in offering half of the deposit.

If we had gotten out of the house by Aug. 1, I would never have visited that church. I wouldn’t have met Crystal. I wouldn’t have had anybody to call for help when we just couldn’t do everything ourselves. I wouldn’t have had peace of mind about what’s happening with the owners and their demands. I wouldn’t have had the prayers of the saints that have carried me through another uncertain time of accusation and expectations that are impossible to fulfill.

I keep facing these fears, and I would so much rather not have to go through them. But the Lord keeps making me go head to head with people opposing us and falsely accusing us and expecting more from us than we owe them. People seem to think that we’re naive and gullible because we’re kind and compassionate. They try to take advantage of us and take from us what God has blessed us with. But God always helps us to see what is going on and defends us from their schemes. We are still in the middle of the conflict with Strano and the owners of our former house. Strano kept $822 of what we paid them for the house that we never occupied for even a moment. We never moved one thing into that house. We barely spent one hour in that house, but they made us pay $822 rent for the last half of August. And we don’t have our half of the security deposit yet. We are waiting, again, but God is always faithful. His timing is perfect. You just have to wait for it.

So Much to Report

We moved into a neighborhood full of kids. We see lots of ministry opportunities. Anna now has a street ministry (on our street). She calls it her skateboard ministry. We had a lemonade stand over the weekend, and kids came out of the woodwork. We had so many kids playing, riding bikes and skateboards, passing frisbees, and basically having fun in front of our house, it resembled a circus. I watched everything carefully and made sure that nothing inappropriate was going on. Wow, I felt like I was on recess duty again. But this time, a lot of the kids were my own.

My kids have told me of problems between some of the kids they’ve met, and I heard some girls talking about a kid who committed suicide and another who overdosed because her dad said she was worthless and wasn’t even part of the family. The girls were discussing this as if it were just a topic of gossip and nothing serious, just kind of exciting. I was appalled. I started to see that there are some serious problems among the young people here and their families, and maybe God will use us to bring some light to them.
205 Rose Marie Dr. pics of condition of house on Aug. 18, 2009 105
I’m being careful to keep my kids home and safe. I’m warning them of potential problems and praying that God will give me wisdom and protect them from all harm. But I believe that God is saying that the children have been prepared and are being used in ministry to the children of this neighborhood – under my watchful eye.

So some of the story is unfolding. God put us in this particular neighborhood for a purpose. It looks like some of my children are being thrust into ministry. We’re figuring out new ground rules and routines so that this new ministry doesn’t take over our family life or expose my children to the things I’ve been protecting them from all these years. What a balancing act this is. I need lots of wisdom for this new season.

The House with the Lower Rent Wins!!!

We got the house that has about the same amount of space we’ve had in our present house, but the rent will be $350 less a month. Praise the Lord! I’m so excited to know where we’ll be moving to. It is the house that looks a lot like this house that we’re moving out of. I posted a picture of it here

We have loved living in this house. It has been a sanctuary for us. We have had some good family times here. We were able to spread out and relax and enjoy different activities without irritating others who wanted to do something else. In Kansas City our house was so small that there was no way we could keep it from looking cluttered. But we have been able to keep this one looking really nice. And our next house might be even better.

And with the money we save each month on rent, we are planning to buy a van so that we can all go places together. Yay! We haven’t all been able to go anywhere together for 2 years now. I can hear the zoo and museums calling us.

Our new house is in a more rural setting than we’ve been in for the last several years, too. We’ve really been praying that God would give us a house in the country and some land, but this will be a nice step in that direction.

I need to get busy making this house as nice as I can for the owners who have been so kind and generous to us. Thank you again to all who prayed for us during this difficult time.