Yet another challenge (No ice buckets required!)

ice-bucket-challengeNo doubt you are aware of the Ice Bucket Challenge videos spreading through the internet like wildfire. The purpose of these videos is to raise awareness and funds for a disease called ALS.  Before this social media phenomenon began, many of the participants and viewers of the videos probably never even knew what this cruel disease is all about. I did, because my own sister passed away four years ago from ALS. That’s why I am glad my husband and children responded to their challenges, though they realize the momentary discomfort of being deluged with ice water is nothing compared to suffering from the disease.

As Christians, however, we need to raise awareness for another disease that is even worse than ALS. It’s an infirmity that attacks your heart, then your mind, and finally your body. It causes you to do things that hurt yourself and others. Lastly, it causes an awful, drawn-out death where you feel like you are burning with a fever you’ve never felt before. This horrific disease is called sin.  Sadly, I must tell you that I have this disease. Thankfully, when I was a teenager someone told me about the cure found in Jesus Christ and I no longer have to fear dying from this malady!  My husband and I are so grateful for what Jesus did to save us from this eternal death, that we can’t help but share His cure with others.  That is precisely why we are in Argentina.

evangelize

Those who support us on the mission field don’t need to make a video of themselves throwing ice water on their head, nor do they need to be publicly challenged on social media. They respond to the Lord’s leading in their life, praying for us and quietly write out their check and place it in the offering plate or the mail box. For you, we are grateful.

Faith Promise (1)

There may be others out there who do not give to missions and do not share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. I challenge you, Christian, to start doing both!

go ye

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

I could tell you that you have 24 hours to complete this challenge, but instead I will say that this ought to be a part of your 24/7 daily life.  Every day, ask God for a divine appointment [God bringing someone into your life who needs to hear this news] to share His cure for this disease called sin. As you begin to share Christ either through giving out a tract, sharing your personal testimony or giving the Gospel with those who are dying and going to Hell, you will begin to have a burden to do more.  You will want to give to missions and even go on mission trips because you love your Savior, Jesus Christ.

make-disciples

By His grace alone,

~Amy 

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Borrowed Gifts

giftFourteen years ago, God graciously chose to give me a gift—the gift of motherhood. When I found out about that gift, I diligently prepared to receive it. I sought counsel from other mothers, read recommended books on the subject, and did what I knew to prepare myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Of course, every mother will tell you that you can never be fully prepared for that moment you lay your eyes on that miracle that had been growing inside you the past nine months.

I was not raised in a Christian home, so I was even more compelled to study what Scripture has to say on motherhood.  As I read, studied, meditated, and prayed, I was more and more convinced that our children are gifts from our loving Heavenly Father, lent to us for only a short time to teach and train for His honor and glory.  Children are our little disciples and Jesus is our ultimate example of a disciple maker. He spent virtually all of his time with his disciples, patiently teaching them on their maturity level, explaining more thoroughly when they asked questions, and leading by example.  Toward the end of their time together, he let them go out on their own, allowing them to make mistakes, but being there to comfort and to help them get up again when they fell.

The Lord blessed my husband and me with one gift after another, three in four years to be exact! As our little stair steps grew, I had the joy of staying home with them, reading to them, playing with them, and often letting them “help” me shop, garden, cook, and clean. Of course, we had our good days and not-so-good days. I often felt like a broken record, repeating instructions over and over.  However, as we stayed consistent in our discipline, our days were filled with more joy than distress, more order than chaos.

j libros 4.2000

As the time came for our oldest to begin school, choosing to homeschool was only a natural extension of what we had already been doing–memorizing Scripture, finger painting, reading Bible stories, playing with blocks, listening to music, observing nature, and just constantly conversing.  (Socially, our children had each other and their church friends to play with, and honestly, I would much rather that my young disciple learn his manners and vocabulary from his mother than from another fellow heathen!)

mariposa 2006

The early school years are filled with so many exciting discoveries, “What sound does the snake make? What does cornmeal feel like in my hands? How many things can I find around the house that begin with the ‘letter of the day’? If I have three cookies and I give one away, how many do I have left?”

Later, we move on to more formal schooling, putting letters together to make words, learning our math facts, books of the Bible, and how civilization began. In all of these subjects, God is the central focus, because I remember that my purpose is to teach and train our three borrowed gifts for His honor and glory.

k-5 2005

Only by God’s grace have we come this far!  When I accepted the gift of motherhood, and later the challenge of homeschooling, little did I know that my oldest would have severe dyslexia and need intense personal tutoring. But, oh the joy when he finally learned his alphabet, then to sound out words, and now to read entire books on his own!  Little did I know how we would discover how special God made him — how even though he had such difficulty reading letters from left to right, he could perfectly read the little black dots called musical notes and become a talented pianist!  There is an indescribable joy in achieving these victories together with your children!

piano

Jesus’ beloved disciple, John, says in 3 John verse 4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” Even more important than reading, writing, and arithmetic, is the mission of disciple making. Spiritual character training supersedes academics because “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).  As a disciple maker, my goal is to raise children who will be useful servants for the Kingdom of God. To me, that means they must not only be educated in the basic school subjects, but also know how to manage a home, work with tools, minister in their local church, love their neighbor, and love God most of all.

It is this aspect of mothering that really keeps me on my toes! Every day the Holy Spirit reminds me that I cannot expect my disciples to learn to love God if they do not see that love manifested in my own life. My own devotional life is not an option. I must be continually studying, learning, and growing in my own Christian walk if I expect the same of my pupils.

“They need an unwavering, internal moral and spiritual compass that will help them weather today’s storms and tomorrow’s and will guide them for the rest of their lives. They also need to see what real faith looks like when lived day in, day out; so they will have a pattern to follow.

The process of providing such gifts to my children is what I’ve come to think of as the ministry of motherhood. I believe it’s central to the calling of anyone God has privileged to bring children into this world.

If you are a mother, it’s your ministry too.”

~Sally Clarkson, The Ministry of Motherhood

Only a few more years, and my full-time job as homeschooling mother will be over. In this career, my future holds no “Teacher of the Year” awards, promotions, nor salary raises.  The greatest reward for me would be to accomplish my stated objective: that my children would leave home, entering the world willing and fully prepared to serve God.  That is how I say “thank you” to my Heavenly Father for the three precious gifts He has loaned me.

Amy

A Golden Christmas Gift

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. (Prov. 25:11)

apples-of-gold

When you think of missionaries on a foreign field during the holidays, you may think about the sacrifice they make by being away from family during that special time. Yes, that is true!  We sorely miss our new nephews and nieces, siblings, parents and grandparents, as well as our home church family.

However, another huge challenge missionaries face is how to adjust to a climate and customs much different from what they have known the first 30 years (more or less) of their lives.  In this foreign country, many customs are just that — foreign.  Eating the main holiday meal late at night on the 24th, opening gifts and shooting off fireworks at midnight, and then sleeping in on Christmas morning are just a few of the differences.

We are in the Southern Hemisphere, so Christmas falls during the summer. Instead of the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year), we are going through the time of the summer solstice (the longest day of the year). That means it doesn’t get dark until close to 9 pm.  It goes without saying that the summer weather is a part of our Christmas as well.  (This Christmas Eve, the heat index hit 111 degrees!)  The heat alters our activities and even our menu. For example, I have learned it’s really not a good idea to roast a turkey or bake Christmas cookies, especially on a hot day, in a house with no air conditioning!  Turning the oven on for 2 to 3 hours can have undesirable effects on one’s energy level!  Instead of fighting against our circumstances, we are learning (yes, even after 7 years on the field) how to accept them and still have the type of Christmas we are accustomed to as a family.  We adjust our menu according to the heat as well as the ingredients available to us here (which usually means making everything from scratch, from the cocktail sauce to the cherry pie.)  Allow me to interject here that we are very thankful for the rich bounty Argentina offers — a diversity of fruits, vegetables, meats, and yes, even convenience foods.

Christmas 2012

Christmas 2012

Though family and food are elements of Christmas festivities, they are certainly not the motive or the focus of the holiday for the Christian.  Honestly, it’s a blessing that our scaled-down, simplified Christmases on the mission field help us to stay centered on the true meaning of the holiday. We are not distracted with attending one thousand and one Christmas parties or breaking the bank to buy “bigger and better” gifts for extended family and business associates.

One Christmas tradition we began when our children were just toddlers was to have a “birthday party for Jesus” on Christmas Eve.  I made a birthday cake or cupcakes and let the kids help decorate.  We used a #1 candle to signify that Jesus is the only way and that He should have first place in our lives.

12.24 service1

When we began a work in Pilar, we brought that tradition to the church. The idea was that most of the folks would be celebrating Christmas that night with unsaved family, and this special service would be a spiritual oasis in the desert of worldliness that surrounds us. It is always a special time of singing, testimonies, and focusing on our Savior Jesus Christ.

Of course, I love to hear the testimonies of how God is working in various ways in people’s lives. We hear of His provision, families being changed by His Word, and spiritual growth through obedience and trials. A few shared how they are thankful for our sacrifice to leave our families to minister in Argentina and how they appreciate the time and energy we’ve invested in them. Their sweet words brought tears to our eyes and will be marked down in history as the best Christmas gift of 2012. Those “apples of gold” served as a timely encouragement to keep on keeping on — despite the difficult adjustments!   Praise the Lord for the work He is doing!

2012-12-24 020

–Amy

Don’t Let this Pain be Wasted

A neighbor dropped by the house with her daughter. That’s when I first felt it, and I’ve never been the same since.  As I bent down to give the little girl a hug, an incredible pain shot through my back all the way to my toes – an intense pain that would barely allow me to straighten myself up again.  After several visits to various doctors, an orthopedic spine specialist told me it was a lower back disorder.  “I’m sending you to 10 sessions of physical therapy, and then you should be fine,” was his prognosis on recovery.  That was 15 months ago.  Today, I am still in physical therapy, medicated, and seeing assorted specialists.

While I was bed-ridden those first four weeks, I knew I had to keep the right perspective.  I was no stranger to bed rest or to pain.  I had actually had prolonged experiences with both in the past.  Those were some of the sweetest times of communion with my Savior, but they were also miserable times of boxing matches with the Lord when I did not respond correctly.  Since I was aware of the danger of not taking my thoughts captive in this critical moment, my constant prayer during that initial month was, “Dear Lord, don’t let this pain be wasted. Use it to conform me to your image. Use it to teach me how to be content.”

I must admit though, one grows weary of being confined to bed, not being able to cook and clean for your family, and having to miss out on church and ministry opportunities.  In our young church plant on the foreign mission field, new believers were unsure as to how to minister to the pastor’s family, and obviously, we had no family nearby to help out. However, instead of focusing on myself and the negatives, I intentionally redirected my focus to pray – for my family, our church family, our ministry, unsaved neighbors, and many other things I didn’t always take enough time to pray for before.  I began to see God work through those prayers and in my own life as well.

During this time, a sweet friend, someone I consider a spiritual “mom,” was praying for my complete healing.  If she were one of the four friends who lowered the paralytic through the roof for Jesus to heal him, then I know God would have healed me just by seeing her faith.  She often encouraged me and assured me that she was praying for my healing. I thanked her, and inside I added, “Yes, Lord, please send healing and relief from this pain, but only when you’re done with whatever you’re teaching me first!”

After several months, the pain became manageable, and I was living a limited, but somewhat “normal” life again. However, I began to miss those tender times of communion with the Lord.  The irony of it was that when there was a flare-up that would send me back to the starting point, I found I wasn’t emotionally or spiritually prepared for the set back!  The Lord would invariably keep me down for a week or two at a time, until I was back to where He wanted me to be.

Abiding in Christ About a year into this journey, the Lord revealed the target area where I needed to trust Him more.  As I was reading through the Gospels, a verse I had never really noticed before seemed to jump off the page at me. (Isn’t that a wonderful thing about God’s living Word?) “And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat” (Mark 6:31). Our Lord wants us to rest when necessary.  He wants us to maintain a healthy balance between rest and work. I now see that I often found my worth in my productivity level, and not my position in Christ. When I discussed with my husband what I was learning, he lovingly pointed out, “In your mind, if you’re not in motion, then life is not worth living.”

As Andrew Murray illustrates in his classic work, Abide in Christ, as a mere branch, we are totally dependent on the vine for sustenance, and our purpose is not to live for ourselves, but to bear fruit for the vine.  We must live in constant communion with Christ in order to receive the necessary nutrients to be able to fulfill our God-given purpose – to glorify God with the fruit we bear. This truth is so simple, yet so life-changing!  God is not so much concerned about how active or busy we are, as He is with our union with Him.

My chronic back pain seems so trivial when I think of friends who are battling a terminal illness, have buried a parent or a child, or are facing a major financial difficulty.  God has different purposes for the trials He allows His children to face. Sometimes it may be to get our attention and force us to go in a different direction.  Sometimes He wants to remind us that our strength is in Him. Maybe His purpose is to cause us to thirst for Him more. Many times, God uses our suffering to give us even greater opportunities for ministry. At other times, the Lord brings trials in order to bring us back to our first love, because we have become careless in our relationship and have taken success and blessings for granted. There’s nothing like being stripped of all your physical, emotional, and spiritual strength to force you to recognize that Christ is your all-in-all.  I honestly do not know when or if God will finally bring an end to my physical pain.  I do know—now—that I will rather glory and take pleasure in my infirmities, so that I may truly know the power of Christ at work in my life (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). No matter what kind of suffering the Lord may bring into your life, don’t let your pain be wasted.  Allow the Lord to use it to transform you and fulfill His purposes for you.

-Amy 


Raising Servants of God

“My hands are already full taking care of my toddlers.  I could never take on a ministry right now.”

“I used to be super involved in visitation and other ministries, but now I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”

“I can’t wait until my kids are older so that I can be more involved in the church.”

Have you ever heard a young mother make any of these comments?  Have you ever heard these words come out of your own mouth?  I often hear mothers of young children express feelings of being handicapped in their service to the Lord because they now have children to care for.  Yes, after caring for your husband, your children are and should be top priority.  As mothers, our primary mission is to evangelize and then disciple the little heathens God places in our charge.  However, how will we raise servants of God if they do not see us serving?  How will they learn to sacrifice for others if all we ever do is sacrifice for them all day?  There are many creative ways you can teach your children to love and serve others while still maintaining your priorities in their proper order.

When our first two were little, any excursion out of the house was a welcome treat for this young mother. We enjoyed spending time with an elderly widow lady, keeping her company on shopping trips and helping her pull weeds in her garden. It was a mutual blessing the times when our car was out of commission and she needed someone to drive for her! During the week, our little ones had a ball playing in the nursery while I cleaned the church. Teaching VBS, children’s church, or youth Sunday School with a baby in my arms was not an uncommon sight. My toddlers “helped” me make Christmas cookies for our neighbors, doctors, and the local fire fighters. My husband and I pushed the double stroller while going on weekly door-to-door visitation. All these things were just a natural part of our family life.

Nevertheless, when our third child was born, it complicated things a bit. For some reason, God did not choose to give me a third arm when He gave me a third child! With a three year-old, a just-turned-two year-old, and a newborn, I found it difficult to go anywhere without some kind of incident. So, I asked the Lord what I could do. He showed me that if I can’t go minister, then why not bring the ministry to my home? “Be not forgetful [do not neglect] to entertain strangers…” (Heb. 13:2). From then on, our front door became a revolving one. With the help and support of my husband, we had all kinds of people over at least once a week. We served them on everything from Dixie paper plates to our finest China, whether we were living in temporary housing with barely any furniture or a tiny duplex. My reward was not just an opportunity to serve, but to get to carry on a conversation with other adults!

   

Eight years later, I find myself in a different season of motherhood. This season does not involve scheduling my days around naptimes, feeding times, and diaper changes, but rather homeschooling, piano lessons, art class, and soccer games. With this new season, are new opportunities. We still invite people over quite often, but I can also take advantage of other moments. During soccer games, we mingle with the parents and work on building relationships. We take every opportunity to witness to the kids’ piano teacher. During art class, I go with one of the other mom’s to a nearby coffee shop and we do a Bible study together. The other day, art class was cancelled, so our kids had a “play date” while we studied the Bible at the kitchen table. Believe it or not, even with seven children from age 12 to age 2 running through the kitchen every other minute, we had a sweet time of fellowship around God’s Word.

Despite what it may look like on paper, I’m no Supermom. I’m just an ordinary person who happens to love God and love my children.

“…Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Our mandate is to preach the Gospel to every creature, whether great or small, young or old. So, whatever stage of life you find yourself in right now, I encourage you to prayerfully create opportunities for service. Don’t look for excuses not to become engaged in others’ lives; look for excuses to show you care!

– Amy

This article was later published in the FBFI’s Frontline magazine and their website – http://www.proclaimanddefend.org/2012/03/26/raising-servants-of-god/

P. S. Here’s a post I came across that gives practical ideas for a mom with young children to minister to others – http://www.raisinggodlychildren.org/2011/11/top-ten-ways-moms-and-young-children.html


January 8 update

We are overwhelmed with God’s grace and goodness…certainly so much more than we deserve!  In our last prayer letter, we expressed various financial blessings as well as certain needs.  Since then, God has continued to provide in ways that only confirm our return to Argentina in February.

· A generous offering was given to help with our support deficit.

· Another offering was given to pay for James’ return airline ticket.  (He had used his miles to pay for his flight here in order to have more flexibility.)

· More unexpected funds came in to help send the teens to summer camp. Amazing! Two kids weren’t planning on going to camp because of the financial difficulty. When they found out about the scholarships, they were all so excited their boys could go!

God has used these gifts to strengthen our faith as well. We were a bit discouraged last week as Lauren’s Emergency Room medical bills started to arrive in the mail. We are actually appealing the insurance company’s penalty for visiting an ER instead of an urgent care facility. Pray this can be resolved in our favor.

We have been in 3 churches already this month. We are thankful for the prophet’s chambers at Oakwood Baptist in Anderson, SC and Northside Baptist in North Charleston, SC that have given us a little “breathing room.”  I type this as we are traveling to a small church in South Central Pennsylvania that has indicated they would like to take us on for support, if all goes well.  The kids have enjoyed seeing some snow along the way!

Amy Greenwood

Cranberry Relish Anxiety

Every Thanksgiving in Argentina all the American missionaries get together for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Since this is a North American holiday, all the ladies have to really make an effort to prepare food that is not particularly common in South America. One makes pumpkin pies totally from scratch. (None of that canned stuff here!) Another special orders a turkey from the butcher, only to be presented with Cornish hens the day prior to Thanksgiving. One lady goes to great expense to buy pecans for her husband’s favorite pecan pie. My husband will actually pit several cups of cherries so I can make him a homemade cherry pie. The one dish that always makes me chuckle is the cranberry relish. Why? Because cranberries do not exist in this country! Most Argentines have never even heard of the fruit. However, there is always one who does her best to use substitutes to make something of a relish that tastes nothing like cranberries only because that’s the way it’s always been. You just can’t have Thanksgiving without cranberry relish!

The other day I found myself concocting my own recipe for cranberry relish. Yes, I know it’s nowhere near Thanksgiving, but it was really the same concept. As our departure date draws near for returning to Argentina, I realized that I had not taken my children for their annual birthday pictures. In fact, I was a year overdue with our oldest child. We live in the age of digital cameras – still and video, so it’s not like my child was not photographed at some point during his eighth year of life. My anxiety was due to the fact that I had always taken my kids to be photographed near their birthday…thats the way it’s always been. The Lord gently rebuked me by reminding me of the cranberry relish and I realized that I was actually fretting over the unimportant and I had to ask my Heavenly Father for His forgiveness. I put my focus back on all the good things that He has blessed me with. Just because it’s always been a certain way doesn’t mean that is God’s best for our lives. So, the moral of the story is, “Don’t eat fake cranberry relish when God has something much better for you.”

By the way, I did get out my digital camera and the Lord gave me a great photo (even better than the pro’s!) of our now nine year-old, Jaden.

May you also experience the abundant blessings found in God’s grace,

Amy