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Lessons from the Field Part 7

Lessons from the Field is a series from one of our own who is serving overseas.  Please join us as we learn about what God has taught and continues to teach her as she and her family serve. To view the earlier post from Amy Lynn* click here

7.  A Tight Rope Life – How to do it all, family, language and ministry.

                        A friend of mine once commented that life in the Middle East is a lot like the magician who holds the metal contraption and carefully begins adding plates, spinning them in sequence, until he is balancing all of them.  One tip too far in either direction or forgetting to spin each place in its turn would send the plates crashing down.  He was trying to help me understand that taking on too much can many times leave you in the midst of a huge mess of broken glass.  What I learned over time is that the magician is really no different than us, except that he has mastered the craft of how to keep all the plates spinning in the air at the same time.  

Like a physician who investigates the problems at hand and then triages life threatening to simple, becoming a master practitioner takes time, wisdom and patience.  Triage originated in World War I by French doctors who needed to quickly decide how to process an incoming patient so that they can provide the right care, at the right time, in the right way.  These four categories of triage are, immediate, delayed, minimal, and expectant.  Here is a simple explanation of the categories, which can easily be translated into everyday life.  

       Immediate: The casualty requires immediate medical attention and will not survive if not seen soon. Any compromise to the casualty's respiration, hemorrhage control, or shock control could be fatal.
       Delayed: The casualty requires medical attention within 6 hours. Injuries are potentially life-threatening, but can wait until the Immediate casualties are stabilized and evacuated.
          Minimal: "Walking wounded," the casualty requires medical attention when all higher priority patients have been evacuated, and may not require stabilization or monitoring.
          Expectant: The casualty is expected not to reach higher medical support alive without compromising the treatment of higher priority patients. Care should not be abandoned, spare any remaining time and resources after Immediate and Delayed patients have been treated.
            Immediate - Arriving on the field brought a barrage of tasks that had to completed and many times I over pressured myself into thinking that company tasks took priority over the most immediate needs in my life.  My husband, my family and my home required the most immediate action each day.  Trying to balance without looking to their needs first, inevitably, led to crashing plates.  I let a lot of plates crash, because my focus was on work rather than teaching and training my own little blessings first.  Remembering, who I was in accordance with Titus 2 teaching really helped me discern how to triage better.  It took some time to get there emotionally, but realizing there was a reason “pillars” like our friend Lottie M. did not even allow young moms to take on huge responsibilities of work while they had babies clinging to there skirts helped me greatly.  

            After family and home, language was my most pressing need for culture adjustment and fitting in, but unfortunately there were days, weeks and even months I remember waving my kids off so I could study.  Feeling helpless was a daily occurrence and the guilt I felt as my son struggled day in and day out because he and his schooling were not triaged correctly was overwhelming at times.  A friend recently told me that she felt there was no shortage of holding one another accountable to language and work, but that she wished someone would hold her more accountable for her marriage and her kids.  I totally agree from my own experience.  Learning language is vital but not to the determinate of your family.  These are hard questions but is it really obedience to neglect your family for the sake of your “ministry”?  How much time is too much spent learning to disciple others when you fail to disciple your own children?  I don’t know all the answers of course, but I do know that the time with my kids will fly by.  (In fact, I have one preparing to head off to boarding school next year!)  You only have so much time to be with them and to be obedient with this calling.  

            Delayed – Putting things off for a little while is not lazy, especially if you are working on something more important at the time.  This doesn’t mean completely letting go.  Things like reports, answering emails, connecting with your prayer networks back home etc are good things but in the balancing act that is living overseas, they can be placed into the delayed category without feeling guilt.  

            Minimal – Unfortunately, laundry seems to always fall into this category but when kids can’t find clean underwear it is time to re-triage.  In this category it was imperative to critically look at some things that I had previously placed into a higher category and realize that they just weren’t as important right now.  Sometimes, that means studying less than I think is necessary.  That may also mean cooking something more simple rather than insisting I try out that new recipe.  Learning to let go can be difficult but cleansing.

            Expectant – This was the hardest category to discern.  I never like to let things go, but sometimes, it became necessary to realize that maybe I wasn’t called to continue trying to spin that plate any longer.  There are things I am called to do but things that others are called to do as well.  If I try to take on every task that comes my way, I am neglecting to allow others to grow in their walk by doing the job.  One of the biggest lessons I learned in this category was delegation.  This is nothing new for me but there is always a small part that delights in proving my skills.  The only one I need to prove anything to is God and if I can’t look at some of these things as “dead” to me, allowing others to pick it up, I will never grow and will spend a lot of time struggling unnecessarily.  

            Learning to spin the plates required balance and a correct discernment as to when, how and in what order to do it.  There was never a shortage of things vying for my time and attention but as a friend once said, when I “have zeal for His Word, prayer, worship, being holy, serving my husband and loving my kids, all the other things will grow up in time from that root.”  

            Serving my husband is a whole other ball of wax that requires unconditional love, submission, respect and a desire to honor.  If you are like me at all, learning to live with and love your spouse overseas can be a challenge.  Lesson 8 is A Second Honeymoon – Life with your spouse!

 Amy Lynn* has been married to her husband for 15 years.  He graduated last May from SEBTS with an MDIV in International Church Planting.  They are currently serving in the Middle East.  They have 4 children, ages 13, 11, 5 and 2.  Amy Lynn enjoys reading, writing and working out when she is not studying Arabic or visiting friends. 
*Name has been changed to ensure protection for our contributor. 

Congratulations, Jennifer Beasley!

The winner of the drawing for a Target gift card is Jennifer Beasley! Ladies, be sure to continue to check the blog for uplifting  messages, information from Women's Life, and soon an introduction to the office staff! 

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Congratulations, Jennifer!

Lessons from the Field (5 & 6)

Lessons from the Field is a series from one of our own who is serving overseas.  Please join us as we learn about what God has taught and continues to teach her as she and her family serve. To view the earlier post from Amy Lynn* click here.

5.  A New Worship – Only God deserves the pedestal!
            The inevitable will happen, the moment when the person you have come to value, appreciate, and revere, screws up and comes crashing down off the pedestal.  This scenario has happened to me more times than I wish to count because what it means at the deeper heart level, is that I have mistakenly put man in a place that belongs only to God.  It was easy to look at different leaders and be wowed by their extensive experience, longevity and biblical knowledge.  Before I knew it, these leaders had inched their way up the pedestal in my mind, replacing the spot rightfully owned by the King of kings and Lord of lords.  No one is perfect however, and sooner or later someone does something that royally ticks you off or says something without discernment.  When the revere of a person becomes more important than worshipping God, idolatry rears its ugly head, plain and simple.   Of course I should learn from others, trust their knowledge and respect their authority, but this can never be replaced by venerating them.  God is the only one who deserves the pedestal. 
            It could be something different than a person like it was for me, such as worshipping my ability to work hard.  When lack of recognition came, it was easy to make an idol out of my ability to get the job done no matter what the cost or problem.  But what I soon discovered was that rather than working unto the Lord, I worked hard to please myself and feel some sense of accomplishment.  My own abilities had a way of teasing and tempting me to worship something else.  No one recognizes over achievement the way you think they will, so I had to learn to keep my eyes focused on pleasing the Father.  I had to learn to distinguish between what was important to finish and work that was extra, simply to try and make myself look good.  He alone is the reason I work hard.  He is the only one I honor when I don’t waste time and are prepared.
            It is easy to fill your day with time wasters.  There is never a shortage of crises on the field.  Learning to triage these problems adequately brings glory and honor to God, because rather than waste time chasing a bunch of rabbits, I am able to focus on the most important task that He would have me complete in that moment.  When God is on the pedestal of my life, His guiding hand is always reaching out to direct my steps and order my life.  God is not one of chaos but of order.  He does not confuse us but makes all things clear.  When my focus changed from fulfilling my list and turned to worship and how best to please Him, the time wasters were reduced to insignificant distractions.  

6.  A Better Plan – His!
            The fact that distractions will come is very important, because what I have seen in my life, is that my mind is continually wandering away from God’s list for my day and becoming boggled down with these things.  Time is relative.  We work on His timetable and on His schedule.  Just because I want to accomplish some task for the day, does not mean that this is God’s will or plan for me.  One way I am learning to combat these distractions is to prayerfully order my day according to what I am hearing from the Lord when I am not distracted.  This means, waking early, sitting quietly and listening.  Once my list is made, I have a plan but God’s is always bigger.  If something comes along that day that I know should be accomplished in priority to my list, I can peacefully complete the work and know that God is the one in superseding the plans. 
            Actively listening to the Father is also the way I know when to speak and how to speak into the lives of my friends.  Many times in the past what I wanted was for people to listen because I had something compelling and convincing to say.  What is better is that God is the one doing the talking.  I do not have anything new to say really when it comes to sharing.  It is God’s word that is new and life changing.  Speaking with Muslims can often times be discouraging and disappointing when you try to make a point and they disagree or they use the same argument.  If I am listening with my ears only, I am tempted to fight back which produces no results and no heart change.  Rather, quieting my mouth and mind, actively listening to the deeper meaning behind their words and focusing on what the Spirit is doing, produces an ability to speak into someone’s life with truth and wisdom.  I had to learn this lesson the hard way but in the end it is always better to crucify my way and just do it His. 
            Among the more difficult lessons I have learned the last year and a half is how to do it all and not lose my mind.  You may be thinking that either I am super woman and I assure you I am far from it, or that this is an impossible task.  But as a wise author once stated, “We can accomplish everything that God has ordained for us to do in this life…and it’s probably not half of what’s on your to-do list.”  Next week, I will look at A Tight Rope Life – How to do it all, Family, Language and Ministry.  See you then!

Amy Lynn* has been married to her husband for 15 years.  He graduated last May from SEBTS with an MDIV in International Church Planting.  They are currently serving in the Middle East.  They have 4 children, ages 13, 11, 5 and 2.  Amy Lynn enjoys reading, writing and working out when she is not studying Arabic or visiting friends. 
*Name has been changed to ensure protection for our contributor. 

Lessons from the Field #4

I heard a sermon once by Johnny Hunt on ministry.  He spoke of the many times in his life that God worked in amazing and miraculous ways, despite what he or any other human was doing at the time.  When talking about forging out into new territory in ministry he encouraged, “Never assume you know what God is doing.”  Equally important is remembering that when assumptions are made about people, work, team, locals etc, the door is open for pride, misunderstanding, misdirection and chasing rabbit trails.  I am still learning to never assume I know what God is doing, never assuming I know what is best without checking all other possibilities, and never assuming I know people completely just because I have spent some time with them or studied their religion.   
            4.  A New View of Ministry – Never assume!
                        On campus, I soaked and studied, reading extensively on Islam, the history, theology and sects.  I came storming into the field pretty arrogantly convinced that I knew just as much if not more than the average Muslim about their own faith.  Figuring I could argue logically and actually make a difference, I started language and visiting friends and neighbors.  In my extremely conservative Muslim country, I had little time to actually begin evaluating their worldview, before we were whisked off in evacuation to a neighboring country.  What I found there was shocking.  I began discovering that the veil of Islam in this other country was as thin as a gauzy curtain and beneath it was pure secularism.  I had assumed that I knew how to discuss apologetics with all Muslims because I had studied conservatism but what I found was that just like in Christianity, not all Muslims are created equal.  Rather than focus in on their religion, I had to learn to dissect their worldview and get to the heart of what they actually believed about God.   
                        When genuine relationship is replaced with numbers, figures and research, it is extremely difficult to discern and listen to the Holy Spirit.  When talking with my friends and assuming I knew how God was working in their life and then targeting that area, I found myself spinning in the same argumentative circles.  It was only when I began to shut off the academic noise and pride and really listen to where my friends were, that the Spirit opened my eyes to where He was at work.  The moment I begin to feel like I really know a person, my new rule is to dig deeper and try to discover more about their worldview and the deeper spiritual truths they are living by.
                        It was easy for me to dream and brainstorm brilliant, at least in my mind, ideas of how I could help the community around me.  However, most of the time, these ideas weren’t really helpful because they didn’t meet the real needs in the community.  I needed to get in the mix and begin serving the community in ways that people were already involved in.  What this lead to was a better understanding of the community, what was available, and who was working.  Rather than assume that the latest methodology in platform strategy or entry into a community was the best, a lot of research, interviewing and prayer is needed. 
                        As I took more of a servant role to others, I was also able to begin learning more about project development, good practices and bad practices.  There were of course the bad examples of territorialism related to projects and teams.  But I also saw teams that functioned so well together, their projects were not only blossoming but exploding.  Assuming that my way is the only way to run/organize a project or team can easily lead to lack of productivity or even missing the open door God has provided. What I found in my own life is that assuming this, very quickly led to forgetting the main thing and losing touch with strategy.  When there is no strategy, I automatically take up a defensive tactic rather than listening to the Spirit and forming an offensive strategy that is in line with where He is already working and moving. 
                        I heard one of my leaders envisioning a time when we as a team could be so intertwined in strategy with a spirit of oneness, that when one group needed help, we could all work together to help one another.  Keeping my eye on the bigger goal and larger team has helped me to never assume my project or job is more important than someone else’s. 
                        Education is an invaluable, necessary and vital part of ministry but many times this has led me to make completely unnecessary assumptions.  So remember, never assume you know what God is doing.  Never assume you have learned all there is to know about a certain people group of religion.  Never assume you know the needs just because you live somewhere.  Never assume your team/project is bigger and therefore requires more of something or someone.  Never assume you know more than God!  There is always more to learn and God uses each and everyday on the field to bring me close to Him.  This process is as much about my own sanctification as it is about “inviting a lost world to stand and clap their hands in worship for King Jesus!”*  Stay tuned in for next week, “A New Worship – Only God Deserves the Pedestal”.  
 * Scott Hildreth student lecture Fall 2009

Amy Lynn* has been married to her husband for 15 years.  He graduated last May from SEBTS with an MDIV in International Church Planting.  They are currently serving in the Middle East.  They have 4 children, ages 13, 11, 5 and 2.  Amy Lynn enjoys reading, writing and working out when she is not studying Arabic or visiting friends. 
*Name has been changed to ensure protection for our contributor. 

Lessons from the Field is a series from one of our own who is serving overseas.  Please join us as we learn about what God has taught and continues to teach her as she and her family serve. To view the earlier post from Amy Lynn* click here.

My previous employer expected new personnel to move quickly from learner to leader.  From day one, we had a saying that you should constantly be training your replacement.  As you worked, your supervisors or other higher ups would be mentoring you and teaching you to lead, especially those who showed promise for future leaders.  God has taught me many, many lessons on leadership, year after year honing my skills in a variety of ways from secular employment to leading a women’s bible study.  In many ways, there has been a certain level of pride that followed me into the field because of this.  God used this last year and half to continue humbling me and refining me, reminding me that this journey is not about thinking you have finally arrived but rather, a daily stripping away of what you hold dear in order to bring you closer to Him.  Leadership was one of the comfortable blankets wrapped in my death grip, and God has used this over and over to teach and train me.  That is why lesson #3 is:

3.  A Tight Lip – Look, Listen and Feel, Leading by Example

The first few months I was full of anticipation, remembering the things I had learned in theory and now felt ready to try out, desiring to spread my wings.  Unfortunately, this was often met with unexpected results.  Within weeks, I began to feel as though I was treated like a green shoot with no experience, rather than a 35-year-old women with 4 kids, who served in the Navy and had years of experience at home.  Talk about humbling!  It took several months for me to quit being angry about it.  I spent a lot of time complaining that I wasn’t appreciated or listened to.  I felt like my perspective and gifts were being stifled until I proved myself as a seasoned worker.  It felt unfair and I spent a lot of time judging and criticizing, rolling around in my own misery.  

I had blinded myself to what God was trying to teach me, becoming completely distracted by how I felt, rather than receiving and acknowledging that gentle nudge from the Spirit.  He had a better lesson for me to learn.  It wasn’t that He didn’t want me to lead, but I needed to learn in this season how to do it by example and through influence, while keeping my mouth closed and my eyes and ears open.  I could not learn how to become a better leader unless I spent time in observation, thought and meditation.  God stripped me of the right I felt to be a leader and instead showed me that sanctification was more important.  I have found that He never lets us stay too long comfortable in our relationship but instead pushes us and gently coaxes us into a deeper intimacy.  Slowly by looking, listening and feeling my way to see what God was doing, what he was teaching me in each and every circumstance and by focusing on what I could learn, my perspective changed. 
God began using my previous experiences to shape and mold how I evaluated what was going on around me.  I began taking notes on the things I saw and what God was teaching me through them.  One of the early lessons when we were evacuated was that those in authority over you might not always act in a way that you believe is in your best interest, but remember that God is the conductor of the symphony.  Rather than condemn the leadership, I started to show grace realizing that we are all human and imperfect and this is no excuse to not extend grace.  I also saw the importance of really knowing your people.  Our team spent a lot of time in what I lovingly refer to as “forced intimacy”, which led to really getting to know each other, our struggles, strengths, weaknesses and how we were coping with those.  Knowing these details helped immensely in my journey of how to relate well to others and become team.  

There were other times that lack or failure in communication helped me realize its vital importance when leading. Communication and honesty is key in leadership.  God continued to remind me of things like how to delegate better which allows the team to really excel in their giftings.   I took time to try and hone these skills in the small things God allowed me the authority over.  If I was in charge of fellowship meal, rather than take on the whole task myself, it became a way to learn leading by example, delegating to others from their strengths.  I began trying to purposely and intentionally look at the team’s giftings and find ways I could encourage them.  Just because God has not placed me in a direct role of leadership does not mean I can not act like one. Always take the initiative to set the example rather than complain about leadership. 

One other smaller yet just as important rule I began setting for myself in dealing with peers and leaders was to quit sending long blovating emails.  Too often I learned the hard way that the longer the email, the easier I was misunderstood.  I had to learn that my leaders are very busy people as we all are, and directness and thinking before I sent anything is a much better approach.  Another instance in which God guided me to control those wiry emotions.

Ultimately, God used and will use these lessons to guide me onto the path he has planned for my husband and I, and in the end we will be better leaders because of this time.  Learning to lead by example has not been an easy task for me, as I always want to take the bull by the horns so to speak, however it is a much-needed skill in kingdom work.  God will prepare you in his time and use you when he and you are ready for the task.  Which leads to the next lesson, never assume you know what God is doing!  See you next week!

Amy Lynn* has been married to her husband for 15 years.  He graduated last May from SEBTS with an MDIV in International Church Planting.  They are currently serving in the Middle East.  They have 4 children, ages 13, 11, 5 and 2.  Amy Lynn enjoys reading, writing and working out when she is not studying Arabic or visiting friends. 
*Name has been changed to ensure protection for our contributor.