Uprooting and Replanting

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Whenever you face a move, whether God is sending you 600 miles or 6,000 miles, there is a transition – an uprooting and replanting.  As part of our home church’s most recent missions conference, they referred to it as ‘Breaking Camp’ and ‘Advancing’ based off of the Scriptural references in Deuteronomy 1.

The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates.  See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land that the LORD swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them.”
(Deuteronomy 1:6-8)

Breaking Camp for our family came in March of 2013, but the steps God used to work in our hearts and minds, before that actual breaking and leaving, began several years before that.

Our family had valued missions. We already supported those who went and we often prayed that God would use our children one day to serve Him. However, as a true type A personality who likes to plan and know what’s coming next, I wasn’t expecting to hear a call for us to go. Between our pastor’s sermon series on the book of Matthew, my daily devotional, and even our kids’ homeschool curriculum, God was gradually pricking our hearts, and unbeknown to us, was preparing for us to be able to clearly see the need and to hear His call.

When it came, His call to me wasn’t a ‘go to such and such a people and spread the name of Jesus’, it was a ‘Will you follow me? Step out of your comfort zone, away from the trappings of this world and trust and follow me. Are you willing to give up your home? your comforts? your security in possessions?’

God was wanting to know if I was willing to obey and to come, follow Him.

And I knew that I wanted, and needed, to be in the center of His will.

Our family never envisioned that we would be able to assist with others receiving the Bible and hearing of Jesus in their own tongue, but once God showed us the need and how He could use the skills in software development He had given my husband, we knew we had to follow His lead. For we have the entirety of God’s Holy Word in our own language, but thousands of other language communities do not – not even a single verse. We knew that we had to take the next steps to ‘break camp’ and be willing to head wherever He wanted us to go – which, we later learned, was just to the east coast of our own country. =)

When we started pursuing Jesus on this journey into missions, we had three children
that  I was homeschooling in grades Kindergarten through fourth, as well as an energetic preschooler, and a precious little guy who was just learning to walk. I was in the throes of motherhood and the thought of all that had to be done to join a missionary organization and prepare to leave was overwhelming. We didn’t know how we could add hours of training and partnership building to what already felt like crazy, busy days. On top of that, my husband had to be away for a full summer of linguistics training to take courses that would prepare him to better serve in his new role with Wycliffe and provide background for his work in writing software for Bible translation.

kids with signIt was a challenging season, but God showed me two ways that we weren’t in this endeavor alone. First, He taught me how to distinguish between self reliance and strength in Christ. He reminded me that as I focus on Him and not on my own limitations or circumstances, God would supply the strength needed each day. For it is His strength that clothes my weaknesses. Christ’s presence and strength sustaining me created needed joy and a greater dependence upon Him! Secondly, He allowed us to see, first hand, the body of Christ work together as God sent friends and our small group family to come alongside us, allowing us to follow through with what God was telling us to do.

So, those were all the necessary preparations for us being able to ‘break camp’.  And, then, after seventeen years of calling our church ‘home’, it came time to say goodbye. Stepping away from the excellent preaching of the Word, leaving our close friends and our small group, pulling our kids away from their own good friends, and even trusting God with our aging parents whom we were concerned about spiritually and physically … that final step of parting and driving away … was hard. There were lots of tears – from all of our family members.

It is now three and a half years later. Between developing mobile apps for sharing God’s Word through smartphones, working out technical issues for language translators, recruiting and sharing a vision with other IT professionals, and communicating with other Bible organizations and IT missionaries, I can see God using my husband to spread the Gospel …and it brings joy.

For me though, as a homeschooling mom of five, advancing hasn’t come as quickly or successfully and it looks a bit different. It’s hard to admit, but, it took me three years to stop looking back, to stop comparing churches and situations, to quit feeling unsettled and searching for ways I could be more involved in the mission, and to finally hear Jesus whisper to my anxious heart – EMBRACE.

I guess that is the beginning of my own journey into the ‘Advance’ part. I haven’t completely figured out what ‘embrace’ looks like yet, but Psalm 37:4-5 has helped greatly.  It states,

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in Him and He will act.”

Delight.  Commit.   Trust.

Embracing seems to encompass those three things!

Delighting in the Lord makes me want to dwell and focus on His attributes – His sovereignty, His goodness, His mercy, and love. Committing gives me a visual of leaning in and not holding back.  And trusting, well, it involves acknowledgement of His goodness and our dependence upon Him alone.

Delight Commit Trust

(free printable Scripture)

So, advancing for me right now is more about developing contentment as I try to delight, commit, and trust- embracing where God has placed our family, embracing the opportunities set before me to serve, encourage, and connect deeper in our new community, and embracing, with joy, the role and mission He has given me within our family – which never really changed –to lovingly support my husband in his role and to train, disciple, and equip the next generation.

As our Lord, Jesus has the authority to reveal the direction for our family and for our lives. He knows what is best, what is enough, and what our priorities should be. My responsibility is to obey Him and to keep following and trusting in Him.

Being a Tourist

 

in Panama…
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Although our main purpose in visiting Panama was for the dedication ceremony of the Kuna Scriptures, we did have the opportunity to do some sightseeing as well…
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Casco Antiguo (Old Quarters, Panama City, Panama)

A glimpse of what you’ll find here: churches and partial buildings still standing from the mid 1600’s, the official residence of the President, enormous amounts of construction, loose cats and dogs, narrow sidewalks and streets, modern renovated buildings adjacent to run down residences…

 

Downtown Panama City, Panama
– a beautiful city-scape, bustling traffic, a large modern mall, sky scrapers, busses and taxis, side street vendors, etc.IMG_2635
RH City

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Panama Canal (100 year Anniversary!)
– Massive cargo ships containing hundreds of containers
– The Bridge of Americas
– Miraflores Locks

 

 

 

 

 

Nature
– palm trees, bamboo, tapirs, toucans, geckos, etc.

 

 

 

Notes on being a tourist
We are not world travelers, nor do we pretend to be.  This trip was a rarity for us and provided just one small glimpse into another country and culture. We are thankful for the short time God allowed us to experience in Panama!

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Here are some important things in regards to being ‘tourists’ that we want to remember…
– Pack lightly and re-wear clothing.
– Bring your backpack for day trips and pack sunscreen, a hat, a water bottle, a mini umbrella, a snack, a small package of facial tissues (for more than just for your nose), and just use your phone as a camera.
– Tag along with someone who speaks the language if you are going to be there for a very short time.
– Regardless, try to learn at least a few basic, necessary words. (I think I only learned ‘banos’ for ‘bathroom’, ‘gracias’ for ‘thank you’, and – through environmental print – ‘damas’ for ‘women’ as well as ‘alto’ for ‘stop’.  I’m a slow learner though, and it appears that none of my college Spanish coursework stuck with me.  =) )  
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– Find out about the cultural norms before you travel – reminding yourself that the way others do things are not wrong, just different than your own norm.
– Be gracious, patient, and put on a learner attitude.
– Wherever you are, take time to marvel in God’s beautiful creation!

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He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
~Psalm 46:10

God’s Word is for LIFE

For Life

While in Panama City, Panama for the Kuna Scripture Dedication, we were blessed to be able to be present for a traditional evening Kuna worship service as well as a Sunday morning service held at a local Spanish/English church that several missionaries (including Keith and Wilma Forster) attend.   On this particular Sunday morning, a Kuna choir led in worship, the Forsters were honored, the completed Kuna Bible was celebrated, and a sermon was taught on ‘What the Bible Tells Us.’

 
RH Choir

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RH Choir Close up

Where would we be without God’s life giving Words as found in the Bible?  Would we be able to know who He is?  who we truly are?  that God loves us?  how we can love God?  how we can live to please Him?  and why we are here?  

The Bible reveals…

1) who God is.
     He is holy!

For this is what the high and lofty One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
~Isaiah 57:15

2) who we are.
     We are sinners, separated from the Holy God.

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
~ Romans 3:23

3) that God loves us. 
    
God loves us and made a way, through the death and resurrection of His One and Only Son Jesus, for us to be reconciled to Him.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
~ 1 John 4:9-10

4) how we can love God.
     We can show we love God by obeying His commands.

This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome…
~ 1 John 5:3

5) how we can live to please Him.
      We can please Him by living in faith!

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
~ Hebrews 11:6

6) why we are here.
     We were to created to glorify Christ!

“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”
~ Revelation 4:11

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
~ Colossians 1:16

 

One of the pastors emphasized…

Just having the Scriptures is not enough.  It is to be used.

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All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
~ 2 Timothy 3:17

Yes, God’s Word is for LIFE.

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But these are written that you may believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that by believing you may have life in his name.
~ John 20:31

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A Glimpse of Worship

Won’t you journey with me to Panama City, Panama
to catch a glimpse of a Kuna worship service?panama

Watch your step as we’ll be traveling down a steep hill,
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KH Hill 1

past closely lined homes with bright eyed youngsters peering out the windows,
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through the voices of children,
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beyond the gates,
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amidst welcoming youth,
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and into the church, ready to lift our voices alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ.
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With one heart and voice, a unity in Christ Jesus, we worship the One True God together…KF Kuna-Church

and hear His Word,
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spoken in their heart language ~ Kuna.
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In the middle of preaching on the importance of God’s Word, the electricity flickers out… but darkness does not deter this local pastor.

Light starts to shine forth…RH Preaching by Cell Phone Light

Accompanied only by the lights from cell phones,
he continues to preach (adjusting the symbolism to fit the situation at hand)– Psalm 119 105 ‘Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.’
(Scripture from Psalm 119:105, part of the Old Testament that has just recently been
translated, published, and dedicated for their people.)

Upon the end of the sermon, we are welcomed warmly by the body with hand shakes and hugs.
And the sweet, sweet Kuna greeting of “Bab be bendake”  – ‘God bless you.’
(You pronounce it somewhat like: bob bay ben dock ay.)

Then (while still surrounded by a physical darkness)
boxes that are filled with the completed Kuna BiblesIMG_4521

…are opened for the people.RH Bibles by Cell Phone Light

May God’s Holy Word shine brightly in the hearts and minds of the Kuna.
May His Word truly be a lamp to their feet and a light for their path!
Praise God that the Kuna now have the entirety of God’s Word in their own heart language!

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Did you know that Kuna is only the 531st language group (of close to 7,000)  with the blessing and privilege of having access to both the Old and New Testaments?   This particular Kuna congregation is just one of many in the Panama City area.  There are approximately an additional thirty Kuna churches on the nearby San Blas islands.  Kuna pastors, leaders, and families now have access to ALL of God’s Word in their heart language!   We look forward to hearing how God’s Holy Spirit will continue to work through His Word in the lives of the Kuna people.

Why is it so important to translate Scripture into all of these languages?
https://www.wycliffe.org/about/why

Bible Dedication Highlights

Waiting …
DS Waiting for the Kuna Bible   

no more!
RH Kuna Bible

… this is a historical day.
You’ve got the full counsel of God.

~Keith Forster (translator who worked on the Kuna Scriptures)

The Kuna people, along with translators Keith and Wilma Forster, recently celebrated the dedication of the entire Bible into their San Blas dialect.  Three Scripture dedications were held – two on the San Blas Islands and one in Panama City, Panama.  We were privileged to be able to attend the dedication celebration on the mainland with a handful of other stateside Wycliffe members and staff.

As I glanced around at the many Kuna in attendance, I noticed a large number of women and children.  Who could miss the women?  They were beautifully dressed in their lovely traditional clothing made with hues of red, yellow, orange, black, and white – some with their intricate handiwork ‘molas’ sewn on.  Many were also adorned with red head scarves and their delicately created bead bracelets on their arms and legs.  These were the mothers, grandmothers, (and future mothers) who would prepare the next generation to know Him. Women who, although live in another culture and speak a different language from me, are similar to me in that they now have all of God’s Word readily available to them to read, memorize, teach from, share, and pass on to their children!

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I found myself praying for the women and children surrounding me – that they would take the precious gift they have been given and use it, that their children would witness the change in their lives, and grow up knowing Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  (A prayer I’d pray for myself and other moms I know as well.)  Yes, the Kuna now have the full counsel of God.  May they (and we) pass it on to the next generation!

 

Here are a few highlights from the Bible Dedication.

The dedication began with worshipping Christ through singing! 
(We, surprisingly, recognized many of the tunes.  In Kuna, they sang ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’, ‘How Great Thou Art’, etc.)

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Eagerness for the arrival and presentation of God’s Word…
(One Wycliffe attendee compared it to the anticipation felt by a groom awaiting to see his bride walk down the aisle.)

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Silence being broken with the sounding of a shofar and Scripture carried forth…
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Giving thanks to God and praying over His people and His Word…

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Children reading from the Scriptures in the Kuna language!
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The Kuna people now have access to  ALL of Scripture in their own heart language!

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Praising God for the Work of His Hand… 

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Keith and Wilma Forster
(Wycliffe missionaries who dedicated over 40 years in Panama
to revise an earlier New Testament translation and
to translate the Old Testament into the Kuna’s heart language!)

Keith’s thoughts on passing the torch to the Kuna and leaving it all in God’s powerful hands to work His Will…

… And I look around that crowd today and I see … the lives that have been touched and transformed by the Scriptures… And my prayer is ‘God, would You raise up sufficient leaders … shepherds to watch and minister to those flocks, to cause them to grow in Yourself, to keep them on track.’… My translation team – He who began a good work in them will complete it in their day.  You know, and that’s the big thing …The point is this – that God has raised up this thing. We’ve given them tools. We’ve given them the leadership… And so, we’re looking to God to carry it on.

Wilma’s reflections…

I think, today, for me, what was really amazing… When we first came here in 1971, the Kuna church was very, very small and there was only one of them. And as I looked around that huge group of people… just to see how God has been at workit feels like the time has come for the Kuna church to just explode

Prayers of the Forsters as expressed in their update to partners:

Now the Kuna have God’s Word in its entirety. Please pray earnestly that the initial enthusiasm for the coming of the Word will not peter out. Pray that Kuna hearts will grow deep in their knowledge of the Word and of God’s claim on their lives.

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Please continue to pray for the transforming power of the Word of God
in the lives of Kuna men, women, and children…

that pastors would use and handle Scripture correctly,
that hearts and minds would be changed,
that the next generation of Kuna would know Him,  
and that God would be glorified!

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