Why Are You Even Here?

As we stepped foot in the elevator, headed up to our apartment on the top floor, I looked my children straight in their eyes and said with a wearied voice…

“We are never going to the pool again!”

It was the first time that I had braved our apartment pool alone without my husband. There is a kiddie pool that my 2 young daughters stay in, but then there is the larger, much deeper pool that my fearless 7 year old, who only this summer started swimming on his own without floaties, loves to swim in.  I try to give him some freedom, but watch him carefully from afar.

The first time our family went to the pool all together was just a couple days prior. I was able to strike up some conversations with the other moms who were watching their children in the kiddie pool while my husband kept an eye on our oldest child.  A couple ladies were polite, but one was very hesitant to talk to me at all. She sat next to me quietly and after I oohed and ahhed over her baby for a couple of minutes, I asked her a couple of questions, trying to get a conversation started.  She almost seemed offended that I was trying to speak to her and after conversing for a few minutes, she wrinkled up her face and rudely said…

“Why are you even here.”

And then after I gave her my best answer, she got up and left and sat with her baby in a lounge chair in the corner.

I felt a little defeated.

My husband later said “So that lady you were talking to didn’t really look like she wanted you talking to her, did she.”

And so, when I decided to brave the pool alone with my kids and noticed the same lady sitting in the corner, I was excitedly hoping she would be up for talking this time.

But then, everything fell apart.  Everything fell apart and I felt very much in the fish bowl as the only foreigner in sight. Because truly, just being a foreigner alone makes us different and the object of continuous and frequent stares.

My daughters wouldn’t share their toys with the other national children and when the mothers would ask them to share, they would scream no. My son squirted another mother in the face with a water gun and she was not happy about it.  My daughters started fighting and when I put them in timeout (an awkward thing since the parents here do not believe in disciplining their children), one of them hauled off and hit me in the face. Then I looked over and noticed my son with only his little mouth and nose above water as he struggled to tread water in the middle of the deep pool.  I yelled his name, causing literally every eye to turn to our circus, dove in and pulled an exhausted son, who was choking on water, out of the pool.  Some of the national boys had gotten rough with him and it was just too much for my new swimmer.

I felt overwhelmed and as I got my children together and continued to discipline them with a loving and calm voice – something only possible through the self control the Holy Spirit gives us, I walked past every national who in turn followed me with their gaze.  With each second that ticked by as I ushered them out of there, the Lord encouraged my heart to walk in kindness by bringing Romans 2:4 to mind…

“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”

Once in the comfort of the elevator though, and finally with no one watching, I let my guard down and decided right then and there that I would never go through that again. My eyes filled with tears and I couldn’t see what good my going out into the community even does in this difficult stage of motherhood. Why would anyone want to be like our family?

But the days are hot in our apartment without an air conditioner and both my husband and one of my friends back home encouraged me not to give up after one difficult moment of motherhood, and so, one afternoon while my husband was in language school, I tried again.

Yes, I got up and tried again.

I left the comfort of our apartment and entered the battlefield for souls that took on the appearance of a swimming pool this particular day.

The minute we reached the pool, my kids dispersed and I silently prayed…

“Lord, help me today”

Just as I took my shoes off and placed our things in a lounge chair, I heard a national woman call my name from the pool!

I looked up and noticed our neighbor swimming towards me. I hardly ever see her because she goes to school and works full time, but I have had a few conversations here and there identifying that I am a follower of Jesus and telling her bits and pieces of my story.  Her husband has hung out with mine several times and we have been on a double date before.

She got out of the pool and sat at the foot of my lounge chair as we started catching up about life. Just as we started talking about their plans to conceive their first child next month, one of my children interrupted me…

“Mom….mom…mom….mom…” said our youngest.

{I honestly was a little frustrated that my plans of talking and hopefully sharing about Jesus were being interrupted}

“I’m sorry, excuse me” I said to my neighbor. “What is it?” I asked our youngest.

“My sister is hitting me and being mean to me” she tattled.

“Can you please be kind back to her? You don’t have to hit her back, ok?” I instructed her as I quickly turned back to the conversation with our neighbor.

{Seriously kids, please allow me to share with this woman went through my mind}

A few minutes later, our middle child was the one to interrupt. “Mom….mom….mom….MOMMY…” my middle child said.

“Yes, what do you need?” I asked her.

“My sister is hitting me and she is shoving me,” she said.

“Ok, you can be the leader, honey.  Please be kind to her and she will probably follow your example and be kind back.  But even if she isn’t, please be kind and love her” I said.

As she ran off back to the kiddie pool, my neighbor interrupted the conversation we were having and surprisingly took it in a different direction…

“Do you yell at your kids?” my neighbor asked me with eyes full of wonder.

I giggled to myself wondering what commotion this neighbor has heard through the wall that we share, and responded honestly…

“Sigh, unfortunately sometimes I do but I try not to.  If I do lose my patience, I always ask them to forgive me and explain to them that I shouldn’t have done that. I try to only speak with kindness to them” I answered back.

“I noticed something when you were talking to your children.  I was actually very impressed by how you talked to them” she said.

“When one of them said someone was mean to them, you told them to be nice back.  That is very interesting.  I have never seen that before,” she confided in me.

It was right then and there that my heart felt alive and the Holy Spirit gave me clarity in the situation and conversation He had ordained.  Once again, He not only was sanctifying me through the challenges of motherhood, but He was using these very challenges and how the Spirit in me responded to them as the very vehicle to show His gospel to this unbelieving woman.

“Oh, it isn’t easy,” I told her transparently.  “But I teach them how to treat each other because that’s what the Bible teaches.  The Bible says that we should love our enemy and pray for them. I know my kids aren’t always nice back to each other, but I still teach them to be, trusting that eventually they’ll understand” I told her.

She smiled at me as I asked her a question…

“Is this different than here?” I asked.

“Oh yes, very different.  Here, if someone is mean to your child, the parents just say be mean back” she said.

And just as she finished her sentence, my children asked if we could go inside. We all gathered up our things and together with our neighbor, rode the elevator up to the floor we all share. I couldn’t help but praise the Lord that the very same elevator I declared that I would never try again in was the same elevator I stood in with the precious yet lost woman who I was just able to share a tidbit of Truth with.

Later that night as my husband brushed our children’s teeth and got them ready for bed, I looked out our window and one window in the distance caught my eye…

I noticed a window in the distance that reflected the sun and stood out visibly among the rest of the windows.

I saw that window and I saw the rest of the windows which seemed dark and I saw the answer to the woman’s question – “Why are you even here?”

The longer I gazed at that window ablaze with His Light and glory, the more sweetly the Lord ministered to my heart, both strengthening me to endure living cross culturally and encouraging me of the beautiful Light seen within our family, even during times that we don’t quite see it, as our lives reflect the life of Jesus and the instructions of the Bible.

Shine Brightly for Christ

12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. ~Philippians 2:12-15, NLTIMG_8662WEB

We are here because God called us here.  We are here because we are convinced that Jesus saves and that he wants to save these people.  We are here because even on days that seem rather ordinary with the same challenges of parenthood and marriage that we would be experiencing in America, these people see something different – they see the power of the Holy Spirit that shines brightly through our moments of humanity, dependent on Christ and choosing of joy.

Look at this sweet family eating dinner all together on their balcony in our apartment complex.  They are a normal family but they are a lost family that is on the path to an eternal separation from God.

An eternity is utter despair.

My heart aches.

IMG_8668WEB…and I ask, does your heart ache too?

I wake up and my life actually looks relatively similar to how it looked in America. I have the same duties of marriage and motherhood, but the difference is that I am doing them among a people group who are over 99% Muslim and I have yet to meet one person who can tell me what Christians truly believe.  These people are completely lost and every friend that we meet will tell us that we are the first believers they have ever met.

Do you realize what that means?

For most in places like this, they will be born, live and die without ever being told or having access to the Good News. They will never have a Christian family choose to leave all that they knew for the sake of being their next-door neighbor and doing life among them, teaching them through words and actions the joy found in the Lord. So on days that I am not seeing a huge revival or a church planted or someone saying yes to Jesus, I am still doing what I am supposed to be doing. I am here. I am present. I am asking Him for huge things and I am trusting Him on days that my eyes seem to only see the small things. I am trusting that on what seems like an ordinary day of cleaning my home and taking my kids to the pool, the Lord is at work. And they – the ones He loves and waits for – are watching.

Is there someone reading this who feels the Lord stirring their heart for the nations?  Maybe there’s a calling there and you haven’t yet acted upon it. It’s not too late! There is much work to be done and millions who have yet to hear! Millions who are waiting for a next-door neighbor who loves Jesus!

Please pray that as we live normal, everyday life among these people that we will shine like lights and that they will continue to see how we are 100% different because we are 100% rescued by Jesus. Please pray that the Lord will call forth new workers and that they would respond. Please pray that as our neighbors see His Light in us, that they will ask questions and be open as we share the source of our joy and hope!