Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Facebook Missions

I suppose there has been somewhat of a blog silence in recent months. It’s never intentional when huge gaps of time go missing in writing and updating, and there’s an owed apology to those of you who faithfully read and pray for me and the work in Togo.

The problem is—what do you write when there aren’t “stories” to write about? Don’t get me wrong, the stories themselves are there, they exist of course, but are they “shareable”? Since January we have once again had a Lassa fever outbreak, a dear child that I loved and cared for died the weekend of anniversary of Todd’s death, and I’ve come back to the US to take a 2-month break. The majority of blogs, from medical missionaries especially, can write themselves. Lives saved, lives lost with blood, sweat and tears marking the trail. Who wouldn’t buy that book?

But Some stories can never to be shared because any attempt to write about them immediately cheapens them. All of the details can never be described in a 300-word blog entry and maybe it’s a violation of trust to take the darkest (or brightest) moments of someone else’s life and share it for the world to see for people to click “like”.  

Other stories can’t be shared because no one posts “I had the worst fight ever with my husband last night and my heart is too self-focused to forgive him yet” or “spanked my child harder than I should have today” or “I’m jealous of my friend to the point of coveting her life”. And we would all probably agree that these shouldn’t be posted to the Facebook forums of the world.

More and more I see some Facebook “confession” posts trying to battle the tendency to only post the most perfect parts and pictures of our lives: loads of laundry undone, dirty dishes in the sink, child tantrums—attempts to be transparent that our lives don’t actually have Facebook perfection. I’m not sure that it’s accomplishing its intention, but even so, it’s a start. But is the missions world ready for this? Are churches ready? And Supporters? What about the missionaries themselves?

Some may be thinking, “but Kelly, you write about hard moments and sad stories all of time. Your blog isn’t overflowing with the roses and sunshine of missions life,” and that would be true. But there is a pressure, even with those things, to wrap it all up with a big bow labeled, “it is well with my soul.”

What would happen if missionaries started sharing the things that aren’t “well with our souls”, or should I say “aren’t YET well with our souls”? Maybe we don’t even admit these things to ourselves. Whispering thoughts of, “how can I be a missionary and think that? Would my church, my sending organization pull me off the field? Would my supporters doubt their investment?”

There’s a secret in missions that many won’t tell you—an unwritten truth that you often choose to ignore if your trip is only 1-month long or even 1-year long, but impossible to ignore once you live somewhere: Missions is messy and so are missionaries. 

Each of us comes with preconceived notions and expectations of ourselves, those around us, the culture we are coming into. We also come unsanctified; we are in-process for sure, but far from the finish! We enter the journey with different training, different styles of work, different coping skills and personalities, and most of all different struggles with sin. Missionaries aren’t those that overcame all of the sin in their lives and moved overseas after achieving perfection! And for some strange reason that I have no yet figured out, the Lord decided to put large groups of us together and say “GO! Make disciples...together!”


What happens when compassion looks different to me than it does to you? What happens when I’m still grieving over the loss of a patient when another one dies? What happens when I’m pushing the plow forward but the mud is up to my neck? What happens if there are people who think your work is not even ministry?  What happens when a short-term helper comes to lend a hand, but then spends time judging you and why you seem so “burned out”? What happens when the culture you came to serve is getting on your very last nerve? What happens when you feel disappointed not only in others, but in God?

I’m as guilty as anyone. I want myself and my co-workers to be super-human. I want us to Jesus Himself: perfectly compassionate, loving, merciful, righteously just and forgiving all at the same time. And when I’m not, or they aren’t, I judge them, and they judge me. We likely, and simultaneously, judge ourselves. Can I risk even to say that we can get stuck judging God Himself. How could HE write the story this way?!

And while we know the end of the story-restoration, joy, and healing--there is an in-between. The moments, the weeks, the years that come between the doubt and the joy. 

Are we ready to meet one-another in the in-between?

There is someone who isnot judging us though—The Judge Himself. “Come to me, all who are weary, and I will give you rest.”  While we are busy trying “fix” everyone around us and people are busy trying to “fix” us, Jesus offers us rest. Rest from the messiness. Rest from the expectations. Rest from bearing the load that was never ours to carry, because He carries us through the in-between.

And From rest comes freedom.

True freedom.
Freedom to post “it is not well with my soul”…..for now.

Friday, January 20, 2017


I was reading a book my Amy Carmichael this week called “Gold by Moonlight”.  Amy was a missionary to India in the 1800’s and gave her life to rescuing woman from temple slavery. She’s written more books than I could read as well as having penned hundreds of songs. Chapter 4 of the above is titled Snow. I am a Chicago girl first and foremost—December=Christmas=Snow. As you can imagine, there’s no dreaming of a White Christmas when you’re waking up in West Africa. Bing Crosby on the iPod has to suffice for this year. I will admit to looking up at the sky and asking God for one tiny unique snowflake to come down from the sandy sky and land on my tongue. Each time I promise to keep it our little secret, but it hasn’t happened yet.  But in this Chapter, Snow, Amy writes:

And then suddenly—snow. And all our pleasant things are laid waste, or so indeed it seems, for we cannot see them anywhere, and all our newborn hopes are deep under the snow. For hopes had begun to be: a hope of healing, perhaps, if the trial be of the flesh; of a reversal of decision if it be something that lies in the power of another; or some touch on the wheel that turns our earthy affairs, if it concerns circumstances; of some break somewhere, some natural human joy, some relief, some comfort in the aching sense of loss—and now the snow has fallen and covered everything.

I read that excerpt right before New Years day and realized that nothing had more perfectly articulated what the emotional sum of the last twelve months. 

Everything covered in snow.

But time continues and eventually the snow melts and gives rise to spring.  Somehow we are given permission, either from ourselves, or others, to once again remember that which was sewn many months ago.  There is nothing about 2016 that we need to forget, of course. There is merely a time to move forward in a healthy way, looking towards the joy of a new morning.

As I think ahead, I can only look back to the ways the Lord was already so faithful to me and to this community during the past year. Despite our great loss, the surgical service here never went without a surgeon. We took care of 46 new premature infants, all with Birth Weights less than 2 kg, with a survival rate of 89%! Our two boys, Martin and Jonathan, who are undergoing treatment for leukemia have successfully reached the 1-year mark—half way done! Our first ever HOH nursing class which began in May has retrained all of its students up to this point—a huge testament to our nursing school staff and their hours of work and dedication.  The list could always go on.

One of our sweet premies all grown up!
I have learned over the last year that our “successes” and “losses” cannot be numbered on a tally board. Deaths vs Survival, Volunteers vs. None, Joy vs Fatigue—they are all an intricate plan that the Lord uses to refine us, grow us, and to show us and others who He is. There is no battle going forward where Satan is winning and the Lord is losing. Jesus has already vanquished sin and is the victor. Pray that we can begin to live and work in light of this beautiful picture of victory that is ever before us, the strokes of paint already laid on canvas. It is only with the choosing of the light colors alongside the dark, that makes all things visible.

As always, thank you for journeying with me. Thank you for your patience and your prayers. Please lift us up and we go into a season of both joyful and difficult anniversaries. You’re partnership in ministry here is never forgotten.