Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Blog Hop: Ten Things I'd Like People to Know About Our Mission Field

This blog hop is sponsored by Baptist Missionary Women. Enjoy learning about where we live and serve from missionary women all over the world!

The Basque region of Spain is known as the Basque Country. That’s because it’s the ethnic homeland of Basque people. We’ve lived and worked here for more than thirty years, rearing our kids here and starting a church near the beautiful city of San Sebastián.

What do I wish you knew about our place of service?

1. The Basque Country is one of the most beautiful places in the world (when the sun comes out). We pay for all the green hillsides with many days of rain. But, when the sun shines, nowhere is prettier. We have gorgeous beaches, high mountains, and beautiful emerald hillsides dotted with sheep and cattle. Every town looks like something out of a fairytale.

2. The Basque Country is the least religious part of Spain. Most people would claim to be atheists, and most are nominally Roman Catholic in culture and tradition. Very few people go to church (of any religion) except for weddings, funerals, baptisms, and first communions. The vast majority of the people here don't want to talk about God.

3. Most parts of the Basque Country have had very little evangelical influence (if any) before the last thirty years. Mostly, the people have only had exposure to the state church—Roman Catholicism. There’s a tradition of witchcraft in the Basque region. Anything different from the Catholic Church is mostly unknown. The vast majority of the people have never once heard a presentation of the gospel.

4. The Basque Country is full of lovely people. The Basque region gets a bad rap because of a small group of terrorists. Believe me, we’ve lived here over thirty years, and 99% of the people we’ve met have been gracious, kind, friendly, and have treated us very well. We can walk almost anywhere at night and not feel threatened at all. There’s a very low crime rate. We can always count on friends and neighbors to help us out when needed. The Basques are hardworking, family-oriented, and fun.

5. Social pressure is very strong. The Spanish have a saying ¿Qué dirán? (What will they say?). In the Basque region, as in many other parts of Spain, people live in high-rise apartment buildings. Neighbors typically keep tabs on their neighbors and know their every movement. So, people are very hesitant to break the mold and do anything different from what’s generally done. People have actually told us they would not set foot in our church because, “What will they say?” Quite a few people have stopped outside the door to call into the building for the person they wanted to talk to. They would not cross the threshold! There’s a lot of pressure to party, have lots of friends, be generous, participate in fiestas, and mix with the neighbors socially.

6. It’s perfectly legal to place gospel tracts in mailboxes. We do mass evangelism this way. We go from house to house, climb lots of stairs, and put tracts directly into each mailbox. This way, we know that entire towns and cities have been covered with gospel tracts. Several of the people who regularly attend our church today were first reached by reading our simple gospel tracts. This has been the best way we’ve found to get the gospel to those who’ve never heard. People who would never visit our church will sit down and read a tract.

7. Our church is multi-national. Over the years, the only continents not represented in our church have been Asia and Antarctica. At present, a third of our faithful people are from Africa, another third from Spain (including Spanish, Basques, and gypsies), and the rest of us are from other countries in Europe and the Americas.

8. Patience is probably the most necessary virtue for working here. There’s a word in Spanish, confianza, that basically means “earning one’s trust.” It can take literally years to do that here in the Basque region. While people are naturally friendly, and it’s easy to make conversation with anyone, it’s hard to make friendships that are trusting and genuine. Over the years, though, people notice “those foreigners are here for the long haul.” They work beside us and watch us. We patronize their businesses. After years of interaction, they finally feel like they know us, and then we can freely share the gospel. Those who would never accept a gospel tract upon short acquaintance and were embarrassed to be seen talking to us now greet us warmly. We've made friends, and we are thankful. Patience is also important for church planting. It takes an average of twenty years to establish one church.

9. Immigrant families are filling Spanish churches. This is true all over Spain and increasingly in 
the Basque Country. There are many people from other parts of the world who've moved to Spain for a better life. Immigrants tend to be more open than Spanish people to evangelical churches. Some are already born again believers, and some aren’t, but they will come to church when invited by a paisano (someone from their home country). The influx of peoples from outside of Spain has helped our Spanish churches grow, both spiritually and numerically.

10. Spanish food is nothing like Mexican food! It's flavorful, healthy, and delicious, but the flavors aren't anything like Mexican food. There are several world-renowned restaurants in the Basque region. The pictured dish is paella, the "national" dish of Spain. Each region has its own special way of preparing it, and it's delicious wherever you go. 

To read the next "Ten Things" post, hop on over to Jamie's blog, here. To read them all, start at our home page at Baptist Missionary Women and then follow each link to the next woman's blog.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Awake 24/7

It was one of those nights. I couldn’t sleep, not matter what. I occupied my eyes-open time by praying for friends and family. I got up and walked around. And, it came to me . . .

God never sleeps.

He never did! He’s on duty day and night, everywhere in the world, everywhere in the universe—outer space included—all the time!

 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: 
he that keepeth thee will not slumber.

  Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
(Psalm 121:3-4)

The Bible indicates that, at least in some instances, God gives the blessing of sleep to His people:
  • He giveth his beloved sleep (Psalm 127:2b).
  • When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet (Proverbs 3:24).
  • Jesus said to His disciples at Gethsemane, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners (Matthew 26:45b).

God is eternally awake and eternally present in every sense. The whole concept of eternity is more than we can understand—forever living into the past and forever into the future, yet always living in an eternal present. We know that God doesn’t need to sleep. He is infinitely, always involved in the affairs of the world. He is there—for us, for the world, for the universe—forever and ever and ever.

What does this mean for us?
  • SecurityI will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety (Psalm 4:8).
  • Sleep is a reward for hard work.The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep (Ecclesiastes 5:12).
  • Jesus gives rest to our souls. He said, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls (Matthew 11:28-29).
  • It’s time to wake up and live holy lives for God.And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed (Romans 13:11).

So, what's the problem when you can’t sleep? Does it mean you’re in sin?
  • It’s possible. The Bible says in several places that they (the wicked, verse 14) sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall (Proverbs 4:16).
  • You might be anxious. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • It’s also possible that God is giving you time to communicate with Him. When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches (Psalm 63:6).

The next time you’re awake at night, and you’d like to be sleeping:
  • Confess any known sin. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
  • Pray for others and for your own needs. Pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16b).
  • If you’re anxious, tell God all about your concerns. He promises peace. (Philippians 4:7, above)
  • Rehearse memorized Scriptures in your head. Nothing soothes the soul like the Bible. (I love to go over Psalm 23, 34, 100, and 121 when I can’t sleep.)
  • Praise God for Who He is and thank Him for your blessings. I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high (Psalm 7:17).

Good night, sleep tight . . . and if not, enjoy fellowship with God.

He's awake!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Spooky, zany, silly, and this year . . . political. You can pick a Halloween mask for any taste and budget—or paint your face! There are even tutorials to help you.


By definition, a mask hides the real face. It transforms the real person into something else.

This year, you’re Mickey Mouse, or Pocahontas, or a zombie. You’re a peacock or a monkey or a gorilla. You’re President Obama or Hillary Clinton or Dr. Ben Carson. You can be whatever you dream up. Just put on a mask, a wig, and different clothing, and voilà! You’re something else!

And even when it’s not Halloween, people still wear masks.
  • The mask of self-righteousness—This is the mask that the Pharisee wore when he prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess (Luke 18:11-12). Don’t we do the same? We compare ourselves to that miserable person over there, and we see ourselves as really something. Are we really? Nope! If we have accepted Jesus’ payment for our sins, what we are is miserable sinners saved by grace. If we haven’t yet accepted that gift of salvation, we’re dead in our sins. Nobody’s anything apart from Jesus.
  • The mask of beauty—People today can make themselves look amazing, given enough time, plastic surgery, and make-up. The other day I was watching a woman on TV. I know she’s probably ten years older than I am. She looks gorgeous! To be fair, she was always pretty. (I remember her from when I was a child.) But really, she could easily pass for someone in her forties. Everything’s been lifted, smoothed, made over, and the results are amazing! A news channel we often watch has obviously encouraged all of its anchors to get plastic surgery. Even the men are ageless! But, behind the smiles, make-up, groomed brows, great hair, and loveliness is a normal everyday person with heartaches, struggles, and needs. Yes, beauty can be a mask.
  • The mask of glamor—Things. Years ago, my husband and I passed a shack of a house. If it had two rooms, I’d be surprised. It was in a poor neighborhood, with a sandy yard and sparse grass. Parked in front of the shack was a beautiful, shining Lincoln Continental, easily three times the value of the humble house. You can imagine how the car’s owner appeared, when he was out on the town! Cruising. Waving to his friends. All of his money was invested in the showy car. I see the same thing with Hermès bags, Louboutin shoes (with their trademark red soles), Apple watches, and more. They shout money to everyone around them.
  • The mask of busy—This mask can creep up on the generous-hearted person who can’t say no. He soon finds himself overcommitted and working all the time. He fixes everyone’s problems, and he has no time for taking care of his own soul.
  • The mask that says “I’m okay”—This mask is for addicts mostly, but it also covers secret sins. Gambling, porn, substance addictions, adultery, fornication, feeding the mind on movies and TV that don’t help one’s thoughts, online flirting, etc. are usually only known by those who do them. Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD (Jeremiah 23:24).
  • The mask of complaining—This is a terribly ugly mask! Instead of praising God for his blessings, this person squawks. Nothing is good. Everyone’s against me. I have so many aches and pains. No one suffers like I do. Everyone misjudges me. Everyone takes advantage of me. My family stinks. Squawk, squawk, squawk! The Bible says—written by a guy in prison—Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice (Philippians 4:4). The psalmist said, Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits (Psalm 103:2).
  • The opaque mask—No one can see behind this mask, which is more like a wall. No one knows what’s behind it. This person finds it impossible to be transparent or vulnerable. He won’t let anyone see who he really is, and he won’t open up to love or caring. As a result, the opaque person is actually living a lie—a very lonely lie. The Bible addresses Christian friendships and the importance of transparency: Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another (Ephesians 4:25).

Are you wearing a mask? What are you hiding?

Are you fake?

Are you opaque?

Are you needy?

The good news is that Christ is the answer.

Jesus said, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;
for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
(Matthew 11:28-29)

(You might enjoy reading my thoughts about Halloween, here, and here.)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Non-fiction review--Pioneer Missions: Meet the Challenges, Share the Blessings

Photo courtesy of: Serge Bertasius Photography, Free Digital Photos

Pioneer Missions: Meet the Challenges, Share the Blessings by Forrest McPhail, missionary in Cambodia, is a discussion about how to do pioneer missions. He uses the analogy of farming. First, you prepare the soil, then you plant, and later you reap.

I really appreciated his emphasis on getting to know the people you minister to, especially their background belief system—whatever it might be—so that you understand how they think about God. I loved this encouragement: the author is talking about how spiritual labor is different from agricultural labor in that a farmer can work hard, and one terrible weather event can wipe out his harvest. “This never happens to workers in God’s harvest fields. No word of God returns void. It always accomplishes the purposes for which it was given. . . . Our labors are never in vain. Praise be to God!”

He talks about knowing how to present the gospel in the context of the people’s religious background and experience, so that you communicate it clearly. He refers to the difference in how the apostles preached to the Jews and gentiles: “The key difference was with the starting point. One group was not a pioneer mission field, and the other was. The Jews already believed, or claimed to believe, the entire Old Testament revelation. The main issue for the Jews was whether or not Jesus was the promised Messiah. . . . Paul’s method with (gentiles) was to emphasize the person of God, beginning with creation. . . . A person cannot really understand God, sin, who Jesus is, the cross, eternal life or judgment apart from understanding creation and man’s fall.”

The author emphasizes the importance of learning the foreign language well. I really appreciated this: “I . . . encourage Christian young people to aggressively study a foreign language with the hope of being able to use that language later in their service for the Lord.” (I couldn’t agree more. You can access a post I wrote about encouraging your children to be multilingual, here.)

I personally agree wholeheartedly with this statement about pioneer ministries: “Multiple Bible studies will be required to present the Gospel to people, some taking months or years before they really grasp the Gospel message. Remember pioneer missionaries are introducing people to God.”

Mr. McPhail speaks of cautions for the missionary and goes to great detail about the dangers of syncretism. He speaks of challenges and blessings in pioneer ministries. I appreciated his section about first-generation believers and their baggage. We’ve seen that here in Spain. Then, those first believers have children, and they are brought up in pure lifestyles and grounded in their beliefs. They become effective leaders in the church.

The author speaks on the topics of compromise, church discipline, discipleship, and how to help new believers who are persecuted for their faith.

I really enjoyed this book, especially since our own ministry can be pioneering in some senses. Mr. McPhail has written a thoughtful manual that’s informative and practical. I enjoyed the glimpses into his experience in the East and reading wisdom from a missionary who had served in a very challenging place.

Another valuable aspect of this book is his list of reading references on missions at the end.

I would recommend Pioneer Missions for anyone who wants to understand foreign missions, especially for missionaries in pioneer or semi-pioneer fields.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Boots for Fall

It’s autumn, and girls all over the world are pulling out their fall clothes—leggings, jeans, socks, oversized sweaters, layers of shirts, sweaters and vests, boot liners, and, of course, boots.

I like boots. In fact, I’ve got my radar on for some new ones this year. (My old ones—sniff, sniff—pulled irreparably apart a year ago.) I really enjoy wearing boots on rainy days, with midi skirts.

So, what is it about boots that’s so popular? I’m not sure, but it seems like every single woman in the world has to be wearing boots from early fall to early spring. It’s like no one wears shoes in the winter any more.

Can I be candid? Can we talk about boots and modesty?

This year, most boots in style in Europe are ankle height. I’m not talking about them at all. (Just so we’re on the same page.) When I say “boots,” I'm talking about below the knee, to the knee, and above the knee, okay?

Fashions come and go. This one seems to have stayed around a long time: sweater or layered top and leggings or jeans, tucked into boots. It’s almost become a uniform, and even though I’ve seen a few people wear this look somewhat modestly, I think for most it isn’t. Why? Well, even if the sweater is long, it looks from a distance like the woman is wearing a very short dress with tights and boots. One’s eyes go straight to the thighs—what’s between the hem of the sweater (or top) and her boots. This look calls attention to the thighs. Is that where Christian women want to attract attention?

Photo courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography, Free Digital Photos

Oh yes, the girl is covered. But, it’s about the nature of boots: attention is naturally drawn to whatever’s seen between the boot and the dress, skirt, or top.

Today, the “Peter Pan look” is in. Girls wear leggings and short tops. The tops get shorter and shorter. So the attention goes up and up . . . .

Why do prostitutes wear over-the-knee boots? To show off thighs. It’s as simple as that.

Another thing I’m noticing about women’s boots is that they’re getting more masculine every year. They look like combat boots, or horse-riding boots, or they hide the ankle in chunky leather. Biker boots are popular this year. Heels are flat, and boots have a unisex feel.

I’m all for comfort, and I’m not advocating stilettos for fall. But, I think we need to pay attention to our overall look. Do we look feminine? Does our boot choice mix well with feminine clothing? Will the length of our boots work with our skirts? Is my profile feminine? Do my boots make me look pretty—or horsey? Do I look clunky or ladylike?

Let me ask you a question. It’s not about boots; it’s about the heart. Who are your fashion models?

The Bible says,
  • In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
  • Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves (1 Peter 3:3-5a).

The Bible indicates that our models for dress should be godly women. Do you know a woman who exemplifies godliness? How does she dress? Watch how she puts together modest clothing. Observe how she looks feminine—even in boots.

Here are a few tips for your boots this fall and winter:
  • Look for pretty boots. (Rule out combat, biker, and clunky boots.)
  • If you’re short, look for boots that hug the leg and don’t get wide and bunchy at the ankle. Go for a little bit of a heel.
  • Try your boots on with a skirt. Make sure they look good together.
  • If you want to wear leggings with boots and a top, make sure your top is as long as a dress. You do not want to look like you’re wearing a “mini-dress.” (Remember, there’s very little visual difference in leggings or skinny jeans and leotards.)
  • Look at your complete outfit in a full-length mirror. Do you look feminine? Does any part of your clothing attract attention where you don’t want it? Is your silhouette pleasing to God?
  • Most important, ask yourself: can anyone looking at me tell I’m a Christian? Do I represent Christ? Do I look like a godly woman? 

Enjoy your boots, and look lovely!

God bless you!

Thanks to my friends for the last two pictures!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

They Encouraged Themselves in the Lord

Some time ago, the biblical phrase encouraged himself in the LORD his God made me curious if there were any other references to the same concept. To my pleasure, there is one other. Let’s take a look at these inspiring examples.

AbrahamHe staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he (God) had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him (Abraham) for righteousness (Romans 4:20-22). This passage is about God’s promise to make Abraham a father of many nations, even though both he and his wife were very old, and Sarah had never had a child. (Romans 4:17)

The phrase was strong in faith can be translated “he strengthened himself in faith.” From the context, we understand that Abraham’s faith was in God’s promise. What God promised, Abraham believed. It was as simple as that! Look at the phrases above: staggered not and fully persuaded. Abraham had an accurate picture of God. God could do whatever He said He would do.

I wonder how we see God. Do we limit him? Even though circumstances look bleak or even impossible (old age, barren womb), do we doubt that God will do what He’s promised in His Word? If He promised, it will happen. Let’s strengthen ourselves in our faith in God’s Word.

DavidAnd David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God (1 Samuel 30:6). As you can tell, David was in dire straits. His life was in danger. The Amalekites had surrounded Ziklag and burned it to the ground. They took women and children as captives, including two of David’s wives. The people sorrowed, and then they were angry with their king, David. So David encourages himself in the Lord, and the first thing he does is to seek God’s leadership. And David enquired at the LORD, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all (1 Samuel 30:8).

Notice what David didn’t do:

  • He didn’t sit in lotus position and zone out.
  • He didn’t put on a fake smile and think positive thoughts.
  • He didn’t get in touch with inner self.
  • He didn’t go out on the town and get high/drunk/plastered.
  • He didn’t even call for musicians or play his harp.
  • And, he didn’t eat a Happy Meal.

David encouraged himself in the LORD his God. Then, he found out whether God would prosper him if he went after the enemy. When he knew what to do, he immediately set forth to do it. And David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away: and David rescued his two wives. And there was nothing lacking to them, neither small nor great, neither sons nor daughters, neither spoil, nor any thing that they had taken to them: David recovered all (1 Samuel 30:18-19).

What’s our first reaction when threatened? What’s our reaction when people are angry with us? David encouraged himself in the Lord. David asked God what he should do. When David knew God’s will, he did it. And, God prospered him.

Do we ask God what we should do? When we get an answer, do we immediately obey? It’s the only way to have spiritual success. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success (Joshua 1:8).

Both Abraham and David encouraged and strengthened themselves in faith because they had confidence in God’s Word. They trusted that God could do whatever He said.
  • Do we trust without staggering?
  • Do we act on God’s guidance?
  • Do we know the Bible so well that we understand God’s will?

Encourage yourself in the Lord your God!