Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Future of the American Missionary

I wonder about the future of the American missionary.  When we are asked about our plans for future terms and career paths I wonder how much we really know about where things are headed.  Do you see what I see?

The year is 203AD and a small group of professing Christians are rounded up and put into house arrest.  If they deny Christ then they will be set free.  In response, they hold a baptismal service.  For their profession of faith displayed publically in Baptism they are thrown in prison and sentenced to death in a coliseum by wild beasts such as leopards and bulls.  A young woman named Felicity is among those sentenced to death.  An ancient document writes of her saying,  “She was pregnant when she was first arrested, and now she was in her eighth month.  As the day of the show drew near she became deeply distressed.  She feared her swollen belly would delay her martyrdom because it is against the law to publicly punish pregnant women.  And so, two days before the games began, they (the imprisoned group of Christians) joined together and poured out their prayer to the Lord in a single united groan.  Immediately after the prayer Felicity’s birth pangs came on strong.”  Her miraculous answer to prayer allowed her to be killed as a martyr alongside the other Christians because she wasn’t pregnant anymore.  In fact, together they hoped that in their beatings beforehand they might be whipped because they wanted to share in the same sufferings of Christ as he experienced during His journey to the cross.

Over 1,500 years later, the year is 1743 and David Brainerd is not your average colonist.  At a time when the colonies were just beginning their revolt against Britain, Brainerd took the Gospel to Native American Indians scattered across the Northeast.  He traveled in and out of communities preaching and establishing Christian communities.  The writings of David Brainerd have influenced generations of future missionaries.  At the young age of only 29 Brainerd lost his life to illness.  During his decline in health he wrote of his death saying, “I have never been frightened; but, on the contrary, at times much delighted with a view of its approach.”  He was a man on a mission and his entire focus was given over the work of the Kingdom of God.  Brainerd was commissioned and sent out by a Church passionate about pushing the light of the Gospel into the untouched forests and fields of their infant country.

I wonder where we are today.  We’ve come from an early Church that matured in the blood of her martyrs.  We were strengthened by centuries of sacrifice, steadfastness in the faith and the enduring of suffering and persecution.  We stand on the shoulders of missionaries and horse-riding preachers who took the Gospel to every corner of our country.  We are planted in the soil tilled and nurtured by authors and thinkers and Godly leaders who lived for Christ alone.  Who are we today?

I wonder about the future of American missions.

My mind is full and my chest is churning as I admire the work of all those who came before me.  I’m intimidated and impressed by them.  God has used their lives to write an incredible story.  I want to contribute something to that very story.  I want to add a letter.  A comma.  Something.  I want to scratch something on its surface if only to contribute the thinnest thread or the smallest stone to the Kingdom of God.  I’m proud of the work my family has been a part of so far.  I’m happy with it.  I’m excited about it.  I look at other missionaries and I’m excited about their work too.  I’m proud of them.  And then I step back and think about where the Church is today and where we are going and I wonder what is to come of the American missionary.  I wonder if I was born just in time to watch the end (or maybe the beginning of the end) of the great American missions movement.  I watch great missionaries struggle to stay funded enough to even stay on the field.  I watch them come to the field without the money to stay a full term and then I watch them leave early.  I watch incredible projects shut down from lack of interest and funding.  I cringe at my own family’s difficult road of fundraising in the midst of so much public excitement.  Missionaries compete with coffee, movies, cars, loans, purses and whatever else is found on Amazon or a store shelf.  Organizations gather missionaries regularly to discuss strategies for fundraising.  Strategies!  A Church that was born from martyrs now struggles to send missionaries if they don’t have the right strategy.  Are you seeing what I’m seeing?

I’m not sure what to tell my kids when they say they want to be missionaries, too.  I’m not sure what to tell my organization when they talk about career paths or future goals.  I’m not sure what to tell you when you ask me how long we plan to do this.  I wonder about the future of the American missionary.  Maybe we will be fine.  Maybe the next decade will bring great revival.  I hope so.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Made To Shine

Yesterday I turned 32 years old. In the years I've been given I have learned that every day is worthy of your favorite perfume and humility is the most beautiful thing a woman can wear. 
For the majority of my life I have struggled with who I am. Often, I felt my personality was 'too big' or 'too strong' and I should shrink in order to be accepted. It wasn't until this last few years of my life that I began to embrace who God made me to be. While driving to nearby African villages in a 4X4 dodging ruts and blazing dirt trails I discovered that God designed me to be wild and brave. He needed a wild and brave woman to go out and be with these that He has loved for so long! As I fought to restore dignity for suffering women I discovered God didn't want me to shush up. No! He wanted to use my big, strong voice for His good to speak up for those who needed a voice. As African pastors introduced me as 'the woman who isn't afraid to hold dirty children' I realized that my leaky eyes and tender heart need no apology. A soft heart is God's heart. There’s no shame in hurting with those who hurt or crying for those who cry. 

David Seamands once said that low self-esteem is “Satan’s deadliest weapon because it paralyzes our potential, destroys our dreams, ruins our relationships and sabotages our service.” 
Christ gives us the freedom to be exactly who we are supposed to be. He is our wholeness.
Who are you? Shine!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Cost We Gladly Pay

     With a tiny face buried in my chest and tears dripping onto my shirt I hear a quivering voice repeat the common words: “I don’t want to be a missionary anymore.”  If that were all I ever heard then there would be a sense of confidence in the problem.  At least then, in that case, I would know what the struggle was.  However, there are other times when I hear statements like, “Dad, I’m so proud of you and mom for what you do.”  These words came after a day when I was helping clean up the damage caused by a tornado in a nearby city.  Coincidentally, all of these comments reflect a tornado, of sorts, that spins chaotically through the homes of missionary families tossing things around and stirring everyone into confusion.
     The strong winds in missionary homes are caused by uncertainty, change, loss, inconsistency, etc.  Our kids ask real questions about things that most kids never even wonder about.  The lack of certainty and predictability in our future has a dramatic effect on the way we think and feel about the world.  I remember a few months ago, in Uganda, we were leaving a community event with several families with whom we had become close.  As we walked to the car one of our kids asked, “Will that be the last time I see my friend?”  I was blown away.  What a strange question for a child to have to wonder about!  Already our kids have started to hold life loosely.  Jade and I do the same thing.  In one hand we see the value of a full and deep life with strong attachments and lasting relationships.  In the other hand we see how frequently those lasting moments become passing moments and those deep friendships are pressed by the burden of miles and years.

     Almost daily Jade and I run into someone who asks us the question, “So how are you adjusting?”  The question is a loving one, compassionate and caring.  We’re adjusting well if the adjustment refers to our transition to the year spent in America.  However, there is a bigger adjustment we are much more concerned about.  The bigger adjustment never ends.  It’s the missionary life of constant inconstancy, permanent change, certain uncertainty.  It’s the tornado of thoughts lost in wonder about what tomorrow will bring.

     This is the life we live.  It’s the way it works.  I’ve turned this thing in my hand to look it over from every angle and I see no other way.  The value of the ministry God has called us to, while staggering in its impact, it does not come for free.  My kids know that.  Jade and I know that.  But the tornado spins.  The winds blow and our hearts and emotions are sometimes fragile, our skin sometimes thin, our plans sometimes unmet, our kids sometimes uncertain, our home sometimes not a home but just another building.  It’s the cost we gladly pay.  It’s the price of the missionary life. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

We Were Made For This Video

NEW VIDEO! We're back in Indiana surrounded by friends and family, iced tea, Oreos and endless hot showers. To say we have been welcomed back is the understatement of the year. God has provided a free home and vehicle for us to use for entire time we are in America! It's going to be an awesome furlough! As we begin connecting and reconnecting with new and old friends we must admit that a big piece of our hearts remains in Uganda. Check out this video that some Taylor University students made about our family! We're looking forward to connecting with you folks over the next weeks and months!

Monday, June 27, 2016


This is not an end. It isn't full circle. These aren't goodbyes. Books have chapters but chapters are both an end and a beginning. Twenty-one months ago our family opened a new chapter here in Uganda. Today we aren't closing it, we are beginning again. When we first left America we never really left. Now that we are leaving Uganda we feel we aren't really leaving here either. We have two homes. Our American home is populated by friends and family. Our Ugandan home is populated by a different set of friends and family. This first term could have been a disaster but it wasn't. It could have ended early but it didn't. We could have been discouraged and broken but we aren't. Yes, we're tired. Yes, we struggled at times. No, everything did not go perfectly. In the end (which isn't an end) we look back and see the grace of God that orchestrated relationships and storylines of redemption, healing and growth. In just a few moments we head toward the airport to leave this country, our home, and head to Indiana, our home. 

Over the next several months we will spend our days building a team of people who want to join us in the work. We've been hugely blessed by incredible support throughout this first term and we anticipate much of the same thing through the next. We are currently 72% funded for our next 4-year term. We are optimistic that number will rise quickly with God's help! If you have watched this ministry over the past couple of years we encourage you to take part in it and help us return to Uganda in 2017! Here is the link to join us:
We love and appreciate you all!
Photo by: Helen Manson

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Eleven Years

Eleven years ago we did not begin planning for today. When I watched my bride walk down the isle I had no thought of Africa. When we dated we didn't talk about what kind of tires we should put on our vehicle that would help us get out to the villages. When she asked me about my dreams I didn't mention any of the things I do now. I'm certain that when I saw her the first time I didn't think "check out that missionary". Today was not our idea. Tomorrow isn't either. God has brought us together and set us on a path. The past eleven years of marriage say very little about Nathan and Jade. It is our hope and prayer that the next eleven say even less about us. This marriage, these children, the arms, legs, voices and partnerships formed in our familial love are all a part of God's hand at work. Monday morning we begin two weeks of packing and preparing to return to America for a year. I can think of no better way to celebrate our anniversary than to thank God for the work He has done through us in our first term. This is what we were built to do. The greatest accomplishment of our marriage, the truest picture of its health, is to complete and conquer the work God has set before us. After our year in the States we will be returning to Uganda for another three years of work. We anticipate with optimism and excitement the victories down the road. In all those things to come, God be glorified.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

University Discipleship Group

Yesterday we capped off the end of this discipleship group with a Memorial Day party at the Metz house. We played basketball, yard games and ate some good food. These university students are such an awesome group of people. It's been a privilege to get to know them! As we close out this chapter with their group, I've been reflecting on the things I've learned about discipleship.
Discipleship isn't a scheduled meeting time, it's life together. It isn't a book to read together, it's a way of life. It isn't impersonal, it's intimately personal. It isn't academic knowledge, it's the wisdom of experience. It isn't theoretical, it's practical in every way. It isn't organized, it's responsive to the moment. It isn't man's idea, it's God's plan for man. It isn't fruitless, it's fruitful even if we can't see the fruit. It isn't additions by a strong leader, it's multiplications by an indwelling Spirit of God.
I'm proud of this group of students. One of the last things I heard in my house was the question, "Can we start our own groups right away?" I was speechless. Seriously. I wasn't sure if it was a serious question. Eventually I responded with a massive understatement, "Um, yes, that would be good." In this process of discipleship I have found that the process is mutually, powerfully, internal and divinely changing for all parties involved. As a parting gift the group gave me a handmade picture made from banana leaves that shows a group of people with the words "African Discipleship". Incredible. What an awesome memory and inspiration for the future!