Christmas Reflections

Christmas is a season of celebration, when we remember joy and hope and sing heartily of good cheer.  However, as we draw near to the end of 2018, Jared and I are tempted to say, “Good riddance!”  This has been a year we will always recall for its sheer quantity of trials.  In years to come, we will probably say to each other, “Remember the year that started out with your mysterious virus that we thought was a stomach ulcer?  And then remember how I had a cough that lasted for months and dislocated my ribs?  And then Titus broke his arm and needed surgery?  And then I slipped on my motorbike and Titus’ foot got lacerated and he broke his leg?  And then Ivan pinched off his fingertip?  And then Gabriel fell and knocked out his front tooth and we momentarily thought he would have to have oral surgery?”  (Seeing the list in black and white like this, it almost seems laughable!)

But there are other trials that will never be laughable, no matter how much time passes. Early this month, our littlest nephew was born and lived only a few brief hours before passing into eternity.  Just yesterday, my snappy, spunky grandma of 96 years of age also joined her Savior, husband, and all the rest who have gone before.

The pain of these latter two events is very different, of course.  The one was sudden and shocking, and the sorrow of loss was debilitating for Jared’s brother and sister-in-law, who for months had anticipated the joy of another child to hold and love and raise and experience.  They were fully invested in this baby—physically, emotionally, practically—their loss is all the greater for what they will miss out on in the coming years that should have been full of firsts: first foods, first tooth, first word, first step, first birthday, first day of school, first home-run.  Instead, their first day with little Jedidiah also became their last, and now they bear the burden of heartache that inevitably comes from love and loss.

On the other hand, Grandma’s death was a long, slow process, in which time we were able to prepare our hearts and joyfully release her to the full presence of the Lord.  The pain of loss remains, but we can now rejoice in the many years of memories we hold in our hearts—years in which we were able to know and be known, love and be loved by Grandma.  Our heartache is great because of the years we have already been given to fully experience this person; we grieve because of relationships fully-formed and deep-rooted, which have now been torn up by the separation of death.

While death at a ripe old age seems so much more natural (and is indeed much easier to bear for those left behind), we fool ourselves to think that it really is natural.  Death and separation and pain and loss were never part of God’s original design.  Whether it comes after a single hour of life or after almost a century of ripe years, death is not what we were created for.  That’s why it hurts.

And that’s why, this Christmas season, we are stopping to remember the joy and hope that Jesus brings to us.  He came to redeem all the sorrow and toil of our lives and make it worthwhile.  We are already anticipating the gladness of being reunited with our extended families next year after a 3-year absence.  But imagine the joy of the great reunion that awaits all believers at the end of this life.  This is the reunion that Grandma, Baby Jedidiah, and countless others are already tasting.

In all the flurry and blur of a normal Christmas in the northwest, we pray that each of you takes time to consider those who are hurting.  Take time to pray for them and encourage them.  Share a little of their sorrows and lighten their burdens.  At Christmas, we remember that Jesus became like us.  As Emmanuel, He dwelt with us and shared in our trials and suffering before taking the ultimate burden of sin on Himself.  May we all do likewise as we seek to be transformed into the image of Christ.  And when we’re tempted to wish away our trials and say “good riddance” to a tough year, let’s rejoice instead that we have a Savior and Redeemer who has gone before us and has already won the victory!


Beauty for Ashes

Ivan 7“Mom…Mom?”

My last-minute preparations for a Friday-night dinner with friends were interrupted by Ivan’s uncertain voice as he thrust his left hand over the kitchen sink in front of me.  Although it took a few moments to realize the severity of his injury, I knew at once that his fourth finger had experienced some trauma.

I called for Jared with growing intensity as blood dripped into the kitchen sink and I realized that the tip of Ivan’s finger was missing underneath an empty fingernail.

The next several minutes were a blur of activity as we bandaged the wound with gauze, put the severed fingertip in a plastic bag, greeted our dinner guests (and excused ourselves), paid for pizza that was being delivered, and left for a local emergency room.  All the time a feeling was growing inside me…Not again.  Why us?  Why now?  What next?  Haven’t we already been through enough?  

Our local hospital was unable to treat the wound and transferred us to another general hospital in a larger city, 1.5 hours away.  We arranged transportation and made our way uncertainly to the recommended location.  Over the next few hours our minds were filled with doubts, wondering what was the wisest course of action in this situation that required fast response.  Visions of infection, further trauma, a life-long “disability” that could hinder Ivan’s participation in certain activities like playing guitar, sports…all this consumed my thoughts as we drove and prayed and tried ineffectively to contact the hospital we were headed for.

Irritation welled up in me, too.  What kind of place is this where you can’t arrange immediate medical attention for a severe injury?  This never would have happened back home, I unjustly thought.  I began yearning for my home country, where accidents never happen.  I knew I was being irrational.  Practically every traumatic event we have experienced in the past few months has been something that could easily have happened anywhere in the world.  My frustration came from the stress of dealing with these situations in an environment that is still quite foreign to me.  Worrying that I may not be able to understand the doctor’s instructions as he spoke from beneath his surgical mask.  Wondering if the sanitation would be up to par in the operating room.  If I could trust the prescriptions and follow-up care.

As we unloaded ourselves from the vehicle and walked into the emergency room of a large city, my thoughts were immediately rebuked.  Here before me was human suffering in tangible form.  The bustling hospital was crowded with people in pain.  There was a slender boy of about 15 who had suffered a motorbike accident, lying alone, bruised and crooked on a gurney.  Around the corner an old woman lay on a bed, struggling to breathe, while her wrinkled husband muttered pleading prayers with eyes squeezed shut and palms lifted upward. A team of doctors and nurses worked on an elderly man with a tracheostomy tube who was soon rushed into the resuscitation room followed by his wife, who kissed him gently and wiped his grey, sweaty brow before stepping back in tears.

Ivan 6

With these vivid images before my eyes, shame swept over me as I considered how minuscule our plight truly was.  Ivan had walked into the hospital on his own two feet, gingerly holding his bandaged finger aloft and grinning a little when he considered that he could later brag about his experience to his older brother.  And yet, despite small smiles of bravado, my heart was aching and crying out for relief from worry and fear and trauma and sleeplessness…by now I was familiar enough with the round of emotions involved in an accident and already dreaded the bad dreams and the stress of wound care to follow.

But God still cares.  Even when our situation is minor in comparison to (fill in the blank), He cares.  For me, His love was evident in Jared’s silent, reassuring hand-clasp on the way to the hospital.  In the ER doctor’s self-assured handling of the situation and confident cutting and stitching and issuing orders.  In the sacrifice of neighbor-friends who stayed on watch till the wee hours while our other sons slept peacefully at home.  In the tear-filled eyes of our helper lady as she hugged Ivan the next morning and shouldered some of my heartache for me.

Ivan 5

And God heals.  Ivan’s swift healing has amazed us all, and we give the thanks to God.  His finger is a bit stubbier than before, but three weeks later, all that remains of the injury is a small scab, fresh pink skin, and a missing fingernail.

Ivan 3

God heals hearts, too, and this is a process which may take a bit longer than three or four weeks.  He is urging me gently to let go, surrender, and trust that He’s got this thing we call life.  He cares more deeply than I can imagine, but He doesn’t promise to orchestrate my family’s journey through life according to what I think best.  He’s writing my story–your story–OUR story to be an epic which, whether through laughter or tears, points inescapably back to His faithfulness and love.  And one day He will redeem every tear with diamonds of joy and exchange our meager hours of suffering with unblemished eternity.



And…We’re Back!

And…We’re Back!

After a three-year absence on this blog, we’ve decided to move back!  Below are the links to old blog posts from our ministry website with Ethnos360 (we’ll be keeping that blog current, as well).  We’re looking forward to reconnecting with you here at  While you’re here, check out our new pages: Helicopter and Books.

April 9, 2018: The Day Tarzan Fell
February 23, 2018: Loving in Small Ways
August 8, 2017: A Year in Pictures
July 23, 2017: Brake for Chickens
July 6, 2017: CLA Classroom: Greetings
July 5, 2017: Business First
February 27, 2017: Count Your Many Blessings
November 2, 2017: Toilet Paper and Traffic Patterns
September 8, 2016: New Home, New Eyes
July 26, 2016: Have You Ever Memorized a Tracking Number?
July 7, 2016: New Territory (And Why We’re Not Excited)
June 13, 2016: Blood, Sweat, and Suitcases
March 25, 2016: Geronimo!
December 14, 2015: A Video Is Worth a Million Words
November 6, 2015: You Have a New Follower
October 6, 2015: Arizona: A Pokey Kind of Pretty
July 26, 2015: With Hands So Full, Why Do My Arms Feel Empty?
June 4, 2015: Transitions

Home, Sweet Homesick

Maple syrup is on our list of “a few favorite things.”  We put it on pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, cereal, smoothies, milk–and it never hurts to just eat it off the spoon!  For the last three years, we had the privilege of boiling down our own maple syrup at the place we rented in Michigan.  Last August, when we moved to Missouri for training, we carefully and wistfully packed up our remaining jars (“only” eight gallons!) and drove away, not knowing if we’d ever get a chance to experience “sap season” again.

It’s the small, simple things in life that give you a sense of belonging.  The traditions, the smells, the companionship and laughter, the familiar tastes and sights and sounds.  During maple syrup season, we always smelled of woodsmoke and fresh air; the boys delighted in their freedom to romp outside at all hours and experience the slow onset of a northern Spring. 

This year, maple syrup season in Michigan has come and gone without us.  Family and friends back home have carried on the tradition as usual, but we’ve only experienced it through photos and comments.  And there’s a strange little pain inside us that goes deeper than just missing out on the good flavor of fresh maple syrup.

It’s a growing realizationmaple syrup 6 that we might never feel “at home” again.  It’s a sense of lost identity that’s all wrapped up in homey, familiar things like morning frost and squashing mud and billowing steam.  The thud of a mallet and the crackle of burning logs and the sting of smoke in your eyes.  And along with all of this, we know that we’ll be saying goodbye to more important things–the friends that would stay up past midnight with us, finishing off that last gallon of syrup.  The easy camaraderie of chatting around the fire.  The loved ones that have received a Christmas bow-tied jar of the sticky goodness every year.

It’s this poignant, homesick feeling that keeps reminding us of what’s most important.  He is maple syrup 7worthy.  He is risen.  And there are a lot of people far away from our beloved maple trees who need to hear it.  The apostle Peter calls us “the people of God…strangers and foreigners on the earth” (1 Pet. 2:10, 11).  This is the identity we must embrace in this life.  Yes, it’s painful at times.  But our comfort comes in knowing that the God who holds our citizenship in Heaven is the same God who makes the maples flow.

MTC Classroom: Animism

Welcome to the Missionary Training Center!  “MTC Classroom” posts are to share with you some of the important things we are learning to prepare for our future ministry overseas.

Imagine living in a world where your daily existence–life or death, health or sickness, fullness or starvation–all depended on the whims of fickle, capricious spirits.  What if you believed those spirits had power over things as simple as your next meal and as complex as relational attraction?  What if those spirits existed everywhere: in the sky, in the air you breathe, in trees and rivers, in the smoke of a fire, in animals, and even in other people?

What if even the false “god” you believed in was so high and far-removed that he couldn’t be bothered about the concerns of your life?

Whom could you trust?  Where could you flee without being hounded by an overwhelming sense of fear?

Welcome to the world of the animist.

One of our teachers in Bible school used to say that “animism is the default religion of fallen humanity.”  Cultures around the globe are bound up in these beliefs, and it is within animistic systems like this that New Tribes Mission operates.  As ambassadors of the Gospel, it is our goal to see Christ glorified in the lives of people as they turn from darkness into light.  From lies to truth.  From fear to confidence.  From despair to hope.  From manipulation of the spirit world to trust in God for every need.

Even though we’re headed into missionary aviation, we are so thankful to be armed with an understanding of concepts like animism.  Not only will this understanding enable us to minister more effectively to missionaries we serve in the villages, but we will also be prepared to speak truth into the lives of our national neighbors.

MTC Classroom: Phonetics

Welcome to the Missionary Training Center!  “MTC Classroom” posts are to share with you some of the important things we are learning to prepare for our future ministry overseas.

Welcome to Phonetics, a whole new world of language!  This class is designed to:

  • introduce us to the diversity of sounds found in languages around the world
  • teach us how and where these sounds are articulated in the mouth
  • give us practice hearing, writing, and producing these sounds ourselves

Phonetic terminology includes words such as vowels, consonants, fricatives, affricates, nasals, laterals, flaps, glottals, voiced and unvoiced, glides, tone, and stress.  Sound strange?  Add to that a brand new alphabet (click here to see it), and you’ve got phonetics!

So, What?

Why in the world do we need phonetics?  After all, we’re going into aviation…it’s not like we’ll be transcribing an unwritten language, right?

Believe it or not, even phonetics has eternal value!  As missionaries on a foreign field, we will be learning a new language in order to communicate–on the radio, at the market, with our neighbors, and with government officials.  We desire to be fluent speakers of this new language in order to function effectively in a cross-cultural environment.  Phonetics helps us to understand the new sounds we will encounter and to sound more “native” when we speak that language.

God went to great lengths to communicate with humanity clearly, both through His written Word and through the Living Word–His Son, Jesus Christ.  It is this WORD that we wish to pass on to others, and this must be done in sounds that are fully understandable to our audience.  This is why we do Phonetics.