Friday, September 29, 2006

What it's like: part 4 (security issues)

Level 1 - Everyone knows you are a missionary. Your mom can freely proclaim it on any website or blog and you drive around in a 4x4 with "Mission Baptiste" or "Baptist Mission of Wales" or something like that. You sport a missionary visa in your passport and are asked by the local Baptist Convention to preach at various churches, give the commencement address at the Baptist Seminary graduation, etc. Your name can be listed on IMB "stuff". When you attend a Global Impact Conference (GIC), you get to use your real name and tell anything and everything about your work. You get letters from GA's, RA's and Little Blue Haired Ladies. (The life-line of missionary work, cause they actually pray for you!). Almost everyone was a Level 1 missionary until the non-resident missionary program. (some of you older timers correct me if I'm wrong here.) There aren't too many left in these last days.

Level 2 - Everyone knows you are a missionary. Well, probably. At least you don't advertise it, though. You live and work in an area, or with a people group that isn't necessarily excited about your being there. You start using silly substitute words in your emails back to Mama. You may still drive a 4x4, but your RL made you remove the magnetic signs on the doors. However, you have kept them for travel around the country, anyway, because "up country" there is still a "mystic" of the "holy man". You get an occasional letter from a missions group, but not very often. At least your name is still listed in the "Open Windows" so you can get prayed for by name on the Wednesday night closest to your birthday. You still get to use your real name at GIC's, but you hesitate to tell all about what you are doing overseas. You have to modify your blog or website to be careful about what you say. You give security a thought maybe once or twice a month, if that often. A great deal of field personnel are Level 2.

Level 3 - Everyone knows you are a missionary. Let's face it; to most people overseas, they think that if you are an American, you are a Christian. If you aren't a spy, then you must be a missionary. Some of our folks are fortunate and can get away with the "authorities" knowing that they are Christians, but, because they don't make too many "waves" or provide the government with a good excuse to "keep" you in country, you are allowed to stay with an infrequent interrogation by the local security bureau/agency. Others really have to work at a legitimate reason to get to stay in country. For many of our folks, it is extremely illegal to be a missionary in their country. So, they are teachers, or consultants, or specialists, or yada yada yada. After all:

Rom 10:14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without preaching?
Rom 10:15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things!"

The next part should be, "And how can those who are sent continue to have access to the lost, unless they have a residence visa". (No, I'm NOT adding to the Word; just making a point) My point is most security level 3 folks spend an inordinate amount of time making sure they are able to keep the visa in their country. They must be constantly concerned with information security. Much of the time, it isn't necessarily for their own safety, but for the safety of local believers. These saints (the local believers) can be beaten and/or tortured for simply implied association with IMB personnel.

I have heard that there are several countries where the government knows "who's who", but, because, as a general rule, IMB folks aren't "flamboyant" or cause embarrassment to the government, we are tolerated. Sometimes, just flat ignored. However, if the line is crossed, out we go!

You must protect all identifying information over the internet; you have to have an anonymous blog. I I have heard that there are even some of the "young ones" who use fake names at MLC. Personally, I think that it is taking it a bit too far, but that is their call. At GIC's, you use only part of your name or a pseudonym. You haven't heard from a blue haired lady in years. You are listed in a "clump" in Open Windows, as "Last Frontier". You can't answer the question "So, what do you do", without some creative license. In any case, there is a LOT of stress associated with being a level 3 missionary.

Level 4- Supposedly doesn't exist. Supposed "private" appointment services with only a few trustees, Jerry, and a VP or two, simply never happen. I might have accidentally met one, briefly, once. No way to prove it.

Pray for us.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Competition for souls

I ate with one of my kids at McDonald's today. (not my choice) While sitting there, we noticed two Mormon "Elders" sitting with a young man. I assume they were "witnessing", "prostylizing", "wining and dining", or whatever they call it. I was overwhelmed with a sense of anger. These two young guys will move on in two years and leave in their wake more confused people than they found when they got here. I mean we already have to deal with the local religion and it is bad enough. But then you get these fakers who represent the great faker leading people on a road to false truth. Can lost people be more lost than they were before Mormons got to them? No, I don't think so. After all, lost is lost. However, I think they can cause indescribable damage. I really, really hate Mormonism.

I visited the offical Mormon website after going to Mickey D's. I have studied it on and off for years (not for personal gain, but for battle info). They are so full of lies that I couldn't look at if for more than 5 minutes without feeling ill. I really, really hate Mormonism.

Eph 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the world's rulers, of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What it's like: part 3 (kids)

Parenting is an adventure no matter where on earth you are at, but it can be even more of a challenge, and more of a delight when you are overseas.

Everyone has a cute MK story about this or that, and my regular public blog (which shall remain unknown and unlinked to this blog) is full of funny stories about my kids. I'll spare you the stories and focus on the challenges of raising "Third culture kids". The notion of TCK's is that they don't fit in their parent's culture and they don't fit in their host culture. They have a culture all their own. And when you have lived in as many countries as we have, we aren't even sure of what they call their own...

What got me thinking about this particular subject today is a derogatory comment my pre-teen said to my wife today. The comment was something like "Why can't you make this 'home'"? Of course, that is about the worse thing a kid can say to their mother. Our youngest child, simply couldn't even understanding the sibling asking that question and got rather upset that it was asked, because that child's definition of home is "where ever your suitcases are". The basis of the pre-teen's question is rooted in the many, many moves we have made over the past years and having to say numerous good-byes and having to start over making friends.

So it got me thinking about what "home" is. For me, "home" will always be back in the Greatest State in the Union. Even if I NEVER live there again, I'll always consider it "home". Even when I lived in Hell (Los Angeles), I went "home" for Christmas. I asked my wife what home meant to her. She said that it used to mean the Greatest State in the Union, but now, she doesn't know any more. She said that she has tried really hard to make a couple of the places to feel like home, but they really never got there, except in two instances. She said she is really, really trying to make this new place seem like home. Me, too.

Back to MK issues... Their normal growing up years is so vastly (and sometimes ghastly) different from mine. I lived in the same town until I left for college. I had a yard, two dogs and two cats. I went to a rural school through 8th grade. I lived in the same town as grandparents. I went hunting practically whenever I wanted. My kids had a dog, but it was bitten by a black mamba and died. My kids live 10,000 miles from their grandparents. My oldest child started off in pre-school in a foreign language school, where this child didn't speak one word of the language. This child ended up being first in the class in both pre-school and kindergarten! Private ownership of guns has been illegal in every country we have lived in, so hunting is just out of the question for my kids.

In my growing up years, all we had to worry about was Viet Nam or the Cold War. I never saw any act of "civil disobedience" during the civil rights 'era'; my home town was just too small and didn't care. My kids have seen extreme poverty, public riots, and incredible hostility. They have heard bombs, grenades and machine gun fire. In fact, several years ago, we were in the US. An ambulance happened to go by and my mother asked one of my kids if they heard lots of sirens over there in Lalaland. My brave little child answered, "no grandma, just machine gun fire". That statement haunts us to this day.

I have ended up with some incredible kids. Well, despite the fact that they don't like hot dogs, they speak multiple languages, understand nuances of different cultures and can sing the national anthem of several different countries. They understand lostness. They understand the need for compassion. They ask deep questions, not just about silly things. Yes, they are still kids and as a parent, I still have to get on to them. They certainly aren't perfect. But I'll bet they will be some of the most interesting people their friends will ever meet when they go off to college!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

What it's like: part 2 (health issues)

It isn't any fun being sick. Back in the States, I hated that feeling that comes on when you're getting the flu. For me, my hips start to hurt first, then I get all 'achy'. That is usually just an inconvenient sickness, that is, for someone my age, usually not life threatening.

I've never broken a bone (thank the Lord!). Of course, I have known many people who have broken various bones. It is a scary time and, I'm told, it hurts like heck. I hope I never have to know.

Cancer is a whole other story. That is some bad stuff. My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother were all affected by cancer. My grandma and mom are cancer survivors. That is a horrible, trying time for the whole family, not to mention the patient. The treatment can be almost as hard on you as the cancer itself. You sure want to have someone who knows what they are doing to deal with it, especially if it is caught early. Cancer is just plain 'bad'.

A heart attack is scary. It has some warning signs, and there are perhaps, 'high risk groups' for having one, but you really just don't know what is going on inside that ticker of yours. People as young as 40 can drop dead without warning. Of course, it is sometimes survivable if you are able to get help when it first starts. You need some big time health care to survive a heart attack.

A stroke is a nightmare. I know several stroke victims. I had a great aunt who literally just killed over with a massive stroke. My brother-in-law has had a couple of stokes and he is struggling to recover. PTL he hasn't lost any function from these mind scrambling events.

Being sick yourself is one thing; it is quite something else when your child is sick. You tend to panic, especially if there is any difficulty of breathing or a high fever. At least "Urgent Care" is open 24 hours. Right?

Well, if you live in the States it is. If you live overseas, especially in the 10/40 window, your chances aren't so great of finding any kind of medical care you'd send your dog to, much less your children.

I have been associated in some way with helping other missionaries get health care in the various regions I have lived. The very first "city" we lived in on the mission field (before helping folks) had a "medical" clinic. It actually had a price list of medical procedures painted on the outside wall. One of the procedures that has stayed with us was "caesarian section". It listed its price as about $15. It listed a C-Section WITH ANESTHETIC at $25. We reasoned that it was listed that way because some folks couldn't afford the extra 10 bucks for the happy juice! OH MY GOODNESS!!!!

I have seen the terror on a mother's face when something is wrong with their child and they are 10,000 miles from "home" and the only medical care is something along the lines that I described above. Medical care is reimbursed where ever you decide to have it, but in order to get your travel and lodging reimbursed, you have to have pre-approval. Of course, procedures exist for emergencies, which vary from region to region.

However, you can't just zip down the street to you local ER or urgent care facility. In our first city, we lived about 5 hours from the capital which had one negligible hospital that we weren't too uncomfortable going to for basic stuff. However, when my wife needed to give birth, we packed up the family and went to a different country for nearly two months to give birth in the very best hospital in the whole region, which was on par with a rural county hospital in the US. This hospital was clean and nice, and offered a measure of assurance, but for anything major, you had to be flown to Europe or back to the US. Any kind of heart problem? BOOM! Back to America. Any kind of cancer? BOOM! Back to America. Broken bone? Boom! Go to the regional hospital. Appendicitis requiring emergency surgery? Boom! Go to the regional hospital. Need to give birth? Boom! Go the regional hospital.

Where I am now is not much better. I'd say that more that 90% of all the folks who live in my current region must go somewhere else for birth, surgery, etc. Same for the folks in the surrounding regions.

Well, I see that this is now too long for most folks to read. If you have continued this far, this is definitely something that separates living in the US and living overseas in the 10/40 window. Pray for us.