An Injured Foot + No Crutches = Teaching English for the first time

My first trip to Romania in June 1997  is etched in my memory for several reasons.

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Me in Constanta in 1997

It was my first trip to another country that I interacted with people and the culture. I had gone to Canada as a teen but that was a canoe/fishing trip that started in Minnesota, so didn’t meet any Canadians.

I met many wonderful people and who I look forward to seeing again in heaven if not in this life.

It was the first time I stayed with a host family in another culture.

Pamphlets I had written about Jesus were translated into Romanian and well received.

My translator Mihai and I had A LOT of fun 🙂

One thing I will never forget about that trip because it led to what I do today. My role on the trip was not teaching English. I went around and talked with people about Jesus. I did hang out at the school where the classes were for a while, but did not have a class.

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One evening I was shooting baskets with some kids on the playground basketball court. It was a freak kind of accident. All I did was push off my left foot and I felt a pop and could also hear it. I could not walk on it. So there I was in another country newly out from under communism and I had hurt my foot.

Compounding the problem was that even though my translator and other Romanian friends checked all over Constanta a city of over 300,000 people, there were no crutches to be found to purchase. So the missionaries made a makeshift one with a broom stick so I could hobble along. My original purpose was out.

But God causes all things to work together for the good for those who love God and are called according to his purposes according to Romans 8. 

Because of my hurt foot, I hung around the school where the classes were. I went into the classes and used my acting skills to improvise acting out words for the students. I enjoyed being in the classes so much that I returned to Constanta in June 1998 to teach my own conversational English language class. That is what started me on my path to becoming an English Second Language teacher.

If we look at a situation like I was in on that trip, we might think that An Injured Foot + No Crutches = A Disaster.

BUT

With God that equation comes to An Injured Foot + No Crutches = Teaching English for the first time and a whole new path opened up for me in life.

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My Dream House

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If I were to have a dream house, one that could be a place the both represents me and one that I would enjoy, it would be as follows:

1 big office for me with a map of the world on the wall, a big globe on a table, room for my books on bookshelves, a desk big enough for my computer and to study at, and of course a VERY comfortable chair for me and some chairs for guests.

1 room for entertainment with a big screen TV, a nice sound system, many comfy recliners, a small fridge for refreshments, and some game tables.

1 kitchen where someone else cooks for me because I am a terrible cook.

2 pools, one indoors for the winter and one outdoors for the summer

A big deck outside for barbecues

A large living room with many comfy chairs for conversation

A nice Master bedroom

Several Guest bedrooms

Okay, so that will not happen in this life. At least I don’t foresee it happening.

BUT

My real dream house, or home, is the one Jesus talked about in John 14 when he told the disciples:

“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

This life is temporary and anything we have in this life is temporary. Even the nicest homes in this life will be gone someday. But the home Jesus is preparing for those who believe in him will be eternal and I am sure will BLOW our minds. We cannot fathom how awesome the home is.

An interesting aspect of the culture Jesus was speaking to was that when a man and woman were engaged, the father of the groom would add a room onto the house. When the room was ready, the father would tell the son it was time to bring his bride home. SO when Jesus spoke the words- “In my father’s house are many rooms” and I will come to take to where I am” it would have been a very clear meaning to his disciples.

Yes, it has been 2,000 years, BUT God doesn’t forget us or his promises. When the time is right in God’s eyes, he will say to Jesus, Go get my children, and Jesus will come for us. This post is not about the various views regarding it. This is only an encouragement that one day Jesus will come for us.

A song I love is midnight cry. It is about the moment when God the Father says to Jesus, “Go get my children.” I hope that day comes soon. Today would be great. 🙂 I love this video of the song being sung in a church. Hope you have a blessed weekend and remember that day is getting closer. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Never Too Old To Learn Part 2- Why I Studied Portuguese in My 50s

Yesterday I shared about how a trip to Ensenda Mexico in June 2010 led to me studying Spanish for one year in Never Too Old to Learn Why I Studied Spanish in my 50s. Well, 3 years later I went to Rio do Sul Santa Cantarina Brazil for ministry with Celivris Church in Rio do Sul.

I went to Rio do Sul to meet with teachers while our group of students visited classrooms. I also had the opportunity to meet people at a university in Rio do Sul, Unidavi. Because of meeting the President and the Director of  the Language Department, I had the chance to speak to university students at two campuses for Unidavi, one in Rio do Sul and one in another city Taio.

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While I was in Rio do Sul, I tried teaching myself some phrases in Portuguese using Google translate. Having studied Spanish a few years before helped me feel confident about trying to learn some Portuguese phrases. I practiced them with Brazilian friends at Celivris. One phrase I learned was- Talvez nos tenhamos neve esta semana- Maybe we will have snow this week. Of course they laughed and told me no way because it hadn’t snowed for 50 years there.

At this point I would like to mention it snowed there for the first time in 50 years a few weeks after I left.  🙂 haha

After my time in Rio do Sul, I visited some friends in Belo Horizonte Brazil. I knew them from when they lived in my home city Lincoln while they were students. We went out to a restaurant one evening and they told me I should order the food to practice Portuguese. I wanted to tell the server, Eu estou aprendendo Portuguese e fazendo erros meaning I am learning Portuguese and making mistakes because I wanted low expectations 🙂 . But I said, Eu estou aprendendo portuguese e fazendo arroz meaning I am learning Portuguese and making rice. My friends got a good laugh. The server looked confused. And I actually had fun with it.

So when I came back to Lincoln and as I was praying, I felt the Lord show me that I should study Portuguese. I had the feeling that there was more ahead for me to do with Brazil and Brazilian friends. This was easier for me to accept since I had studied Spanish a few years before. I registered for the Portuguese class at UNL and studied for one school year August 2013 to May 2014.

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Sure enough there were many more opportunities for me with Brazil and Brazilian friends. We had many Brazilian students come to the University in Lincoln for a few years and even a few families of visiting professors for one year.

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I arranged for a small group of students to come study English at my college for a few months in January 2014 and again in January 2017. I returned to teach English in Rio do Sul for four and a half weeks in June and July 2015.

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I have learned over the years that if Jesus shows us that he wants us to do something, it is to prepare us for future ministry or life. We don’t have the clear full picture, but then consider what he said to Abraham when he called him in Genesis 12:

“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you”

How is that for a call. Go to the place that I will show you. In other words, start going and I will show you later where you are going. At a moment like that we might want to ask Alexa or Siri or check Google maps. The problem would be inputting destination as- God will show me. Our modern inventions would not be able to handle that data. 🙂

Stepping out to follow Jesus is not easy. It is a great adventure though and one that has eternal rewards.

I hope to keep learning and growing as long as I am in this life. If I get to the point that I can’t do that anymore, I would just as soon go home to be with the Lord. 🙂

 

Never Too Old To Learn- Why I Studied Spanish in my 50s

8 years ago I went with a group from my church to Ensenada Mexico. My home church, First Free Lincoln, partners with a church in Ensenada. That trip may have been my least fruitful one while I was there due to problems with a tooth and developing bronchitis. But when we step out and follow God’s leading, nothing is wasted. In the midst of what was perhaps my most disappointing experience in missions trips, something happened while I was praying one morning.

As I was praying, I felt the Lord was showing me I should study Spanish. My first reaction was to wonder if it was for real because I was already in my early 50s. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy learning and experiencing new things, but to study Spanish in a college class seemed a bit crazy to me. So I prayed- “If you want me to study Spanish, the class has to be at the downtown campus and at 5:30 or I can’t do it because of my schedule.

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After I returned from Mexico, I went to visit my brother in Wisconsin for the 4th of July. As I was driving back to Lincoln from visiting my brother the persistent thought about studying Spanish kept coming to mind. So I went to the registration office for the college where I teach ESL to check on Spanish courses. I found out the Spanish class at the downtown campus at 5:30 in the evening had 1 more opening. I thought- “Confirmation of what God is telling me.” I signed up for the class.

That led to a year of discovery for me about myself and the beautiful Spanish language. I loved the classes and surprised myself at how well I did in the classes.

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Studying Spanish also opened doors of opportunities for me to share Christ’s love with my Hispanic friends in Lincoln. It has been a huge blessing to get to know friends from Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, and Puerto Rico. It has been so much fun to join my friends for various celebrations.

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Studying Spanish also helped me be a better ESL teacher because while I was studying, I observed different techniques my profesoras used and also as I studied I gained new practical insights into language learning.

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A few things I learned from the whole experience.

1- If an idea comes to you while praying that seems a bit crazy, don’t dismiss it too quickly. Explore it and get confirmation. 

2- We are never too old to learn. 🙂

3- Enjoy the adventure of learning.

4- God will lead us to do things that others might wonder about.

The last point leads me to share that some of my friends wondered if I would be able to do well because the conventional wisdom is that language learning is more difficult the older we get. Well, in the three courses I took I got an A, A, and A+. God doesn’t care about “conventional wisdom” when he calls us to do something. All we need to do is read the bible and see how many times God called people to do something that went against so called conventional wisdom. A few examples:

1- He called a shepherd boy to be king of Israel.

2- He blessed Abraham and Sarah with a son when Sarah was in her 90s.

3- Jesus took uneducated fishermen and turned them into apostles who would start the church.

What adventures has God called you to?

Thanks for reading and God Bless 🙂

You Are Not Alone

As I was praying this morning, I felt I needed to write this post. Perhaps it is for one person or many, I don’t know, but I felt I needed to write this post today.

We are social beings. God created us to be relational people. Whether we are extroverts who love to be around many people or introverts who prefer smaller numbers or a few close friends, we are created for relationship. God created us to have friendships with other people, to have family relationships, and God created us to have a relationship with him as his children.

But sadly, we live in a world that is full of problems and suffering. There are so many issues that can leave us feeling alone in our circumstances, God has something to say to those who feel alone in this life and at times feeling desperation.

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To those suffering with depression and anxiety, God has something to say.

To those suffering the loss of a loved one, God has something to say.

To those suffering with an illness, God has something to say.

To those suffering alienation from family, God has something to say.

To those struggling with addiction, God has something to say.

To those struggling with family issues, God has something to say.

To those who have been victims, God has something to say.

Whatever our circumstance, God has something to say to us. His message has been written. Jesus promised us something when he said, “ I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” in John 14. He also promised in Matthew 28- ” And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus promised to not leave us and to always be with us. He never changes. At times we let life’s circumstances cause us to feel he is distant from us. It can feel like something is blocking us from being with him, but he hasn’t moved, he is still with us. At times we move away from him choosing sin, resentment, bitterness, but he hasn’t moved. He is still standing beside us waiting for us to confess to him what he already knows.

So if you are reading this today, God has something to say to you. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  Call home to our father in heaven. Call home by praying and pouring it all out to our father in heaven. He has asked us to in 1st Peter- “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 

I would like to share a video with you I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe. I pray it blesses you as you listen.

 

Thankful My Students Kept Me Going Last Summer

Yesterday evening was a blessing for me. I was able to talk with a young woman who was my student in a Newcomer Refugee class last summer. She is one of my Yazidi friends. Her English level has improved a lot since she was a new refugee learning words for money, shopping, and other survival English she needed to know.

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The reason last night was a blessing was because I could let her know how much she and the other students helped me last summer due to her English level having improved. It wasn’t only me helping her and the other students, her sister, her cousin, two women from Ukraine, and a young woman from Burma. Last summer was one of my more difficult ones because it was a long process of seeing doctors to find out what was wrong.

It was also a summer of being in pain, having foggy brain, and not wanting to get out of bed most days. What kept me going and getting out of bed in the morning was knowing my newcomer refugee friends needed me in class, so each morning I would go through the slow process of getting ready to go teach. Each morning I would also pray for my refugee friends and listen to worship music to prepare for my day. After class it was off to physical therapy or appointments.

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Fortunately after all of the testing and appointments what they found out was I have Celiacs Disease which is just another autoimmune issue added to my life. My students could tell something was wrong, but I never let on how serious it might have been or how may tests I was having done etc.

So last night was a blessing because as I talked with my friend, my former student, she understood what I was saying when I told her, “You, your sister and cousin, and the other students helped me keep going last summer. Last summer was difficult for me, but you and the others were the reason I got out of bed in the mornings. Thank you.”

When we go through hard times, keeping our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith is a daily, sometimes hourly, sometimes minute by minute deal. My mornings last summer consisted of me thanking Jesus for my students, praying for them, and praying for strength for the day.

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God answered my prayers by putting people in my life that he knew I would fight for by praying for them because there have been times in my life I might have given up on me, but not on people in need like my refugee friends. Refugees are so vulnerable when they first arrive and need people in their lives who will look out for them. God knows I won’t give up on them.

 

 

Music Mondays- Redeemer by Nicole Mullen

As I interact with other cultures and people from various religions, I realize there are teachings for living a good life in each religion. What is distinctive about Christianity?

What makes Christianity stand out is the person we worship and follow our Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter’s response of, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” prompted Jesus to say to him the flesh and blood had not revealed it to him. In other words, God had revealed to Peter that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the promised one.

What makes Christianity unique is the person Jesus. In Jesus we have the only person who has been resurrected from the dead. He defeated death for us.

When Job said I know my redeemer lives, he spoke those words in the midst of severe trials in this life. He suffered great loss and yet he spoke the words, I know my redeemer lives. His hope was not in this life. His hope was in the fact that he knew his redeemer lives.

Jesus said that in this life we will have many troubles but to cheer up because he has overcome the world. Whether it is a sickness-autoimmune for me, financial struggles, loss of loved ones, bullying, violence around us, whatever the problem is, our hope is not in this life. It would be terribly sad if we could only look for hope in this life that is so short and full of problems.

Our hope is in Jesus and his resurrection. Our hope is that there is a eternal home waiting for us, and that Jesus is with us in this life. He has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us. Our Redeemer lives. 🙂

So on this Music Monday I would like to share Nicole Mullen’s song Redeemer. I hope you experience Christ’s presence as you listen and that your Monday is blessed. 🙂

Also if you want to check out more of Nicole Mullen’s music her website is nicolecmullen.com

The Only Time I Had My Fingernails Painted-Helping A 5 Year Old Girl

I have had many students who have been women from Vietnam that work in nail salons. They like to joke with me about coming in to see them and getting my nails done. I actually learned some of the words used in nail salons because a friend opened a new one and asked me to come help the women working there with conversational English.

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Of course I have never had my finger nails painted in a nail salon. It is a fun joke with my students who enjoy teasing their teacher. It is obvious if you look at the picture I took today of my hand.

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But there was one time in 2006 that I had my nails done and in various colors too. The person who did my nails was a 5 year old girl who had her own special equipment.

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She was sitting outside her home with her color markers. The reason I stopped by was because it was the week her father had died and I was helping the family with various things. I sat down to chat with her. With small children sitting and just talking doesn’t work so well and I knew she needed to share how she was feeling. For small children it is easier to talk if they are doing something. She asked me to color her nails and I did. While I was coloring her nails, she was able to talk with me about her dad. When I finished with hers, she then said, “I want to paint your nails too.” The conversation went like this:

Girl- “I want to paint your nails too.”

Me- “Thank you, but I don’t have my nails painted.”

Girl- “Why?”

Me- “Because I am a boy.”

Girl- “That’s silly. Please let me paint you nails.”

She won especially due to the hurt I could see in her eyes over her father’s death. So she colored my nails and we talked some more. We talked about Jesus and heaven. We talked about her dad. It was a moment I will never forget. I am sure she has forgotten it. She was barely 5 years old at the time.

I was grateful the coloring could wash off easily when I got home. 🙂

Whenever I remember that moment, I think about what is prophesied about Jesus in Isaiah 42 and Matthew 12:

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory”

Jesus has all power yet he is gentle with a bruised reed. We are all bruised reeds at one time or another. In gentleness Jesus comes to us with a desire to bring healing, comfort and restoration.

I remember the ‘bruised reed’ little 5 year old girl. As we were talking and she was ‘painting my nails’, I felt some of what Jesus felt for her-the love, gentleness and concern.

If we are feeling like a bruised reed in need of comfort or healing, or we are feeling like a smoldering wick about to go out because we have let ourselves become spiritually dry or run down, Jesus invites us to come to him. He is here with us right now waiting for us to come to him.

 

 

 

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

As Gandalf talked with Frodo in the mountain, he shared this advice with the young hobbit who was despairing the situation they were in, and even though it is from a book/movie, such advice is so valuable for us, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

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This picture is from a flower clock that I saw when I visited Geneva Switzerland in June 2004. Clocks are reminders that time continues to tick away. When I was young, I felt like I had all kinds of time. Now that I have more yesterdays than I will have tomorrows in this world, I realize how short the time we are given actually is.

I have been given time to live in this life at this specific time in human history. I do not want to waste my time wondering why I am living now as opposed to some other time in history. My time in this life has been appointed to me now. I have been given time to live out what was written in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His craftsmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Each day I try to remind myself not to waste a day. I have today and that is all that is certain. My desire is to make each day count. As a teacher, it means looking for opportunities to encourage my students and instill a sense of hope for the future as they try to learn English. By doing so I can show them the love of Christ.

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As a servant of Jesus, it means taking time to pray, sending that message of encouragement, sharing God’s love with others, and being ready to share about the eternal hope we can have in Jesus. More and more for me it means valuing the little things as well as the big things.

Opportunities are not found only on a ministry trip to another country, they are waiting for us each day as we go about our daily lives. We never know where, when, or how the small things for us can lead to something much bigger.

Last December I had a new Yazidi student start my class. She had only arrived in America a few weeks before she came to my class. I had learned how to greet my Yazidi students in their language. I greeted her with choyneh havalemah, phonetic spelling, which means hello my friend. It was a small thing to me but a huge thing for her to have a teacher say hello my friend in her language after what the Yazidis have been through. It opened the door to a wonderful friendship with her and her husband and yes I have had opportunities to share Jesus with them.

But even if it is only a small thing that does not seem to lead much, I try to remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat……….. I tell you whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for Me.” As I try to show His love, Jesus considers it as being done to Him. That alone should be sufficient motivation to make each day count by showing the love of God to others whether in little ways or big ways.

A Birthday Surprise-Sort of

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Well it happened. Time marches forward. I hit my milestone birthday today. Most years I haven’t celebrated it and in fact had not for over 30 years until my birthday 10 years ago when my friends from my weekend groups at my church gave me an almost surprise party.

I love the picture from that day because it represents what my life has been about the past twenty years-sharing life with friends from many different countries. In the picture with me are friends from Belgium, Brazil, Congo, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Ukraine and Vietnam. At that time my church had a map of the world on a wall and the room my groups were in was next to that wall.

My friends decided to throw me a surprise party in the room during our class time. They really went all out in decorating the room with Star Wars and Lord of the Rings theme, cake, balloons, and had the lights turned out. Only one problem, my friend Olivier from Congo. 🙂

I had a meeting at church that morning, so I had to be there early. I asked my friend Yoshio from Japan to pick up our friends Neil and Olivier from Congo because I needed to be at church early. When I got to church, Olivier came out to meet me in the parking lot, shook my hand, and carried my laptop bag in for me. That was at 8:20 and my class started at 9, so my first thought was, “Why is Olivier here are 8:20? He came with Yoshio and Yoshio would never be this early.” So the surprise was given away. I still acted surprised when I opened the door and they shouted, “Happy Birthday.”

I guess it is customary to share some sort of wisdom when one reaches a milestone birthday. I don’t really have anything to enlighten people with that has not been said before, but one thought I have from spending so much wonderful time with people literally from all over the world.

When Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” he meant exactly that. God loves all people from every culture, race, ethnic group, language group etc. God LOVES US. My greatest blessing, after knowing Jesus of course, has been to experience a little of God’s great love for us as I interact with my immigrant and refugee friends. My role and what God created me for and called me to, is to show his love to those I teach, befriend, help, interact with etc.

When I was a child, I used to dream of seeing far away places that I read about in school. God has blessed me to have had the opportunity to travel to Romania seven times, Brazil twice, France and Mexico once each, and because of my trips to Romania to also visit Austria, England, Holland, Germany, and Switzerland. The reason for my trips was to share the love of Jesus.

Here in Lincoln I have met people from so many countries, I can’t list them all. They have enriched my life. They have changed me and my life. It has been through spending time with my refugee friends that I have come to understand and appreciate what Mother Teresa said when speaking of the people she helped, “each one of them is Jesus in disguise.”

We never know how many years God will give us in this life. I am actually amazed I lived this long after what I went through because of that I never made any real plans, but God led me to the life I have now, so I could show his love to diverse people. My desire is to continue to show and share his love until he takes me home to heaven.