Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cross-Cultural Lessons: Adoration

Anyone who has traveled or lived cross-culturally (whether in their home country or abroad) should be able to share more about lessons learned than lessons taught. If I can't do that, something is wrong. This Sunday, I was able to reflect on what cross-cultural living has taught me about adoration.
As with most things, the journey to the obvious was long and twisty.
A synopsis of the beginning of the story is that I am terrible at adoration in prayer in worship. My mind wanders, I lose interest, and I even begin to feel it is pointless. The sinful train of thought goes something like, "God knows He's great, I know He's great, what are we talking about here?" Even as a young girl, armed with the acrostic ACTS, I got so stuck on the A and wanted to skip to Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. Adoration seems so redundant, and so obvious.
There is quite clearly sin in this attitude. Also, though, there is the natural way my brain works - to tease the nuance out of something, to want to wrestle with the complicated, to exercise curiosity and wondering, to discover new things rather than dwell on the familiar.
So, in my personal prayer, adoration is rushed - the prayer equivalent of a head nod instead of a bear hug. In corporate prayer, while someone else is adoring, I'm daydreaming or (at my worst) judging.
****
You all know that my first foray into crossing culture in a significant way was marrying Ben. Guys, I had some ugly missteps in navigating this as a young adult - the epitome of a selfish, arrogant American, believing that my husband's culture was "behind," as was their theology. My parents-in-law can PRAY. They can and do pray continually, for everything and everyone. And, they worship. They spend solid minutes reciting to God what is great about him. They do it with tears and repetition, and do not seem to tire of restatement. They never believe that they've overstated Truth.
And, I'll be honest. That tends to drive me crazy. I'm an antsy, selfish toddler, wanting to go to the next step, and then to amen, and then to out-the-door.
****
A few months ago, I began reading a book with friends. Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagerty.  She explores the idea of adoration as an impetus to spiritual growth and depth. And she developed a pretty devotional to help. I tried. She warned it would feel awkward, and boy did it. It was the same old problem. My impatience with taking the time to tell God what isn't new to either of us.
****
On Sunday, in church, I listened to the African pastor pray. And I was struck with how he sounded just like Ben's dad - how they have in common the beautiful ability to sit in adoration. How it's not an Indian thing or an African thing, but it might just be a non-American thing. If I put aside my American values of independence and argument, might I find more freedom in prayer?
Maybe it has cultural roots, maybe it doesn't; either way, I'm hoping to incorporate something new into my faith: stating the obvious, and restating it enough that it doesn't seem obvious anymore.

(Susie)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy Birthday to (and from) Ben

It's Ben's birthday today. You all know I love him. As part of his own birthday celebration, he sent this email to his parents this morning. I think it's beautiful and I hope he doesn't mind that I'm going to share it. The reason I'm sharing it is because I, too, have benefitted every day from the choices his parents have made in having and raising him. Just the fact that they moved to America in the 1970s, before Ben or I were born, changed both of our lives. That they raised him in a way that encouraged him to know and love many different kinds of people made our marriage possible. That Ben's mom saves money and plans ahead and Ben's dad does the dishes and prays always are qualities that I see in him every day. 

It's Ben's birthday today. There are three of us who probably celebrate that more than anyone else in the world. The ones who gave him life, and the one who shares his life. I love you, Mom & Dad Thomas!

Hi mom and dad,
As I remember my birthday today, and we celebrate with friends, I just wanted to say thanks.
Thanks for the ways you have raised me and loved me throughout the course of my life.  You encouraged me from a young age to be who God made me to be.  It first started with playing sports.  When no one else played sports you saw that I loved it and you found a way for me to play.  My first team was the Tornadoes.  From soccer to travel soccer to baseball to roller hockey and eventually you let me play the sport I loved the most, football.  Thank you.
From sports to being able to spend time with friends when no other Malayalee parents would. You trusted me and allowed me to be make friends with non Malayalees and spend time with them.
From spending time with friends to going away to college to play football.  To a college no one heard of, where no one we knew was.  You knew Hobart was the place for me after the first visit.
From Hobart to sending me to Urbana, to encouraging me to go to seminary when I sensed God calling me to ministry.  From there to meeting Susie and then marrying her.  From marrying her to be a missionary.  From being a missionary to living in ohio and then India.  From India to adopting Charlie. From adopting Charlie to being the global director.  From the global director to taking care of Susie, you helped me in every way.  From Susie's cancer to Annie being born. From Annie to my doctoral program.  From my doctoral program to Brasil and then to Rwanda.
Through all of this you have raised me to trust God, to be comfortable with who God made me, and to love others.  Without you raising me to trust God, I could not do all the lord has allowed us to do.
As I celebrate today in kigali, Rwanda, please know I can never thank you enough for how you raised me.  I am forever grateful.
I tell people in kigali all the time, I am the son of Indian immigrants who trusted God with everything.
I wish I could celebrate with you today.  I look forward to the day I can celebrate my birthday with you.
Please know that I think of you with great thanksgiving everyday, but especially today.   Every happy birthday wish to me is a reflection of both of you and how you raised me.
Happy birthday, mom and dad.  I love you.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014

Over dinner tonight (with my parents!!! In Rwanda!!!!), team Beebe-Thomas shared our favorite memories of 2014. Here they are:
Simon playing soccer at kics
Talya Anna (friend from kindergarten in Ohio)
Charlie having Annie (he's been a great big brother to her this year)
Annie no comment, but my guess is it's Toddler Praise
Susie moving to Rwanda and my parents visiting us here
Ben traveling outside the us with me (Rwanda, Israel, Rwanda)
Dad Beebe Mark and Kim's wedding
Mom Beebe whole fam on the bridge for family pics


It's been a great one! On to the next 365 days that God has written in His book (psalm 139) 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Ben is a great boss...

...which is one of the reasons you should consider coming to work for KICS.
Other reasons are fun co-workers, a beautiful location, amazing kids, perfect weather year-round, and the opportunity to make an impact in the future of Rwanda, Africa, and the world. Also, while you'd be considered a missionary educator needing to raise support, we provide a decent service package to help with that.

Available positions are:
  • Grade 1 Teacher
  • Middle School Social Studies teacher
  • High School Math Teacher
  • Part-time primary music teacher
  • Foreign Language teacher
  • Primary principal
  • Instructional coordinator
  • Business manager
  • Spiritual Life Coordinator
  • School Counselor
  • Athletics and Activities Director

For more information, visit the employment page on the KICS website. Let us know if you're interested or apply now. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gifts for Growth


It's not too late to participate in our "Gifts for Growth" Campaign at KICS. We are 25% of the way to our $100,000 goal! Visit this website to make a donation. Thank you!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Giving Tuesday

So, I didn't know that was a thing. I guess, just like Hallmark made up Sweetest Day to sell cards, some missionaries created Giving Tuesday to help fill in the gaps in their support. Just kidding, that's not what happened I don't think. 

But, real or not, it's here and we'd like to ask you to consider making us part of your Year-end giving for 2014.  We are so thankful for the many ways you stand with us through prayer, connection and encouragement. 

As we approach the end of this year, we have three opportunities we are a part of that we would ask you to consider giving towards:

  1. To our personal ministry account.  We are full-time missionaries with CRU and as such raise all of our salary and benefits for us and our family.  To give to us, please visit:  www.give.cru.org/0539204. Those of you who receive our paper prayer letters will get a letter detailing our needs. 
  2. To our school where we are serving, Kigali International Community School.  For the first time, we are leading a giving campaign to help us cover some basic literacy and technology improvements for our school.  Web-Elves are working on getting our donation page up and running. If you'd like to donate towards KICS, contact us. We'll let you know when we get things running online.
  3. To a project we have been involved in through our parent organization that provides food in one of the most closed countries in all the world.  Through partnerships, we have been able to build a few factories that provide bread and soy milk for children.  You can visit www.give.cru.org/0539204 to make a donation.  Once the donation is processed, Susie and I will forward the money on in an appropriate way.  Please send us an email or in the comments section let us know it is for the factory.
If you have any questions about either of these three opportunities please let us know.  

We thank you so much for considering us and the efforts we are serving with as part of your year-end giving.  Please know that  any amount, large or small, would be beneficial for us.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

With Gratitude

With gratitude, I live this life in Rwanda, surrounded by beautiful faces, interesting trees, strange birds, searching hearts.
With gratitude, and a side of grumpiness, I open my eyes too early in the morning to inspect a child's coloring or to give permission to get a banana.
With gratitude, I scan my Facebook feed, seeing the faces of friends near and far - both of which feel like a miracle to me.
With gratitude, I review my kids' progress reports, noting their achievements and gains.
With gratitude, I think of their teachers - present and past - who have with love and patience inspired these.
With gratitude, I miss my family and football games that I don't watch and strawberry pretzel "salad."
With gratitude, I hug my husband who has made us dinner reservations tonight. With gratitude, I don't plan or shop or save or cook this year's feast.
With gratitude, I brush my hair, which has grown back from the assault it suffered to chemicals and high-energy waves.
With gratitude, I let Annie go to bed without making her change into her pajamas, because who cares.
With gratitude, I take hot showers, flush toilets, and drink water that doesn't make me ill.
With gratitude, I remember doctors, nurses, sonographers, therapists and mri techs.
With gratitude, I order Christmas presents for my kids and make plans for their 7,104-mile journey.
With gratitude, I pack for a Thanksgiving getaway with dear friends.
With gratitude, I reflect on the power Jesus has to soften hard things, to add flesh to dry bones, to offer healing and forgiveness.
With gratitude, I think of 20 students who I (I!) have had the privilege to teach for a short time.
With gratitude, I celebrate a friend's birthday in person and a brother's birthday from afar.
With gratitude, I host friends who traveled 24 hours on a bus from Kenya just to hang out with us this week.
With gratitude, after my worst nightmare comes true and I bump another car with my massive beast on a rain-slicked dirt road, I drive away after she tells me it's ok.
With gratitude, I try out the few Kinyarwanda words and phrases I know and breathe grace since we quit our lessons.
With gratitude, I hang out with missionary friends who have long and faithfully been here, gleaning from them all I can about culture, gracious living, and joy.
With gratitude, I type words into a thing called the internet and know someone will read them.
With gratitude, I think of the hundreds of people who give out of their abundance or out of their own need to fund our ministry.
With gratitude, I continue to repeat Ephesians out loud until I know it. Thanksgiving was my goal, but I still have two chapters to go.
With gratitude, I remember you in my prayers.
With gratitude, I grieve with my passport country, which is the home of grieving people this week.
With gratitude, I think of every person I know who has been affected by racism and prejudice, but has shared their life and story with me, so I (someone who has known privilege) can learn and change and understand.
With gratitude, I think of one of our best friends who is a white American law officer, who is brave and loyal and honest, who, just by knowing him, keeps me from being quick to assign blame.
With gratitude, I am eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph 4:3)