What are you doing? {Book Club}

“What we do for God… becomes an idol if it replaces our relationship with Him.” – Mai’s story in For the Joy

I’m not a mother, but as I read Mai’s story in the beginning of our section for this week, I found my heart leaping as I related to the words she shared. So many of us, whether we are single or married, parents or not, can find our identity in the role of Kingdom worker. We look at the work we are doing for God, very good and important work, or the ways we aren’t doing the same work as others around us, and that becomes the defining mark of who we are. This can lead to pride or guilt, anxiety or shame, and impacts our relationship with God.

Though not the same, I understand the anxiety that Mai described in her story. When she talked about how “people would often stand and look in our windows… like we were a local attraction at the zoo”, I smiled but ached inside because I knew what she meant.

It would stress me out so much when people would just wander into our house in Southeast Asia to look at our furniture or comment on what my teammate and I owned. It was hard for me to let go of my home being a sacred space where I felt safe both physically and emotionally. I wanted so much to be a light to my neighbors and to be able to build relationships with them, but I also struggled on the daily as people commented and critiqued and fed their curiosity about the strange foreigners and how we lived.

Our personalities matter, don’t they? I know others are much more open and flexible than I am and so these types of situations are not as painful or uncomfortable. I didn’t give space or credence to the unique ways God wove me together or how that impacted my overseas work and life. While God stretched me in so many ways, it was also important for me to acknowledge the things that were more stressful for me and get creative to address them.

Is there something in you and the way God created your personality that feels in constant contrast to the culture you are working in? Has God helped you in that area or is it still a struggle?

I did love what the Father helped reveal to Mai. She said, “My identity as a mother, wife and [overseas worker] was no longer focused on what I was doing for God or where in the world I was serving Him, but on Jesus my Saviour and what He had done for me by dying on the cross for my sins—on my personal relationship with him.”

One of the things I’ve loved about reading these stories is that they are so different from each other! Not all of us who have served overseas raise our family in a bus transformed into a traveling medical clinic. In Liling’s story it was so neat to see how she and her daughters were able to do ministry together and how that brought them closer to one another.

Is there an aspect of your work and life that is bringing your family closer together? Or a way you would love to see that happen?

I’d love to know what you thought about the stories in this section as we discuss in the comments! Did you relate to something particular in what Mai, Liling, Sandra, Sarah, Gladys, and Linda shared?

We will finish up discussing For the Joy next week and read Chapters 17 to 21!

We are so excited to be partnering with William Carey Publishing for this book, and they are offering us a 50% off code for the e-book version of For the Joy! Click on the link HERE and use the code VABOOKCLUB50!

What’s Coming Up

In June we will be reading Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin! Here’s a summary of the book from Amazon:

In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life’s questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family’s fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer. This young adult novel is a fantasy crossed with Chinese folklore.

Photo by Thitiphum Koonjantuek on Unsplash

3 Comments

  1. Michelle May 24, 2020

    I wiped away tears as I read Gladys’ Story. The title and the first sentence both give away the fact that that there will be grief in this chapter. What was not evident in those first few words, was how much trauma there would also be. I’ve walked through quite a bit of trauma in my dozen years on the field. Some of it I’ve witnessed, some just heard or read about, and some I have lived. Some of it has required debriefing, some is processed through talking, journaling and praying through it. But one of the most powerful and healing experiences, is hearing the testimony of those who have walked through trauma and have come out the other side. And not just come out the other side, but are able to speak of God’s grace and faithfulness throughout their journeys. I’m reminded of how Paul mentions multiple times in his writings about how the pains we experience, allows us to better understand and comfort others.

    I missed posting last week. But I really enjoyed those chapters as well. I smiled quite a bit at the concept of being used to a village helping us raise our children in some parts of the world. I share the same struggles with Tamie of knowing I have soul responsibility to keep an eye on my child on an American playground. I also related to her struggles with corporal punishment in the local schools. I’m so glad I’ve been able to take the time to read this book with you ladies this month!

    1. Amanda May 24, 2020

      Michelle, I agree that Gladys’ story was heart wrenching. I admire her response to the tragedy. Stories like hers remind me of the importance of responding in faith in all circumstances. We had a traumatic experience that was very public and required forgiveness. All of our local friends tried to “get the dirt” or slander the names of those involved, but we chose to forgive them and move on, as much as it hurt and as unjust as it was. That is ministry, a light to the world. Our response to trauma is another way to bring the kingdom of God to earth, as painful as it may be.

  2. Amanda May 24, 2020

    Reading such a large variety of stories from distinct contexts and situations, I am realizing the blessing that raising kids in that “third space” is. Liling described her life as a family living out of a bus, something I cannot imagine doing. “Our girls became experts in making do, substituting and just being grateful for what they had.”

    We as missionary moms are often judged for putting our kids through discomfort, for letting them go through culture shock and reverse culture shock, for raising them away from their grandparents and extended family. Just like any mom, we question our decisions and wonder if we are doing the “right thing.” What occurred to me while reading these chapters is the reality of the gift we are giving our children. We are not raising them to hold on tightly to every tradition, relationship, and comfort of this world. Instead, we are raising them in this third space where they will truly be able to see the world through the lens of the kingdom of God.

    Another great quote that stuck out to me was: “I’m not willing to assimilate with the culture on this point. the Bible is our starting point for how we are to view people in God’s world.” Amen! Sometimes we are trying so hard to fit in that we forget what it means to be IN the world but not OF it. I hope to use the Bible as a base to teach my children, not simply culture.

    Sandra put it best when she wrote, “Those years were wonderful; I have the photos to prove it. But above all, we were preparing them to leave our home—this small boat that sailed between France and Australia— to make their way towards their eternal home, where they will be welcomed by their Father in heaven.”

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