Full Circle

Living for three months in Costa Rica during my college years was a significant experience, to say the least. It was there that I fell in love with another culture and was imprinted with a passion for the developing (or “Third”) world. It was there I knew for certain that I was destined for a cross-cultural lifestyle.

I will never forget the flight back home from San Jose in December 1980. My classmates were thrilled to be going home, but I was heart-broken. It seemed more like a nightmare. Re-entry was distressing-plus. I became convinced that I would never again be able to settle in the United States.

Back in college, I met Ibrahim in our student fellowship. When he spoke about missions, I went forward for prayers. “The rest is history” as they say. Two years later we got married, then moved to Kenya in 1984.

Yes, I  was a fluent Spanish speaker. “Don’t you belong in a Spanish-speaking country?” many people questioned. But my sense of call had not been to a particular nation, and Kenya soon become our new home. Swahili graduallgroup-l-ay replaced Spanish in the “second language compartment” of my brain, and I wondered if I would ever use Spanish again. “One day,” I often prayed. “One day, Lord, I want to go back to Latin America.”

God heard. And answered… 36 years later. This week we have been in Colombia with DOVE Latin America leaders and in the homes of Colombian pastors. !Que preciosa! How precious! It has been an amazingly blessed time.

So many things are similar to Kenya: a ‘warm climate’ culture, an abundance of fruit, crazy driving, perfect weather, coffee and banana fields—and the ministry challenges of poverty, try-thisauthoritarian leadership models in the culture, dependence > > on and on. Yes, it does “feel like” home.

Oh, how God so beautifully weaves the story of each of our lives! I have seen it again and am encouraged again to trust in His sovereignty and Master Plan. Gloria a Dios!

~ Diane

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A Life Well Lived

My father passed away two weeks ago; we have just returned to Kenya after being with family in the States for his memorial.

We had been together... (10 days before his passing to Glory)

We had been together… (12 days before his death).

There is so much we could say about Edward Diener. He was born in 1917 as the second in a family of eight boys. Growing up on a farm in central Kansas, there was always a lot of work to be done. The boys all helped on the farm, of course, but it is reported that Edward was the one who most often helped his mother in the kitchen and helped take care of his younger brothers.

He was ordained in the Mennonite church in 1942, and served in active pastoral ministry for 44 years. But even in his retirement, he continued to serve the church and people. He had an amazing capacity for recollection of facts, dates and details. He could rattle off every important event in Anabaptist history with persons, places and dates completely intact. He also memorized a lot of scriptures, that is, entire books and chapters. When my mother was hospitalized prior to her death, Father and I often “read” scriptures to her: me by reading the Bible but Father by drawing from the repertoire of verses he had committed to memory.

My father followed a vigorous “visiting” routine in every community where he lived, bringing cheer to those who were elderly, shut-in or hospitalized. We always said that he was “out visiting old people.” And he continued to visit “old” people even when he was in his 90’s himself!

When in his 80’s, Father came to Kenya seven times to teach pastors. Studying and teaching God’s Word had been his passion throughout life, and it was such a privilege to receive that ministry here.

Obviously Father was very aware of his decline in short-term memory in the last several years. He seemed to find refuge and pleasure in one specific joke.

“I might have told you this before,” he would start. Even if you responded that, yes, you had heard the joke approximately 20 times before–it didn’t matter. He would still tell it again:

An older couple was out on a drive. The gentleman got to driving a little fast, and before he knew it, he was being pulled over by a policeman.

“Do you know you are speeding?” the policeman asked. “Why are you going so fast?”

“Oooh,” the old man replied. “I am sorry. But we have to hurry up and get there before we forget where we are going.”

In moments like this when the landscape of life changes, when eternity cracks through our self-induced cocoons and seems just a little more tangible for all of us, when we take a pause from the relentless routines of life, I wonder: are we also in danger of just plain going too fast? Or maybe in danger of forgetting where we ARE–ultimately–going? Is there a policeman who should also pull us over, and bring us back to a sane pace and appropriate focus?

It is always difficult to lose a parent, but I thank God for my father’s full life. Being together with all of his 32 descendants during the memorial was a source of great strength even in the grief. His was a life very, very well-lived, and I thank God for the years we had together.

~ Diane

 

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Like a Child: Quick to Recover

Several weeks ago I took a nasty fall while walking along a sidewalk at a busy Nairobi office. I tore the sleeve of my blouse, caked dirt into my handbag, and had two bleeding sidewalk burns (knee and elbow). The embarrassment hurt more than all those put together. I tried to stand up quickly, told everyone that I was “just fine”, and kept walking. But the truth is that I nursed those wounds and needed back rubs for more than a week after.

Today, I saw a young girl — maybe 4 years old — take a fall that was just as bad while running down a hill at church. But she hardly missed a beat. After just a few seconds she was up and running again. “Quite impressive,” I thought.

A physical fall might not be that consequential. But what about when we “fall” in other ways? When we make a fool of ourselves, or just make a mess.  Are we able to get up quickly? Children don’t worry too much about making mistakes, actually. They are much better at “getting over it” than we are.

I asked Google for quotations about failure, and found several good ones:

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” Michael Jordan

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

Yeah, good quotes. But as good as they sound, I must admit that I don’t like to make mistakes or mess up. I don’t recover from the negative feelings very easily. And as much as failure is supposed to be good for us. . . I don’t like it! That is probably due to pride. Sigh.

God’s Word says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” That is definitely a forget-and-move-on approach. Hopefully, like a child, I can forgive myself as readily as Christ forgives, not take myself too seriously, and move on.

~ Diane

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Like a Child: Learning How to Think

Each one of us has a unique way of looking at the world. We call this our belief system, or worldview. People are known to have a secular or Christian worldview, an African or Western worldview, and perhaps a modern or old-fashioned worldview. One’s worldview is just that — the way in which he views the world.

My worldview influences my opinions, judgments, beliefs and decisions. It shapes how I define and understand family, time, work, religion, money, land, right and wrong. . . just about everything in life. A worldview includes concepts of morality and spirituality as well. What is right and what is wrong? Who is God and what is His character? What is the value of human life?

When a child is born, she starts life with an “empty head,” so to speak. The newborn does not yet have a worldview. She has not formed any personal opinions. Instead, those will be formed during the early years of life, mostly based on what she is taught, or maybe what is ‘caught,’ from parents and family.

What about when we are ‘born again?’ Do we carry our views and opinions–the ones that we learned from the systems of the world, influenced by the enemy of our souls–into our life of faith? Or do we, like a newborn child, start with a cleaned-out mind and learn everything about everything from zero? Does the Word of God inform our worldview, or do the cultures we come from direct us?

Jesus used almost identical words when he told Nicodemus that he must be born again and when told his disciples they would need to change and become like children. In both instances, the “you must” condition was related to entering the Kingdom of heaven. Unless you are born again, and unless you become like a child, “you will never enter it.”

Being born of the spirit = being a spiritual baby = starting with a clean mind that will be filled, formed and taught by our Father in heaven and His Word. I might need a re-birth in some areas!

~ Diane

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Like a Child: Who Daddy Says I Am

Knowing who I am in Christ seems to be a really big deal in Christendom these days. I am not sure why it is so hard to convince us, but many of us apparently have a chronic identity crisis and need constant reminders and reassurances about our worth and value. You could be familiar with the popular worship chant that reiterates the same:

We are a chosen generation, called forth to show His excellence.

All I require for life, God has given me, And I know who I am.

I know who God says I am, What He says I am, Where He says I’m at; I know who I am.

I have heard sermon after sermon about knowing our identity in Christ. Crowds really ‘eat it up’; this theme obviously strikes an important cord in our hearts. But to be honest, it baffles me why this is such a big deal — that is — why is it so hard for us to be convinced that we are, in fact, persons of dignity? That we are created in the image of God, and therefore are wonderful and amazing beings?

I guess it does make sense, though, because many of us have been criticized or ridiculed over and over. We have believed what other people say about us. We believe that we are not good enough, that we do not measure up to someone’s ideal standards. That is, we have lost track of who we really are.

An infant starts out life without any idea of who she is! She is not born with a concept of self; that has to be developed. And it will be developed, mostly based on the things the baby learns about herself from significant others. In most circumstances, the nuclear family, especially parents. establish a child’s self-image through the things they say and the way they act.

  • “How do my parents treat me?” A young child is egocentric, which means that everything revolves around self. So if other people love me, it is because I am worth loving.
  • “What do my parents say about me?” If my Daddy says I am good, then I am. If my Daddy says “you can do it,” then I can. Children believe what their parents say about them. Case closed.

Do we, like a child, believe what God says about us and know that God sent His Son, to die for us, because we are worthy of that amazing gift?

“I know who (Father) God says I am” — like a child!

~ Diane

 

 

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Read-a-Thon IN the Bible

Okay, okay, okay. I know that the books of the Law and Prophets were written on scrolls. I know that the printing press had not yet been invented in the first century A.D. I know that the majority of people in those eras did not even know how to read.

But — could we, maybe, be missing something? Bear with me.

  • “…When all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this Law before them in their hearing” (Dt 31:11).
  • “Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the Law… there was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel” (Josh 8:34-35).
  • “Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God” –apparently from daybreak to noon. (Ez 8:18; 3)
  • “On that day the Book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing of the people and there it was found written that…” (Ez 13:1).
  • “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (I Tim 4:13).

There is something different about reading God’s Word out loud. There is something powerful about public declaration. Really.

Our two weeks — 92 hours — of reading were remarkable; it is precious to be washed with the Word! Not all the donations are collected yet, but we are thrilled to have raised over $1,000 for DOVE Missions Africa. Thank you for your amazing support!

I will finish this year’s Read-a-Thon reports with a humble challenge. Have you ever read through one of the Gospels in one sitting? Have you read all of Paul’s letters in one day? Have you, as a pastor, ever thought of reading the Bible to your congregation instead of preaching? Just saying… it would be well worth it!

 ~Diane

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The Old and the New

We completed the Old Testament today and entered the New. I must admit that the reading is much easier in the latter. And the New Testament is even further enriched after reading through the Old. When the book of Moses was read aloud under Nehemiah, they discovered many things that they had not known. Definitely, the same happens with us!

Of all the detestable, disgusting things the Israelites were accused of, the one that churns my insides the most is that of sacrificing their children to foreign gods and eating their own children in times of famine. The final words of Malachi that speak of the turning of the hearts of the fathers to their children and vice-versa would be no small feat!

Enter Jesus Christ, Son of Yahweh, born in human likeness. Talk about expectations–they had been building up for at least 2000 years. Has any other person in history ever had so much pressure to ‘perform’ and ‘deliver?’ He was the Desire of the nations. But for sure, He did NOT fulfill all that was expected of Him. In fact, he was a disappointment, an anathema to most of the Jews. On the other hand, He did more than anyone could ever have expected! He was not who they wanted, but much more than they ever could have wanted.

Jesus’ interactions with the Law, as seen in the book of Matthew, are so revealing.

  • Jesus was very knowledgeable of the Law and Prophets; He quoted scripture when rebuking Satan. (Mt 4:4-10)
  • Jesus declared, “I have not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them.” (Mt 5:13)
  • After insisting that everything in the Law would be accomplished and no letter would be dropped from it, Jesus proceeded to either expand or adjust various commandments from the Law of Moses. Adultery is not only a physical act, but an act of the heart. Revenge (‘eye for eye’) is no longer valid; we must not repay evil with good! (Mt 5)
  • Jesus implies that some aspects of the Law are more important than others. He told the Pharisees and teachers of the law that they should tithe, yes, but should not neglect the “more important” matters of the Law: justice, mercy and faithfulness. (Mt. 23:23)
  • When challenged, Jesus crystallized “all the Law and Prophets” (Mt 23:34-40) into two commands: love God and love your neighbor.

The Jews tried to make Jesus what they wanted Him to be. They tried to fit Him into their expectations — their ‘boxes.’* What a mistake! Do we ever do the same, such as when we sing “Jesus is mine,” treating Him like an ATM, putting Him in our pocket, or viewing Him in the same category as a human lover? God help us!

~ Diane

* FOR MORE: See our friend Steve‘s re-post, “Ekklesia” from the Simple Church Journal.

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