Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bad Mechanic


I have a friend who was having car trouble. He was hearing a 'tap, tap, tap' noise and could smell that it was running hot.

So, he took it to a mechanic that he had heard good things about. The mechanic was extremely busy, but he took a quick look at my friend's car. He told him that it was not really that serious. The car was low on oil and water. All my friend had to do was put in oil and water and the problem would be solved.

A few days later, my friend went back to the mechanic with the same problem. He could hear a tapping noise and smell that the car was overheating. The mechanic asked, "Did you put in oil and water like I said?".  My friend replied that he had not yet done it, but was planning on doing it today or tomorrow. "Well, you need to do it pretty quickly.", replied the mechanic.

A week later he was back at the mechanic complaining of the same problem. They had the same conversation. My friend had not put in any water or oil. The mechanic assured my friend that this was all he had to do, and that if he did it then his problem would be solved.

I saw my friend last week at the store. He was driving a different car. I asked him about it and he said that the engine in the old car was too far gone to do anything about and it finally just froze up and was beyond repair. He said that he had to get a new car. Then he said this:

"We tried everything to keep the old car going, we even took it to a mechanic."

This parable is unfortunately an accurate description of what I have experienced many times in the past thirty years of ministry. Couples will come to me for advice because their marriage is in trouble. The warning signs are everywhere. They know that if they do not do something then their marriage will end.

I listen to what is going on, and then using the Bible to find solutions I give them advice on how to apply certain passages to their lives. Passages such as how to forgive, what love is, the role of in-laws, how to handle money,  and the importance of communication. I hear what is going on and tell them what to do.

The next week, they are back in my office with the same problem. I ask if they have done what I said, and the answer is, 95% of the time, "No, but we are planning on it."

The scene plays out a few more times. They stop coming. They get a trial separation and then a divorce. Then they say this:

"We tried everything to keep our marriage going, we even tried counseling."

Did they?

This also happens daily, at least weekly, to almost everyone reading this blog.

Think about it.

We go to church with lives that need some type of change. It may not be radical, but let us be honest, we are not perfect and we can all become more like Jesus. We hear God's word taught. We listen to what is said. We nod our heads in agreement and may even mumble "Amen" as we write down our notes.

Then...we change nothing.

The next week the scene is repeated.
Again.
Again.
Again.
Decades later we are still listening to everything and changing nothing.

Honest Question: When is the last time that you CHANGED something in your life after going to church and hearing the Word?

Read that question again. I did not ask you when was the last time that you LEARNED something. When is the last time that you actually, practically, really CHANGED something in your life because of what you heard?

I once read, and after decades in the ministry agree, that the average adult Christian does not lead anyone to Christ or make any meaningful changes in their doctrinal beliefs three years after their conversion. The same book (I cannot remember it's title) pointed out that the average Christian makes no changes in their ethics or morality after the same amount of time.

So, for year after year we go to church or read our Bible and agree with what we hear...and change nothing.

If your life is not full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, meekness, forgiveness, humility, wisdom, righteousness, compassion, truth, and passion, is it the 'mechanic's fault'?

Have you tried everything, even going to church?

Maybe it is time to apply what we hear...that could actually solve our problem.

Just a thought.

Leia Mais…

Monday, February 13, 2017

Travel Pants




I like travel pants. Wear them all the time. I love the pockets. I have a travel vest that has, this is no exaggeration, 24 pockets. When Denise and I went to Italy last year, my vest was my carry-on luggage. I have traveled to a missions conference before, and I had my change of clothes, my 19" MacBook, and my iPad all in my vest. No luggage, no carry-on, just my travel pants and my travel vest.

The pants have pickpocket proof pockets with double latching. There is a pocket that is passport size with a velcro flap. In the thighs there are actually hidden pockets that blend right in where you can extra cash and even if you are robbed no one will know you have it. Of course you can do what you want with the pockets, but they come with a pocket guide that tells you where things are designed to be put that way you don't even have to try to figure it out yourself.

Travel pants are a cool way to travel. Unfortunately, they are also the model for how we try to live our lives. In a word: Compartmentalize.

We compartmentalize everything. We even try to draw charts and make little fun acronyms like J.O.Y., Jesus, Others, Yourself. We try to arrange our time around work and family.

We do our church thing on Sunday.
We do our work thing Monday - Friday.
We do our family thing some evenings and Saturday.

We have these nice little pockets that have been labeled for us to put things in. Our God-pocket is in a hard to reach spot since we don't need it very much. Our politics pocket is the quickest draw, easiest to access one since we use it all the time. Our work pocket is the big pocket so a lot of stuff can be crammed into it. Our family pocket is the one over our heart. It is small and not used, but we like to think it is more important than the other pocket, with the exception of course of the small little pickpocket proof God pocket.

The problem is, this doesn't work. Life is not a travel jacket. God is too big for our small box (pocket). Saying that your family is important is nothing like actually showing that your family is important by.....doing something really weird like....being with them and enjoying it.

Life is holistic. You cannot be a follower of Christ on Sunday, a follower of money the rest of the week while being an evangelist for your political party and giving your children a gentle nod of attention for an hour. Either you are a follower of Christ EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME, or you are not ANYWHERE, ANYTIME.

Jesus is not a part-time God.

Either your family is important to you in this moment...or they are not.

Let me give you an illustration I used at church one time. I had a dish box with the divider inside so that there were 24 compartments. Each compartment had a label. I then took out the divider to make it one big box...now the label is:

God.
God and my worship.
God and my wife.
God and my children.
God and my friends.
God and my church.
God and my money.
God and my career.
God and my entertainment.
God and my time.
God and my personal development.
God and my evangelism.
God and my discipleship.
God and my politics.

God doesn't fit into your little travel pants. He doesn't fit into your little box. He doesn't allow people to compartmentalize Him.

He is to be your life. You don't balance your life giving Him part of it. You balance your life by letting Him be the center of it and everything else is a spoke branching off of the center. If God is not the center, then you life is not in balance.

Just a thought.

Leia Mais…

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sweet Aroma





Every Friday something happens that is not that pleasant to talk about. 

In Bolivia, as in many parts of the world, one cannot flush their toilet paper. Many homes in the city do not have toilets. Those that do, even in the restaurants and large stores, the plumbing and paper make it so that flushing is not an option. The finest steakhouse in the city has a trashcan beside the toilet for your TP.

That means that you end up with a trashcan full of used TP.

What to do? What to do? 

You could put it in the trash. However, the trash collectors here have to open up the trash and sort it. Bottles, cans, plastics and then the non-recyclable trash go into different bins. Therefore, if you put your used TP in the trash, a city employee is going to have to dig through it. (Yuk).

The solution of a large portion of the city is to burn the used TP in their yard every Friday. All of our neighbors do this. We have no a/c or heating, so our windows and doors are always open. We will be sitting at our desk, maybe eating lunch, writing a sermon, or just going on with our day when the first waft of smell crawls over the window and invades our olfactory senses. 

It was horrible. 
It was nasty. 
It was disgusting. 
It was like you could feel the typhoid climbing down your throat to invade your body.

Notice that all of those verb tenses are past tense. It WAS all of those things. Now it is just a part of life. We have adapted to it. We smell it and go, "It is Friday, TP burning day."  Or I will ask Denise, "Do you smell something burning?" She replies that it is Friday. No disgust. No gag reflex.

What happened? We got accustomed to not only the idea of not flushing and burning, but also the actual event and smell of burning used TP. We no longer imagine disgusting little bacterias on a war campaign against our health. We just smell it and move on. 

We got used to smelling poop.

Wanna know something? This is how it is with sin in our lives. At first, the sin revolts us. We cannot believe that we did or allowed that to happen. We seek forgiveness. We feel guilty. We feel ashamed. 

Then we do it again. After repeating the above cycle, something starts to happen. We don't feel AS guilty. We don't feel AS shameful. We don't feel AS bad.

We commit the sin again. Guess what...we see that it is sin, but that is the extent of our revulsion. Just a label on the action or thought. 

Then, we remove the label. 

How can we explain our obesity and weight issues without acknowledging the sin of gluttony? It is because we do not think that eating more than we need, more often that we need to, is a problem. We may say that we have a weight problem. Do we ever say that we have a sin of gluttony problem? We may feel bad physically but do we ever feel bad spiritually? 

How else can we explain the consumptive lifestyle that we live...always clamoring for bigger, better, faster and more without using the sin of coveting to describe it? Simple. We just ignore it as we charge up our credit cards. 

What about the sin of anger? We live in anger. We speak harshly to our spouses and our children. We have road rage and spout obscenities, even the christian cuss words, at other drivers. We speak evil of the opposing political party/candidate. We gladly spread fake and true news that hurts other people. Are we ever convicted of the sin of anger? Does gossiping, backbiting and spreading rumors break our hearts and cause us to weep over our sin?

Or do we just smell it and move on with our lives?

Sin is disgusting and wrong, even when we grow accustomed to its stench. 

It is time to take out the trash. Instead of just putting up with the smell, lets stop the sin. Repentance is a wonderful thing. 

Just a thought.

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Being For Something Does Not Mean That You Are Against Something Else.



Being For Something Does Not Mean You Are Against Something Else.

I said that in the title because I am about to post something that people will react to. Do not misread this or assume anything negative….got your attention?

Look at the title and think about it before reading farther. I can be totally for something. That does not mean that I am against something else. The two can be unrelated. I can love football. That does not mean that I hate baseball. 

I also love how the church and Christians in America not only has tremendous pride in our military, we celebrate it. We love our veterans and support our troops. It is part of our DNA. Look around at your church and see how many families have members who work in the military. We are, as evangelical churches, extremely patriotic and grateful for those whose patriotism included military service. That is awesome!

This May, my son, who is already in the Army, will be commissioned as an officer. We are so proud of him. We are flying from Bolivia to the States to be there when it happens. He is serving his country and has worked hard for this moment. We love and are proud of him. 


Not only does the church support the Military, the average church has three or four opportunities a year to actually give a standing ovation to our men/women who are serving and to our veterans. Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Independence Day, and in some churches 9/11. We have flags, sing patriotic songs, and then have everyone who is or has served stand. We then applaud them, and in every service that I have ever been in it turns into a standing ovation.

That is cool. I love it. When I was a pastor in the States we did this every single one of those days listed above.

Now, lets look at something else and just do a compare/contrast. 

We give special recognition and standing ovations to those who serve in our country's military.

What about those who serve in missions? 

Do we recognize them?
Do we show that we appreciate them? 
Do we seek to send our children into this career of serving the Lord in other countries?    
Do we want to listen to their stories?
Do we call them heroes? 

Or do we politely nod at them and then make every effort possible to avoid their table lest they have a donation card on it? Do our eyes glaze over in boredom when the pastor mentions a missionary is present (even though we may offer a golf clap) and then boredom turn to dread when we discover they are speaking?

Do we show them the same respect that we do our military?  

Does your church have a Sunday where missionaries are verbally praised?

You may say that the church donates money to support them. Our military also receives a salary/benefit package from our money (taxes). Yet we do more than say, “We pay our taxes, that should be enough gratitude.” No, we want them to KNOW that we appreciate their sacrifice, their willingness to live in other countries and give up personal freedoms so that we can remain free.
  
What are the missionaries doing? 
Aren’t they leaving their homes, parents, children, friends, communities, churches, culture….everything in order to preach/teach true freedom?  Aren’t they fighting the good fight of faith? Yet, do they get any special attention? 

Shouldn’t those serving on the front lines of God’s Kingdom get at least the same respect as someone serving in the military for an earthly kingdom…at least from our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Let me be honest. We missionaries are not looking for a standing ovation when we come to your church. 

I am not writing about church mission committees doing some type of assignment and staying in contact with the church missionary. I am writing about individual Christians actually showing support to missionaries. It is awesome to feel appreciated

I love using this example in my parenting conferences about the power of spoken affirmation. Every recorded time that God the Father spoke out loud to God the Son, He affirmed Him. Jesus was not walking around with self-doubt or a low self-esteem. He knew Who He was and what His mission was. Yet, for some reason, the Father affirmed Him. "You are my Son. I love You. You make me happy." (paraphrased). 

People are PROUD of those serving in the military. We affirm them. We show them in tangible ways that we are grateful for their service.

Wouldn't it be awesome if our missionary friends could feel affirmed? 

Missionaries would love to think that people are proud of us. Instead, many times we simply feel forgotten. 

Please consider this...

Missionaries serving on foreign soil feel forgotten. 
They are lonely. 
They miss their home.
They want to be with their families.
Holidays are especially brutal to be away from family, friends, and culture.


Take Christmas as an example. In many parts of the world, those serving on the field hurt during Christmas. The weather is not like 'Christmas time'. The ambient of the village is not like Christmas. It is difficult to decorate or do many of the things that the missionary has done their entire lives. 

Their grown children are on another continent. 
They cannot purchase very good presents for their kids.
They feel like bad parents. 
They feel out of touch.
They cannot be with their extended family. 
They miss all the things that make Christmas special. 

We had a missionary friend tell us that their family did not receive anything from anyone this Christmas. As she told us, she actually emotionally choked up and had to take a breath. She had tear-filled eyes as she finished her story. This is a mature adult, in love with Jesus, serving on the field, started to cry because they did not receive a card. It is not the card. It is not the gift. It is the thought.

We want to know that you have not forgotten us. 
We want to know that you are concerned for us. 
We want to know that you are proud of us. 

You can throw all the platitudes about doing it for the Lord at me that you want to...the truth is that we are emotional people that need emotional support. 

I am not writing this in some self-serving way. I just think that it is something that missionaries would like you to know, but do not know how to express it. Your simply keeping in touch can make all the difference in the world! Thing such as:

Some type of electronic gift certificate (if the missionary has internet access) such as an iTunes or Amazon gift card is multiplied in value because of the thoughtfulness that went behind it. 

An occasional gift sent to the children of the missionary such as toys or candy are incredible. I know that postage is a lot, that is one of the things that make the gift so valuable. We just had a friend from the States send us a bag of little candy bars...the bag with a variety of bars in it. They spent $50 to send us the $3 bag of candy. The fact that they paid that much money to give my kids a little treat made us want to cry with gratitude.

Sending a missionary a treat from home can make their entire month. We had a friend send us three bags of different flavored Doritos. We spread them over a month. They arrived squished into crumbs...but we were so happy to have them.

E-cards cost nothing and only take two minutes to send, but they can brighten up a dark day just by letting the missionary know that you are thinking of them. 

A hand-written letter snail mailed if possible telling the missionary that you remember then, appreciate them and want to encourage them...wow! 

It is in our DNA to remember and respect our military. I am for that. 

But can't we also remember and respect our missionaries who are serving on the field? 

I want to use myself as an example. On the spectrum of receiving care from the States, I would say that we receive better 'care' than most other missionaries that we know. Having said that, here is what our better care looks like:

This Christmas we received two packages and one Christmas card

In the course of the year, we have three families that send us care packages.

Look back at that and realize that we are on the far end of the good side of the spectrum when it comes to receiving care. Only one family that I know has more people than we do send them packages. 

In other words, the bar has to be set pretty low if three families sending packages is next to the top of the class. 

Remember, I am not writing about monthly dollar donations. We could never begin to express how grateful we are for that. We could not be on the field without them. 

Go back to the military example that I used earlier about our military receiving their salary/benefit package. We don't say, "We pay our taxes and that pays you. Why should we do more than that?  Your pay is sufficient gratitude."

We know that going above and beyond just getting paid is a great thing to do. My son has been upgraded to First Class while flying by complete strangers. He has had meals purchased while in restaurants. He has had people come up and shake his hand and say that they are grateful for his service. He has had police officers not write him traffic citations. People affirm him.

Missionaries need affirmation. Let me say that again. I am absolutely sure of who I am in Christ. He is my identity. I have been in the ministry since 1988 and am a mature Christian who knows that all that really matters is that my life is pleasing to the Lord. Yet...

I NEED AFFIRMATION. 

Those of you that know me know that I am confident in my abilities. You know that I am not a complainer. You know that I am not a whiner-baby.

I NEED AFFIRMATION. 

If I need it, can't you imagine how much others need it as well?

Now let me restate my title. I actually wrote this blog two years ago, but never posted it because our churches and friends are so pro-military that I was fearful they would perceive this as being anti-military. It has been in my draft folder for two whole years. I just decided today to update it and post it...so, my title again:

Being For Something Does Not Mean That Your Are Against Something Else


I am FOR showing missionaries that you truly appreciate and respect their labor of love for the Lord.

I am also FOR showing our military that we truly appreciate and respect their service to our country.

I just don’t understand why people and churches do the second but not the first.


I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FEEDBACK, ESPECIALLY FROM MISSIONARIES ABOUT THIS ARTICLE.




Leia Mais…

Monday, January 23, 2017


“In my culture, there is no word for love.”

This was the response of a pastor from the jungle this morning as we entered a time of discussion. I had just taught a session on loving others unconditionally. This was for a group of leaders from the Amazon jungle. There were four languages represented, Spanish and three tribal groups. The point of my lesson was that the priority of our ministry is love. 

After I taught, with our chairs in a semi-circle, the leader, my friend Tony Murrin, asked how this lesson could be applied in the various cultures of the leadership present. The first man to speak said the quote above, that there is no word for love. 

I did not fully understand his explanation because Spanish is both of our second language, but the gist of it was this. The concept of love is expressed with a phrase that says you have done good to me so now I will do good for you. 

It is the very foundation of conditional relationships. 

He went on to say that there is also no word for, nor a concept of, forgiveness. The idea that you have done bad to me, but that is okay I will still do good to you and we will live in peace is not present in their culture. 

Another of the tribal leaders from a different culture spoke up and said the same thing. They do not have a word for love, they have a word that means, more or less, to return action. 

As I listened to them talk about how hard it was to communicate unconditional love and total forgiveness to a culture that has no concept of either, I contemplated how much modern America culture has in common with these jungle tribal villages. 

The truth is, we in our culture do not really have unconditional love. If we do, it is the rare exception. We have conditional relationships. We will maintain these relationships as long as the conditions are met.

I will ‘love’ you and be your friend, unless you want to pass more gun laws. 

I will ‘love’ you and maintain a relationship with you, unless you vote for or are part of a different political party. 

I will ‘love’ you and treat you well unless you are a devout member of a different denomination. 

I will ‘love’ you and stay married to you, as long as you bring me pleasure and enjoyment. However, if I start to feel like my input exceeds your output in this marriage….well, look at the divorce rate in/out of the church. 

I will ‘love’ you and we can work together as long as we are at the same socio-economic level. However, do not expect me to love or care for the poor or those less fortunate the me.

We may have a word for love, but we do not know what it is. We do not love. Our love is “You have done good to me, so now I will do good to you.” We are just like the jungle tribe. 

We also do not understand forgiveness. The leader speaking on this said that what happens in a village is that when someone has been truly wronged, one of the two families involved would actually move. They would start another village with some friends down the river, or they would simply go to another village in existence. Forgiveness was not an option. 

Same thing in our modern culture. Once more, look at the divorce rate. We move to another home in a ‘trial’ separation that always ends up in divorce. What happens after the divorce? Hatred. Contempt. Anger. Hostility. 

Look at the job change rate. We get hurt or angered at a co-worker or boss and quit. We move to another job. 

Look at the way that we turn on people who were once friends. We move to another group. 

We have a word for forgiveness, but we do not understand the true concept. 

Imagine what would happen if we:

Treat others the same way you want [s]them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, [expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6.32-36)


Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Eph. 4.31-32)



Just a thought.

Leia Mais…

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Wear Your Helmet


You can see that this photo is not from Bolivia. However, this is a normal scene. I tried taking photos, but they are always too blurry to use. In Bolivia, there is a helmet law. The driver, not passengers, but the driver is required by law to wear a helmet. 75% of them drive with no helmet. Another 24% carry their helmet on their wrist. If a policeman pulls them over, they put it on. The final 1% actually wear a helmet. 

I drove a moto for three years here. I sold it last year. I always wore a helmet. I had four more helmets because everyone on the bike had to have a helmet, and sometimes there would be three or four of us on it. After all, it is Bolivia. :)

Why is it that people do not wear helmets? 

When I was working on a night shift in Texas, one day on the way to work I passed an accident that had recently happened. The motorcycle rider was dead at the scene. He would have probably survived with a helmet. That same day, on the way home from work at 3 in the morning, I was the first to arrive at a scene where a rider slid on water in the street from a sprinkler system. It was not pretty. He too, was dead from head injuries. I believe a helmet would have saved his life, based upon what I saw. 

In September of 2015, I was driving down Rte. 7 in Loudoun County, Virginia. A group of bikers passed me, all riding double. A few minutes later I rounded a curve and two bikes were in the road, one still sliding. I quickly stopped and went to render aide. There were a couple of broken bones, and one person obviously had a concussion. That was it. They had been going 60mph and hit a slick spot in the road. Every one of them had on a helmet.  

We can read statistic after statistic about how dangerous it is to ride a bike without a helmet. Yet, people continue to do it. You know why? Forget all of the reasons that are listed, the bottom line is this: We do not believe that we will have an accident. It will not happen to us. 

You see, those bad things happen to other people. I am immune. I am immortal. I am safe. 

We know that is silly, yet we believe it when it is us. That is because we do the same thing when it comes to protecting ourselves from temptation and sin.

What do you actively do to protect yourself from temptation? 

We have a saying in my house that goes like this, "The best way to prevent sin is to prevent temptation." No one would ever sin if they were not tempted to do so. Temptation is the lure that leads us to sin. 

So, what do you do to protect yourself from temptation? Chances are, you have no answer to this question. In other words, you are riding through life helmet less because it will not happen to you

Even though the Bible says, Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.(1 Corinthians 10:12) Even thought there are many verses that say things like, "Do not be deceived", "Do not deceive yourselves", "Watch and pray", "Be on guard", etc.  Those verses do not apply to us. We do not need a helmet.

Or do we?

There are two surefire ways to avoid sin. The first is to avoid the opportunity. For example, I will never commit adultery on my wife if I am never alone with another woman. The second way to avoid sin is avoid temptation. 

Are you proactively seeking to avoid situations that could result in sin?

Are you proactively seeking to avoid temptation? 

What do you do to protect yourself from coveting, envy, and jealousy? Ride without helmet?

What do you do to protect yourself from bitterness and anger? Ride without a helmet?

What do you do to protect yourself from gluttony? Ride without a helmet?

What do you do to protect yourself from lustful thoughts? Ride without a helmet?

What do you do to protect yourself from _________________?

God told us to put on the armor of God for a reason. Protect our thoughts, our heart, and where we go.

Put on your helmet...it really could happen to you. 

Just a thought.


Leia Mais…

Monday, January 9, 2017

Where Is Home?



We live two lives. 
We are not hypocritical. 
We are not phonies. 

We actually do live two lives. It is difficult to explain, and hard to adjust to the reality of it. We are not different people. We just have different lives. 

When we sold our house in Virginia, upon the advice of good friends and the book "Third Culture Kids", we purchased a home in Florida. The Florida house is for renting out and to have a place when we return to the States. It is a weekly vacation rental property for people who are taking a holiday in Orlando. The house is beautiful. Since it is in Florida and a vacation rental, it has a swimming pool and a hot tub. It is in a landscaped community with water fountains and a private pond. When we are in Florida, we stay there. In Florida we have a swimming pool. In Bolivia there is a drought. People do not have water. The lakes have dried. People are dying. The city only sends water to our house once a month for an hour. People line up behind water trucks that have imported water to buy enough for a five gallon bucket in La Paz. We have to purchase water from a company that has a well that has not yet dried up. They bring it to our house in a truck once a week. 

In Florida we swim. In Bolivia we do not flush the toilets until someone goes number two. 

In Florida it is green and landscaped. In Bolivia it is brown and wild. 

In the States, I am a church member who faithfully attends and supports the staff. In Bolivia I am the pastor of the church. 

In Florida, no one knows who I am. In Bolivia I am well known. 

In the States, almost everyone that I know is wealthier and makes more money than I do. In Bolivia people think that I am super rich because I have a washing machine, a refrigerator and two cars (1991 Toyota and 2001 Toyota). 

In the States, I am an average pastor, average speaker, with an average education. In Bolivia I am more highly educated than anyone other than medical doctors., and I am considered an incredible speaker. 

In the States, I am the ethnic majority. In Bolivia I am such a minority that people stare when we go places. 

The children have the same issues. They belong but do not belong to either culture. They are Bolivians. They are not Bolivians. They are Americans. They are not Americans. It is confusing at times. This is because we all want to belong to a group. 

Which group am I in?
Am I in the wealthy class or the lower middle class?
Am I in the ethnic majority or minority?
Am I considered highly educated or not?
Am I an influencer or invisible?

Our children have the same problems. Imagine asking a homeschool kid who was born in Virginia, lives in Bolivia and has a home in Florida..."Where are you from and what grade are you in?" In Florida, we were at Walt Disney World and one of my daughters was called up out of the audience to participate. The cast member started off with the same question that they ask everyone. "What is your name and where are you from?" After saying her name...she went silent. He asked her again where she was from. She looked at us for the answer. She is a teenager! How can the question where are you from be so difficult? 

In the Staes, no one can imagine what our lives in Bolivia are like, Actually, no one is even that interested to hear about it. In Bolivia, no one can imagine what our lives in the States are like, and to be honest, we have never even been asked about it. 

In the States, I am a conservative Republican. In Bolivia, I cannot talk or write about anything political, nor can I be a member of a political party. 

In the States, we can talk for hours and hours about every conceivable subject. I have a PHD level vocabulary. In Bolivia, we have the equivalent of a junior high school vocabulary.

This has presented an identity crisis to us and to our children. We always say that we should find our identity in Christ alone. The truth is, we all belong to other groups that help us identify ourselves. We don't. Our identity group in the States is not the same as our identity group in Bolivia. 

This is a struggle, but it has resulted in something awesome. Our family has found their identity in two things. We are Christians. We are Holmans. That is pretty much the extent of the labeling we not only use, but see. For example, Mercy was trying to tell us about a friend that she had made. She described her clothes. She described her actions and age. She said that her mom was pretty and her dad was really tall. It wasn't until we met them that we discovered that they were African Americans. It never entered into Mercy's mind to use their skin color to describe them. My daughter Hope asked me the other day if we were Republicans or Democrats or Neither. She did not know what political label to put on us. We do not put people into categories so we know who to hate. We don't see Calvinist or Arminians. We don't see Republican or Democrat. We don't see rich or poor. We don't see liberal or conservative. We don't see Socialist or Capitalist. We don't see the labels that much of the world uses to classify and categorize others. That is because we don't fit any labels other than Christian and Holman. The labels put on us in the States do not apply in Bolivia and vice/versa. Whenever our kids point out something that other families do/do not do, we simply say, "We are the Holmans, and this is what we do." There is no judgment on culture. There is no harshness of attitude. We Holmans are a strange lot and this is what we do. 

We see the world as two groups. There are people who need to know and love Jesus. There are people that do know and love Jesus. What else really maters? 

Life is so much greater than our presuppositions and opinions. Being bi-cultural has opened our eyes up to so much. Yes, it is at times a definite struggle. However, the blessings that come from it are so great. I now understand what I was told 12 years ago by more missionaries. I asked them if they had any regrets taking their children to the mission field. EVERY missionary that I asked said it was the best parenting decision that they had ever made.

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