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If I could give advice to myself just before we came on our first term of service to Rwanda, here is what I would say!
1. PACK LESS, this is a touchy subject sure to divide expat workers in developing nations. I don’t have a hatred for things that make life more simple (where that is possible, because often more things complicates life!), and allow us to focus more on our work. Nor do I simply enjoy punishing myself for no apparent reason. Nevertheless, I still would encourage younger me, bring less stuff. One, you can figure out how to live on whats locally available and two, hauling a load of stuff is going to stress you out, and do nothing to help you connect with people.
2. PRAY MORE, you can’t do this on your own, don’t try. Assume from the onset, that all your systems of spiritual, and emotional support that you enjoyed in your home country are going to be turn upside down. You are going to need new habits, new routines, and a new commitment to pray and find yourself refreshed and renewed in the Lord. You have an amazing opportunity to lean on the Lord like never before.
3. PRACTICE YOUR LANGUAGE, don’t hold back! Get your flash cards, and bang those first thousand words as soon as you can into your head. Miss no opportunity to chat with native speakers of the language, every day, as much as possible. The quicker you learn, the better life will get on every level in a new country. Make sure you break down your learning to manageable goals, you have each week, that build up to bigger ends. You can learn to share your faith, and explain the gospel in your new language within 6 months.
4. PURSUE YOUR FAMILY, outside of pursing Christ, which is the only source of hope, and power to do the rest, if you come with your family, pursue your family! I thank God so much how this first term has forced me to learn all kinds of new ways to love and pursue my family. There is a new sense of loyalty that you need to appreciate as a missionary family, churches will change, fields change, extended family are there to support, but can’t be there for every moment of life, and friends come and go. But your immediate family is given by God, and will outlast just about every other relationship. Make it as rich as possible.
We are raising money for Kinyarwanda Study bibles for Pastors in Rwanda. Imagine if your pastor had no guide or help to read God’s word. Imagine if he had no library whatsoever. These bibles will go to pastors who have no other resources to understand His word. I will train them in the local language in how to read the word of God in general, and how to make the most of this incredible resource. It is a translation of the NIV study bible notes. The notes and the text are in kinyarwanda. You can help one pastor have this amazing resource for $25. Our goal is 30 bibles so I can do a seminar before we leave for home assignment. Let’s see if we can do this in the next month! To give to this project online click here. You can also send a check written out to AIM International, Peach Tree City, Ga 30269, PO Box 3611, write on a separate paper, not on the check “Joe & Kristy Marlin – Kinyarwanda Study Bibles”.
Why would I write such a self-serving post? Well first of all, of course I do want make the most of our time home, and if a few folks read this and it paves the way for a bit more mutual understanding, then there is nothing wrong with that. But I also hope this would in general helpful to others who interact with brothers and sisters re-entering the States from a term of services to the Lord overseas. I’m sure what I write here doesn’t apply to us only!
*To see our schedule for Home Assignment in America from October till the end of January click here.
5. Have patience with us, we probably can’t carry conversations on through pop culture references. I remember having many people look at me sideways when I came home after a year in 2002 and had no idea what American Idol was all about. Living the past two years and working with a very international team, in Rwanda has only confirmed my suspicion that Americans feel really comfortable when they can keep a conversation going in continual references to pop culture.
4. Let’s share our stories! Life surely has gone on for our friends in America, and though many folks back home have heard the highlights of our life through prayer letters and updates, we have missed two years in the lives of so many people that were really precious to us. Bear with us, we missed marriages, new babies, and all kinds of milestones and hardships in peoples lives. Let us catch up, we don’t just want to give our ministry update and move on, we want to reconnect with people we care about.
3. Invite us out / or stop by. Seriously the first term for us has been difficult. Always pursuing relationships, always hosting parties, almost never receiving in any way in return, and add on top of that all kinds of cultural and language barriers that we’ve had to navigate. Will we be ‘crazy busy’ when we are home? Yeah we will, and its not easy with three small bambinos, but we would be blessed to be given the opportunity to try!
2. Don’t forget those bambinos. We are really praying that our kids can have the wonderful revelation that they can love America and Rwanda. For kids transitions can be tough. For our littlest, in just two years she’s lived most of her life in Rwanda! Please pray for them, have grace with them, and if you’ve got kids that were friends to our little gang, let’s see how we can get together.
1. Join our team! God’s plan for funding this ministry is %100 churches and individuals giving in faith. We miss home, we love home and we look forward to returning! But we know God has us here in Rwanda for now. We simply will not be able to return to the work God has for us unless he provides our support through people like you. We are going to need something like 25 people to join our team. Our average supporter gives each month $60 but we will need those who give far more and far less than that. Check our the ‘give‘ page to find out how to join our team.
And for a bonus :) We need access to some wheels! (As of 7/14) We are praying for a car we could use that might just be sitting in someones driveway, something we would keep up, and pay insurance for from October till the end of January, let us know if you have any leads! Email me by clicking here.
5. Buy a map. Teach your kids about the world. Teach them about the different wonderful, noble, weird and heart-crushing ways people on this world live. Teach your kids God’s people can not allow there to be a single nation, tribe or people group under heaven that no one ever prayers over for salvation, just as there are no peoples, nor individual persons beyond the hope of salvation, in Jesus! Teach your children that Jesus opened heaven’s door to the whole world, when he was hung on a cross, died and rose again.
4. Teach them about People Groups. Help them to know (and make sure you know yourself) what the differences are between under discipled, under evangelized, unreached and unengaged people groups. Start praying for some group of people who have never heard the gospel, with no one planing to work with them and engage them with the gospel, till you need to do more than pray. Could you help fund a bible translation project? Could you advocate for a new mission work among them? Could you support a pioneering missionary among them? Perhaps, you could consider that God is actually calling you to them?
3. Read missionary biographies. Mix it up with modern biographies like the ‘Heavenly man’ about a Chinese brother who trailbazed house churches in China, and older biographies of people like Scotch-Irish Amy Carmichael who set up a home to save young girls given up to be prostitutes in the temples in India. Everyone should have the book From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya which gives a summary of missions history. Find a way to give your children modern, living, knowable heroes in the faith. Not safe, sanitized, heroes that do only superhuman things, that live only in our minds, but real, dangerous heroes. Dangerous because they have faults like all of us, and can fail in terrible ways, but also dangerous because they live in the real world. Because they are tearing down the strongholds of Satan. Dangerous because our children could follow their example. For example, we love to read Heartbeat Africa at night to our kids sometimes, which is our mission’s occasional magazine. The stories are of people we work with and know.
2. Remember those suffering for the Gospel. As Hebrews 13:3 commands, let us remember those in chains as if we ourselves where suffering with them. Are we not one body? Can one part of the body suffer and the rest of us not even know about it? We love to have our kids create cards and send them to those imprisoned for their faith around the world. You can find out how to do that at prisoneralert.com.
1. Love your neighbor. In the 1950’s the ever edgy A.W. Tozer made an at the time extremely edgy observation that you can’t love the African in the jungle and hate your black neighbor in the city. It is so much easier to have some vague, romantic and noble love for ‘mankind’ but Jesus called us to something vastly more specific and more messy, to love not mankind in general but those right next to us, indeed those who are geographically near, but perhaps culturally very far. If you look at the map of your immediate area I’m betting you’ll find loads of opportunities for this.
Who is your neighbor? Is it those at the methadone clinic, the prison, in the immigrant community, in a group home, a nursing home, or a community stricken by affluence and loneliness, who knows. Make sure you do. Go beyond knowing and go love, with your whole family. Let Jesus’s words haunt us, that those who greet and throw parties only for folks like us, who we are comfortable with, and who can help us, act like all the nations do, not like God’s people.