Thursday, September 1, 2016

15 lessons from a 15 year veteran

15 years!  I can't believe it.  When we left the US to stay here for the first time...I wondered if I could last 15 days!  15 months sounded like a stretch....15 years...eternity........We had no idea, when we said goodbye and boarded that plane in Philadelphia August 2001, what our life would become.  We had no idea of the trials and triumphs that awaited us.  We had no idea if we'd survive long enough to be considered veteran missionaries, but we knew one thing for certain...nothing would ever be the same.  And in that, we were totally right, and the biggest change would be within ourselves.  So many thoughts are running through my mind as I think about this milestone, so many events, so many faces, so many days, so many nights...That young couple with a toddler and baby, with tears in their eyes in Philadelphia (ok I admit I was sobbing)  have become this couple with 5 children who can't imagine what their life would have been, if they'd never boarded that plane.  I can't find an adequate way to sum it up, so I'll just attempt by giving 15 lessons that I've learned living this strangers life.

1.  A strange place can become home.  When I first arrived here, I didn't believe I could ever feel "at home".  When I heard people say that about their field, I thought they were a lot better than me..or they were lying.  And, admittedly, it took years (yes,years!) and I didn't think it would happen to me.  But somehow I can now say, I feel at home in this place.
2.  Things that once made you stare, seem normal.  A family of 5 riding a motorcycle, oh well...10 or 12 policemen blocking the road..what now? It wasn't us, let us pass so we're not late to our meeting...and we'd rather not pay for the privilege either!
3.  You will be misunderstood.  By those in your new country, by those in your home country, by old friends, by those you thought would always "get you". Because you've lived and experienced things that have changed your mindset, your manners, and your the whole structure of your life.
4.  You'll make mistakes and still survive to make more.  Mistakes in language, culture, saying too much, or not enough, giving up when you should have pressed on,  judging harshly, getting a chip on your shoulder, attitude, anger........should I go on? You're human, never forget that. And also don't forget that we serve the God of all grace.
5.  God's will is always right, but it's not always easy.  You'll want to quit, don't. You'll want to cry, go ahead. Just keep moving forward in the path God has laid out for you.  Not all of us get to cruise down the interstate at 75 mph..some of us hit the potholes and frost heaves (Maine girl speaking).
6.  You can't live up to anyone's expectations.  Not your husbands, not your church's, not your family's, not supporting pastors, not coworkers, not your own. Stop trying, it'll make you crazy.  But thankfully, God has not set out a list of expectations, He has called us to be faithful.  Let's be that.
7.  It won't be what you imagined it to be.  If you imagine it to be a paradise where you fall in love with every aspect of the country and culture and sinners are begging you to share the Gospel, it won't be that..if you imagine it to be a life sentence of extreme living conditions and daily heart break, it won't be that either.  It'll be both and sometimes in the middle.  It'll be life.
8.  Homesickness hurts. A lot. Still now sometimes.  But it gets easier, bearable, and home is always there as a beacon, the promise that there's still normal life in this crazy world somewhere.
9.  You can still be you.  Your sarcasm may not be as much appreciated goes on.  You will change, but the shy, kinda quiet, quirky, fun loving, sarcastic person you once were, can still live on.
10.  You don't have to forget your country.  We were once told, unwisely in my opinion, by a missionary no less, that we should forget America when we moved abroad.  That bothered me, it bothered me for a long time.  Because I couldn't forget, and I didn't want to.  And I learned that it wasn't necessary.  We met Indians in the US who were still very attached to their country and culture, and no one here expected us to become un-American.  It's possible to love you country and culture, without hating another.  Just be careful of the comparison America we...because it can fuel discontent.
11.  There will be highs and lows.  Don't let the highs spoil you, and don't let the lows discourage you.  There have been times when we've seen so much fruit, and God working in a unique way, and other times that we've wondered why we were here at all.    Hold on, just hold on.
12.  There's a job to be done, and no matter how inadequate we may feel, this is what we've been chosen for.  Don't trust in your feelings, trust in the God who has chosen you.
13.  There will be those that help you in ways you could never imagine, and those who will hurt you far deeper than you could ever imagine.  When you minister you give your heart and labor to people, people who may fail you, and for reasons unknown, people who may someday turn on you.  You'll learn the meaning of forgiveness, even forgiving those who are not sorry, and will blame you for their betrayal.  " Christ forgave you." And it's not easy.
14.  There's no life like it.  You are privileged to have this opportunity that is not given to everyone.
15.  You are blessed always, by the God who stands with you, and carries you on the good days, and on the hardest days of your life, because you will face both.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Last first day

During the month of July I was working feverishly confirming enrollments, checking graduation requirements, and ordering curriculum.  Our school year usually runs from July or August till March or April.  Sometimes we get a late start because of a delay getting our materials from the US.  This year we got started on August 1st.  A few days before the first day, Alyssa made one of those simple statements that ends up hitting you like a ton of bricks.  "This will be my last "first day".  I hadn't been thinking of it in those terms, maybe I was in one of those denial modes, but I realized she was right.  This is 12th grade, a Senior, the last "first day".  Of course there will be other first days, but this one is significant.  This will be the last "first day" studying at home.  The last "first day" that they all are in school together.  I have taught her at home since the first day when I, in my eagerness, started Alyssa in kindergarten at 4.  It's not always been easy.  There have been days when I wanted to quit, and days when they wanted to quit!  But I wouldn't trade it.  Anytime when we threw around the idea of enrolling the kids in a school for a year or two, I was the one who dug in my heels.  I didn't want to give up this unique opportunity. Not everyone is blessed with the chance to be able to do what I do.  Recently, Alyssa wrote her name on my hand, and said "There, now when I become famous, you can tell everyone you were the first to get my autograph".  I told her, "Nope, when you become famous, I'm going to tell everyone that I taught you to write"!
I know this year will be bittersweet in many ways.  There are big changes coming for our family.  Lord willing, after this school year, we will take Alyssa to the US and she will enroll in college there. That's a scary sentence to write, for a mother.  For all those of you sending your kids to college this year, imagine if you had to leave them there, knowing you'd fly back overseas soon.  Pray for our family as there are a lot of decisions and arrangements that have to be made in the near future.  For now, we enjoyed our last "first day" together, eating waffles with cherries and whipped cream for breakfast, and working through all the bugs of the first day.
Alyssa - 12th grade
Naomi - 11th grade
Alyssa always tells me, "I know you'll cry Mom..but don't start yet!" So, I'll try not to (much), and I'll try to enjoy every day, the way it should be enjoyed, the last few months of this season, before a new season starts for us.
And here are my students for the 2016-2017 school year
Kara - 2nd grade
Melody - 9th grade
Ethan - 7th grade

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Encouragement on one of those days

Have you ever had one of those days?  When you just didn't feel like it?  You look back over the days of visits, classes, meetings, Bible studies and wonder if you've had any impact at all?  Is it worth it if you don't see many results? 

There was a day like that here recently.  It had rained...poured all morning.  The place we should go for visiting would be muddy, smelly, the drains and gutters would be overflowing.  The week before, we had gone and didn't find many people home, the kids we did find just kept running around and had no interest to sing any songs or listen to any Bible.  The other people who should have gone visiting with us were nowhere to be found, so we'd have to do all the houses, just me and the kids.

We got there and slogged through a little mud, across a couple gutters, and there was a group of 7 or 8 ladies and girls standing in front of one doorway.  They saw us coming and greeted us like long lost friends.  We stood there in the mud for 20 minutes or more, while they reminisced.  Some of these ladies we've known for years, some still come occasionally to church or send their kids, some not at all now. But they were remembering the days, when I only had 4 kids (over 7 years ago).  When we used to come every week to tell stories and sing songs with the kids that lived there at the time.  Sometimes there would be 30 or 40 or more.  They remembered us showing a Gospel film there in the night, one that showed the simple plan of salvation for those who cannot read or write, and have no knowledge of the Gospel.  They remembered me teaching them from the Bible in Sunday School.  They remembered it fondly, laughing and smiling.  One mother said to me, I'd never keep my kids from going to church.  That may not sound like a powerful statement, but in this place, it is.  We've seen many kids who have trusted Christ, but have to leave our church, with tears, because their parents won't allow them to attend.  This mother, still practicing the Hindu religion, has a positive view of the church, of Christians. That's not to be taken lightly in a place like this, where religious tensions often flare.

  We walked a little farther through the mud, past the goats, to a small room, where a lady had just delivered a new baby a few days before.  As we stood there admiring the tiny boy, she asked my daughter, what they should name him.  My daughter said, you should name him what you like.  Their answer was, you are his older sister, so you have the right to give a name too.  This statement showed the great level of respect and love that they had for her.   Many of these people have not trusted Christ, but I realized that day, somehow there's been an impact.  I don't mean to exalt ourselves or what we have done, but it's easy to forget the promises of God, in the struggle of daily ministry.  The promise that His Word will not return void.  The promise that He abideth faithful.  The command to be a light and show the love of Christ.  Maybe you won't see the results that you hoped for, maybe days and years will go by without visible change, but maybe...just maybe one evening standing in the muddy, trash filled street, with coal smoke swirling around you..God will send some encouragement..a glimpse of that you can take courage...continue to endure...continue to be faithful..and let the results stay in His hand..where they've been all along. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Family pictures 2016

Pratt family 2016

We've had a lot of requests recently for an updated family picture, so I thought it must be a good time to send a few recent photos.
                        Yes...they are growing up!
Naomi -15    Alyssa - 16

Ethan - 11          Melody - 12

Kara - 6

Visited a centuries old castle recently...our India in an ancient land...
Everywhere we go...people have to do a head count...1...2...3..4...yes there really are 5....

And....they all 5 can be a little crazy...:-)