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Deb’s Ministry Blog shares articles of interest to people in a small church, missions, or writing ministry. These are practical and encouraging articles that may be shared freely.

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Giving Your Kids a Positive MK Experience

Kanate Chainapong

In past months we’ve talked about giving MK’s an appreciation for their host country (mission field) and their home country (where their parents come from.)  Here are some other things you can do to give them a positive MK experience.

1. Emphasize the positive parts of missionary life.

Face it. Sometimes missionaries feel like a round peg in a square hole. In many mission fields the missionary family may look very different from the nationals and have a very different lifestyle. Differences in language and culture may make it difficult to build really close relationships with nationals. Then they return to their home country and find they don’t fit in real well there either. They have changed. They see things differently than they did before.

But missionary life also has advantages. You may get to travel far more than the average person from your home country. You may get to eat exotic dishes and taste weird fruit that few people in your home country even know exist. How can you capture and emphasize the advantages of your life?

When my girls were little I began to realize that, over their growing up years, they would be able to visit some cool places. I made each of my daughters a “Neat Places I Have Been” book. I used about a page for each year, and put a photo of each major places they went. Furlough years took several pages. This was one book that they could take to college or show to their spouses in years to come. It emphasized travel, one of the advantages of being an MK.

You could do the same thing with a shadow box or a collection of some kind. What physical object can you put in their hands that makes them say, “Wow! I’m blessed to be an MK.”

2. When possible, give your kids an enjoyable part in your ministry.

We moved to New Zealand during our daughters’ high school years. Here they were able to have a vital part in our ministry. Lisa was only here for six months, but she immediately stepped into choir and some teaching opportunities. Lori lived here two years. She took over our puppet ministry and kept it going while she was here. Our daughters naturally attracted teens to our ministry. I was so pleased that they could have the chance to really take part in ministry and enjoy it before they left home.

Even small children can help pass out hymnals or greet people and make other kids feel welcome. Kids who play an enjoyable part in their parents’ ministry are less likely to resent being MK’s when they become adults.

Your particular field may present challenges for engaging your children and building memorable times as a family. Pray about it. Work at it. Somewhere in the context of your ministry there will be some fun things that you can do as a family or that your child can participate in individually that will give him great childhood memories and make him glad that he’s an MK.

What activities or ideas have you found in your place of ministry to emphasize the positive aspects of being an MK?

3. Encourage your kids to develop unique skills that are available to them because they are MK’s.

Arrange for ways to learn the language of the host country even if they move overseas at an older age. Give them opportunities to use the language and point out what a valuable skill that is.

Help them develop ministries on the field that translate into ministry skills in their home country. Use them to help teach children’s church or VBS when they are on furlough.

Encourage them to write about their life as an MK and direct them to writing contests or ways to use their writing.

Teach them to use the art of friendship as a ministry wherever you go.

This doesn’t mean that you should push your MK’s into uncomfortable situations, but look for ways to encourage your kids to develop their own interests in ways that will make them glad for the advantages they have for growing up in a missionary home.

What unique ways have you found to give your MK a positive missionary experience?

God’s Invisible Work

uPatipat Rintharasri

Are you feeling discouraged in your ministry today? Maybe you’ve been working hard, but you see few results for your labor. You’ve analysed your ministry to see if you could makes changes to be more effective, yet you don’t feel the Lord’s leading you to make changes. You’ve poured yourself into the lives of people who are making bad choices. It looks like you are accomplishing very little. You’re trying to be faithful, but if what you’re doing isn’t working, why not quit?

Wouldn’t you like God to speak to you today and give you words of comfort? He has. “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” (Hebrews 6:10 NKJV)

God sees your work. If you are following his leading and serving him to the best of your ability out of a heart of love, he is pleased, even if you can’t feel it. God often works beneath the surface.  He may be doing his greatest work at a time when it looks like nothing is happening.

A friend recently told me, “Satan is really working. I’ve told all these friends about Jesus and they just aren’t responding.” Within days of hearing that I read these verses in my devotions. “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8, NKJV)

Most people don’t respond to the gospel the first time they hear it. Many times it takes years of exposure to the gospel before they are ready to believe. Over the years they meet various Christians who show an attractive picture of who Christ is and plant gospel seeds. The unbelievers remember bits and pieces of things they hear, but mostly they resist the message.  All these things seem to do no good. Then one day someone witnesses to them and “suddenly” they get it. They’re ready to be saved. But actually the decision wasn’t sudden. All the words by Christians that they seemingly ignored were actually helping to prepare them for the sudden decision.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NKJV)

God hasn’t forgotten your work. He is working in hearts. Your labor is not in vain. May you experience his joy in your ministry today.

How to Help Your MK’s Keep in Touch with their Home Country

Girl holding the Planet Earth

In 1980 we carried a baby onto a plane bound for the mission field of Taiwan. We didn’t plan to return to the States for four years. That baby and another one yet to be born would grow up in Taiwan, but we had to look past that. Someday they would want to return to the States for college. Unless the Lord called them to be missionaries in Taiwan or some other Chinese country, they would have to fit into American culture. Actually, no matter what they did as adults, they would need to be able to fit into American culture on furloughs. Even in foreign countries they would likely have American friends they would need to understand. Little did we know then that the Lord would lead us away from Taiwan during their high school years and move us to a very different country of New Zealand.

Last month’s blog talked about adapting to the culture of the host country, but we were aware that our kids also needed to be able to interact in their home country. They wouldn’t be able to keep up with all the latest TV commercials which, for some reason, form such a strong part of American culture.  But we needed to help them understand American culture as well as the cultures of their host countries.

1. Give your kids a regional identity.

“Where are you from?” Generally MK’s hate this question.  They hardly know where to begin to answer. If they say they are from some foreign country, other kids may disconnect because they can’t relate, or even feel your kids are showing off.

People don’t mean that to be a trick question. They are just looking for connections. Giving your kids a regional identity with some part of your home country will give your kids more connections. It gives them a group to belong to. Face it, in their home country, almost no one will be from the country they grew up in.

We realized that Americans have, not just a national identity, but a regional one. Art and I grew up in Montana and Colorado. That American sub-culture is different from the South or California or the Northeast. Our kids needed a regional identity too.

In Montana, our furlough home, people hunt, fish, climb mountains, and chop wood. None of these activities seemed very important in Taiwan, but our girls needed to know what it meant to “come from Montana.” We did take our kids hiking. On furlough we sent our kids to Bible camp in Montana. We tried to give our kids a taste of the farm and the mountains. Furlough gave them the opportunity to meet our friends and their kids. We never succeeded in making them avid campers, but we tried to give them enough activities in those places to at least give them some sort of regional identity.

2. Avoid disposable friendships.

“Friendships are disposable.” I remember thinking this as a teen. My dad was a church planter, and because of some special circumstances in his ministry at that time, I moved at least once a year during high school. One year I went to three schools the first month. I finished up the year at the school I liked the least. I didn’t fit in and finally decided that I didn’t have to make friends there. I just had to get through the school year. In time I revised that a bit, but you can see how friendships seemed disposable.

Many MK’s visit a different church every Sunday during furloughs. Even if they are friendly, many American teens aren’t prepared to make friendships that quickly. Short term friendships can be valuable too. Sometimes short term friendships come back around as you get older.

Help your kids to understand that life is enriched by many kinds of friendships. Help them to keep in contact with some of their friends. Email and Facebook makes that easier than it was in years past.

Kids can also benefit from friendships with adults. They can extend their family with “aunts and uncles” who are co-workers on the field or take a special interest them in their home country. We had some adults that worked hard to stay connected with our kids. My daughter Lori writes, “Whether the relationships MK’s make are with kids or adults, In the States of on the field, these meaningful relationships can easily last a lifetime if they keep in touch.

Make the effort to help your kids build relationships with people in your supporting churches so that when they leave home they will realize they have friends in their home country who care about them.

3. Visit well-known national places while you are on furlough.

You have to travel anyway. Go the extra mile to see historical places, see national parks, or do fun activities. Research ahead of time so your kids will understand the significance of where you are going. One thing you kids may not get overseas is the significance of being a citizen of your home country. They may never be as patriotic as the average citizen, but they do need to gain some understanding of why a citizen feels proud of his country.

Years ago most Americans felt a strong pride for their country, many feeling it was the best in the world. Sometimes today they have the opposite problem. Politics and problems have stolen their pride to the point they aren’t even respectful of government leaders.

Missionary parents need to give their kids pride in and respect for both their host country and their home country. They need to help them see the good and deal with the bad realistically.

4. Choose books and DVD’s that will help your kids understand the culture of their home country in a good way.

Helping your kids become comfortable in two cultures may be a big task, but it is well worth it. It will help them reach adulthood with a positive attitude about their MK experience.

Jordan Axtell is a fictional missionary kid in my two most recent books. In Broken Windows Jordan comes to terms with some of the issues M.K.’s face. He is especially haunted by the fact that his parents have been faithful missionaries, but seen little fruit for their labor. Broken Windows is currently free for Kindle through Tuesday, June 14. This weekend I launched Deja Who?, Book 2 in the same series. In that book, Jordan finds himself especially suited for a ministry to international students because he grew up in Taiwan.

You can find Broken Windows here.

You can find Deja Who? here.

Join my book blast for inside information on Deja Who?

zcover Deja Who

This Friday, June 10, I’m launching my book Déjà Who?, Book 2 in The Keyhole Mysteries. The paperback version is available now and the Kindle should be up within a few days. Broken Windows, Book 1 in the series, took place in Boise, Idaho. Why did I move my characters, Jordan and Zophie, to Minneapolis for book 2?

My Book Blast readers get information about my books that you can’t get anywhere else. If you join before Friday you’ll get a letter with 4 Reasons I Chose Minneapolis as the Setting for Déjà Who? Everyone who joins my Book Blast also gets my article on 6 Marks of Distinctively Christian Fiction.

Buy the paperback or Kindle version here.