Thursday, September 26, 2013
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”
Satchel Paige’s question is a gem, isn’t it?
How old would you be?
My friend Marge assumes she’s much younger than what her driver’s license and Medicare card tell her.
She set out a couple of weeks ago on a new adventure in Mexico—not in a swanky tourist destination, not in a luxurious hideaway for retirees—but in a backwater place.
Marge’s family and mine used to work together in the middle of nowhere in South America and I know she has already lived a full life: a life on the mission field, but also a life of tragedies and heartaches—I’m talking about major tragedies and major heartaches.
Now, at her age, she could sit back and enjoy herself, feeling she’s earned the right to take it easy. But no, she’s tackling another cross-cultural ministry, this time at a missions center in a Mexican village, Mitla.
She e-mailed that her flight from Houston to Oaxaca, Mexico, went smoothly. In fact, God offered her a “Welcome to Mexico” gift: a sunset reflecting manifold shades of pink with a brilliant orange swath along the horizon.
Friends met her at the airport and drove her to her “new” apartment, dropping her off about midnight.
Inside, she discovered that one of her new coworkers had stocked the kitchen with basic groceries—and had even put flowers on her kitchen table.
She was touched by the warm welcome she received—but her transition hasn't gone without a few glitches.
Marge lives in a simple apartment in Mitla with a small kitchen/living room, a bedroom, and a bathroom with both a shower and a tub.
One night shortly after her arrival, one corner of her bed gave way. Collapsed.
“Have any of you read The Night the Bed Fell In by James Thurber?” asked Marge. “I had … that story on my bedside table. Isn’t that funny?”
The next day she got the bed repaired but, “It occasionally moans when I sit on it and I’m alert for any sudden descent.”
Marge continues, “The first fridge I had rocked when I opened the door. The wonderful maintenance men exchanged it for one that didn’t rock but also didn’t cool anything. Now I have ‘Rocky’ back, and I just get a firm grip on it before I open the door. I’m thankful that it cools.”
Recently Marge took a short walk from the mission center into the village where she bought basic food supplies. Any time her shopping bags are too heavy, she can hire a moto taxi to take her home. “They are just what the name implies,” she says, “motos [motor bikes] with a passenger section added.”
Like so many of us on the mission field, Marge soaks fresh fruits and vegetables in a chemical to kill parasites and amoebas.
She has hot and cold running water! (When our two families worked together in South America, we had no hot water. We were much younger then and I know she appreciates having hot water now!)
The water from the faucet isn’t drinkable, though, so she has a large water filter in her kitchen.
Marge carries her laundry a short walk down the hill—on muddy paths, since they’ve had a lot of rain recently—where there’s a washer and dryer as well as clotheslines.
“The first time I used the washer it was a bit tricky,” Marge wrote. “It was the sort that locked the top of the washer. I had a few minutes when I thought my wardrobe was gone forever, but in its own time the top unlocked and all was well.
“I learned that one doesn’t hang all garments in plain view since these are, so to speak, public clotheslines.” She means that hanging underwear on the line is a no-no.
“Also the timing of getting the clothes off the line before it rains is tricky.”
Why would Marge choose to live this way at this time in her life?
Because many years ago she committed her life to God for His purposes in missions—specifically in support of Bible translation. For the last forty of those years I’ve watched her faithfully carry out what God has called her to do, through thick and thin.
In this chapter of her life’s story, Marge serves as a resource to Bible translators working in remote settings who homeschool their children. Twice a year those families leave their far-flung locations and gather at the missions center where, for three weeks, their kids benefit from more formal classroom experiences. Not only do students get to interact with a larger group of classmates and teachers, their parents also get a break from teaching and can participate in professional workshops and training.
Marge is also available to teach children at other times as needs arise.
I’ve worked with hundreds of teachers of MKs (missionary kids) and am related to several. I also know hundreds of Bible translators and because of that, believe me, I know how valuable teachers are on the mission field. Teachers literally keep Bible translators and their missionary colleagues on the field and on task. Marge is filling an important role in the overall task of Bible translation.
After living in Mexico less than a week, Marge participated in an event many missionaries only dream of: she attended the dedication ceremony of the Mizatec New Testament.
She and three coworkers set out on a Friday afternoon, planning to drive four hours and spend the night at a hotel half way to their destination.
But, you know, Murphy’s Law proves true all over the world.
Marge wrote: “We were stopped at a blockade of sugar cane farmers protesting, and sat in the car from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. before we were able to wiggle our way through parked trucks, turn around, and return to the nearest town where we spent the night. Well, actually where we slept for four hours and then continued on.”
The next day, only a flat tire slowed them down.
The dedication ceremony was the culmination of thirty years of work by a team of expats and native speakers.
Imagine the joy of having God’s Word in your own heart language, the language you understand best, the language you use to express love to others. The language you use to cry out to God. The language you use to sing your babies to sleep. The language God uses to speak to you.
Now, over 24,000 Mizatec speakers have the New Testament in their own heart language! Marge was honored and thrilled to participate in the ceremony.
“On the way home we were held up at a landslide for three hours.
“While we waited we met two young men who had started their trip in Seattle and were headed to the tip of South America. And, can you imagine, their next stop was Mitla where they were visiting a family my three travel companions knew well.
“We were able to lead them right to the house. This was a good thing because the location was a bit obscure, and there were no directions like ‘Turn right at Main Street.’ More like turn right at the cow, and left at the cactus patch. Isn’t it amazing how the Lord orchestrates things!?
“I enjoyed the trip very much.… It was a rare privilege to be able to make a trip like this.…”
So there you have it, the story of a woman who believes what C.S. Lewis said:
“You are never too old
to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”